Music in video is more dynamic than CD music

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by headchem, Jul 7, 2006.

  1. headchem

    headchem Guest

    Browsing the iTunes video store, I noticed that the audio in the music videos always leaves about 7 dB of unused headroom compared to the audio-only counterpart. So I extracted the audio from a greenday video, normalized it to fill in the 7 unused dB, and compared it to the audio-only version. The waveform on the left is the normalized video music, and on the right is the audio only music, which I reduced in gain to the same perceived loudness as the video version.

    To my ears, they both have identical commpression, but that last little bit of volume (~3 dB from the looks of it) is given to the "CD" version. The snare and bass drum pop is much more dynamic sounding on the left, than on the right.

    For you all who work in mastering for video, could you comment if this is a common practice to:

    1. leave so much headroom in audio destined for video
    2. back off on the volume for greater dynamics in the video version

    If I'm hearing what I think I'm hearing, I'll never buy an audio-only song from iTunes again if they also offer a video for it. I'll gladly pay $1.99 to get both the video, AND more dynamic music once I extract it and normalize it.
  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Sep 26, 2005
    headchem, you are talking about 2 different professional viewpoints by 2 different professionals mastering for 2 different types of media.

    I have heard an album cut on a CD sound completely different than a single of the same cut on a broadcast version CD, that wasn't the whole album. It's because, 2 different people handled it 2 different ways. You're thinking there is something consistent going on here and there is not.

    I wouldn't worry about what you are worrying about. Life is too short to worry about such little differences. It just doesn't make sense to be concerned about the differences of how different engineers do things differently.

    Diversity is the spice of differences
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  3. drumist69

    drumist69 Active Member

    Feb 26, 2005
    North Carolina, USA
    I can see your point RAD, and I can also see headchem's point. I think that the common ground is that audio (ie, CD audio) is being mastered way too hot these days, killing the dynamics. I'm pretty new to this stuf, so whatever, but I've quickly learned to treat compression VERY carefully, and leave the mastering to a MASTERING LAB! Hell, their gear and room cost more than my house, my car and my gear combined!
    Aside from all that, people want to hear a hot mix which compares to the last song in volume even though it sounds like crap which I say BULLOCKS! Make it sound GOOD first. The race to the top of the volume stack is a lost cause...besides the fact that none of the REAL producers and mastering engineers agree with that way of working. They only go along because they need work to pay the bills. From my point of view at the bottom here, I may as well produce good sounding stuff, even if it is a bit weaker in volume than comercial stuff. Its the only way I can stand out from the crowd at this point. So why not? ANDY
  4. headchem

    headchem Guest

    After a brief foray into super loud masters myself, I'm definitely more sensitive to dynamics than I once was. Oh no, am I going to be one of those old people who call up the classical radio station and complain about their modest use of compression?

    After a little more digging around the iTunes music store, I discovered what you said Remy - the masters were often very different sounding from the CD version. However, I know many of the big MEs also do the DVD version of some of their projects, and maybe Jensen also happened to master the video version of the Green Day song. I'm still sure that in that particular case the compression settings, EQ and everything else was the same except for final volume. In the other videos I tried it with, their EQ and compression were noticable different, and often didn't give me that little extra dynamic quality I was looking for.

    I'm still wondering why every single one of these videos leaves 5-7 dB of unnused headroom. Is this an iTunes video format thing, or a TV broadcast rule I don't know?

    I'm still hopeful that I will find an occasional video with a more dynamic master than the CD version. This happened with India Arie's new single "I am not my hair." The video version has noticably less clipping distortion on the big bass drum thumps, and is a quieter master overall. Hip-hop related music really drives me crazy with their bd clips, so maybe I'll find more dynamic versions in the hip-hop video section. I'll check it out and report...
  5. sakiskoro

    sakiskoro Guest

    dynamic range

    Hello everybody!
    Being really intersted in this topic as I should, I might have this answer for you.
    I've been recording for some 4 years for radio specific applications. About 3 months ago I got into recording v.o for a telly show. Using the same techniques as for radio got my hair up when the tv show aired! They use so much more compression, limiting and eq than on the radio I work for.
    So I got into comparing different audio which I knew was transfered from telly. Downloaded some HD trailers, extracted audio from cds destined for t.v. and stuff. If you export any trailer using QT, you'll see that the dynamic range is bigger than what you got from broadcast cds and far from what you get from d/ls and consumer cds. Which in reality is the right thing to do. Telly and radio (if still different) use compression all of the time because of the nature of the programme. At home, the iPod and in the car you get more compressed music because of the enviroment you are supposed to listen to them. They are "supposed" to be more compressed. And I say "supposed", because according to Mr. Bob Katz' "Mastering audio" things should be different. Worth a deep reading!
    In reality, what you get in vids and mp3s is propably the two different acres of what you are supposed to be hearing. Broadcasters have compression chains in mind and "consumer" mastering engineers have the lack of compressors in mind! All of them agonise for how you could get the best result in different media, although "consumer" m.e.'s tend to lean towards "broadcast" sound lately.
    Try and find an original recording in cd from the '80s and the "remastered" one. Compare them and you'll see what's going on.
    Now this may not be always a good thing. What the producer wants is almost always different to what the sound engineer wishes and the mastering engineer desires! Put all these aspects together, plus another hundred in the "recording to consumer" chain and you'll find that it's a difficult task to achive what we call perfect sound!

    Cheers to all.
    P.S. Try turning "midnight mode" on in your telly while listening to a non-mastered audio and you'll hear what I mean.[/quote]
  6. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Dec 12, 2001
    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:
    We do audio for both TV and CDs. I understand your concerns but sometimes it is a matter of what the artist or producer wants to do and if you want to do the work you have to do what the artist or producer wants. There are many times when I want to say to the artist back off it is too much or to the producer I think we have gone over the top on the compression but they are paying the bills and if you are in this as a profession then you have to do what the person who is paying the bills wants you to do. You can always suggest but they are the final word on what gets done.

    I worked in a radio station and a TV station and know that there is a lot of processing that goes on before the audio signal finally hits the transmitter. This is done for various reasons, It is done to satisfy the FCC for technical reasons, it is done to make the signal louder so it will cover more area and it is done in many cases to give the station a sound on the air waves so someone tuning across the band will hear a signal that they will stop at.

    As to movie and television being mastered differently than CD I think Remy covered that very well. I have done audio for two films and about 500 CDs and have to say that the film people are much more consistent in their listening setups and in their levels than most people who are doing CD mastering. The film people mix to pix using predefined listening setups with standardized EQ settings and actually mix to pix in an auditorium that replicates to a fair degree where the film will be shown. This is NOT the case with CD mastering. If you want to read a very good article on mastering levels and the use of standardized monitoring levels for CD mastering I suggest you go to and read everything you can.

    Hope this helps.

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