Setting a maximum audio level for all of my video

IntrepBerkExplorer wrote on 9/30/2015, 3:06 PM
Having been greatly helped by kind, knowledgeable people able to solve my worst problem, I am back again seeking answers to compensate for being so non-technical.

It appears that the Audio Mixer, with Master on the right side, may allow me to set a reasonable maximum sound level for my entire project. Unfortunately the instructions provided are so convoluted that I cannot understand them.

My objective is, for the first time, to eliminate all audio (voice and music) which is too loud, by setting a limit. Previously I tinkered manually with each audio segment that sounded overly loud and needed to be softer, a very long, cumbersome process adjusting multiple audio points.

If given the proper commands, my guess is that Master will set a desired limit. And the limit I choose has no effect upon all audio already below that limit. Please confirm, if possible, that I am right about this general concept.

Unfortunately Master is presented on a scale with "-Inf" atop two columns of mysterious numbers decreasing as they reach towards -Inf. What's clear is that audio gets louder as volume hits lower numbers. A short test revealed that some audio on my timeline even goes up high enough towards -Inf so that it hits a red zone, obviously way too loud. (The two columns have to be stereo, with both needing to be controlled. I don't care what -Inf is.)

I lack knowledge about how to set a proper limit, both the commands and the sound level as expressed at -6, -9, -12, etc. But one of these numbers should be chosen to crush unpleasant loudness over the entirety of my 27 minute travel video. Which number is it?

Once I have that number, and the commands needed to enforce it, I hope that sliding Master into proper position means that my new video is finished.

The video, unlike my Vegas Movie Studio 9.0 technical skill level, is fine.

So I ask for help once again, believing this will be the last time for my current travel video effort.



Steve Grisetti wrote on 9/30/2015, 5:12 PM
Audio level controls can be set for an individual event, for a track or for your movie overall. But this is an overall audio level. It will raise or lower all of the audio on a particular event, track or project. Is that what you're trying to do?

It sounds like you just want some sort of limiter to automatically limit the audio so that it doesn't get too loud.

If that's the case, there are audio effects and tools for doing that in Sound Forge. There are even a couple of audio effects that may be able to do this for individual events in Movie Studio.

But it's better to monitor your audio throughout your project using the meter and, when you see the audio peaking above zero, adjusting it accordingly. That may seem like a lot of work but in the end it's the best way to ensure your audio is at an adequate and not overmodulated level throughout.
Jillian wrote on 9/30/2015, 9:15 PM
It sounds like you want to normalize all of your audio events. First, read about Normalization in Help. If you have long events with many large volume changes, you might want to snip your long events into smaller portions.

Select all of the audio you want to adjust, or you can do it one event at a time.

Right click one of the selected events. Go to "Switches" - "Normalize."

This will set the highest peak of each event to your selected Normalize level. Please note that if you have one peak much higher then the rest of the clip (such as a cough or loud noise) that will become the high point and the remainder of the clip will still be much lower.

Once you have normalized your clips, you can use envelopes to make specific adjustments.

The Master controller adjusts the entire project. For instance, if you want to lower the overall levels of your project 10 db so your DVD volume doesn't come out much louder than your normal TV level, you would use the Master.

Also remember that when you render, any volumes that are going into the red will be automatically clipped to 0 db, but the other levels will not be effected.

Hope this helps.
TOG62 wrote on 10/1/2015, 3:53 AM
If you want to attenuate the loudest sections without doing the same to quiet passages you need to apply compression, either to individual events or to whole tracks.
Chienworks wrote on 10/1/2015, 7:31 AM
Compression can be very good and helpful. If you're not sure what you're doing take a look at WaveHammer, which often gives very acceptable results with minimal effort.
IntrepBerkExplorer wrote on 10/1/2015, 11:16 AM

Yes, I am looking for a simple way to set maximum audio that covers my entire project on the timeline.

Your suggestion of monitoring my audio is confusing because, as I wrote above,
Master shows audio as a set of decreasing negative numbers. For example, loudness is greater at -6 than at -9. And these negative numbers have "-Inf" at the top.

"0" does not appear so I cannot use your approach.

