The Quick answer on levels!

Q1: While I’m editing, should I normalize each clip to -6 (or 0 or -12)?
Q2: What should be my target level on the first pass?
Q3: How about the final pass?

Before we can put a number on the target, there are a few things that need to be clarified. First, you’re probably looking at the wrong meter to answer that question. Second, the number you settle on depends on your delivery method. Broadcast is different from web, for example. Third, are you looking at peak level, or some version of average level – which will give you more of an indication of loudness?

For an in-depth look at all of this, check out part 1 of the full article on

For a quick answer, try this:
A1: I personally never normalize. (yes, I said “never” – and I meant it).  What do I do instead?  First step is to adjust the level of each clip non-destructively.  Each NLE has its own terms:  Avid uses Clip Gain, which translates to ProTools non-destructively via AAF.  Adobe Premiere has two methods at the clip level.  The non-destructive method is to adjust the gain in the sequence while viewing “clip keyframes”.PPCC Clip Keyframes  The other method is called “Audio Gain”, which is non-destructive inside of Premiere, but becomes permanent when exporting, which can be problematic.

A2:  Your target level on the first pass can be a little lower than your deliverable level, to allow for gain in the output stage, or it can be the same.  It’s a personal mixing choice.  While editing, it is important to maintain a consistent average level, which can be adjusted globally later in the process.

A3:  If you have a loudness specification, use that as your guide.  If you don’t, then you just have to know what kind of meter you have and mix accordingly.  I have included some general suggestions below:

U.S. Broadcast:  -24LKFS / -2dBTP (True Peak) or approximately -24dB RMS with peaks around -6dBFS (to be safe)
Web video:  -18LKFS or -18dB RMS
Podcast audio:  -16LKFS

The bottom line:  Mix using average levels, because what we care about is how loud something sounds, not where the digital peaks are.  Control your peaks using a limiter, and hopefully other dynamics processors along the way.  Stay tuned for more on Audio Levels & Metering!

Update:  Part 2 of the article is up!  It contains a review of metering and FOUR videos for your viewing pleasure!


Pan vs. Balance

A big part of mixing audio is panning, which is like steering your audio between left and right (or multi-channel for surround). Sometimes we use panning to isolate stereo sources to mono outputs, which can be the case when making splits.  But what would happen if what you thought was a panner was really a balance control?

In Premiere, what looks like a panner (audio steering wheel), acts more like the two levers of a Green Machine or Pod Racer!  When you want to steer left, you decrease the right – instead of steering the right channel content to the left.  Sound confusing?  Check out this Mixing Minute video!  (and read below to dive just a little deeper)

So, how else could a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) handle stereo content?  Well, with a stereo panner.  ProTools, for example puts two panners on a stereo track or aux input (submix track).  The default for these panners is hard left and right, but if you want to “pan” the stereo content, you have separate controls for each channel.  In the case of the splits mentioned above, the right panner would be set all the way to the left.

Stereo Panner

Stereo Paner in ProTools

The resulting mono signal from the dual panners in ProTools would result in a significantly higher signal than the technique used in Premiere.  In Premiere, the resulting gain is reduced by a considerable amount whether you place stereo content on a mono track or route stereo content through a mono sub.  But these are topics for another post!  Comments?  Find me on Twitter:  And thanks for reading!