Community Tip - Calibrating Your Monitors - Winner From Podcast 83

10-07-2013 10:00 AM

With the support of iLok, more tips & tricks from the community. Here is the winning tip from Podcast 83 from Alan Hardiman….
One of the hard lessons learned while working on an episodic TV series is that there is neither the time nor the budget to make everything perfect. It’s been said that a show is never finished, just abandoned when you run out of time or money, or both. One of the areas that causes us the most grief is all those annoying, unwanted noises that plague our recordings, especially production tracks for film and TV shows. As supervising sound editor on 66 episodes of Relic Hunter a few years back, I calibrated our edit rooms to 82 dBA SPL and worked on eliminating unwanted noise perceptible at that level, and not at a higher level, since 82 was the level set in the mix theatre at Deluxe. Of course you would hear every little glitch and tick if you were to boost the monitor pot, but the average audience won’t, and we’re not going for absolute perfection, just doing the appropriate job for our client, the production company, within the available time and budgetary constraints without killing ourselves. One takeaway from this is that for picture work, calibrate your monitor level appropriate for the program type and then DON’T TOUCH IT AGAIN. That’s how it’s done on the mix stage. In fact, I’ve seen film consoles with the monitor pot removed. Seasoned mixers know when dialog is at the right level just using their ears and never looking at a meter. If you mix consistently to, say, feature film level of 85 dB SPL each and every day for as little as 4 weeks without ever changing the level, you’ll soon train yourself to accurately gauge level, and you’ll love the freedom this brings to the work, along with a concomitant lack of stress over little things that will never be heard in the intended listening environment.
Mike - As loudness standard become the norm this is exactly the workflow recommended, and people who have migrated find that with their monitor system calibrated, they deliver mixes to the correct loudness spec automatically, because we are mixing using our ears instead of our ears. The recommendation in the R128 spec for Europe is when using a band limiteed pink noise 500 to 2k that is should be 78dB SPL C weighted and ATSC A85 agrees for rooms that are 1500 to 5000 cubic feet, which will cover most normal sized rooms.