How to Normalize & Balance Audio Levels in DaVinci Resolve? (Quick Tips)

Balance Audio Featured_

When you have a lot of audio clips from different sources in the timeline, adjusting and balancing audio levels for each clip could be time-consuming.

Today, we will see how to balance your audio levels using a technique called Normalization.

We’ll also see the difference between normalization and compression.

Basically, both of them make sure your audio’s loudest peaks are under control and balanced.

Let’s get started.

There are no hard and fast rules for audio level. The below audio levels are usually recommended by experts.

Recommended Audio Levels for Dialogue

  • Generally, dialogue level is within -15 db to -10 db.
  • Strong booming voice around -10 db.
  • Softer natured voice around -15 db.
  • Average voice level at around -12 db.
  • Whispering sound around -20 db.
  • Yelling sound around -3 db.

Recommended Audio Level for Music / Sound Effects

  • Background music track audio level around -20 db.
  • Shooting / explosion audio around -3 db.
  • Musical video around -10 db to -5 db.

Pointers to Consider

  • Obviously, when a scene involves a dialogue and a background music, you’ll have to lower the bgm level so that the dialogue is audible.
  • Never allow the audio level to hit 0 db (while recording and in post). Because the details of the audio will be lost at that level and will be clipped and distorted.

How to Reduce Audio Peaks in DaVinci Resolve?

After you’ve recorded your audio, you find that some clips might have high peaks. And when you play this back, the dynamic range of the audio will be too high – making high peaks sounding louder and lower ones sounding quieter.

The first step is to balance the levels so that it is easier to work with the audio post processing down the pipeline, like applying Equalizer, Compressor and other audio sweetening processes.

So how to reduce peaks quickly in Resolve?

Normalize the clips. Normalization is the process in which you set a target value for the peak to hit. For example, when you set a value of “-5 db”, any peak above -5 db, let’s say, -3db, will be set to -5db, which will also bring down other parts of the waveform.

Normalization is only a volume adjustment.

Normalization doesn’t compress or expand the dynamic range of an audio. All it does is hit the peak to the desired target, thereby increasing or decreasing the levels of other parts of the waveform. In short, it affects the entire clip in order to hit the required peak.

How to Normalize an Audio Clip in DaVinci Resolve?

  • Go to the “Edit” page (can also do in “Fairlight” page).
  • Select your desired clip.
  • Right click and select “Normalize Audio Levels…“.
  • Leave the “Normalization Mode” to the default value of “Sample Peak Program”.
  • Set your desired “Target Level” value (if not sure, set as per recommended audio levels).
  • Click on “Normalize“.

The loudest parts will be set to the target value.

Things to Note:

  • Normalization Mode – A standard for measuring the actual peak of an audio clip. By default, Resolve uses “Sample Peak Program” to measure the actual peak. Now it has introduced another standard called BS 1770-4 which measures inter sample peaks.

How to Normalize Multiple Audio Clips in DaVinci Resolve?

  • Go to the “Edit” page (can also do in “Fairlight” page).
  • Select all your desired clips using ctrl click or shift click.
  • Right click and select “Normalize Audio Levels…”.
  • Leave the “Normalization Mode” to the default value of “Sample Peak Program”.
  • Set your desired “Target Level” value.
  • “Set Level” = Choose “Relative” if you want Resolve to treat all the selected clips as one clip, or “Independent” so that Resolve will work on each clip individually for volume adjustment.
  • Click on “Normalize“.

Things to Note:

Relative” = If you have a track full of dialogue from the same person, or if the clips on the track are similar sounding ones, then balance them using “Relative” set level while doing normalization. The volume of all the clips will be adjusted by same amount. It will save you a lot of time.

Independent” = If you have a track with different sounding clips, then choose “Independent” set level for balancing the levels. Each clip will have its own volume change after the normalization process.

Normalization in Fairlight

  • Select all your desired clips using ctrl + click or shift + click.
  • Right click and select “Normalize Audio Levels…”.
  • Leave the “Normalization Mode” to the default value of “Sample Peak Program”.
  • Set your desired “Target Level” value.
  • “Set Level” = Choose “Relative” for similar sounding clips, or “Independent” for clips having different audio levels.
  • Click on “Normalize”.

After normalization, the peaks levels of each clip match one another.

Normalization is a shortcut for going to “Inspector” tab and change volume level for each clip individually (which is time-consuming).

It is a starting point for further post processing, wherein you quickly balance the audio levels for the audio clips.

But as discussed earlier, it doesn’t affect the dynamic range – compress or expand – the audio.

The difference between the loudest peak and the quietest peak will be the same.

Related Article:

How to Sync Audio / Clips in DaVinci Resolve (Quickly)?

What is Compression?

Compression helps you bring the loudest parts of the audio to come closer to the quietest parts – to somewhat even out the audio.

It is used to tame the peaks and bring them under control.

The loudest peaks can occur when someone is very excited at the beginning during a conversation and then gradually lowers his/her volume as the conversation progresses – maybe even whisper.

Now there will be a vast difference between the loudest peak and the quietest one (because of a whisper).

To even this out, we need to compress the audio.

Compression works by bringing down the amplitude of the audio when it crosses a defined threshold. Anything below the threshold won’t be touched.

How to Compress Audio in DaVinci Resolve?

  • Go to “Fairlight“.
  • Click on the “Mixer” tab to bring up the mixer for each track.
  • Double click on the “Dynamics” graphics down your desired track, say A1, that needs compression.
  • Click on “Compressor“.
  • Set a “Threshold” value based on your requirement. (for example, it could be around -10 db, anything below -10 db won’t be touched).
  • Set the desired “Ratio” (for dialogues, generally it is 3:1, but play with it).
  • You can leave other settings to default (or play with them).
  • Loop, play the audio and adjust the dials as needed (to your taste).

Things to note:

Ratio 3.00: 1 means, for every 3db increase in input, only 1db will be permitted as output. For example, if the threshold is set to -10 db and when the audio amplitude goes above it, say, -7 db, the compressor will only allow 1 db increase from the threshold which is -9 db.

If the audio peak hits, – 4db, it will allow only 2db increase, which is, -8db.

In this way, the dynamic range of the audio is narrowed down.

Normalization vs Compression

Volume only adjustment. No dynamics applied.Is an audio effect. Changes the dynamics.
Target value is set for the loudest part.Threshold and Ratio is set for the loudest part.
The whole volume of the audio clip is adjusted to make the peak hit the target value.Only that part of the audio is brought down, which crosses the defined threshold. Audio below the threshold won’t be touched.
The dynamic range remains the same after normalization.The dynamic range of the audio clip is narrowed down after compression, so that there is less difference between the loudest and quietest part.

You may also be interested in the below posts:

Can DaVinci Resolve Import / Export Mp3? (+ Helpful Tips)

How to Split Audio Channels / Tracks in DaVinci Resolve (Explained!)

Zoom Techniques in DaVinci Resolve (Each Under 2 Minutes!)

Does DaVinci Resolve Have Free Music? (Read This First!)

How to Reverse & Retime Audio in DaVinci Resolve (Must Read!)

How to Make Voice Deeper in DaVinci Resolve? (For Beginners)

(Quickly) Remove Background Audio Noise in DaVinci Resolve

Fix Audio Recording Issues in DaVinci Resolve (Step-by-Step Guide)

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