Discussion Workshop

The Dynamics Dilemma

Held upstairs at The Bath House, Dean Street, London W1 on 19-Mar-2008

The discussion was the first in a series of events being planned by the APRS to focus on this issue over the next couple of years. The evening focused on the use of dynamics and compression in different media, including radio broadcast, TV and motion picture, and the widening variety of delivery formats for popular music including audio CD and MP3.

Panelists Alan Sallabank (staff mixer at Ascent Media) and Howard Bargroff (senior dubbing mixer at Videosonics) explained the standard practices used for mixing audio for motion picture and television, in view of existing Dolby standards. They also looked at the LEQ standards for motion picture mixing and the common problems found when porting motion picture to television.

The debate surrounding popular music delivery was discussed by mixing and mastering engineer Wes Maebe (GHQ Productions) who emphasised some of the difficulties mastering engineers face: being driven to create louder masters by record companies, and being presented with over-processed masters from the artist or producer. Independent producer Gil Limor discussed the issue of over-processing at the mixing stages, and presented a series of audio samples to illustrate the current trend of mixing for loudness rather than quality.

The panel also discussed built-in processing in broadcast delivery and consumer hi-fi and its effect on already over-processed audio, and looked at ways that the consumer hi-fi industry could take aboard either meta-data control or user-controllable dynamics delivery to enable mixing and mastering engineers to create masters for quality and not loudness.

"The issue of dynamics is very hot at the moment," explains Gil Limor. "We are at a point where dynamics are being overused a lot within the industry, but we are also seeing an increasing number of producers who realise the importance of dynamics as a part of the artistic process, and are reintroducing a larger dynamic range back into their recordings. The big trick is to get the rest of the industry to listen and to adapt new standards - be it at the production stage or at the consumer end, and this can be mainly achieved through education and an industry-wide interest to restore quality to audio."

The discussion was moderated by Dennis Weinreich of Videosonics and was attended by an active audience of 25 professionals from the audio and post industries.

During the discussion Duffy's 'Rockferry' was used as an example of a production which has been extremely over -compressed.

For copyright reasons we can't include here the examples played, but here's what Rockferry's dynamic looks like!

Above: as released on CD.

Below: After some experimerntal expansion applied by Gil Limor - this may indicate roughly what the dynamics of the recording may have been like before the final mastering stage.

Duffy - Rockferry before and after.jpg

You can hear our audio recording of this event here

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