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In The Studio: Top Ten Must-Have Tools For Post Production
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5: Compressor(s)
Dealing with dynamics is as important as handling the tonal aspects of sound (using EQ). And just like EQ, I like my compressors to sometimes just work and not get in the way and other times to really have a sound that provides some new color.

Standard compressors are a dime a dozen, and I have several. But for color, I rely on the LA-2A and Fairchild software emulations from Universal Audio.

I also like the 88RS channel strip. On dialogue, music & effects (and other major) busses, I often resort to iZotope Ozone4’s multiband and this plug-in sometimes ends up on the stereo bus, too (with a touch of compression, loudness maximizer, and just-in-case limiter).

4: Early Reflection Reverb
Location sound recordists often use a lot of close miking on performers to get cleaner dialogue (thank you!).

However, this can sound a bit dry in the mix or not fit the camera’s perspective. Reverb is the tool of choice to add back in the missing ambience and give some air to the words.

However, while simulating parking garages and auditoriums is relatively easy, it’s the subtle reverb effects that are infinitely more valuable.

For creating good room sounds, a reverb plug-in that offers a lot of control is what’s needed. I like the freeware Ambience program along with a good convolution-based reverb using plenty of impulse responses (I’ve collected over the years).

3: Stereo Widener
There has to be room for the dialog, so moving music, sound effects, and especially background ambiences out and away from the center is useful.

A stereo widener is the key, and I use the one in iZotope Ozone 4 for my work. You have to be careful with these, though, and make sure any widening you do is mono compatible.

You don’t want part of your soundtrack sounding funny or going missing altogether if your work gets played in mono (or through out-of-phase speakers).

Always check the mono compatibility of your work. Always. One of my favorite stereo widening tricks is … well … the subject of a soon to come article.

2: Limiter
I use a limiter for some dynamics control in interesting ways such as limiting a duplicate of a sound very hard and mixing that back in with the unlimited version (great on percussive sounds).

I also use a limiter on the master bus to catch overs. I don’t hit it hard, just a bit to tame the errant slight peak.

It’s also useful for limiting dynamic range for alternate delivery (e.g. web) without having to totally remix a theatrical/DVD soundtrack.

1: Noise Reduction
My final desert island tool that I truly couldn’t work in audio-post without is noise reduction.

I find the best option to be iZotope RX Advanced, which has saved many a worthless source file.

And, well, that’s it! Hopefully you’ve found this list useful. If you have any particular tips on your own techniques, please feel free to share them in the comments below.

Jeffrey P. Fisher provides audio, video, music, writing, consulting, training, and media production and post-production services for individuals, corporate, and commercial clients through his own company, Fisher Creative Group. He also writes extensively about music, sound, and video for print and the Web and has authored numerous books and training DVD’s.

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