Instead I would need to decide upon something like -6 as a limit if I try monitoring the entire project.

Perhaps I need to know which negative number is the equivalent of your zero. That would be the only way monitoring works.

IntrepBerkExplorer wrote on 10/1/2015, 12:01 PM

You introduce Normalization, a new subject for me.

I am immediately confused by this first entry from Help:

"Normalize peak level (dB)
Use the slider to change the default Peak Level settings. This value will be used when you use the Normalize event switch."

There are no default Peak Level settings that I am aware of. The sliders on Master are set at -21 on the scale under "-Inf". But all the audio is louder than -21. The first song, which must be made softer, hits very high at -4.7. A softer song is at -18.

It seems I must find out how to set default Peak Level in a way that Master would actually apply it. As usual help is the last thing that "Help" provides. I follow all directions for getting to Audio Device and hitting "Default All". Nothing changes.

Can you or anyone else explain how I achieve the default Peak Level settings that Master would use to soften whatever goes above them?

IntrepBerkExplorer wrote on 10/1/2015, 12:09 PM
TOG62 and Chienworks,

I don't feel technical enough to deal with the unknown subject of "Compression".

As proof it turns out I've failed to properly read the audio numbers under Master.
They are not negative, but actually written as -12- for example. So I will now use just the plain numbers, correcting my own silly mistake.

My chances seem better setting a peak level under Audio Mixer's Master. This is something I would be able to see doing its job.

There apparently should be "default Peak Level settings" somewhere.

I need help finding or re-creating them.


Chienworks wrote on 10/1/2015, 12:32 PM
Let's see if we can clarify a couple things at least.

The negative numbers are volume reduction below full. So of course -5 is louder than -9 because -5 is 4dB higher than -9. 0 is the theoretical maximum volume in the digital realm and every volume adjustment is below that. -Inf. is no sound at all.

The master slider in the mixer, and in fact every single volume slider in the mixer and on the tracks are simple volume controls. If you set them for -5, then a piece with a peak of -2 will play at -7, and a piece with a peak at -18 will play at -23. ALL of these controls simply reduce all the volume uniformly. This is normal and is to be expected.

You seem to want to set a volume level in which everything above that is reduced while anything below it is untouched. Fair enough, but, the only place you can lower the volume of the peaks without lowering the volume (or lowering as much) of the quieter places is with one of the compression effects. None of the aforementioned volume controls will do this for you. Not a one of them.

There are effects you can add to accomplish this. There is a very simple limiter that merely chops off the loud peaks, reducing them to whatever level you set. While this gets the job done, it can make the peaks sound very muddy since they lose all dynamics. The next option is Compression, which gradually reduces the volume in proportion to how loud it is. So really loud things get reduced the most, almost as loud things get reduced a little less, and so on with quieter things getting reduced the least. This retains the dynamic quality of the sound, just making it somewhat less dynamic. I believe this is what you are after. However, the compression effect takes some amount of careful fiddling to get optimal results and it's easy to get bad results.

The other effect i recommended before is Wave Hammer. This is sort of like the compressor being run automatically by a very intelligent robot. It may not always produce the absolute best result, but it often gives very good results with minimal amount of effort from the user, especially a user who doesn't understand all the functions of the compressor. It pretty much has three controls: one is the limit above which sound is reduced and below which it isn't. The next is the ratio, saying how much to "squeeze" the volume, and the last is whether you want to raise the resulting volume back up to a normal level.

You've mentioned that some of the pieces in your project have peaks around -2 while others are -18. This is where you might want to do some normalizing first. If you add enough compression to get the -2 piece down to the same level as the -18 then you'll end up squashing it flat and it will sound horrible. If you set the compression to work well with the louder piece then it's still going to be much louder than the quieter piece, which won't get any compression at all. So, before you even start, you should go to each event on the timeline, right-mouse-button click on the audio wave form, and from the popup menu choose 'Normalize'. This tells Vegas to increase the volume of each one as necessary to get it's peaks up close to 0. The -2 piece will be increased 2dB while the -18 piece will be increased 18dB, with the result that they may now be pretty close to equal volume. In a lot of cases this is sufficient to get you to where you want to be.

