Sounding Punchy on the Radio

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by splurge, Jun 19, 2004.

  1. splurge

    splurge Guest

    Hi

    I'm trying to get into making radio ads. The only thing that worries me is how much compression to use to make my productions sound punchy but without the radio stations compressers squashing the life out of it.

    Cheers Liam
     
  2. nuclearmoon

    nuclearmoon Guest

    You should ask this question in the mastering forum........ads get mastered, too ya know!:)
     
  3. splurge

    splurge Guest

    Thanks Nuclearmoon I was a little unsure where to place this question.

    Liam
     
  4. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    there is a misconception that mastering for radio needs to be loud. It doesn't have to and infact, the louder you make it, the worse it sounds. The radio processor will make everything near the same volume so the loudest stuff will be squashed the most and the lower stuff will have the most punch. I recommend you listen to the radio and find the songs that you think sound the best. get the cd, rip it and look at the levels. This will tell you a lot about what you need to do to make it sound the way you want.
     
  5. NolanVenhola

    NolanVenhola Guest

    Producers are getting cd's mastered at lower levels than radio singles these days though. Since they think the radio version needs to be louder... cough yeah.
     
  6. realdynamix

    realdynamix Well-Known Member

    :D Are we talking levels in loudness, by way of meter or detector, or perception of loudness?

    You can't fool that broadcast limiter, but maybe you can fool the ear.

    --Rick
     
  7. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    well you can make this very midrange and bright and it will sound loud but midrangy and bright. to me, this is more apparent on television than radio. to me, punchy means balanced in regards to freq and dynamic range. if you squash it and tweek it, both of these go away.
     
  8. markwilder

    markwilder Guest

    I would hope that the idea of "punchy" originates at the microphone. You can't leave these things until the end. It is possible to punch something up a bit in mastering, but if you want that supreme impact, it starts at the beginning.

    Also, don't be so afraid of compression. Just make it a priority to master the craft of applying compression correctly. It's an amazing tool if used correctly, and it really bites if it's not.
     
  9. splurge

    splurge Guest

    Hi All, thanks for all the replies.

    I really like the suggestion of listening for music I think works on the radio buying the CD and looking at the levels.It was also interesting that you mentioned mid-range as I've been toying with the idea of dipping the mid-range of the backing music and fx so as to leave plenty of space for the dialogue.

     
  10. tomtom

    tomtom Guest

    I suggest that you use a multiband compressor/limiter such as a tc electronics finalizer on your whole mix. Amazing how much tweaking can be done with such device, according to the contents of your ad.

    Here's what I do everyday. I usually use a combination of eq and compression during voice recording.
    I remove excessive lows with hi cut filter and a shelf and add some brightness with a gentle shelf around 10kHz (just trying to give you an idea here, not at all THE absolute thing to do.) I use gentle compression 4:1 quick attack, not less than 100ms release for male voice (to avoid distortion in the low area). I have about 3 to 5dB of reduction on the VU. This gives me a good sound to start with.
    I'm looking for controlled dynamics (I don't squash it yet) and a balanced frequency response. The voices sounds full and natural.
    In the mix, things get different depending on what the soundtrack is made of. I use a combination of more EQ, more compression, limiting, clipping, exciters on each track. Not necessarely all of them, of course... It all depends on how aggressive I need to sound or not and what elements the voice over will compete with. I usually still have about 6dBs of dynamics on the ppm meter for a classic ad (music bed, few sfxs and voice over) before final processing.
    Then, the whole mix goes through a multiband processor. I can apply EQ, compression, limiting, soft clipping as needed. The trick here is to get it to sound full. Lo/Mids/Highs. Make it sound pleasing to the ear, then look for more detail in the high end. Plenty of brightness without being harsh. Radio stations processors don't like narrow freq. bands with excessive peaks in the sountrack. Build your soundtrack accordingly. The processors hate over compressed mixes too. They will clamp them down forever.
    All of them are set up differently. There is not one rule that fools them all. Your mix will be compressed no matter what...
    The last and best advice I can give you is : Route your console output to a small speaker (a kitchen radio or you tv). Turn the volume down and listen to what's left. If you can here it all clearly with still a sense of fullness (our ear's sensitivity varies with loudness) you're in the right direction.
    Also, keep your mixes, listen to them on the radio and you'll learn what works and what doesn't. Record the good sounding ads from the radio and compare them to yours...

    Good luck,

    Thomas
     
  11. realdynamix

    realdynamix Well-Known Member

    :D Mark said..."the idea of "punchy" originates at the microphone....Also, don't be so afraid of compression. Just make it a priority to master the craft of applying compression correctly." I say great voice talent as well; compression is a necessary evil in almost all aspects of recording, especially now with extended headroom and the temptation to use it.

    Michael said.."there is a misconception that mastering for radio needs to be loud. It doesn't have to and infact, the louder you make it, the worse it sounds. The radio processor will make everything near the same volume so the loudest stuff will be squashed the most and the lower stuff will have the most punch."

    Very wise and logical as always Michael! I sometimes would get a call through to engineering at our local affiliates, this particular call was a suggestion to help their main news teaser prevent the limiter from stealing the meat from the actual open. Affiliates spend a fortune on their theme music and VO, so I offered that they reduce the recovery time of the limiter, normally set to about 7 to 10 seconds, only to get into the segment, then gradually restore the settings of recovery. So, my point here is your broadcaster has a slow recovery, so this must be taken into account with your spot.

    Michael also says "well you can make this very midrange and bright and it will sound loud but midrangy and bright. to me, this is more apparent on television than radio. to me, punchy means balanced in regards to freq and dynamic range. if you squash it and tweek it, both of these go away."

    Yea, I'm around TV a bunch :shock:

    Now comes Thomas, and an in depth process, but he mentions multiband compression. Multiband can be considered dynamic EQ.

    Thomas says "I remove excessive lows with hi cut filter and a shelf and add some brightness with a gentle shelf around 10kHz (just trying to give you an idea here, not at all THE absolute thing to do.)..."I need to sound or not and what elements the voice over will compete with....Make it sound pleasing to the ear, then look for more detail in the high end. Plenty of brightness without being harsh."

    Frequency not needed leaves space for more of what you are looking for, also not triggering excessive leveling. The detail from Thomas is very good.. Re: small speaker...

    "...If you can here it all clearly with still a sense of fullness (our ear's sensitivity varies with loudness) you're in the right direction."

    This is what I was suggesting by fooling the ear, sensitivity at certain frequency ranges, unlike wide range music. Also, consider playing with side chain parallel compression, not using the detector, as it's commonly referred, but two separate sets of buses...one compressed, and one not. Another thought, why not use an FM or AM transmitter, and limit with a fast attack (10 ms), and long release, at least 5 seconds see how your spots stack up against others under the same conditions as Michael suggested with analysis.

    Sorry for the long wind,

    --Rick
     
  12. splurge

    splurge Guest

    :) Hi lads, thanks for the replies.
    Thomas,

    This is "wonderful" ,this is the kind of detail I was looking for.
    I use the Focusrite Platinum Mix Master on my mixes It doesn't have the flexability of it's digital counterparts but it's a lovely sounding unit.

    Rick,

    Thanks for getting back to me.
    The broadcast limiter hmm.................... because this is my first venture into doing radio spots dealing with the broadcast limiter was like fighting an invisible enemy, so your comments and advice are very much appriciated. Good man.

    Cheers

    Liam
     

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