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Cheryl Ottenritter | Ott House
NUGEN Audio Tools changing lives
- Original article first appeared in Resolution Magazine
NUGEN Audio Tools Changed Lives at Ott House Audio
by Cheryl Ottenritter, Creative Director and Senior Mixer, Ott House Audio
Ott House Audio (OHA) is a boutique studio based in Silver Spring, Md. I started the business in my basement in 2006, and today we have three surround-sound mix suites, a record booth, a fully equipped machine room, and a brigade of sound engineers with more than 40 years of experience. At OHA, we work on all things audio — recording, radio, casting, paymaster, audio description, sound design, mixing (surround and stereo) — but we tend to do a lot of broadcast programming and spots. We handle many hours of programming per year for clients such National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, TV One, Animal Planet, and Smithsonian Channel.
A few years ago, at about the time broadcasters started to employ LKFS readings, I was mixing a show with a lot of dynamic range. After the session with the editor and director, I discovered that the mix was half a click (about 0.2) off of the LKFS reading. I knew there had to be a way to meet the specs without bringing down the whole mix to make adjustments, so I started researching. I was looking for something that would analyze faster than real time so that I could make changes to small parts of the mix as needed without having to read the entire thing.
That’s when I found the beta version of LM-Correct, NUGEN Audio’s loudness analysis and correction software. I watched for the full product to be released and have been using it, along with NUGEN Audio’s ISL intersample true-peak limiter, at OHA ever since. Recently we also started using NUGEN’s VisLM visual loudness meter to keep an eye on all the levels as we’re mixing. Now that so many new broadcasting specs have become law, the NUGEN Audio products have become indispensible tools at OHA.
The NUGEN Audio products are great separately, and together they’re even better. The ISL is a fantastic true-peak limiter that allows you to mix in spec and avoid any transient peaks, while the true-peak graph in VisLM allows you to see what’s happening in real time. By watching the true peak and other graphs in
VisLM, you can determine areas that need work. Then you can simply isolate the parts that need adjustment and export onto the timeline instead of bringing down the entire mix. Or you can use the meter as you go to ensure you’re in spec in the short or long term. From there, LM-Correct checks the final mix to catch and correct errors faster than real time. The NUGEN Audio tools nail it every time, so it’s rare that anything would need to be corrected. But on rare occasions when transient peaks get through, or if the mix is just a half a click off, LM-Correct can easily fix it for you.
In our workflow, we primarily use Avid Pro Tools 10 and plug the ISL in line on the master output after the mastering compressor/limiter just to catch those transient pieces. (Although ISL is a perfectly capable standalone limiter, we don’t use it that way.) After that, we use VisLM to monitor posteffect/premix to see what’s happening on the master output. At the very end, we analyze the printed mix using LM-Correct mainly as a confidence monitor to triple-check our work and ensure that the files we deliver are in spec. (Because the other tools are so good, it’s rare that we ever have to use LM-Correct to correct anything.) We can set LM-Correct to check against any particular broadcaster’s specs. In the unlikely event that the mix is just a tiny bit off, LM-Correct can fix it without lowering the whole mix. From there we render it, and the broadcast mix is done.
The real value of LM-Correct lies in its ability to analyze faster than real time. Something that might have taken hours to check before now takes minutes. When you get to the end of a mix, the VisLM graph tells you where you’re over. You can isolate and adjust that one piece, and then instead of having to play the whole mix again from beginning to end on the meter, you just hit “analyze in LM-Correct,” and it gives you a reading for whatever piece of the mix you’ve changed. The nonreal-time capability is even more valuable with Pro Tools 11, which has its own faster-than-real-time features.
NUGEN products have changed my life. My colleagues and I no longer spend four hours trying to get a show into spec (if it’s even out to begin with). The ISL and VisLM tools combine to make it so that we rarely have an error, which means that most often LM-Correct serves as a verification and quality control tool. Using NUGEN’s software plug-ins makes it easier to get a good dynamic-range mix out the door with the confidence that it’s going to pass QC.
What’s more, if you’re not paying overtime to someone who’s trying to figure out a mix, or if you don’t mess up and have to redo it after it has failed QC, then you save money. You also build respect and credibility among your customers.
The bottom line: NUGEN Audio tools should be in the toolbox for anyone who uses a nonlinear editing system.
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