However ... some music is more dynamic than other music. Just because the peaks are now equal doesn't mean that the average volume is. Some later rock music is going to blare at you because it's already been squashed and the quiet parts may be at -6 with an average of -3, while well performed and recorded classical, even with peaks raised to 0, may still have quiet parts that are -30 with an average -18. So even after normalizing you may wish to manually tweak some tracks back down a bit, and then consider adding compression to reduce the dynamic range.

Any of this make sense yet?
Allegretto wrote on 10/1/2015, 12:33 PM
To set the Master Bus slider level back to its default, double click on the output fader slider thumb. All of the sliders in Movie Studio work this way, double clicking on the thumb returns it to its default.

Hope this is what you were asking for when you said:
There apparently should be "default Peak Level settings" somewhere.
I need help finding or re-creating them.
musicvid10 wrote on 10/1/2015, 12:45 PM
Do what the broadcasters do, without additional compression or hard limiting, and adjust the loudness to conform your recordings (that's a different concept than "levels" or "volume.")

IntrepBerkExplorer wrote on 10/1/2015, 3:03 PM

Unfortunately you mention a process to increase volume. That is the opposite of what I hoped to achieve in a simple way.

Now it seems I must do this manually on the timeline, prior to a test in the real world using a DVD.

Apparently I wish to use a feature that does not exist.

IntrepBerkExplorer wrote on 10/1/2015, 3:08 PM

Referring me to a technical discussion of audio, while well-intentioned, cannot possibly be of any help, since I can't comprehend it.

IntrepBerkExplorer wrote on 10/1/2015, 3:52 PM

You must first appreciate how difficult this all is for me. I do not understand the terms being used by you and "Help".

Exactly what is "the output fader slider thumb", where is it, what does it look like, and how do I find it?

All I can see are the two sliders under Master, no thumbs.

Similarly, what is the "Master Bus slider", where is it, what does it look like, and how do I find it?

Apparently both the "the output fader slider thumb" and the "Master Bus slider" are hidden from me. Again I can only see what's visible, two sliders under Master which provide me with no control over audio from the timeline.

Nothing tried has ever produced a change in original volume. I have attempted to move the sliders under Audio Mixer's Master, but any level makes no difference, the sliders ignored 100% of the time.

Can you instruct me in very simple, non-technical terms, step by step, how to move whatever is needed to provide me with control over peak audio?

Not knowing what the default is, or whether it even helps, my real objective is Peak Audio Control. I would settle for the default if it serves my purposes.

In an ideal world, the sliders under Master would be given functionality. But it probably is far more complicated.

Only with control can I avoid the burden of doing it manually for each audio segment that may currently be too loud. And I've always been stuck with that burden, wishing to avoid it this time.

Hopefully you can provide the help I need.


silvertone1938 wrote on 10/1/2015, 4:59 PM
The help you need has been thoughtfully and clearly provided several times by several posters in this thread. They have explained carefully what options are available, how they work, and why you might choose each of them.

It seems this may be too much information. So, with no explanation as to why or how any of this works, here are the steps to make all of your audio events the same volume.

1) Move your mouse to an audio event (what you've called an "audio segment"). Click the right mouse button (not the left). A menu appears.

2) Find the word "Switches" in the menu. Move your mouse so "Switches" is highlighted. A second menu appears next to the first.

3) In the second menu which has appeared, find the word "Normalize". Move your mouse so "Normalize" is highlighted. Click the left mouse button.

4) Repeat steps 1, 2, and 3 for each audio event on the timeline.

5) If your sound is too quiet or too loud after steps 1 through 4, move the sliders under Master up or down to make it louder or quieter.
Chienworks wrote on 10/2/2015, 9:51 AM
Dave, the only volume increases i mentioned were to get the various pieces of music to a similar volume level. Everything else i discussed was compression and decreasing volumes.

I'm sorry, but i just have to ask ... did you actually read what i wrote?
MSmart wrote on 10/2/2015, 11:09 AM
At a very basic level, here is how I normalize audio:

1) Click on the Track FX icon in the audio track header

2) Click on the Track Compressor button

3) Use the "3:1 compression starting at -15 db" preset

4) Enable the Auto gain compensation and Smooth saturation options

This is a starting point. See how the audio sounds. If still too high, try sliding the Output gain slider to the left to -1 or -2. Listen again.

