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This chapter is from the book

Creating Professional Audio Enhancements with TC|Works

TC|Works creates audio software for multiple platforms. Its parent company, TC Electronic, is a well-respected manufacturer of professional audio hardware for studios and live performances.

The three TC|Works audio tools included with Premiere 6.5, collectively called TC|Native Essentials, are DirectX-compatible plug-ins.

Each one has an interface that resembles the front panel of typical TC Electronic hardware. Two of the three audio tools—EQ and Dynamics—use SoftSat, an algorithm that TC|Works claims gives its audio that "lovely warm sound often associated with analog tube equipment." I'm inclined to agree.

Whereas the standard Premiere audio effects sometimes sound a bit artificial, the TC|Works effects are smooth and more realistic. When you select "Huge Cathedral" from the TC Reverb presets, it sounds like a huge cathedral.

NOTE

For more details about these TC|Works products, access the TC Essentials PDF file in the TCWorks/TCNativeEssentials202 file folder on the same hard drive as your Premiere 6.5 folder. Figure 10.13 shows its cover page.

Figure 10.13 The TC|Native Essentials manual.

Exploring TC Reverb

I'm going to take you through all three TC|Works tools. To start, clear the Effect Controls palette and then drag the third TC|Works audio effect, TC Reverb, to the palette or to your audio clip on the timeline. This pops up an intuitive interface, as shown in Figure 10.14, intended to resemble audio electronics hardware.

Figure 10.14 The TC Reverb interface has the "feel" of professional audio hardware.

TC Reverb replaces the functions of Premiere's Reverb & Echo, plus some attributes of Multitap Delay. I'll take you through its interface:

Preview—Switch this on to hear a repeated segment of your audio clip. Unlike Premiere's Preview Sound option, which does not react immediately to changes you make, the TC|Works plug-ins are very responsive.

ROM, Decay, and Mix—To change any TC Reverb settings, click one of the buttons—ROM (TC|Works presets), Decay, or Mix—then click the control knob and drag your mouse up or down. Alternatively, you can place your mouse over any of the illuminated displays and right-click to increase its value one step at a time or left-click to decrease its value. Do that for the ROM setting and see how the different simulated "rooms" sound.

The right/left-click "value change" technique plus the following three functions all work similarly for all three TC|Works plug-ins. Give each of the following a test drive:

  • Click the TC Works logo bar to display a drop-down list of presets.

  • Right/Option-click the VU meter to turn it on or off, display a line showing your audio clip's peak volume, or convert a monaural clip into a stereo signal.

  • Manipulate the VU meter sliders—they let you manually set the volume levels for input and output.

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Experiment with TC Reverb. Decay means how long it takes for your echo to fade away. Mix is the relative amount of the original and the echo in the combined version. Set Mix to 100% and ROM to Large Cathedral. It'll sound like you're standing at a cathedral's entrance in the back.

Exploring TC Dynamics

This TC|Works plug-in replaces most of the functions of two of Premiere's Dynamics audio effects—Boost and Compressor/Expander—plus some functions of Noise Gate. Its purpose is to shrink the dynamic range of a clip—the difference between the loudest and quietest sounds.

Typically you'll use this when you have very quiet passages. In those cases, if you simply increase the gain (the volume) the moderately loud audio will be too loud. Therefore, you use a compressor to bring up quiet passages while holding down loud sounds. This can help your audio levels sound more even and consistent throughout the length of the audio clip. Remove TC Reverb from the Effect Controls palette and replace it by dragging in TC Dynamics. As illustrated in Figure 10.15, its interface is a little busier than TC Reverb's. I've highlighted its four control knobs:

Figure 10.15 TC Dynamics with its four control knobs highlighted.

Attack—This is the amount of time in milliseconds it takes for the compressor to kick in. A small number works well with sudden sounds such as drums, keeping them from suddenly overwhelming a quieter passage. A larger number works well with strings, easing up their volume.

Release—This is the time taken for the compression to return to normal. A long release time causes a sound's attribute to fade away slowly, whereas a short release time causes it to drop out quickly.

Threshold—This is the volume level, in decibels, at which the compressor starts working—from –60 to 0 dB. Settings close to -60 effectively amplify the quietest sounds. Settings close to zero minimize the compression effect.

Ratio—This sets how far the compressor will pull the top volume down when its signal is above the threshold level. A setting of 5 (5:1 ratio) means that if the signal is 10 dB above the threshold, the compressor will cut that to 2 dB above the threshold. Compressors pull down peak volumes.

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The Compressor lowers the level of the input signal when it is above the threshold. The amount that is lowered is determined by the ratio and the input level. As a general rule, use high ratios with relatively high thresholds and low ratios with low thresholds.

Task: Listen to the Attributes in Action

To hear all the TC Dynamics attributes in action, follow these steps:

  1. Within the TC Dynamics interface, select Preview.

  2. Now make some adjustments to those four knobs. Depending on your audio clip, you may notice some dramatic changes.

  3. Turn on SoftSat. I've highlighted it and two other options—SoftKnee and Automatic Make-Up Gain —in Figure 10.16. With SoftSat selected, the sound should take on a "warmer" characteristic. Turn off SoftSat.

  4. Turn on SoftKnee. This smoothes the transition into compression. If you've selected extreme compression settings—very low thresholds or very high ratios—this may produce better results. Turn off SoftKnee.

