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Brent_in_Sydney
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22nd April 2011
Old 22nd April 2011
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Speaker calibration tutorial for students

It seems like we get questions about how to mix for film/tv a lot in here, funny that. The most common misunderstanding I see is how to calibrate a home studio to 79 to set up the gain structure in the edit from the beginning.
I just made this simple video tutorial to help students wrap their heads around speaker calibration. Hope its useful.
Speaker Calibration tutorial | ProToolsProfessional.com
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22nd April 2011
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Thanks Brent, this is where I'll point music composers from now on - for those basic needs, much better than reading through a pile of threads
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22nd April 2011
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Ooooh. Thanks! This is a very helpful tutorial!!! I too will direct novices to this link.

Thanks again for taking the time.

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14th December 2011
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Great help for the basic setup. On another pass you might mention speaker placement in both stereo and surround setups. Also, mention the Blue Sky pink noise files as well. And the different calibration in surrounds for film vs. tv.

I'd also mention that for proper calibration the studio owner should take into account the size of the room. 79 in a bedroom isn't 79 in a living room etc. often the ATSC (paper 85) is a better option, whereas the engineer measures cubic feet and calibrates to that spl. I'm at about 1300 sqr ft. and mix to 76 for TV and then 81 for film. It translates fairly well.

Thanks for making it though.
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Brent_in_Sydney
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14th December 2011
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As Mike correctly points out - this tutorial is intended for students, in edit suites or small rooms, with near field monitors (within arms reach thereabouts).

Hopefully folks in larger rooms who are intending to calibrate have done their homework and understand the need for different reference levels in larger rooms.

Its generally the first timers in small rooms who dont know how to calibrate and need tutes like this
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5th January 2012
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I just watched it, cool video Brent. Thanks for sharing!
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16th February 2012
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too loud??

When I calibrate like described on all those threads for a stereo system at either 82 or 79 the result is a deafening loud monitoring system, When testing with say commercial DVDs, not too mention music which is def unbearable even at 79.

I have neither a too small a room (60sq m) or speakers too close (2m).
I have quadruple checked all the involved action in preparing the calibration. I use this meter. How wrong could it go anyway?
Or have I completely misunderstood things?
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16th February 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fasma View Post
When testing with say commercial DVDs, not too mention music which is def unbearable even at 79.
What player and what DVDs have you tested. Yes, modern music is expected to be unbearable at that level.
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16th February 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fasma View Post
When I calibrate like described on all those threads for a stereo system at either 82 or 79 the result is a deafening loud monitoring system, When testing with say commercial DVDs, not too mention music which is def unbearable even at 79.

I have neither a too small a room (60sq m) or speakers too close (2m).
I have quadruple checked all the involved action in preparing the calibration. I use this meter. How wrong could it go anyway?
Or have I completely misunderstood things?
If you want to be able to listen to mastered music, you should calibrate your monitoring to around -20dBFS RMS = 68dB SPL (or less) that will produce an average of 82 to 85dB output when you play mastered (Squashed) music, loudness wars at its purest...
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16th February 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by danijel View Post
What player and what DVDs have you tested. Yes, modern music is expected to be unbearable at that level.
Just windows media player through the same calibrated output. I had a copy of the film Frida lying around so I put this on. Ok the dialogue was not unbearable but pretty loud.

Music was definitely too loud. When I work on music mixes I have my monitor controller 14db lower than the 79 SPL setting I set up now.

I understand that post work for picture has a totally different dynamic range but I didn't expect it to be that loud an environment and that different to music mixing/mastering. The 68SPL mentioned above makes more sense. If that is so then I don't understand the usefulness of the K-system in mysic which if I remember correctly also uses 79db SPL.

