calibrate yourself – step 1

If you work/create your art in a ‘sound studio’ then you will appreciate your work is only as good as it sounds on someone elses sound system… and one of the keys to insuring it translates well, requires a short stint of right brain, analytic exercise…. ie calibrating your monitors!

While this might sound like an expensive activity requiring someone wearing a white labcoat, in all reality with a tiny investment you have the skills available yourself & I seriously encourage you to use them…. Take me for example – whenever I took my 5.1 mixes or predubs to a ‘proper’ mix facility I kept discovering it sat best in the mix with an 8 – 10dB cut.. But why? I now have 100% hindsight and can say the the simple answer out loud – its because I never lined up my monitoring level!

So whats the process?
Well, in a nutshell it is incredibly easy and to help remove any blocks I will explain it in a few very easy steps:

Step 1: you need an SPL meter (SPL = sound pressure level)

I bought mine off trademe (the NZ equal of ebay) for $50 – thats mine pictured above – it looks a lot like a retro ray gun but it has two essential features – a calibrated microphone and an SPL meter. Apparently RadioShack make an affordable model (Radio Shack SPL meter#330-2050) – mine is a Bruel & Kajer… and yes, I was instantly attracted by the fact that the same company make microphones I can’t afford to buy.. c’est la vie

Step 2: Next you will need some calibrated pink noise – this bit is easy, towards the end of this little rant I will link you to a site where you can get some, for free even!

Step 3: play the pink noise from your speakers; LR, then Centre, then surround LR, then subwoofer.. Each time holding the SPL meter about where your head would be when you are mixing and for each speaker verify that the SPL level is the same…. for me working on films that level is 85dB, which is QUITE LOUD ACTUALLY!! But the crucial part is that the level is consistent, from LR to C to sLR to Sub… and ONLY then will you know a pan around the speakers SHOULD equate to what you will hear in another studio and/or listening environment. I only say SHOULD because this process doesnt take into account the colouration of tone through the size and acoustic properties of the room in which you (or they) are listening, but you can’t account for that necessarily – you can ONLY account for your own space. So best sort out your part in the equation – its the least you can do!

So anyhoo…. go and have a read of this link – yes I know it is via the Digidesign users forum – but that doesn’t mean you have to buy anything, it simply collates some of the best advice that I have found on the interweb on such matters….. and it links to a bunch of PDF documents (AND the calibrated pink noise files) that will explain it all more technically than how i have here, but that isn’t the point;the point is that you NEED to do it and all up it shouldnt take more than 15 minutes… and if you work in 5.1 its more important than your next deadline!
Well, almost….

So next step in the world of calibration is….. sync!
i know!
the anticipation is killing you…
but if you work in post just keep any cyncism for afterwards ok?

2 Responses to calibrate yourself – step 1

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