Better Sound for Video: Compression In-depth

Better Sound for Video: Compression In-depth

One of the most important things you can do to improve the production value of your video and film projects is to make sure your audio is top-notch. And to do that, you probably need to loudness normalize to the right standard or recommendation for your intended distribution (web, mobile, TV, etc.) And to effectively loudness normalize, you will usually need to do a little compression.

But doing compression can be frustrating at first. I’ve produced a lot of pieces with audio compression that was poorly done.

So in this episode, let’s take another look at dialogue audio compression and some of the things you can do to keep it sounding natural and not over-done.

Some Free Compressor plugins that have RMS control law and/or soft knee features:

dlm sixtyfive (RMS, softknee compressor, VST):

TDR KokeInikov (RMS, softknee compressor various formats for Mac and PC):

Visit us at for more updates on how to improve your lighting and sound for video.

Also be sure to subscribe to get weekly episodes!

Gear used to produce this episode:


Tascam DR-60DmkII Audio Field Recorder

B&H Photo:


Shure SM-58 Cardioid Dynamic Microphone (used for voice over)

B&H Photo:


Audio Technica AT4053b Hypercardioid Small Diaphragm Condenser Microphone

B&H Photo:


Focusrite Saffire Pro 24 DSP Audio Interface

B&H Photo:


RØDE NTG4+ Shotgun Microphone (used only in the intro clip and I think there may be an issue with my copy. Working with RØDE to resolve…)

B&H Photo:


Music copyright Curtis Judd 2012

Ethics statement: Some of the links above are affiliate links which means that if you click on them and buy, I get a small commission. You don’t pay more by clicking these links than if you just went to Amazon or B&H Photo on your own. I use all of the proceeds to buy additional gear to review and help you improve your sound, lighting, and video. Thanks for your support!


  1. Hi Curtis. This is a question rather than a criticism… Your techniques seem to be destructive and permanent which leaves little room for correction in the future. Do you ever perform the same techniques in a non-destructive way, i.e. as an effects rack in the Multitrack viewport in Audition?

  2. Hi Curtis, helpful video..But i think you could have chosen a better threshold value and compression ratio using the native tube compressor..Jason Levine covers this really well in his Audio 101 series..

  3. In Audition CS6 you can zoom in and out of the dB-scale on the righthand side by "scrolling" using the mousewheel hovering over the scale. Is that still possible in Audition CC? Comes in handy to see how much clipping you have.

  4. I love Limiter No.6 it’s my go to!!! It has 5 modules: RMS compressor, peak limiter, high-frequency limiter, clipper, true peak limiter Super cool for FREE!!Β

  5. I’d like to thank you for your tuts. Always helpful and interesting. May I ask, how would you approach compression when dealing with an interview with a male interviewer and a female interviewee, where the male voice is louder, almost double the amplitude of the female? Thanks again.

  6. +Christopher C. D. Wells Yes, Ozone 6 (standard) has the same dynamics plugin as advanced (with soft knee, envelope control law, etc). They sort of hid the comparison page:Β

  7. also i have access to nearly every plugin but i didnt find a compressor that works so well for dialogue where my main goal is do bring down the peaks for normalization and a little bit equalization

  8. Nice video Curtis, you can get soft knee compression with the build in Dynamics processor when you tick the box that say spline curves.

  9. Dear Curtis,

    Thank you for your series, I found it very useful and educating and really appreciate your efforts. I have a question if you would be so kind to answer. With my small audio/video experience, I was asked to help in selection of recording equipment for a lecturer, who wants to record his lectures on his own. He talks in various settings for relatively large audiences (up to 300 people) using sound amplification and holding room microphone in his hand. Β From experience, he found that it is too difficult to arrange quality recording through the rooms’ audio systems, according to him there are too many uncertainties in this venue. So, it seems a solution can be an additional lavalier mic on his lapel and a field recorder in his pocket, especially taking in account that he has one (Zoom H1). Β Having in mind this setting (large to medium rooms with sound amplification, which creates potential danger for appearance of echo in recordings through the second microphone) what would be the best choice for the microphone type here? I mean omnidirectional mono, stereo, whatever.Β He feels pretty comfortable with his Β Zoom H1 recorder Β and basically needs a good addition of small, preferably budget mic for this setting. From one of your videos I know that you suggested Giant Squid mic with Zoom H1 as a good combo. Any advice will be appreciated.Β 

    Thank you,Β 

  10. hi curtis, is the tube modeled compressor in audition still the one from izotope, or are the stock compressors not of a very good quality? i like the tube modeled one the most, because of its straight forward and easy to use interface. oliver j hughes said the stock ones are not the best quality though. many thanks for your reply curtis, your advises and help are very much appreciated

  11. Another free compressor i like is MCompressor by Melda Production. Its included in a free effects bundle, there are some other useful plugins in the bundle. A paid compressor i like as well is the Fabfilter Pro C, I really like the visual graphs in the Pro C.

  12. Amazing tutorial, I would really love to see what else you do after compression though, maybe call it audio finishing?

  13. Hey Curtis, I’ve seen in some of your videos that the Match Volume recommendation to -19 LUFS for mono and -16 LUFS for Stereo.

    Sorry if this is a lame question, but considering a video for YouTube/Vimeo and having a MONO file playing on both sides, that would fall as -19 or -16 LUFS?

  14. If I understand correctly, the Ozone compresser you pulled up in the beginning is a fancy multiband compressor? For those using Reaper, ReaXComp does the same thing and is included for free :). It does not look as fancy though. It is RMS window based, but the control law cannot be changed the envelope or peak. There is a program-dependent release option, which I believe is similar to the adaptive release, in that it tunes the attack and release depending on the signal.

    Again, another nice tutorial :)!

  15. I will most certainly trying that soon. Here is my question. If you happen to have a budget around 200-300 USD which shotgun mic would you buy. Second question is about lavaliers; can you suggest me a brand which can record 2 people voice, wireless lavalier around 100 usd?


  16. Is there any way to streamline the workflow of this? Perhaps have it done directly on a portable audio recorder?

    I’m just thinking for the videos we make, this would be really great, but compressing each little bit of dialogue on its own would be really tedious and time consuming.

    Not sure if you know of any good techniques for that.

  17. Thank you for this video! I was wondering if you could answer this. When i upload music to youtube, it sounds okay, but if i upload to facebook, it sounds terrible. what can i do to make it sound better?

  18. Great tutorial. Thanks Curtis very much. I’ve also saw you have Nectar installed as well. Would you recommend to work with Nectar directly instead of Ozone first using similar settings for the compressor. I have not seen in Nectar de knee control but there are interesting additional alternatives such as the De-esser function and also breath control.

Comments are closed.