Auto-Volume (Normalize) in Camtasia 2019

  • 4
  • Article
  • Updated 3 months ago
Hi Techsmith,

As both a longtime, passionate Camtasia fan-user and audio engineer, I’d like to propose that you re-examine your newest audio feature: Auto-Loudness (Normalize). You have made Auto-Loudness a “pre-effect”, applicable per track. I feel you’ve really missed the point and benefit of this feature.

If you look at other audio programs, like Logic Pro, you will find Auto-Volume (Normalize) as a POST effect... a single MIXING / MASTERING effect that is applied to all combined tracks at the final step. I strongly propose that you move Auto-Volume (Normalize) to take place upon RENDERING / OUTPUTTING the finished video.

Apply it last... after the User has made all the volume balancing, sound effects, and mixing of all their tracks, and let Auto-Volume simply bring the User’s total project up to a 0db reference level. (You can even add the check box to make its use optional per project.)

Thanks,
Rick

Photo of Rick Kerner

Rick Kerner

  • 10 Posts
  • 1 Reply Like

Posted 5 months ago

  • 4
Photo of Brooks

Brooks, Camtasia Technical Product Manager

  • 172 Posts
  • 145 Reply Likes
Hey Rick,

Thanks for the feedback. Doing a final mix of all tracks and setting your LUFS target at export is on the todo list. There are some real tangible benefits to doing auto-leveling in the editor. Namely what you hear / see is what you get. We alter the waveform drawings so that you can see the audio levels match between clips and we set the gain slider value to 100 so that you can quickly make adjustments and know the relative loudness of that adjustment compared to the rest of your audio. We also run the audio through a compressor to attenuate if there's clipping. All of these are super helpful to non-audio pros and also generally good for most users (saves everyone time). If you've got a great recording setup and are bringing in awesome source, or are sophisticated enough that you just want to make all manual adjustments then you can just turn it off. 

If you have multiple tracks of audio then your export will not be a perfect -18 LUFS (may be close depending on the variance of those tracks). If you only have one track you are going to get -18 LUFS during editing playback and export. No matter what, your audio will be much, much more consistent from project to project. We think that's a pretty good first step to solving the volume level problem for the vast majority of users. Hope this additional info / context helps.

Brooks
Camtasia Technical Product Manager
Mobile Technical Product Manager
TechSmith
(Edited)
Photo of Rick Kerner

Rick Kerner

  • 10 Posts
  • 1 Reply Like
Hi Brooks,
Yes the additional info/context helps a lot! Thank you so much for the prompt response. I'm excited to hear that Normalize-On-Export is also on the To-Do list!  :)
Rick
P.S. I've always loved the audio responsive visual waveform on the PC side. I have filed (multiple times) my concern that the the MAC version waveform does not show audio compression / level changes like the PC side... they need to fix that!  :)
Photo of Brooks

Brooks, Camtasia Technical Product Manager

  • 138 Posts
  • 127 Reply Likes
Hey Rick,

Can you make me a short video of exactly what it is you like on Windows. I want to make sure I'm not misinterpreting here. I'll get the video filed associated with an item in our idea funnel. Send it to b[dot]andrus[at]techsmith[dot]com. Thanks.
Photo of Leif

Leif, Employee

  • 150 Posts
  • 95 Reply Likes
Have you tried Camtasia 2019 on the MAC?  You may be pleasantly surprised.
(Edited)
Photo of brucerothwell

brucerothwell

  • 298 Posts
  • 84 Reply Likes
My 2 cents, also as an audio engineer, is that often it is wise to to “gain staging” on individual tracks, so I do like the way the LUFS normalization is working, but I would add the option to ALSO apply overall normalization on the final output, much like would be done in the mastering process. You could even offer the function of a “limiter”.

I still would like to see the ability to apply 3rd-party plugins, for audio AND video.
Photo of Leif

Leif, Employee

  • 155 Posts
  • 101 Reply Likes
So let's take a look at your proposal here.  I agree 100% with your assertion that this effect would work very well as a final production step.  There should be a way to balance the mixed output from one production to the next and that is in fact something that we want to pursue but did not have time to get to a shippable state before 2019 was ready to release.  It would add value across the board whether you are an audio engineer such as yourself or someone with no real knowledge of how audio may be processed.