If the 3:1 preset doesn't get you where you want, try one of the others. Listen again.

Keeping the Audio Track FX window open on the Track Compressor while playing your video will show you how the audio is being affected to either raise or lower it.
IntrepBerkExplorer wrote on 10/2/2015, 4:44 PM

You provided exactly the kind of instructions I was looking for, which I followed for the entire timeline. Switches was somehow set to "Loop", not intentionally by me, and this setting was replaced by "Normalize".

I did precisely as you directed.

Unfortunately it made no difference to audio that I could see and hear. The sliders under Master were immediately exceeded, as before, by music that is obviously too loud.

Appreciating your advice, I wish it had worked. Now I will try doing it all manually on the timeline, using Master as a guide for setting maximum audio by altering points that need to be lowered.

IntrepBerkExplorer wrote on 10/2/2015, 4:52 PM

I now believe those people who said that what I wanted was impossible.

At least manual adjustment of audio points on the timeline will get me closer to the desired goal.

Your suggestion is over my head at a level far greater than loud audio I know how to soften.

pwppch wrote on 10/2/2015, 10:14 PM
I now believe those people who said that what I wanted was impossible.

No, it is not impossible.

You have to learn how the tools work and how audio is "mixed"

Vegas provides many different workflows to solve the problems you have. Many of the users here have provided alternative as starting points.

There is not magic easy button to make it just happen.

We also don't know exactly how you are setting up your project, specifically your audio.

Are you using multiple tracks of audio or just one?

Have you deternined which audio events/files are too loud?
Are the music and other audio in a single file/event or are you using multiple audio files ?

If the different parts of the audio are in a single audio file, then trying to change the levels of this already mixed audio is like trying to un-bake a cake. (We do have a tool that can help you: Spectral layers, but it requires an understanding of audio frequency content as it relates to audio.)

All of these play into the solution.

if you can provide some more details on the exact files/media you have in your project and how you have constructed your project, I am sure that many here will be able to lead you in the right direction, However, there is a learning curve here that no amount of advice will solve.

Again, there is no easy button, though there are many simple techniques that can be learned and applied to help you solve your problems.

MSmart wrote on 10/3/2015, 6:41 PM
Dave, following 4 steps is too difficult?
musicvid10 wrote on 10/4/2015, 7:40 AM
OP has rejected the notion of any technical solution out-of-hand.
Unfortunately, it is a technical issue.
An alternative to the Movie Studio learning curve would be Windows Movie Maker.

IntrepBerkExplorer wrote on 10/4/2015, 2:58 PM

I think your post clearly indicates audio complexities way beyond my skill level on Vegas Movie Studio.

Never would have raised the subject, had I known such degree of difficulty.

I will make do on my own.

IntrepBerkExplorer wrote on 10/4/2015, 3:10 PM

It's possible that earlier efforts messed up my timeline enough so that nothing was ever going to work.

Wish I could turn back the clock and begin with the original timeline. Would have been far easier for me and everyone else.

Manual adjustments of audio points are the only option for me now. And it's become harder, with unsaved changes altering entries on the timeline.

Too bad there's no System Restore able to rescue me.

IntrepBerkExplorer wrote on 10/4/2015, 3:45 PM

I'm actually quite a good video editor using Vegas Movie Studio and its predecessors. Also do well as a photographer. 43 of my amateur travel videos are currently being streamed on line, and clips from them received over 8 million YouTube hits.

Yes I have technical limitations, and usually work around them. But that doesn't justify your suggestion of Windows Movie Maker as being appropriate for me. I aspire to greater things, such as using more of what Vegas Movie Studio offers.

Over the years trying to get both generated media and audio just right has meant looking at/hearing what's wrong and then fixing it manually. Audio is the hardest, attempting to adjust points so nothing is too soft or too loud on the timeline.

Now I understand it was folly to make that original post, like searching for an audio fountain of gold. Have to learn and remember my limitations.

Signing off. This thread ends here.