Community member Sean Amann works in post production audio, mixing hundreds of TV and radio ads every year and he sent us a question for the podcast asking if I would be willing to share my plug-in signal chain on my mix bus when mixing audio for broadcast.
Outside of a true peak limiter, loudness meter and dither, do you add anything else, like compression or harmonic plugs? Also, we all know about using reference tracks when mixing music. Do you reference other people's mixes, and if so, where or how do you obtain them? I've referenced national mixes from websites showing demos, but that's not ideal since I don't know what kind of compression is happening. Love the site and thank you!
Sean, thank you for the question. As a rule I don’t tend to reference other people's mixes per say because I can only hear them 'off air' after they have been processed by the broadcasters processing chain. That said I do listen to my all my work 'off air' and via streaming (as its for the BBC here in the UK via iPlayer), to make sure it is working well for the consumer. As part of my prep, I will spend time considering how a project will be consumed in deciding how the mix should sound. In addition my plug-in chain will vary depending on the content and network the program will go out on. In addition as a lot of my work is for radio, we are still working to peak normalisation and so my processing choices are some what different than if I was mixing to R128 which is now a requirement here in the UK for broadcast TV productions.
Speech Programs For BBC Radio 4 Or Podcasts
Insert 1 - BBE Sonic Maximizer
Other than a limiter this is the only other plug-in I use for basic speech programming content like the documentaries and dramas for broadcast on BBC Radio 4 or for podcasts like our own weekly podcast. I have been using BBE hardware for live work as well as recording work since the mid 90s after I was introduced to it by a client. It is great at brightening the sound without pushing the EQ, so in a live sound setting it means I can improve the intelligibility of the rig without pushing the EQ and risking feedback. For broadcasting I use it too to help the intelligibility of my mixes, especially when they are being listened to in noisy environments. In Pro Tools Use the Nomad Factory plug-in.
Insert 2 - Avid Pro Limiter
The Avid Pro Limiter has become my go to limiter. I like the GUI and it just works. With these kinds of programs I am not pushing hard into the limiter. I aim for normal speech to be just hitting it, or as James described it in podcast 197, "kissing the meter" so 1 or 2dB of gain reduction. But what it does mean if contributor raises their voice or laughs, I don't need to worry too much I just let the Avid Pro Limiter to handle it. However if an event is pushing the limiter into more than around 8dB of gain reduction I will pull it back in the mix so that I don't overdrive the limiter too much.
I have included two screen shots showing the settings I use for BBC Radio as well as the settings I use for podcasting. For podcasting, because it is going to be converted into an mp3 or m4a, I prefer to set the ceiling at -3dBFS so that I don't run the risk of overloading the codecs. For podcasts I am working to a loudness delivery spec and I use -16LUFS.
In the next part I will reveal my workflow for music documentaries.