However I have to disagree that we have missed the point and benefit of this feature. The feature, as implemented, will help the broadest number of customers.  This is why.  The bulk of users work with one track.  They also often do their recordings in multiple takes, often at different times and in different locations. They may for example record part of their presentation at work and follow that up recording at home.  Often a project consists of clips brought in from a variety of sources.  In these cases, the audio of the various source clips may be recorded at wildly different levels and the user is forced to spend a good deal of time adjusting the levels from clip to clip to get a balanced sound throughout.  What the current feature does is analyze each source and calculate the overall LUFS (Loudness Units Full Scale) of the clip. LUFS are interesting because they take into account the non-linear aspect of human hearing and how that curve flattens as the overall level of the audio gets louder. This equates more to a perceived loudness of a sound rather than a straight decibel level.  You can see this if you bring in several sine waves of various frequencies recorded at the same level.  When they are analyzed and adjusted automatically in Camtasia, the waveform of a lower frequency sine wave will have higher peak than that of a mid-range frequency.  That is because the lower frequency clip will actually be adjusted louder than the mid-frequency clip.  But the perceived level of the clips when listened too will be very close to the same level.
As always in Camtasia we do this in a non-destructive manner.   The source audio files are untouched.  We do this under the hood by applying our own in-house designed compressor that boosts or attenuates the signal to match a target LUFS level that we have internally set.  Depending on the content, compression is added, but only as much as needed so that the source will not clip and only if the level needs to be boosted.  So the beauty is that all of the source material is more closely balanced with as little change to its dynamic range as possible without any effort on the users part.

You can compare this to some extent to Logic where a user can adjust the gain (called trim in ProTools) of a clip or region.  Only in Camtasia we do it automatically while taking into account the frequency content of the source clips. For users such as yourself that understand audio and wish to adjust it, you are still free to apply compression, noise reduction or pitch and make any level adjustments you see fit.  But you are starting from a level playing field.  
In your case, this may not be as useful a feature since with your background, you are much more likely to pay close attention to your levels, settings and mic placement before recording and therefore your clips are very likely balanced already.   But for a lot of users (even users in house here at Techsmith), this feature is a huge time saver.

I cannot promise you what the next advancement in audio in Camtasia will be, but rest assured that being able to pick a target LUFS value at production time and then automatically calculate and adjust your exported audio to match that target is very much on our radar.

And just for fun, here is a very non-technical presentation I made in-house to show the value of this feature.  In this case, I recorded the audio with very different input levels, mic placement and locations. No audio adjustments were made in editing, just the auto leveling was applied.  The result is not perfect - there is a lot more room reverb in the clips where I was far from the microphone, as well as the bass heavy proximity effect when recording close-miked.  But the result is listenable with no extra effort on my part while intentionally using less than ideal recordings and voice-overs.

Audio Leveling In Camtasia

As always, keep the input coming.  And thank you for being a longtime and passionate Camtasia user!
(Edited)
Photo of davemillman

davemillman

  • 616 Posts
  • 208 Reply Likes
Brooks,

With respect from a Camtasia fanboy:
If you have multiple tracks of audio then your export will not be a perfect -18 LUFS..."
Optimizing for a single audio track? That statement is perfect evidence of why I don't want Techsmith mucking with my audio under any circumstances.

We also run the audio through a compressor to attenuate if there's clipping. All of these are super helpful to non-audio pros and also generally good for most users"
Yes, there has never a case where an automatic compressor caused an issue. 

No matter what, your audio will be much, much more consistent from project to project."
The funny thing is, I've done dozens of projects, but I still can't predict what the supplied audio will sound like on the next one, or what stupid demands different clients will make after they hear it. Have you perfected an algorithm which is simultaneously prescient and omniscient? Until then, please do not muck with my audio. No levellers, no compressors, no mystery filters.

 If you've got a great recording setup and are bringing in awesome source, or are sophisticated enough that you just want to make all manual adjustments then you can just turn it off. 
Whew. My blood pressure is returning to normal.

I'm reacting badly here because a few years ago (around Camtasia Mac Version 2.9), without warning Techsmith arbitrarily switched from one video compression scheme to another and eliminated our ability to export the highest quality video. This caused chaos among expert users. The solution was to downgrade until Version 3.0. Here's a link to some of that history, be sure to expand to read the whole thread:

https://feedback.techsmith.com/techsmith/topics/new-exporter-settings-is-way-too-basic

The similarity here is that expert users lost control, and more importantly, quality suffered. The fact that "it" can be turned off today is good. Please make sure we never lose that control.

Again, apologies.
Photo of Brooks

Brooks, Camtasia Technical Product Manager

  • 172 Posts
  • 145 Reply Likes
Hey Dave,

Thanks for the feedback. Sounds like there's some scar tissue there. I know the deprecation of Quicktime caused all sorts of consternation including for my personal use / tastes.

As far as advanced controls go, I love them personally, but I get to see the other side of the fence, where non-sophisticated users absolutely drown in complexity and get themselves into all kinds of hot water fiddling with values they don't understand. There's got to be the right balance we can strike for both ends of the spectrum. Luckily I don't happen to think it's a zero sum game. We can create happy paths and protect core workflows while still opening up the possibility for precision and control. Easier said than done, but that's the basic operating philosophy I have and direction I attempt to push our team towards.

The automatic LUFS leveling is a really compelling algorithm we've developed built on top of the already impressive LUFS leveling work that's been done throughout the industry. There's real value here and for most users / scenarios it's a huge improvement and produces real savings in time. We don't compress unless there's clipping. And you don't have to use it. You can turn it off on a project by project basis, or set your preferences to default it never to be on at all. 