Also my other question is if the people that will watch the picture I work on at their own environment will thing I have mixed it too low, because the have set it accordingly low to watch DVDs or whatever

edit: no i cheked again, DVDs are def too loud
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16th February 2012
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Fasma,
The gain staging within your software is not calibrated and you're mixing consumer playback specs within a mixing environment, there's a lot here you are overlooking. Music is the loudest format, DVDs are a bit softer, film is the softest. Consequently you set your speakers softest when mixing music, louder when mixing DVDs and loudest when mixing films, to balance it out, right?
They are all different formats - only use this calibration if you want to mix sound for film. NOT music or DVDs. Hope that helps - otherwise read the fantastic stickies by Geo and Doc sound and read some textbooks like Thomlinson Holmans Getting started with 5.1 Surround.
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17th February 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fasma View Post
edit: no i cheked again, DVDs are def too loud
'Too loud' is relative. Is it louder then what you've heard in the movie theater 10 years ago when you saw 'Blade II'?
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17th February 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fasma View Post
The 68SPL mentioned above makes more sense. If that is so then I don't understand the usefulness of the K-system in mysic which if I remember correctly also uses 79db SPL.
The K-system is an "ideal" or should i say "idealistic" system to properly monitor and use your ears to judge loudness. The K-system is meant to preserve dynamics, headroom, etc... and end the loudness wars, the only problem with it is that VERY FEW PEOPLE USE IT! so the loudness war keeps getting stronger every day, thus everything is so squashed, thus listening to music in a 79dB calibrated system sounds incredibly loud.

So bottom line, if you use the K-system to calibrate your monitoring to listen to music, the only stuff that will be played at a comfortable level is stuff actually mastered while using the K-system, or music with lots of dynamics (like jazz, classical music, and "old" music).

The movies are the format which suffers less by over compression, but still every day its getting a bigger share of limiting and squashing in order to compete with the usual block busters which are becoming louder and louder (specially trailers), or they are just being mixed louder (ive measured movies which go well above 110dB SPL during considerable periods of time in some THX certified studios, probably thats why theaters are lowering their level, which in turn makes the film makers ask for more volume to compensate for the loss, which makes the theaters lower the volume more, etc.. you get the picture)

I cant understand how people at the theaters can handle listening at those movies if the theather's sound is "at 7" (movie sound guys inside joke), or even worse, how can movie mixers mix those action sequences in loop play for hours and hours, days and days! (been there, done that for a couple of movies, and that was it for me), yet thats nothing compared to the way music is treated, lets just hope movies dont get there.

My advice: keep it lower than the K-system, which in my opinion is "ahead of its time" (or sadly, outdated), perhaps in a not so distant future, record executives, radio stations, musicians and average listeners will realize the damage they are doing to their recordings and adopt the K-system or a similar system (EBU R-128 anyone?), until then, protect your ears and calibrate your system at 68dB or lower if you are monitoring mastered material.
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17th February 2012
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thank you for your comments, they helped to clarify.

Regarding the gain staging with consumer playback systems, I guess I had assumed that for all software players when volume is on full it equals unity gain, because the volume control is just an attenuator, so no amplification is provided. But is seems that is wrong. So the question is how do I check my film mix against a commercial one? Calibrate the player? Or are there some standard players to use?
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17th February 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fasma View Post
Calibrate the player? Or are there some standard players to use?
Play your mix and calibration tone from the player and see if it reads the same like when you play it from the DAW.
As for players, just make sure you're at unity gain, and disable any dialnorm and/or dynamic range compression stuff.
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18th February 2012
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yes it all makes sense now. thanks all for the help
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18th February 2012
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Here's what I did with an RME setup. In total mix (rme's own mixer) you can save snapshots.
I measured the the setups with the same tones through Pro Tools, iTunes, MplayerX, etc. and saved the necessary master and other fader positions into the total mix software. With this, if I want to listen to music, just a recall, and the music is not too loud, with films there's another preset, and the list goes on...

The music side of this profession seems to be "unaware" of useful standards.
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3rd March 2012
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Can anyone recommend a good place to start for a speaker reference level for mixing pop/rock music? I was thinking of Bob Katz's K-14 system where 83 dB SPL would equal -14dBfs.

Anyone have any suggestions? Should I go lower?
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4th March 2012
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Thanks for taking the time to put up that video. It is a good starting point.
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5th March 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilippE123 View Post
Can anyone recommend a good place to start for a speaker reference level for mixing pop/rock music? I was thinking of Bob Katz's K-14 system where 83 dB SPL would equal -14dBfs.

