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Generally, your background music level should be no more than 40% of your narration level. But that's just a rule of thumb. You do kind of have to play it by ear.
You can raise or lower the levels for your clips by raising and lowering the yellowing horizontal lines that run through the clips on your timeline (using the meters as your guide). But, to precisely control the audio levels at specific points, you'll want to apply audio keyframing.
The Audio Mixer will create keyframe points for your automatically if you adjust it as you play your movie -- they'll appear as little dots on the timeline as you make adjustments -- but these can be a bit sloppy and hard to control. You're much better off adding your own audio keyframes and adjusting them as needed.
I show you how in my books on Premiere Elements.
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In very general terms, a range from -3db to -6db is a good place for the overall, with no spikes at all beyond -0db.
However, other than watching that no spikes go into the "red," listening is the best way to determine the Levels. All too often, people will mix to numbers and ignore the actual music. Later, they are disappointed with the results. A really good set of headphones, that completely cover the ears, will be extremely helpful.
There are three ways to adjust the Audio in PrE. The first, and probably most often used, is with the fixed Effect, Volume. This can be done with the Volume "rubberband" on the Audio portion of the Clip, or from the Effects Control (Edit Effects) Panel. Another is by Rt-clicking on the Audio portion of the Clip and choosing Audio Gain. Both of these are Clip Effects, so one would have to do this for each and every Clip, that needed adjustment.
The third, and best, IMO, for what you are doing is the Audio Mixer. As Steve points out, this is done at a Track-level, and is first, a lot less work, and is also dynamic, and takes in all Clips on that Track. I do all of my final Audio mixing in this Panel. Again, I do this with the headphones and only watch the meters for any Clipping with spikes in the Audio. If a passage happens to end up being -1db, so be it. If one ends up being -12db, I can live with the numbers, so long as it sounds right.
One thing that I usually do is in Edit>Preferences>Audio, set Minimum Time: to about 50 ms, and keep Minimum time interval trimming on. This spreads out the Track Keyframes a bit.
I'll also go though the Timeline and place Markers as Cues to me, for places that I know I will want to adjust the Track Volume. I do these for each Track, and just Delete them from one Audio Track, before I set them for another Track.
I also like to vertically zoom on the Audio Track that I am working on, to see the Waveform Display clearly.
One feature that would be nice for Track Keyframes would be the ability to Select All (Ctrl+a) and then apply Continuous Bezier to all Track Keyframes. If there is a way to do this, I have yet to find it.
Thanks for all the info. - as I thought a lot of work!!
I am going to give it a go using the audio mixer box so will need your good luck!
Thanks for the info. I was just getting confused re all the different ways to control audio!!
Another silly question but I was never good at Maths.
If my narration level in audio mixer is zero, what background music level would 40% of narration be?
So very much will depend on the makeup of the Audio Clips. If, for instance, the Narration is more towards the upper bass and lower-mid, and the Music is mostly upper range, you'd want a lower level for the Music, by quite a bit, as the highs would "wrap" around the Narration.
I do this with a good set of noise-canceling headphones and plenty of listening. As a start, if the Narration is good and solid at 0db, I'd probably be looking for the Music to be ~ -16db, but it might need to be lower still. Only listening will tell you for sure. These numbers would just be "starting points."
One thing that I love to do is use SmartSound's Sonicfire Pro and their Strata Series multi-layer music. This allows for what SmartSound calls Mood Mapping. Because of the nature of the multi-layer music, you can alter the music to accommodate Narration easily. There is a "Dialog" Preset in Mood Mapping, that strips out most of the instruments that can interfer with the spoken word, and attenuates others to the point that human speech really punches through. The music continues, but transitions to a piece that will not get in the way of speech. Besides that Preset, one can still tailor the music in anyway they want. You can solo just the strings in an orchestral piece, or maybe solo just the percussion (sometimes adjust several percussion instruments independently).
The one drawback to Sonicfire Pro is that it's a stand-alone, so you'd do your complete editing in PrE first, then Export a reference movie. This would be imported into Sonicfire Pro, and the music would be selected. If one chose one of the multi-layer pieces, they can add the Mood Mapping anywhere they want, and then adjust the Mood Mapping to coincide with what is happening both on the screen and with the movie's audio. There is no end to what can be done. The same piece of music can have 1000's of variations to accommodate exactly what's happening on the screen. When done, you just Export the resulting music track and import that into PrE to the Soundtrack Track for final output.
With the built-in QuickTracks for PrE, one cannot add Mood Mapping, regardless of the music series chosen, but one can create music of the proper duration, and then tailor the Levels to suit. This is what you're doing.
I use the Audio Mixer most often for this, and allow it to add the necessary Track Keyframes. I listen to the movie and just ride the Gain with the Audio Mixer. This creates Track Keyframes and they will automatically control the Levels, from then on out. One thing that I do is change the frequency for Track Keyframes in Edit>Preferences, so that there are not too many added. I find that the PrE defaults place more than are necessary. Once done, and in PrPro, not PrE unfortunately, I'll go to the Track and do a Select All for the Keyframes and choose Continuous Bezier, to keep the Velocity of the Keyframes smooth. This is all done by ear, with only a glance, or two, at the meters, just to make sure that I have not gotten any Clipping (red zone on the meters). I then check the meters on a playback, just to be certain that I have not missed any Clipping, while listening.
Here's an ARTICLE on SmartSound.
Thanks so much for all the tips. I had fun mixing audio, though levels did not always do as I wanted, but it is as good as it gets now otherwise I will be here till Xmas!
I was wondering if the Flicker Removal option might remove the flicker in my fast movement/ panning clips after burning? They play OK in project which is strange.
Re Img Burner, do you download the Basic file Lightning UK? at the bottom? I will try slower burns next. Also which are best DVD+R or minus R and do I need to get a 2x disc to burn that speed? I have only Verbatim 16x.