I do really appreciate your feedback. Hopefully, we can all build an understanding that we're all operating from a position of goodwill. Please feel free to reach out to me at anytime. b[dot]andrus[at]techsmith[dot]com.

Best,

Brooks
Camtasia Technical Product Manager
Mobile Technical Product Manager
TechSmith
Photo of Leif

Leif, Employee

  • 155 Posts
  • 101 Reply Likes
Since you want complete control, your best bet is to turn this option off in the preferences.on the project tab.  Then for every new project you create it will be off.  Otherwise you will end up having to turn it off in each new project you create (that option is in the Project Settings dialog).   Note that we never turn this option on or off automatically on an existing project.  If you've already spent a lot of time adjusting the audio to your liking, this would only mess with all of your hard work.

Of course I am biased, but personally, I would give it a chance.

When I'm starting to mix a session in Logic, the very first thing I do, is adjust the input gain of the audio to a consistent level. Next I adjust the volume and pan of tracks to give me a rough mix of how I am thinking the song should proceed. Only then do I start applying effects and adjustments to make the instruments and vocals all sit together nicely.  If I had a way to automate that first step, I would use it.  it would save me 10 to 20 minutes of upfront work (depending on project complexity) and completely eliminate the need for it.

Your point about not taking away control is well taken.
You still have complete creative control over your audio. Even though the audio options are admittedly limited in Camtasia, we have not taken any of those capabilities away.
Photo of davemillman

davemillman

  • 616 Posts
  • 208 Reply Likes
Brooks and Leif,

Thank you both for your detailed replies.

It would be great if your detailed explanations could be available somewhere to us interested parties. Otherwise, we have to rely on explanations like the video at https://www.techsmith.com/tutorial-camtasia-editing-audio.html which states at 3:14: "Lastly, as you add audio to a project, Camtasia automatically adjusts the loudness to an industry-standard level. This means all audio clips in a project start at the same loudness before editing." That makes it sound like we have no control.

Thanks again.
Photo of Leif

Leif, Employee

  • 155 Posts
  • 101 Reply Likes
I'll forward your comment to the training department.  Perhaps they will update or supplement the available information.
Photo of davemillman

davemillman

  • 616 Posts
  • 208 Reply Likes
Perhaps they will update or supplement the available information.
It's more likely they have a list of priorities a mile long and this will never see the light of day. It's a shame that Brooks' obvious enthusiasm and your knowledge will remain buried.

Looking at Brooks' photo, he seems like a bit of a pirate. Maybe the two of you could copy and paste your two responses into an app note, enhance it with a couple of screen shots, and publish it somewhere Mr. Google can get to it under the title, "Working with Camtasia 2019's AutoLoudness Feature". If you get court martialed, I'll break you out of the brig.
(Edited)
Photo of Brooks

Brooks, Camtasia Technical Product Manager

  • 172 Posts
  • 145 Reply Likes
Leif put together a nice video that's pretty detailed. I posted in the main announcement about 2019 in this forum, but this tool isn't the easiest place to find things, so I'm sure it got missed.

https://videoreview.techsmith.com/review/Yi7jdFGbb8BySLJv0ywK3s/v1 

Feel free to continue asking questions. I think our training department deliberately tries to not go super deep and lose / confuse folks who aren't as sophisticated. Still good feedback that we will share with them.
(Edited)
Photo of Rick Kerner

Rick Kerner

  • 10 Posts
  • 1 Reply Like
Brooks and Leif,
If anything, I hope you're encouraged that you still have this closet audience of advanced users!  :)
Rick

Photo of Brooks

Brooks, Camtasia Technical Product Manager

  • 138 Posts
  • 122 Reply Likes
We really appreciate the thoughtful feedback Rick. We put a lot of time and thought into this one. Lot's of debates, but we feel good about impacting the most customers we possibly could--from noob to pro. Totally want to answer any questions you have.Thank you so much for hanging in there and giving us real feedback.
Photo of jcthewizard

jcthewizard

  • 18 Posts
  • 4 Reply Likes
I watched l.atons video; Auto Leveling In Camtasia.  And I see how this works between TWO clips.  I am looking for a way (as I believe used to be available in previous versions) to normalize audio in ONE clip.  I don't think that exists any longer.  Which means I need to export the audio, use GoldWave (my choice for audion editing), level the audio, save file and import it into Camtasia 2019.

Waste of time . . .

So far I've experienced no value in upgrading to 2019 from 2018 - I've been a Camtasia user for many, many years.
Photo of Leif

Leif, Employee

  • 154 Posts
  • 98 Reply Likes
We have not removed any audio functionality.  The only way to level widely varying audio within a given clip is by adding audio points and raising or lowering sections as needed. You could also apply a compressor (used to be called Volume Leveling but was renamed to Audio Compression to avoid confusion with the new audio leveling).  Under the hood, it was always a compressor and the functionality of it has not changed.  You can still use it exactly as before.  If it has worked for you in the past, it will still work, so no need to export the audio unless you wanted to do more work on it in a dedicated audio editor.  Hope that helps.