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Old 04-28-2014, 05:48 AM
Terry Wetzel Terry Wetzel is offline
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Default Matching levels??

I've been puzzling over this subject for a while and have yet to hear an explanation. When you say match levels what exactly are you talking about and in what situations are you referring to? In my particular situation, does matching levels help when a track has been recorded via punch in and the punched regions,(clips) play back at different, noticeable levels. The mic wasn't moved and the singer,(me), did his best to keep mic to mouth distance and vocal volume the same throughout. I'm using a quality mic and I don't change the input level on my interface. If I get a good explanation here I will be grateful. With that said, Is there a function in Pro tools 9 for auto matching levels, either region to region or track to track and if so how is it done? Thanks
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Old 04-28-2014, 05:50 AM
Terry Wetzel Terry Wetzel is offline
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Default Re: Matching levels??

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Old 04-28-2014, 05:54 AM
Terry Wetzel Terry Wetzel is offline
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Default Re: Matching levels??

OOPs! I didn't mean to do that!
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Old 04-28-2014, 07:06 AM
adam_w1 adam_w1 is offline
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Default Re: Matching levels??

There have always been situations where levels, especially in drop ins, or replaced sections aren't always at the same level in a performance, and throughout any sung performance really, even if you compress on the way in.

There are 2 main ways to deal with this:

1.) change the volume level with a fader with automation riding the level through your mix and not just expect a compressor to take care of dynamic differences. You should probably be doing this anyway.

and before doing this...

2.) Pre PT 10, I'd often apply gain (audio suite) to sections, words, or even syllables if necessary on a vocal in PT 10+, you can adjust clip gain in the same manner which is a faster, better way of doing the same thing. This has a different effect to the above, and for me is part of the "getting ready" stage.

and...

3.) You can also automate little EQ tweaks if need be as the vocal goes along to achieve many things, from popping out words/lines, making them lighter or darker depending on what's needed to common tasks like killing thumps or esses
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Old 04-28-2014, 11:50 PM
mesaone mesaone is offline
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Default Re: Matching levels??

Terry, fluctuating levels are a human issue. As much as your equipment can influence the signal, your voice will never be 100% consistent. Distance, projection, enunciation, timing, and everything else will always vary by at least a small amount. This isn't a problem in and of itself, your takes can be blended to sound cohesive.

Crossfades, clip gain (unavailable to you in PT9, but I should mention it anyway) and other level automation (like Adam mentioned), compression, and EQ are all things that can help. I suggest using clip gain so that each punch-in matches the approximate level of the surrounding vocal.

As for EQ, pay articular attention to the low and low-mids, this is where any proximity changes in close-miked vocals will be more apparent. You can audiosuite a gentle scoop in that area (or automate it, or use two different tracks with separate EQs inserted).

Compression tends to "glue" things together, but go easy on that to begin with.

There is a Normalize function in Pro Tools, but it should be used sparingly. While normalize looks to set either peak or RMS values (your choice) to a set level, you should use your ears instead. I suggest starting out with two tracks, make sure you have overlapping fades set to equal gain. Adjust track levels or audiosuite gain until you have an approximate match, and then play back without looking at the screen. The visual cues tend to influence your perception, and you want to be "visually impartial" here.
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Old 04-30-2014, 05:56 AM
Terry Wetzel Terry Wetzel is offline
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Default Re: Matching levels??

Thanks adam w1 & mesaone. Should compreshion be used while recording? I usually add it as an insert after duplicating the original vocal track and then it's on an aux track so it effects both vocal tracks. I try not to insert effects on the initial, pass in keeping with the rule, it can't be removed later. I will attempt to improve my technique by trying everything that you have suggested. I am a little reluctant to try Normalize but what can it hurt if it works? It won't stop the show if I need to re record the vocal!
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Old 04-30-2014, 08:55 AM
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mjslakeridge mjslakeridge is offline
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Default Re: Matching levels??

Hey Terry, I usually use compression when recording vocals, since I use a fairly sensitive condenser mic and record mainly rock vocals which tend to have a lot of dynamics. I use an external compressor patched into the mixer before the signal ever goes into my PT interface. Usually a ratio of 4:1 with a quick attack and fairly slow release.

Go ahead and mess around with normalize. Make a copy of the vocal track and use normalize on the copy so you can always go back to the original if you don't like the results. It is somewhat of a trial and error process for me, and like Mesaone said, use your ears more than your eyes. For practice, butt up the vocal phrases right up against each other so there is no silence between them so you can compare levels right after normalizing. If the first attempt is no good, undo and try another setting. You won't be normalizing all of the vocal phrases. Pick one that is at a good level, and try to get the others to match.

On another note, when I first started digital recording, I used to try to get everything recorded as hot as possible without clipping (carryover from the old analogue tape days). After reading about gain staging and looking at some Youtube videos on the subject, my goal now is to get the signals at around -15db on all tracks (use pre fader metering). I can't explain the technical reasons for this, but it has to do with headroom and mathematics.
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Old 05-02-2014, 05:39 AM
Terry Wetzel Terry Wetzel is offline
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Default Re: Matching levels??

mjslackeridge. Thanks for the good advice on using the compressor. I don't use it much and when I do I keep it at about 2 to 1. If I need limiting, usually 10 to 1. I'm old school music wise, ( Rockabilly, 50's & early 60's Pop and some Country from the same era. I am with you on pre fader input levels as I am appalled with the current trend by Rock musicians that push the music into the distortion range! Your set up of patching an external compressor in to your mixer, pre interface, interests me. What I/O are you using. I use the Focusrite 2i4 and I thought that you had to plug either mic or instrument into the interface in order to get the signal in to Pro tools. I play back recorded material via outputs 1 & 2 of the 2i4, into my Mackie mixer.
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Old 05-02-2014, 06:07 AM
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mjslakeridge mjslakeridge is offline
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Default Re: Matching levels??

I use a Tascam M-320B mixer, which has 20 XLR mic inputs. Each of the 20 channels has a 1/4 inch insert jack. Using a 1/4 inch TRS cable, I send the signal to an Alesis 3630 compressor and back to the Tascam mixer. From there the signal is sent out as a line level signal into the line input (1/4 inch) on my Digi 002 Rack. Since I am using the mic preamps on my Tascam mixer to amplify the mic signal, I don't want to use the mic inputs on the Digi 002 to again amplify the signal, thus using the line inputs.

I am not familiar with the Focusrite 2i4, but my guess is that it has both mic and line inputs (or maybe combo xlr and 1/4 inch inputs), and a button or switch where you can specify line or mic. Depending on the Mackie mixer you have, there are probably insert points either on the individual channels or on the busses where you could patch in a compressor.

But there is no reason you can't achieve the same result by using the compressor plugins within Pro Tools. I just happen to use the external compressor because I had it when I was recording to 1/2 inch analogue tape.
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Old 05-03-2014, 05:56 AM
Terry Wetzel Terry Wetzel is offline
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Default Re: Matching levels??

mslackeridge. Thanks. I have a Mackie 24/8 that has seen better days but it's still functional. There are some static issues with the buttons. I have it set up just for playback of recorded PT's tracks via one stereo bus pair. I use a second stereo bus pair to play back the output of my Masterlink deck. I didn't have a method of switching speaker pairs and this works without spending $$. The Mackie has channel inserts X24 so your method would work for me if I ever want to patch a hardware compressor or other devices pre 2i4. Thanks for your helpful advice.
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