by Bryant Falk
As I journey through this digital age of video and film production, I am finding trends that are leaving people with less than ideal audio for their projects. Either through budget constraints or timing limitations, a full dedicated audio mix is just not possible. As an editor, you’ve been hesitant to open the audio plug-ins folder fearing a beast of confusing knobs and sliders waiting on the other side. Well, I hope to ease that confusion and give you the QS, (Quick Skinny) on a few tools to create more balance and clarity in your down and dirty audio mix.
There are three main types of EQ to pick from when working on your audio track:
(1) Graphic EQ
(2) Parametric EQ
(3) Low Shelf High Pass
For beginners, I recommend the Graphic, as it’s the easiest to implement and keep track of what’s been done. Also, the most familiar – as you’ve seen it on many stereo systems and boom boxes.
What is most important in your mix? That’s easy: Dialogue.
To hear it better, do you just make it louder? No.
Think of EQ as a way to balance all the random audio elements you have going on at the same time. As a visual example, it’s like putting together one of those wooden puzzles that when you’re finished look like an elephant or a giraffe. Each piece a specific place that supports the final image.
Below are some EQ rules to help carve your mix into a more balanced and complete picture.
Most people don’t use frequencies below approximately 85Hz, so take those out of your dialogue track. (On the graphic EQ, pull the sliders down from 85Hz down. This will vary a bit depending on the type of graphic EQ you have.) Unwanted low end noise issues will also be cleared out. Then, to add a bit more clarity, push up the sliders from between 2kHz and 8kHz. Try each slider to see where it effects the vocal track best. This range is large as people’s voices can vary a lot in this range.
I like to think of music as the glue that fills in all the cracks. It shouldnâ€™t be spilling over onto other items. Just like the grout on a tile floor has a specific place, so should your music. On your EQ (for the music track), try pulling the sliders down at around 4kHz. Notice this is the dialogue area? Also, pull down any other area that has another predominant sound like a police siren of dump truck.
Usually very momentary. Shorter effects usually need to be a bit brighter to allow for more clarity. Brighter is a relative term with SFX because they can sit anywhere in the audio spectrum. Try and pinpoint the middle frequency of the sound effect, and then, adjust accordingly.
Again, this is just the quick skinny on getting some EQ up and going on your mix. The more time you put into understanding the tools and researching other projects, the better your mix will get. One of the reasons I like audio so much is there is always something to learn!
Bryant Falk has been a producer and engineer for over 12 years working with such clients as The Ricki Lake Show, Coca-Cola, Sports Illustrated, Valley National Bank, and MTV’s The Shop. His company Abacus Audio (www.abacus.nyc) handles many aspects of the audio production field from creative and production to mixing and final output.