An active field of industrial research is devoted to devising packages that optimally pack into containers. The goal is to utilize as much container volume as possible with little to no room to spare.
Once audio tracks are recorded, the audio engineer faces a similar problem. The big difference is that none of the packages, one per track, have the same shape or size. The audio container holding the packages varies little from project to project. The variety of packages to arrange makes audio engineering interesting, but the overall goal is the same as that for manufacturers and distributors: use as much of the container space as possible without damaging the contents.
In the accompanying video, Nathaniel Kunkel and Alan Meyerson discuss many encounters with this audio packing problem. Their approaches to the problem involve signal processing tools, Quartet DynPEQ (though we must also mention Trio DynPEQ, which deserves more love) and other Pro Tools AAX plug-ins.
If you do not have enough time to watch the video right now, here are a few perspectives from Nathaniel and Alan reduced into bullet points. We strongly urge you to come back later and see the whole video.
• The engineer must prepare a lead vocal or instrument track to be rendered arbitrarily loud. In the process of turning the track gain up, aspects of the sound can be exposed that beg to be brought back down. These aspects are not necessarily part of the performance and often are confined to a subband of the spectrum. DynPEQ can be used to apply dynamics on the subbands of concern, allowing a vivid performance signal to emerge.
• Transferring old recordings to new audio formats can introduce ambience that obstructs the original recording’s ability to occupy the new space. DynPEQ can help manage the ambience, and the analog peak limiter in Quartet DynPEQ can smooth overruns to match level with the original format.
• Mixing large orchestral recordings of intense music often leads to instrument sections in conflict for the limited audio space. DynPEQ can help regulate the interaction when large sections overlap and can help find critical space for solo instrument inserts. The analog peak limiter in Quartet DynPEQ enforces the container size while striving to avoid distortion, warm or otherwise, maintaining the intended sound at the desired gain.