Audio Levels for Video Recording and Editing – Video 101 Episode 1

Audio Levels for Video Recording and Editing – Video 101 Episode 1

Tips for nailing your audio levels when shooting videos and editing. We talk about specific levels for recording audio, what to look out for and what levels you should export at.
Watch more Video 101 episodes here ►

Measuring Audio – 0:34
Production Audio Levels – 1:26
Audio Level Tips – 2:48
Post Production Audio Levels – 4:48

What topics would you like to see in this new series? Let me know!


  1. This is a great start to this series. I just started working with an external recorder, and its nice to have my instincts confirmed in a simple and clear manner.

  2. Hey Kaleb
    I couldn’t find anything about this in your videos (I also got your a6500 Guide, which is really awesome btw). I was wondering if it does make a change on which video format or data rate I use when it comes to the recorded sound quality (using a directly plugged mic). Do I get different quality with 4k 100M or 1080p 60M or whatever?
    Thanks in advance

  3. I enjoy your style and presentation when sharing information on various subjects. I find you easy to understand and, hence, I learn from you. The video itself is done professionally. Thank you!

  4. I cannot hear the sound in playback. I’m using one of your H1 set ups. I appear to be recording sound, at least the line levels show activity during recording. But nothin in playback. Also, Special Mic is grayed out in the menu. How about the simplist possible vid on recording sound, one that doesn’t assume we know anything at all about the G7 or H1. I’m frustrated beyond believe after two days of trying to figure this out.

  5. i’ve been buying camera, audio pc, and desk equipment to get a solid assortment of equipment i need to make reviews and streams with, and just stumbled across your page while noticing that my rode videomic doesnt plug directly into the alesis soundmixer. this is exactly what i need to be briefed on right now lol. Thanks!

  6. Nice video! Some suggestions for future tutorials. An explanation of why sound is mostly measured in negative decibels might help. For me, making an analogy to photography helps. In recording, the recorder can never know how to expose (set gain) for the sound one wants to recorder. Should it set the gain high (like high ISO) for distant voices, or low (low ISO) for a rock concert? Like a camera, most sound equipment can try to use an AGC (automatic gain), like auto-ISO, but we all know that it’s best to choose the ISO you know is best for the recording. Like photography, you really always want to shot at ISO 100, that is no audio gain. So what does that mean?

    It means that you never record a sound that is louder than the device can record at all frequencies (colors), like sunlight to a camera. In audio, the recorder sets it’s maximum ability to differentiate sound (like light in photography) at 1 volt of signal (or something like that). That is displayed as 0 decibels on your recorder. 0 isn’t 0, it’re really the place where the signal/power is at its highest before being overwhelmed.

    The reason audio recorders don’t have their numbers set 0 to Infinity (or some really high number) is that is that such a scale would not mark your saturation point, the way ISO 100 does in photography. 0 decibels is essentially the maximum, BEST, sensitivity of your recorder. You can record sounds louder than it’s sensitive to, but that leads to some frequencies not being recorded (leading to distortion). You can record below it, say -128 decibels, but now the recorder struggles with picking up the audio without noise, again, just like photography.

    So when you say you want to record at -12 decibels but publish closer to 0 decibels you’re not giving the full reason, and that may help viewers make more sense of it. When recording, you can’t predict the maximum loudness, so you must set your recording to a level that maximizes the recorder sensitivity, without going past what it can record properly. There’s NO PERFECT recorder setting. It’s a judgement call. Do you get every nuance of the person’s voice at 0 db, hoping they never go over, or do you loose a little bit of detail at -24 db but know that if they laugh it won’t be distorted? However, once you have your recording finished, you can move your data around to closet fit it up to the 0 decibel level. Most people use compression to improve that (another subject I’m sure you’ll cover). Anyway, I think what you meant to say is in your experience -12 db is a good compromise for you and that viewers should test out various levels on their equipment to see for themselves the effects. Like in photography, record at too low a db and you loose shadow detail, record too close to 0 (or above) and you lost highlights. And, like in photography, you want to avoid high ISO (gain). You want the right microphone, and placement (like a lens) to get the best audio without gain. A whole other video, or two or three… 😉

    Hope this long-winded comment helps 🙂

  7. Thanks for this. The info you share is invaluable. I recently found your channel while searching for mic reviews. Your videos are excellent! Love the way you break everything down and keep it interesting. I hope Rode sends a Videomic Soundfield 3D to you. Would love your take on it.

  8. Hi, great video I learned a good amount of audio through this, I don’t have a recorder with digital audio level display but definitely need one. I know zoom models are a go to recorder that most use but could you recommend any other brands or models of recorders that offer those digital audio levels that are not as expensive as the zoom models?

  9. Very clear and straightforward. More videos like this would be great, keep sharing the knowledge!

  10. "There’s a lot of guidelines for the likes of TV on how loud you can go"

    I tell you right now.. the adverts are void of that rule.

  11. Great!!!! yes i would love to see more videos on audio, THANKS again for your knowledge and time

  12. Your channel is great ! Straight to the point, I like it. And your videos are very useful.

  13. This is absolutely perfect. I would love to see a video on how you get great skin tones in studio and on location.

  14. dude… been waiting for a video like this forever.

    Been struggling to get my audio right with the Tascam DR701D

  15. I just picked up a Zoom H6 for a steal locally and this video was super helpful for getting started. I’d love to see an episode 2. Possibly on post production and bringing levels up if you initially set them too low? Thanks!

