Recording levels, playback volume and loudness cheat sheet

After 9 inspiring months I have successfully finished the Game Audio Design and Production program at Berklee Online. I have learned so much and really helped kick starting me on the journey of getting into the game audio field.  If you are composer or sound designer thinking about video games should check it out, I warmly recommend these courses.

For all people involved in audio one of the things we work with on a daily basis is volume and loudness. When you hear people discuss volume, loudness and recording levels I noticed there is a lot of misunderstanding or preconceived notions about this subject.

Having some basic understanding about volume, recording levels, dynamics range and loudness is extremely useful when producing sound and/or music. In game audio volume and loudness may be even more important. As games are interactive and non-linear by nature, having enough dynamic range and keeping loudness in check is a challenging task. Aside from the technical aspect, loudness is also something you need to consider and measure  to pass specific hardware platform quality assurance checks before a game will be allowed to be published.  Game developers porting there titles to other platforms should take this into account.

During my course I had to create assets on a weekly basis and integrate them into games. In the beginning I was really struggling with my levels. During recording, editing, integrating it into the game and mixing it. There is a lot of information out there, some articles cover input levels from a recording perspective and other articles from a mixing and mastering perspective. Some articles focus exclusively on loudness or on playback volumes.

What I really needed was a small, concise sheet which covers all the basics about input levels, playback volume and loudness so I can take that with me in the back of my head when working. So I took a lot of information from my course, presentations, PDF’s and an excellent article from Jay Fernandes titled “What is all of this loudness nonsense about” and mashed them all together on a single page.

I noticed this really helped me. Not only for getting a better understanding about the subject but also taking this into account during production. This resulted in speeding up my workflow considerably. Having some guidelines for levels during production means sound will fit better in the mix from the start and this makes tweaking or dynamically altering mixes easier than having to deal with audio assets which have an erratic variety in volume levels.

Stay tuned for my next post where I will cover my first GDC experience ever and share some take aways for aspiring composers and sound designers.

You can download the cheat sheet below.


PS: If you find errors or have suggestions for this cheat sheet let me know in the comments or contact me on Instagram/Twitter.