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Understanding the differences between Loudness and Volume

3 minute read
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Audio quality can make or break a piece of content. Editors always need to remember that even if the video has mind-blowing visuals, poor audio quality will detract from the audience’s viewing experience.

As a result, content creators need to be aware of audio concepts such as loudness and volume to ensure that the audio quality is up to par. Loudness and volume are often used interchangeably when discussing audio, but they refer to different elements of sound mixing. 

In this article, we will discuss the difference between volume and loudness and detail how editors can use Adobe Premiere Pro to monitor loudness and adjust volume. 

What is Loudness?

In simple terms, loudness measures how intense or strong a sound is. It is measured in Loudness Units Full Scale (LUFS). This measurement highlights how long and powerful a sound is and provides a reliable number that editors can use to keep the audio levels uniform.

During post-production, especially sound mixing, editors must control the loudness of the audio tracks to ensure that the sound levels are even throughout the video. If editors fail to do so, parts of the audio track could be too loud or quiet, which will undoubtedly ruin the audience’s viewing experience. Furthermore, editors must meet the broadcaster's loudness requirements if the content is to be played in a theater, television, or streaming platform. 

What is Volume?

Volume is how loud or soft a sound seems to a particular person. Different people perceive volume differently. It is measured in decibels (dB), which refers to the amplitude of the audio waves. 

A well-balanced sound mix requires monitoring the track's loudness while also adjusting the volume levels. To do so, Premiere Pro offers tools such as the Audio Clip Mixer, Audio Track Mixer, and Loudness Meter. Let’s break down how to use these tools. 

How to Measure Loudness on Premiere Pro

Premiere Pro offers the Loudness Meter tool to measure the loudness of the audio track. Editors can use the information from watching the loudness meter to adjust the volume of any clips or tracks. 

To find the Loudness Meter, navigate to the audio track mixer (which can be found under the Window dropdown in the menu bar). Click the small triangle at the top left of the window to open the effects menu. Click on the dropdown menu, scroll down to Effects, and select the Loudness Meter effect. 

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Right-click on the Loudness Meter box to open the dropdown menu. Select the Edit option to open the Loudness Meter. 

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Before monitoring the loudness, editors must configure the measurement levels. Premiere Pro has various loudness measurement presets based on broadcasters’ requirements. Editors can also set specific measurement levels under the Settings tab. 

To monitor the levels, click play on the timeline and navigate to the Levels tab in the Loudness Meter window. There are three separate readings to consider: Short-Term, Integrated, and Momentary. 

  • Short Term: Measures loudness over a moving window of 3 seconds. 
  • Integrated: Measures average loudness of the track from beginning to end. 
  • Momentary: Measures loudness of that particular moment/frame. 

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The meter also features three colors (blue, green, and yellow) to visually indicate loudness levels. 

  • Blue: Loudness levels might be too low. This part of the track might be much quieter than the rest. 
  • Green: Loudness levels are in the perfect range. Based on the broadcasters' requirements, the levels should always be within the green range. 
  • Yellow: Loudness is approaching high levels and could sound distorted for some audiences.  

How to Adjust Volume on Premiere Pro

Based on the readings from the Loudness Meter, editors may have to increase or decrease the volume to ensure a consistent listening experience. To adjust the volume of individual clips, use the Audio Clip Mixer. To adjust the volume of an entire audio track, use the Audio Track Mixer. Editors can find both these tools under the Window dropdown in the menu bar. 

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While going through the timeline, editors can use the sliders on the mixer to increase or decrease the audio level. The goal of this process is to ensure that no one sound element floods the rest of the audio track. 

Another way to balance the volume of the audio clips is to adjust the gain. To do so, right-click the audio track and select the Audio Gain option from the drop-down menu. Here, editors can set the gain to a specific decibel level or adjust the gain by a certain decibel amount. 

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In this window, editors can also Normalize the clips and set parameters for the peaks in the audio clips. These tools are beneficial when working with audio clips recorded at different levels. Normalizing audio clips to a specific decibel level ensures a uniform volume across the audio track. 

In conclusion

Sound mixing is a vital step in the content creation process, but creators often overlook this step. Luckily, Premiere Pro has made it much easier and more intuitive with tools such as the Audio Clip Mixer and Loudness Meter. Keep in mind that this will be an ongoing process that requires tweaking as you mix the audio. It may seem time-consuming, but it ensures you can deliver a higher-quality viewing experience.

Tags: Adobe Editing