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Audio Sweetening

Audio Sweetening

Rarely will a video producer lay down an audio track and leave it. Good, recorded sound is essential in any production, but we can all use a touch-up here and there.

Some people prefer their coffee black, but many of us use at least a little cream and/or sugar to smooth it out a bit. The same is true with video sound. You may have captured a solid recording, but with a little tweaking here and there, it can be awesome. In production jargon, we call this audio sweetening and it's an important part of anything you've seen on the big or small screen. So think of it as cream and sugar, seasoning on food or even Photoshop for sound, but audio sweetening is here to stay.

The Basics

Audio editors sweeten their tracks using a variety of tools: tone control, dynamics control and time-based effects. Used alone or in combination, these adjustments make sounds bigger, fuller and give them a professional polish.

Tone control is the easiest to start with and the technique most people already understand. Just like the bass and treble controls in your car or the graphic equalizer on your music player, we can control and shape the tonal characteristics of our recorded audio. To do this, we use two different kinds of tone control: equalizers and filters. Equalizers can have anything from two to 31 bands of control and can be as simple as bass and treble knobs or as complicated as a professional graphic equalizer.

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Tags:  August 2012
Wed, 08/01/2012 - 12:00am


artsmith's picture

Complex phenomena, very well explained. My experience, has been that audio has been very much the 'poor-relation' to video, for far too long. I spend, these days, as much, if not more time on my audio, as/than I do on the video content of what I make. It's also a great field to permit creativity, and so I am constantly adding to an archive of video sounds, such as the sea in all of its moods, etc. Some of the most elusive sounds, for example are self-defeating. In New Zealand we have a native flax, (phormium tenax), which has a very characteristic 'rustle' in wind, but recording the sound, in the winds we frequently have here, is, of course, defeated by wind-blast into microphones. That's when you get close to the ground, 'under' the wind, if possible, even if those looking-on, think you are nuts. Boots walking on all sorts of road-surfaces, through tarmac, gravel, to wading through waist-high grass; bird-calls, sheep bleating in fields, and so-on, all have a place in our landscape. Your's too, will have its own kit of sounds. When well-recorded, they add and essential 'ambience' to any production. I have, on occasion, mixed sound up to 12 to 16 tracks 'deep' in my video-editor, including some essential 'atmosphere' effects, (the landscape is seldom silent), made, where need be, from 'white-noise' from a signal generator and modified by some of the means described in this excellent article. If all else fails, a Digital Audio Workstation may be used to 'sub-contract' out some of the effort. Timely article. Ian Smith Dunedin, New Zealand