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  2. Audio Production

How to Master Audio With Fairlight

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If you're looking for ways to make your audio sound professional, it's not as hard as it may look. In this tutorial, I'll be going over some tricks and tools, as well as sharing my general workflow to achieve great audio with Fairlight.

When it comes to audio, there's tons you can do, from buying new microphones to treating your room to create the best possible environment. But sometimes, we just need to work with what we have.

Tools: Microphones, Speakers, and Headphones

Currently I'm using a Sennheiser MKE 600 as my main microphone when I'm shooting video. It's a great mic, albeit a little pricy sitting around CA$400. Whatever you have, we can make it work. I've had great experiences with Shure SM58 and RODE Video Mic Go, and both of those options are $100 and under.

Another thing you'll need is a decent pair of headphones or speakers to hear your audio back. For me, this is pretty much the most important tool, although it doesn't mean you need to go out and get a full setup. I live in an apartment, and while speakers are nice, I find my headphones the go-to tool. Currently, I'm using an old pair of Shure SRH440. They're a decent set of entry-level cans that can get the job done. Whatever you have is good enough. Even if you don't have headphones or speakers, you can still make your audio sound better by monitoring through your computer's built-in speakers or using a cheap pair of earbuds. 

Let's Get Started

For this tutorial, I'll be using a clip of audio that was recorded in my living room using my MacBook's internal microphone.

That clip with nothing done to it isn't even that bad. Let's jump into Fairlight, and I'll go through some of the steps I take to make it sound a little more professional.

Step 1: Normalize Audio

The example clip is peaking around -20 dB to -30 dB. You'll be able to see this stat in your mixer when you play through your clip. I want this to sit around -8 dB or -10 dB. There's a great way to adjust this by selecting then right-clicking on your track and finding the option Normalize Audio Levels. Add your target level, -8 dB. All this does is adjust your audio level so that the highest level in the clip is the set target. 

Step 2: Compression 

Within the mixer, you'll see an option for Dynamics. This is where you'll find a few tools: Expander/Gate, Compressor, and Limiter.

You can turn on the compressor by clicking on the title in the centre column. What this tool does is compress your audio signal once it hits a set point to help manage peaking. All I'll do here is use the Make Up Gain to bring the volume up and make the track more consistent. If you add too much gain, you'll see a red line in the graph. This is just a peak, and you can use Ratio to help fine-tune your edit.

Step 3: Expander/Gate

You can use the Expander or Gate to adjust your dynamic range and reduce background noise, if you have any. Try setting your threshold between -25 dB and -30 dB. I always try to use the expander first—it's a little less drastic, but because I have a substantial amount of background noise, I'm going to use the gate. The gate drops/reduces everything below your threshold.

Using Gate/Expander to Edit Background NoiseUsing Gate/Expander to Edit Background NoiseUsing Gate/Expander to Edit Background Noise
Using Gate/Expander to Edit Background Noise

Step 3: Equalization

This next step is pretty important, but there's a catch. Your audio is going to be different than mine. Check out this tutorial all about EQ. As an example, this is how I edited the EQ for my clip.

EQing AudioEQing AudioEQing Audio
EQing Audio

Step 4: Multiband Compressor

To add this compressor, add an effect to your channel. Doing this is easy—just follow this pathway: Effects (in your mixer) > Dynamics > Fairlight Effects > Multiband Compressor. I generally don't change anything for this effect. The default is pretty great.

Multiband CompressorMultiband CompressorMultiband Compressor
Multiband Compressor

Step 5: De-Esser

The last tool I use is the De-Esser. To add this effect, go to Effects > Noise Reduction > De-Esser. Once again, I'm using the default as my starting point. Because of my voice, I chose Male Ess from the dropdown options. Under Frequency Range, I use the narrowest option and only apply a small amount. How you treat this effect depends on the clip you are editing.

de-esserde-esserde-esser
De-Esser

Conclusion

That's it! After all these adjustments, here is the finished product of audio recorded straight from my computer in a noisy apartment. This is a bit of an extreme example, and I wouldn't recommend recording your audio this way, but it's a good sample of what's possible. This recording would be improved drastically with a simple microphone and a room that has more sound insulation or privacy. 

More Fairlight Resources

Share Your Craft on the Envato Forums

Have you used these techniques and tools? let us know by joining the Envato forums.

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