Anyone have any suggestions? Should I go lower?

You havent read one word of this thread do you?
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5th March 2012
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Pan Law

Since Protools 9, we can set up the Stereo Pan Law in Protools to -6, -3, 0dB.
How should it be set? Does it affect the calibration?
Thank you very much! Great Video!!!
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24th June 2012
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Great video Brent, very straightforward.

Good point about the physical volume of the room, at work I have a 2860 sq. ft. CR so my system is calibrated to 82dBSPL as per ATSC A/85.
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3rd January 2013
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I was under the impression that the pink noise generator in PT caused mis-calibration. Is that no longer the case?
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8th January 2013
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It's close enough for small edit rooms/short films/student use which this video is intended for.
There's a difference between it and dolby pink due to correlated vs de-correlation of the pink that may effect translation for features, but you're talking about a few dB - which the multiplex is likely to be out by anyway...
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5th April 2013
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Handy video.

A comment about this process in general: many people still don't understand how this and the K-system works. Some people are really dim and try to listen to music at 79 dB on an SPL meter. Others calibrate correctly with pink noise but then go ahead and play a hot mastered track at that level instead of turning it down. This level is for K-20 mixes and masters and even then the engineer should not be having the music bumped up to a gnat's cock from clipping - if mixing, the tracks should be at an appropriate listening level. Louder mastered music should be turned down appropriately. Another point is that what is comfortably loud from quality speakers will be painfully loud from speakers that are not so good - especially ones that distort or mash the highs into a narrow band of sizzle.
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5th April 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by djgizmo View Post
I was under the impression that the pink noise generator in PT caused mis-calibration. Is that no longer the case?
Not sure if that was ever the case. If you pan the pink noise, there's the 3dB panning law, which makes one side 3dB higher if you're only playing the pink noise from that side. Not sure if was a Pro Tools exclusive problem, wouldn't be surprised though.

OP, or whoever can help, I watched the video, but got lost when you said you added a trim to your master fader, because of something about your 003. What does adjusting the gain be able for you to do, and why is the default setting -6dB?
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7th April 2013
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Pts pink is phase coherent, dolby uses decorrelated pink which reads differently.
Most studios calibrate edit suites and premix suites with digis sig gen for convenience and being the same as everyone else when it comes to editorial is more important than being correct with the dubstage. A few dbs here and there for film students also isnt a deal breaker imho, so this video hopefully gets them in roughly e rigt place, rather than mixing as close to zero without peaking as many students do before they learn about speaker cal.
Pease dont confuse this tute with Bob katz and his k system. This is aimed at film students and helping editors in small rooms, not musicians.
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13th June 2013
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Only for your info, don't want to spam: Wavelab supports the K-System and it works very well.

Cheers
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14th June 2013
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Again, Bob Katz k system is a proposed standard for music mixing, and has no relation to what is being discussed here for film speaker calibration. His k-20 is moderately useful but isnt a replacement for speaker calibration.
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27th July 2013
Old 27th July 2013
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I saw that you're using -20dB RMS level for calibration.
I've been told by several engineers and Dolby consultants to use pink noise peaking at -20dBFS. Otherwise any peak-metering after the signal generator will display higher values than -20dB.
Then I asked them what they use to calibrate theaters and they said it is also -20dB PEAK not RMS.
If RMS level would be used for calibration then the type of meter has to be specified because any RMS metering displays different values. But there is no specified metering, so it is peak reading.

I know that this leads to the the need for a higher gain setting on the speakers to get the desired SPL level. And after that, all previous mixes will sound a little louder then they should. But that is exactly what happens in the cinema and why they turn it down.

I think this point is one of several puzzle-pieces of the loudness problems this industry is suffering to. Wrong calibration leads to mixing to loud which leads theaters using Dolby Fader Level 4.2 all the time.


But maybe I had bad luck. Maybe that few theatres where I compared my mixes, were all calibrated to -20 Peak as well and all other theaters don't.
So let me hear what you think.
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