Adding Audio Effects

An often overlooked area of videos is the audio portion. A shame since Vegas Video offers a rich assortment of tools to pump up the audio and they are easy to apply. The other day I was rummaging through my CD audio collection and decided to use one of the tracks from an old Rock and 'N' Roll classic from the mid fifties, "The Great Pretender" by the Platters. You can hear the results by playing the short Real Media file below.

The problem was the version of the song I liked was in only in mono and it sounded flat. So the challenge was how to add some presence, simulate stereo and in general make it sound better. This tutorial will walk you though what I did to make that happen. If or not it sounds better is highly subjective, my methods may be a bit unorthodox too, but they give the results I wanted. I encourage you to experiment with some of your own tune to see what's possible.

To Extract Audio from a CD, click on File on the Menu Bar and select that option. The first step once you have the original source track imported into Vegas is to make a copy of the track and place it on the track underneath being very careful that both tracks align exactly vertically. As a option you may wish to make two copies of the source file, keeping the original on a third track, so as you make changes you can compare it to the original.

Note that I labeled the tracks right channel and left channel and set the Pan values to 60% right for the right channel and 60% left for the other. As you make changes you will probably find it useful to use the mute buttons to go back and forth between playing the channel you are currently working on and having them both play to see how the changes effect the other. Also watch the master audio control so you don't go into the red zone. As you can see from the illustration I also cut each track back to -3.0 db, and ended up having the Master Audio Mixer only at 33 for the left track and 27 for the right track.

I used a medium priced three speaker setup that has a sub woofer. Set volume to a medium level and if your speakers come with a tone adjustment set it to mid range or disable completely so it doesn't mask what you you do with Vegas. Depending on the sound capabilities of your PC, you may need to change settings from Windows Control Panel to disable special features your sound card may have otherwise the final result once played through your DVD player or your television may sound very different.

Adjusting Right Channel Audio

Note the third (green) icon in the Track List (area left of the track timeline) top image, which activates the plug-in chain. It will be gray in color until you use it. By default, audio tracks have three plug-ins applied:Track Noise Gate, Track EQ and Track Compressor. Remove or uncheck Noise Gate, EQ and Compressor. Click on the Track EQ button (1st icon, upper right corner left image) and scroll until you see Graphic EQ, click Add, then OK.

It opens at the Envelope tab, (shown at left) with a straight line across at the 0 dB level. Position your mouse cursor near the left border of the chart and while holding down the left mouse button drag until the square it is at about -12 db. Repeat the step to form a graph as shown. If you prefer you can click on the 10 Band or 20 Band tab and use sliders to set values. Leave accuracy at Medium.

The idea here is do reduce the bass coming from the right channel for the lower frequencies while boosting the higher frequencies. The values depend on what effect you want.

 

Adjusting Left Channel Audio

For the left channel I used Graphic EQ, Track Noise Gate, Paragraphic EQ , Reverb and Chorus. Note: Like when applying Video filters, order on the plug-in chain for audio plug-ins is important also! Sometimes just shifting the position of one filter can make a dramatic change. For the Graphic EQ filter I entered values of 3 dB at 20 Hz, 4.5 dB at 32 Hz, 6 dB at 50 Hz, 6 dB at 130 Hz, 0dB at 2300 Hz and -Inf at 20K Hz. This will boost bass and mid ranges while cutting off higher frequencies. If you listen to the demo file, you'll see how this, plus the other adjustments indeed can simulate a stereo effect rather nicely.

I adjust the attack by using the Noise Gate filter. I used a value of 300 for attack and 1,000 for Release time or I just could have used the preset called Slow Attack. Moving attack settings higher means changes in volume slowly build up before changing, higher values for release help avoid making it sound unnatural. A good combination for rock 'n' roll songs.

Next I adjusted the Paragraphic EQ plug-in, shown at left. This filter has four band filters which allow you to boost or attenuate specific frequency ranges. We'll boost lower bass frequencies while cutting back on higher frequencies in the left channel.

The various sliders effect the gain and width within specific frequency bands. I checked enable low-shelf to set a point where lower frequencies get a boost. I set a limit of 4700 which is really in the mid frequencies then gave them a 2.3 dB setting. Setting high-self cuts the higher frequencies at tad above that and cutting the strength back -4.3 dB.

Remember, we're not really cutting the higher frequencies from the song, only from the left channel, so they still will be heard from the right channel. This is a nice trick to liven up a song and create a stereo effect where there was none!

Now time for the final tricks. To restore some life to the old song I used both the Reverb and Chorus plug-ins which if not used to excess can add some of the missing brightness. I deliberately over used a little, for effect.

 

I set the reverb to the medium room preset, and the warm ambiance with the early reflection styles to Mode 1. Mode 8, pan left sounded goof also. For the Chorus plug-in I selected chorus/vibrato 1, but also liked Chorus 5.

Now for a some final magic... right click on the the top (right channel) audio track, properties, change method, now pick change pitch, preserve length. Change semitones to two or three. You won't believe how much the combination of changing the pitch along with graphic EQ plug-in brings out the background singer, which you couldn't even hear in the original. Oh... they really isn't or more precisely wasn't a background singer in the original source file. Now through these tricks, there is one. How about that! Of course how much and if you want to do something like this depends on the song, and what you're going to use it for, but as usual I'm just illustrating methods. The demo sweeps through several other combinations all based on these principles. You may also want to try to nudge either the right or left track a very small portion which will increase the seperation. Move just a fraction of second, too much will create weird effects.