The Levelator™

Update 9/30/06: The Levelator is now ready for download.

Do you believe in magic? You will after using The Levelator to enhance your podcast. And you’ll ve amazed that it’s free (for non-commercial use). Tomorrow at the Podcast and Portable Media Expo, GigaVox Media will demo The Levelator in our booth and make it available for free download from our web site.

So what is The Levelator? It’s software that runs on Windows or OS X (universal binary) that adjusts the audio levels within your podcast for variations from one speaker to the next, for example. It’s not a compressor, normalizer or limiter although it contains all three. It’s much more than those tools, and it’s much simpler to use. The UI is dirt-simple: Drag-and-drop any WAV or AIFF file onto The Leveler’s application window, and a few moments later you’ll find a new version which just sounds better.

Have you ever recorded an interview in which you and your guest ended up at different volumes? How about a panel discussion where some people were close to microphones and others were not? These are the problems the post-production engineers of Team ITC solve every day, and it used to sometimes take them hours of painstaking work with expensive and complex tools like SoundTrack Pro, Audacity, Sound Forge or Audition to solve them. Now it takes mere seconds. I’m not kidding. The Levelator is unlike any other audio tool you’ve ever seen, heard or used. It’s magic. And it’s free.

When I started to develop the IT Conversations component-based show-assembly system (the first generation of GigaVox Audio Lite, see below), I realized all the components had to be of the same loudness or the results would sound awful. We limped along for many months using the RMS normalization functions in various applications, but the results weren’t satisfactory and it required tools and skillsets that some of our post-production audio engineers didn’t have. One of our best engineers, Bruce Sharpe, offered to write a standalone software RMS normalization utility, which we’ve been using as part of our production system GVUploader for nearly a year.

The GVUploader’s normalizer acts similar to an intelligent RMS-based compressor/limiter combination, and it therefore affects primarily the short-term (transient) sounds and the long-term overall loudness of the file. It doesn’t make the kind of adjustments that a skilled audio engineer can perform in software or at a mixing console, riding the levels up and down to compensate for medium-term variations.

There are some hardware devices such as the Aphex Compellor 320A and various AGC (automatic-gain control) components that can do moderate leveling, but since they have to operate in real time (i.e., without look-ahead), they can’t do much. And they aren’t cheap, let alone free. Even a skilled human can only react to changes unless s/he is lucky enough to be present during a recording session and can use visual cues to anticipate coming variations. Software can do better by performing multiple passes over the audio, generating a loudness map of where the volume changes. (It’s not actually that simple, but the metaphor is helpful.)

Bruce, with help from his son, Malcolm, had proven that he knew how to tackle these problems in ways that no one else anywhere in the audio/software industry has done to date. So I asked him, “Bruce, do you you think you can write a leveler that corrects for medium-term variations in loudness instead of the short-term and long-term variatons processed by compressor/limiters and normalizers, respectively?” Bruce and Malcolm took on the challenge, and eight months later we began testing The Levelator.

I’ve been a professional audio engineer longer than I’ve been in the computer industry — that’s a long time — and belileve me, there’s nothing else like this out there. I guarantee it will blow you away or double your money back. (Oh wait, it’s free. I forgot.) We previewed it for 100 people at Podcast Academy 4 today, and they were unanimously impressed. You will be, too.

We’ve got some last-minute details to tidy up in terms of the installers and packaging, but within the next 24 hours or so, we’ll post the URL for free download at www.gigavox.com.

You’ll believe in magic. Guaranteed.

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One thought on “The Levelator™

  1. pilotmike

    Doug, I used the Levelator on Pilotcast #45, which like most, is a Skype conference with one guy in the back of a semi-truck cab and our guest on his home phone.

    THE LEVELATOR WORKED GREAT! IT IS A MIRACLE! OK, the Nobel prize might be hard to get but I say we nominate Bruce for a MacArthur “Genius” grant!

    FYI, before it was Levalated, Kent was so low you could barely hear him. We feared raising the noise level so I as you advised I equalized first then ran it through the Levelator. The result is the best, most consistent levels, The Pilotcast ever had!

    THANK YOU, DOUG! THANK YOU, BRUCE! THANK YOU, GIGAVOX! for giving me my weekends back so I can go flying!

    –“Pilot Mike”
    The Pilotcast

    Reply

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