How To: Create the Dialog Basic Grade
The EQ is the fundamental tool for making things sound great.

How To: Create the Dialog Basic Grade

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On both the Sound Advice Tour and in the Pro Member Education, I talk at great length about the importance of create a “basic grade” for dialog in order to have it mix well with the other disciplines. In this article and accompanying video, I’ll be giving you a sneak peek into how to make your own dialog basic grade.

In this clip from the Pro Member Education, I take you through an example of creating a basic grade for a male dialog track. Just like in color timing of picture, we must first create a “basic grade” which allows us a chance to remove things we don’t want, balance that which we do, and create a “neutral” place to start from. In audio, we do the same thing. Granted, most Hollywood engineers do this on the fly, because they’ve been working at mixing desks for 35 years. It only takes them 5 seconds to figure out what’s wrong with a dialog track and another 15 seconds to fix it with an EQ or multiband compressor. But for those of us who are lacking that kind of experience, there’s this process.

It may feel tedious at first, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to skip steps and get to the meat of the balanced dialog track in no time. Once you’ve achieved a basic grade, you can contour the dialog in a mix to whatever you need; brighter, darker, dryer, spicier. This video does it work in Adobe Audition, but I use the Waves Q10 EQ to do this grade. You can do basic grade using the fundamentals put forth here in any DAW with a multiband parametric EQ.

As a general rule, the fundamental frequency of the male voice begins around 100 Hz and the female voice around 150 Hz, and there’s no reason to do basic grade work above 5kHz. Take a gander at this video and see if your dialog tracks don’t start layering with your music, ambiences and effects like never before.

Used basic grade before? Let us know your results, or Tweet about it!

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