  16. Fantastic work and a huge help to me as a relative "newbie" to AV recording. Regarding final production / export levels – Getting as close to zero as possible, one question I have is the best method for managing occasional peaks that take you up to zero, while the bulk of the recording stays well below that and ends up no where near zero. Do you try to splice up the audio and lower just those instances? Leave the remaining audio low? Any best practices you can offer appreciated. As an aside, your overall video quality is tremendous. Not just the video and audio, but your speech cadence, clear explanation of concepts, and so forth. Happily subscribed to your channel.

  17. I love this video Caleb. I’m a medium/small YouTuber with 60,000 subscribers and I’m trying take my audio game up a notch. I actually just got the Rode NTG4 and Zoom H4N Pro through your links. I have one question which I’d love to see covered because I can’t find it anywhere on YouTube. If the mic sits in silence for a while then I start talking my audio is extremely loud at first and will clip. Then as I continue to talk for a bit it settles into great sounding audio. I think the sensitivity is auto adjusting because of the silence. I’ve taken the camera out of auto mic levels but it does not help. Could you cover this next or maybe tell me what to adjust on the zoom h4n pro? Thanks so much and keep doing these videos.

  18. Thank you thank you thank you! I’m a super noob when it comes to video, coming from photography so my audio knowledge is super lacking so bless you for this

  19. Caleb, when’s the video on post production audio coming? I always get some much noise in FCP when I increase the audio towards 0db 🙁

  20. Great video. Personally for me it seems like I can never come close to hitting -12 without putting the gain to max. It doesnt seem to make a difference whether Im using my Shure SM7B with my Focusrite 2i2, or my Rode VideoMic running through my Zoom H5 and into my dSLR, or my Rode SmartLav+ into my iPhone 7+. In order to get my levels to hit -12 the gain always seems to have to be maxed out no matter what. I dont get it 🙁

  21. Was looking forward to hearing more about this. I hope you haven’t given up on the 101 videos…

  22. Hey @DSLR Video Shooter I subscribed but would like to know if you cover the Zoom H4n Pro and how to use it. This is very helpful for setting the levels but if your can go into the feature set and what everything does that would be great. Say things like compresser, limiter, low pass filter, etc. And the MTR mode, and basically everything.

  23. I recently just got the Tascam DR 05 and this is useful! I just need to test it more. Btw my audio is around -31 to -21 ( normal voice levels) for it to reach -10 I need the Tascam to be super close to the subject. Is there any way for the Tascam to be more sensitive to sound?

  24. How does he show the audio levels while he is talking in the video ? Can somebody pleaseeee help meeee

  25. Hey bro! I really liked this Video 101 series! Can you maybe go over Aperture and Lens stuff in this series?

    I also am interested in knowing the best and cheapest setup for my church’s production of Announcement Videos.

  26. I’ve been normalizing my audio files with Auphonic to -16 LUFs. How would this compare with the 0 dB recommendation?

  27. Caleb do you think it’s better to buy a better microphone like the videomic pro or to buy a cheaper microphone such as the videomic go with a zoom h1 recorder?

  28. Very usefull just got my zoom H5 and was playing with it but had no clue wich levels are good thx a lot

  29. Hi Caleb, I am new to the movie making worry I have a G 800 Nikon camera I do have Zoom H5 recorder and I do have a lower their powered audio technical lavalier .. can I get a full clear sound like what’s in your videos ?

  30. To avoid the distortion (0db) you can use limiter, this way you can make it a bit louder and having the limiter set to -0.5 or -1db

  31. very insightful video some things I’m looking forward to seeing get covered within the series is post production workflow (effects to get the best quality in dialogue) & potentially how to get best settings for different scenarios with the H4N as well as other recording devices !

  32. Caleb, this was extremely helpful for me. I do food videos and am just starting out on recording good sound. Would love to see a video on what is your editing process to bring the sound to close to zero while also keeping the noise, hum, etc. to a low. I have tried using the volume effect on Premier Pro and Audition, as well as gain. But that also increases the background noise. Removing noise using the Audition noise remover leaves behind weird sound artifacts (not sure what it’s called).

  33. This video gets a couple of things wrong. You are lumping vu meters and db meters into the same category. They are different standards. The on-screen setting you showed early in the video was a vu meter, then later you showed db meters on the Tascam device and on-screen, implying the two are the same. They are not.

    A vu meter is an arbitrary scale. It stands for volume unit. Yes, red is bad, generally in audio (and most of life, except Ferraris. Gotta love a red Ferrari). But 0vu is different than 0db. VU is analog (0vu equals 1.228 volts for nerds). DB (decibels) is a digital scale, often referred to as a peak meter. How vu and db are related varies by device calibration. Most recording devices set -18db to -24db to equal 0vu. This gives a vu meter some headroom over a db meter. On a db meter, once you hit 0db, you are in pure distortion. The second you peak at 0db, even for an instant, you have introduced distortion into your recording or signal path. There is nowhere to go but distortion beyond 0db. You can hit 0vu and still not be in distortion. 

    0vu is calibrated to db, and that calibration is critical and adjustable on your NLE. Most NLEs set -20db to equal 0vu. But that isn’t always the case. Understand what you are looking at and what you are setting, because you can make -14db = 0 vu in your NLE and if you’re monitoring only on a vu meter, the output audio will be at a much higher level (with much less headroom) than on a -20db calibrated system.

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