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Game Audio Volume - Lower Vol = Less Clipping?

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I've recently figured out a fantastic volume for composing music for a game. I was watching a youtube video of Splinter Cell Conviction and started writing. I based that song around the sneaky aspects of espionage games and it came out great. Upon finishing, however, I realized that the volume of the song was rather low. However, all of the bass that I wanted and treble was perfect. How does the Industry fix this problem? The song has absolutely no Audio Clipping or distortion, but I'm lost as to raising the volume without sacrificing quality and risking distortion.

My song
http://soundcloud.co...e-night/s-9V1vH
Note: If you right click the song link and open it in a new tab, you can press play on my song and then press play on the Splinter Cell Video and hear my song over the sound effects of the game.

The Inspiration (Splinter Cell Conviction)
[media]
[/media]

I'm using Reason (unfortunately still 3.0), my mixer volume is actually at 110, but if I raise the level anymore it's going to clip, real hard. Open to suggestions.

***Updated Song***
http://soundcloud.com/reginald-l-seay-jr/cloaked-in-the-night-final-mix/s-8HhMu Edited by Reginald L. Seay Jr.

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I cannot hear any music in that splinter cell vid nor from your soundcloud as the link is broken so what i am about to say is an informed guess based on the little informatio you have provided:

Peaks higher than 0dbFS (or even less than 0dbFS as inter-sample peaks can occur @ reconstruction) = clipping. What you are probably hearing in the video game you mention is a well balanced mix in terms of frequency and dynamics. This allows you to have the music quieter and better place it in the game "mix" (so to speak) before it masks or is masked by other game play sounds. To answer your question, there really is no quick fix answer. Mixing music is an art in itself that cannot be achieved with any degree of competency overnight or at the flick of a few switches. Edited by GeneralQuery

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I do apologize, I was fumbling around with trying to embed my SC song into this forum. I ended up making the song public, then back to private (which ends up changing the URL). I ended up settling with just the basic link. Link has been updated/fixed.

Also, there is almost no musical audio in the SC video i chose so that u can play my song and vid at the same time to experience them both together as if they were one big production Edited by Reginald L. Seay Jr.

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Hello,

What GeneralQuery said!

In regards of your music sample: You used a lot of long bassy notes that take up a lot of headroom.
You might want to make them shorter so they don't resonate that long or cut off some of that "oomph" with an EQ. Rumbly sounds like this can be very hard to mix without proper monitoring, but this will be a good first step.

Remember that a good mix already starts with the arrangement: too much wish-wash and too few percussive notes with nice transients and you'll have a really hard time getting it loud without turning the waveform into a muddy-sounding sausage.

Nice ideas in there though, keep it up!

Cheers,
Moritz

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Thank you both for the information. So, my next question would be, Is my song at a decent volume for mastering? Should I continue designing my songs at that volume, or should I figure out a way to make them louder?

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Let me put it this way:
You should figure out a way to make them sound better.

Don't worry about mastering too much - deal with the arrangement and mix first. Loudness really shouldn't be your first concern.
Once you have a good song with a good mix, it will be a lot easier to master/post-produce/fit it in with the sound effects and the overall mood of the gameplay scene.

Cheers,
Moritz

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I believe that perceived loudness is defined by two things:

1. The 'fullness' of the frequency spectrum. If there are 'gaps', frequency ranges not occupied with any sound, then you can drop in a new sound to fill the gap without the overall dB increasing or causing clipping, while increasing perceived 'loudness'. You mention, however, that you are happy with the range of frequencies in your track

2. Sustain a high amplitude for longer. One way to achieve this is with 'compression', which squashes down the louder peaks a bit to give you some headroom and allow you to boost the overall gain. This is an often (over) used effect. Subtle compression can be applied to the whole song to give it a bit of a boost, or you can apply it to individual sounds or groups of related sounds. Edited by WavyVirus

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What you have to remember is that lower notes carry more energy and when you're music's got a lot of low end content you really have to start looking at controlling it by taming peaks and creating space with EQ / minor panning.

Generally speaking anything below 40hz is worth cutting, unless want to make use of sub rumble and low noise. Most speaker systems (without a sub) only go down to 40-50hz. Rolling off 40hz will free up wanted head room in your mix.

Now there are way's to make things sound "lower" than they actually are by adding harmonic content. There's a couple plug ins out there for this such as Maxbass which allow you to do some trickery. Compression also helps get you some extra head room, but when the difference between a soft note and loud note is too great then riding the level (automating the bass volume) is a better option. You can then add small amounts of compression to keep things tidy and not worry about destroying dynamics.

Also rolling off frequencies on other instruments will free up even more space. The idea is to get rid of, or tame, all the unwanted noise where there's no information relevant to the instrument.

When you're mixing you should naturally try leave at least -4db of head room if not -6db on the Master Fader so it gives you room for mastering. If you're mixing to 0db it gives you no room to do anything really... Apart from making thing's worse when you come to master. None of the other instrument channels should be clipping at all especially in the digital realm, analogue you can get away with some clipping. Edited by RedAudio

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Peak headroom for mastering is meaningless, it's RMS that counts. Also, going over unity on channels will not result in clipping on modern DaWs, it's only important fir your master bus as this is what goes to the DAC. There's no harm in using faders so just pull the master fader if need be.

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RMS yes, but for some one new to mixing it isn't a good idea to whack all your faders up to maximum only to use a master to pull the volume down. That's just bad mixing etiquette it leaves you with little room for automation, and encourages new people to go OTT on processing. There's no need for you to keep pushing faders up to hear your music louder, just turn your speakers up, (unless you've not recorded x-instrument properly with a good gain setting) then when you get to mastering you'll get the volume back. When stuff starts distorting badly from having too much gain, from EQ boosting, compression make up or gain boosting, you can still hear it even if you're not going over 0db on the master. If it's the odd minor clip then yeah, not too much of a problem. Anyway, my 2p. Edited by RedAudio

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