When and how to set the limiter while mixing film?



Hi there!

I was wondering how poeple set their limiter while mixing film for theater and/or dvd. There can be found a lot about speaker calibration and just mixing by ear after your calibration is correct. But there isn't much about the fx chain on the masterbus..

Do you set your metering after the limiter and what values do other people use for their limiters?

Thanks in advance!



Posted 2012-11-26T08:32:35.233

Reputation: 41



All of my stem submasters run Limiters - something quick-response, transparent, and can take a beating like Maxim or L2007. Maximizers like the L1 or MV2 are too colorized for my liking and they let too much through.

And then a run a PT MasterFader (but with NO limiters) just to monitor meters on the overall stem summing - because you can have no peaking on individual stems, but they CAN still sum to create a clip peak overall. That said, My limiters are quick attack and slight release, a very hard ratio and they kick in at a threshold of about -6 to -3 usually. But with mix level being -20dBFS = 85 SPL, we're not up there all that often. So I run my limiters just as a fail-safe to make sure nothing peaks past QC. My rule of thumb with these limiters and the parameters I use on them, just likewhen I use a compressor for DX, is that I'm mixing INTO the limiter/compressor, not the other way around. So very rarely with the case of these limiters are they ever engaged.

No sometimes I do like to, as mentioned, us dynamics processors for artistic purposes. I happen to like the character and vibrancy and warmth that the Waves HComp provides on FX. Even then though, I still have my transparent limiters always at the very end of the chain. Because this is a case where one dynamics processor is used for creative/nuiance purposes, but I still need the utilitarian limiter just to ensure QC is met when all is said and done.

The reason you're likely not finding much info on that exact topic is that it's not an exact science. Everyone has their own tastes and aesthetic choice, so as long as you're (a) properly calibrated and (b) know what level output is required on your delivery specs, there are many 'right' ways of doing things. It's a matter of developing your own ear for what you think sounds good, but also translates.


Posted 2012-11-26T08:32:35.233

Reputation: 6 616


Hei Peter one of the problems when working digitally is that the dbFs scale will give you no reference about how loud a sound is and if your signal is too hot, clipping, it will not be compressed and distorted in a harmonically way,like it would happen on tape, but because you are running out of 0 and 1 to process the signal it will sound very ugly.

Long story short: limiters are, in my opinion should only be, used to avoid clipping; to compress a (partsofa)signal in it s output where it s qua dynamics to hot for the reason of the above mentioned effect.

If you have a limiter on your masterbus, you are probably mixing music and participating on the beloved loudness war of ourdays music industry.

Mixing for film/tv is dependend on calibrated speakers, by mixing via those folks you get a close to reality impression on how loud your will be in the theater. Some tv stations have their own leveling requirements, and there are especially differences between different nations. But, just as radio stations do it with help of a VU meter, most of them mostly re-level them quite a bit.

So calibrate your speakers, dB meters are very cheap and even smartphone apps do their job quite well, and try to keep the limiter out of your masterbus. When your master is clipping better try to get rid of the problem earlier in your signal chain

p.s. also check these

http://vimeo.com/22735507 http://socialsounddesign.com/questions/618/tv-broadcast-levels


Posted 2012-11-26T08:32:35.233

Reputation: 53


I agree with FAO that relying on a limiter on the master bus is largely a music mixing practice that has little applicability to film mixing.

For a really good overview of calibration of monitor levels and how level management is being approached in the broadcast industry, go see ATSC.org web site and check out their paper on ATSC Recommended Practice: Techniques for Establishing and Maintaining Audio Loudness for Digital Television (PDF file). In particular, look at section 10.4 "Reference Level Calibration", which goes into detail about how to set up a calibrated monitoring system.

Once you have set up and experienced the control over levels that properly calibrated monitors give you, you will want to work that way whenever possible. Further, working in a properly calibrated environment means that limiting and compression become artistic tools for getting the sound you want, instead of a means for trying keep some sort of overall control of your levels. (Now if we could just get the music industry to adopt this way of working....)

Robert Auld

Posted 2012-11-26T08:32:35.233

Reputation: 131