VLC is my video player of choice on both my Windows and Mac computers. It’s small, it’s light on resources, and it plays just about every video format you care to mention. It also has a few neat tricks up its sleeve. One I just learned was how to normalize volume in VLC for Windows. It’s a very convenient package, and it works on Mac, too.
If you watch a lot of videos or TV on your computer and find the audio is either too high or too low, or even switches between the two during playback, you’re not alone. Especially if you download your programs or movies. One neat trick will even out the audio, making it much easier on the ears.
What this does is make those quieter sections louder and those raucous sections quieter and works to bring both closer together for a much more even playback, so you can stop tweaking the volume every few minutes, and alternating straining to hear and going deaf. It isn’t perfect, but it certainly makes media much more bearable to watch and listen to.
Computer audio mixers go some way to evening out the audio, but by default they try to keep the sound levels at the original setting to provide the best experience. The only problem with this is that those original settings aren’t always the ones necessary for the best experience. Those original levels aren’t always the best for a given room or listening situation. This is even more true if the audio track was originally 5.1 and has been squeezed into 2 channel stereo. If that’s the case, then the audio will be all over the place!
Normalize volume in VLC
It’s not a complicated process to get through. Given how simple it is to do, I’m a little annoyed I didn’t know about this earlier!
- Open VLC.
- Navigate to Tools and Preferences.
- Check the box next to Normalize volume in Effects.
- Set the level to the one what works for you then Save.
This should go a long way to setting the audio volume at a reasonable level without peaks and troughs. It doesn’t work on more uneven playback, though, as it just tries to adjust the general volume rather than specifics, so it isn’t perfect. You can go much further with normalization if you dig into the Audio Effects menu of VLC.
- Select Tools and Preferences
- Select All in Show settings in the bottom left corner of the window.
- Navigate to Audio and Filters.
- Highlight Filters and make sure there is a check in the box next to Dynamic range compressor.
- Select Compressor in the left pane.
- Make changes to the levels as you see fit
The settings you are most interested in are Makeup gain, Threshold, and Ratio. Makeup gain is the setting you adjust in quiet sequences to raise the volume, Ratio is the maximum level of all audio within a movie, and Threshold reduces louder sequences to even things out.
Attack time and Release time can also be useful. These settings graduate the changes to ramp them up and then down again rather than initiating them immediately. Setting them from here will give you a more fluid transition in and out of the scene, so you won’t be getting slapped upside the head by sudden, jarring volume changes.
So how do you put all this into practice and set up playback so it works best?
Setting up the audio compressor in VLC
To truly make a difference in TV or movie audio playback, you need to use the audio compressor. It is a powerful tool built into VLC that can completely change the audio of any media. Try this to normalize volume in VLC.
- Load up a movie or TV show in VLC.
- Find a quiet section where the audio drops too low. Open up the settings as above and raise Makeup gain until the audio is around the level of the rest of the audio. You have to make the change by ear but it doesn’t have to be exact. Just worry about matching your own personal preferences as closely as you can.
- Find a louder section where audio peaks too high. Adjust the Threshold slider down until it is at a much more sensible level.
- Then adjust the Ratio to the maximum to ensure all audio doesn’t exceed the current levels.
- Adjust Attack to between 50ms and 75ms and Release to between 100ms and 250ms. Play the movie and adjust these to get a more even audio playback.
This technique doesn’t just work on media where the audio is messed up or inconsistent; it can help in other situations, too. It helps you watch movies while people are in bed without waking them, allows you to watch gunfights in apartments without waking neighbors while still having the dialogue at an audible level, or anything else along those lines. It can also help when using headphones.
The downside is that you will make to tweak these settings for each different movie or TV series you watch. At least now you know how to do it, it should only take a minute or two to set it up, and as you get a feel for the controls, you’ll get faster and more fine-tuned as you use them.