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stereo and surround levels
Old 3rd August 2007
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huub's Avatar

Thread Starter
Talking stereo and surround levels

Hi all,
sorry if this has been asked before, but a search did not get me an answer to my specific question..
Normally i mix for television broadcast, but i'm mixing a concert for dvd release right now,
in surround..
I have noticed that most stereo music dvd's just use the mix for broadcast (european broadcast, so mixed to -9dbfs, which is what I normally mix to)..
Levels of dvd's go all over the place anyway, I notice...
In mastering, what levels/rules are there for stereo and surround music, especially if there are both stereo and surround mixes on a dvd?
I suppose the surround and stereo mix should be somewhat the same level right?
And I don't want to hear about dynamics , I just want to know where to set my limiter in case there's no budget for mastering (quite likely sadly)..
Old 3rd August 2007
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Sunbreak Music's Avatar
Are you mixing from stems, tracks, or upmixing?

How much information is going to the rears? Are you using the LFE?

There's really no standard for DVD as you've noticed, and a lot has to do w/ bass management, center channel usage, and ultimately the anticipated audience, etc. It's not like broadcast where you have a -9 or -6 standard.

Can you tell me a little more about the project? You could pm me if you'd prefer.
Old 3rd August 2007
I think there's more than one person who'd love to see more detailed response on this. There's lots of us who read this forum to learn more about the trade. If you do take this to PM, if you wouldn't mind posting what you learn, it'd be beneficial to others who are here. Thanks!
Old 3rd August 2007
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huub's Avatar

Thread Starter
Hi cass, thanks for replying.
I'm mixing tracks from pyramix, either in pyramix or through lawo mc66/2 console, haven't decided yet (I'm just setting up now, our pyramix system arrived last week)..
Most likely the center and surrounds will only contain ambi mics (in between songs) and I see no need to use the lfe channel..
the stereo mix will be broadcast on national tv, and the dvd will end up in the stores for home use most likely.
The concert is more than 2 hours long though, so i'm not sure surround and pcm stereo wil fit on dvd without the video looking like vhs...
Also: limiting will be either from system 6000, or plug ins..

Last edited by huub; 3rd August 2007 at 05:36 PM.. Reason: typo
Old 3rd August 2007
Hi Huub,
I recommend not to lower the headroom as you would for broadcast.
The thing is, something like that will happen at the dvd authoring stage.

In dvd authoring applications, there's an audio setting called reference level or something like that (default -28 and max -31 ? not sure). Being a reference it acts like a threshold, so lowering the value wil raise output level . Anyway it's set for ample headroom normally for movie dynamics.
I think that's why most DVD's sound softer than cd's - thank God.

However, that threshold may be changed for louder music DVD's.
Be sure to discuss that with your authoring facility, they will take care of it.

That leaves you to mix/master comfortably with limiter set near zero. That's how i mastered for a few DVD's and had no complaints from the authoring house. For the sake of the medium, it wouldn't hurt to at least keep the dynamics a bit conservative - oops, did i start about dynamics?

As for the surround vs. stereo versions: The sum of surround channels are percieved louder by the ear than a mix of only two channels with similar peak levels. So yes, mixing the 5.1 softer seems a wise thing to do. Preferably by dynamics, not just lowering the limiter threshold. If you're given the time/budget of cause.

Old 3rd August 2007
Gear Head

Originally Posted by finetuner View Post
Hi Huub,
In dvd authoring applications, there's an audio setting called reference level or something like that (default -28 and max -31 ? not sure).
Hi, this is indeed called dialnorm and has a level from 0 to -31 whereas -27 is the standard for some authoring software. The lower you go, the louder it will be, but if the consumer has dynamic range compression on, it will go nuts with music with low dynamics! Most commercial DVD's that I see are set to -31 though (just wanting to be the loudest)!

Old 3rd August 2007
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Sunbreak Music's Avatar
There aren't any rules, so that's somewhat comforting heh In fact, some are starting to question the basic ITU standard and changing the angles on their own, but that's another thread.

I haven't done any broadcast 5.1, but in the DVD audio realm, I do not lower the levels at all vs. a two channel mix.

I give them L, R, PLUS the other channels. They want it.

Trying to match perceived volume of stereo vs. 5.1 doesn't sound like fun, and they're going to turn it up anyway to "hear it from the back speakers". Sure, it's psychoacoustics, but isn't that what surround is?

Since you're only directing ambience anyway, it's probably not a big deal. I think you're safe no matter what, and good call to keep the LFE clear.

In the end, everyone's home theater system is out of whack anyway

Have fun w/ it.
Old 3rd August 2007
Originally Posted by Robin Reumers View Post
...this is indeed called dialnorm
yes that was it, thanks. Stands for Dialog Normalisation.

Originally Posted by Sunbreak Music View Post
...good call to keep the LFE clear
Good advice!

Old 6th August 2007
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huub's Avatar

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thanks all!
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