Before you begin equalizing your dialogue, soundtrack, or the entire mix, there are a few things to keep in mind about frequency ranges. To avoid a muddy mix, it’s important that each track’s sonic range of frequency is balanced to allow all audio components enough frequency space to breathe. See the image below for a more visual explanation (click for larger view)
The human voice generally sits smack in the middle of the frequency range. Therefore: you can cut the top and bottom of all the dialogue. A low-pass and high-pass filter is generally what you want to use. This eliminates all of the low and high frequencies that are not necessary for the human voice’s frequency spectrum: the low rumble of a your generator that perhaps was too close to the set, a big truck driving by, or even the movement of your boom operator’s fingers on his pole. To eliminate these cut below 100 Hz and above 10 KHz.
Always EQ the dialogue with the entire mix playing so that you’re not soloing the tracks and working in the dark. Otherwise this can create problems with dialogue clarity in the entire mix. Below are a few tips and tweaks when addressing your dialogue (reverse for opposite effect):
- Male fullness= Boost 120 Hz
- Female fullness= Boost 240 Hz
- General Dialogue= Boost 2.5KHz
- Nasally dialogue= Cut between 2 KHz – 4KHz
- Male sibilance= Cut between 4KHz – 6 KHz
- Female sibilance= Cut between 6KHz – 8KHz
- Increase vocal presence= Boost 5KHz
Early reflections to the human voice can contribute a great deal of presence and realism that EQ simply cannot recreate. Placing the dialogue in the correct acoustical space is a crucial element to obtaining good sound design and a solid mix. This is especially true for ADR work.
Because of the different types of reverbs and effects, the decisions you make creating your acoustical space will vary drastically from each scene, person, and the placement of your actor in relation to the camera angle. For example, your actor may be speaking directly at the camera, then completely turn his/her back to the camera speaking into the distance. Remember, the camera is the audience’s point of view.
So, how would you best demonstrate this in your mix? Usually by automating the volume, reverb, and low-pass filter to the desired effect. EQ is your friend here too. But again, there are no rules. Generally, you want a far-sounding verb and a near-sounding verb on your reverb busses to obtain the correct atmospheric mix.
We take in a huge variety of noises and sounds in our everyday lives. The sound designer is always taking advantage of these opportunities, consistently thinking outside the box. They are continually scheming and searching for the best way to create engaging soundscapes through experimentation.