  5. Right/Option-click the VU meter. Select Automatic Make-Up Gain. The volume level should increase dramatically. You may need to leave this on if you plan to do a lot of signal compression.

Figure 10.16 TC Dynamics and its three extra features.

NOTE

I don't want to understate the value of Automatic Make-Up Gain. This parameter has a huge impact on the overall behavior of the TC Dynamics plug-in.

With Auto Make-Up Gain set to Off, the average audio signal is compressed, without a compensating overall increase in gain. This is the behavior of a standard compressor. With Auto Make-Up Gain set to On, the average audio signal is compressed and then raised to meet the levels of the highest gain. This ensures your project has a consistent audio output level.

TIP

Set the TC Dynamics VU meter to Activate Peak Hold. Right/Option-click the VU meter to make that menu selection. Note the peak volume level in dB (it's hard to read the numeric values—blue/green are negative values, yellow is positive, and red means "hot"). Then select your threshold level at slightly less than the peak volume.

Exploring TC EQ

Remove the TC Dynamics plug-in from your audio clip and replace it with TC EQ, as shown in Figure 10.17. I'm not sure why it's simply called "TC EQ" because this tool replaces and improves upon six Premiere audio effects: the three EQ audio effects (Bass & Treble, Equalize, and Parametric Equalization) and the three Bandpass effects (Lowpass, Highpass, and Notch Filter).

Figure 10.17 The TC EQ interface does not resemble the consumer-style equalizer most of us are used to. This one is digital and gives you more precise control.

An equalizer lets you make precise volume adjustments to selected frequencies or frequency ranges. You may have a so-called graphic equalizer on your car or home stereo. It has a series of sliders (faders), each for different preset frequency ranges—from deep bass to high treble. Guys who like thumping bass in their cars crank up the sliders on the low end of the frequency scale.

NOTE

The term graphic equalizer comes from the curved shape the sliders/faders create on the frequency response line. Most audiophiles like to boost the bass and treble, making a wide curving "smile" graphic equalizer shape.

Parametric equalizers boost specific, narrow frequency ranges. You can convert a thin vocal into a full-bodied powerhouse by rolling off the high frequencies and boosting the bass.

Finally, TC EQ has several undocumented features: Notch Filter, Low Shelf, and High Shelf. I'll explain each in a couple minutes.

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The TC EQ logo bar menu has some presets that warrant experimentation (see Figure 10.18). Selecting one, such as Lowshelf/Parametric/Highshelf (the default setting), automatically selects those features across the three bands and inputs preset values. With Preview on, change the Gain or other settings to see how the presets work.

Note also that SoftSat (the "warm" sound algorithm) is on by default. Selecting Only Parametric without SoftSat turns off that feature.

Figure 10.18 The TC EQ menu, accessible by clicking the logo bar, offers several presets for the three EQ "bands."

The interface takes some getting used to. I've highlighted a few elements in Figure 10.19. Each of the three columns has three options:

  • FRQ is frequency—the audio pitch in cycles per second or hertz (Hz). The audible portion of the frequency spectrum runs from about 20 Hz to 22,000 Hz (22 KHz) or about 10 octaves.

  • BW is bandwidth—the frequency range in octaves centered on the selected frequency that you will increase or decrease in volume.

  • Gain is how much extra or reduced volume you want to apply to a frequency range.

You can set numeric amounts for these features in one of three ways:

  • Click the illuminated number to pop up a slider.

  • Double-click to type in a specific number.

  • Use the joystick to adjust the gain and/or frequency. You need to turn the joystick on and select which column/band you want to control.

Figure 10.19 The TC EQ bands and their numeric settings.

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The joystick—I've highlighted the on/off and settings buttons in Figure 10.20—is not immediately intuitive. To use it, turn it on by clicking the On button; then click one or more of the band numbers to its right. Use your mouse to increase or decrease the gain by dragging the joystick up or down. Decrease or increase the frequency by dragging the joystick left or right.

Depending on your presets, you may notice that the joystick does not allow you to adjust the gain and frequency through their full range. This is intended to give you more accuracy. To change those presets, right-click any of the three numbered buttons to the right. I've highlighted one of the drop-down menus in Figure 10.20. "Gain Absolute" means you can use the joystick to adjust the full 36 dB range, "Gain Relative" cuts that range in half. Selecting something other than "Frequency Absolute" narrows the range to two or four octaves.

Figure 10.20 The TC EQ joystick takes some getting used to.

You can turn on/off a band by clicking its associated On button above its respective column. The little button next to the On button represents the column's current function. Here's a rundown of that button's features:

Low Shelf—This is an undocumented feature. Use it to boost or reduce the entire low end of the frequency spectrum prior to the selected frequency. It's sort of like using the bass control on your stereo. The "Shelf" numeric values are a bit confusing. As I've highlighted in Figure 10.21, instead of inputting a bandwidth amount in the BW window, you input a dB (decibel) level (+/-) to increase or decrease gain for that low-end range (this works for High Shelf as well). Gain multiplies that dB level, so a 12 dB setting coupled with a –3 Gain setting means the Low Shelf frequency section will be 36 dB quieter than its normal volume.

High Shelf—This is the opposite of Low Shelf. In this case, you boost or reduce the entire high end of the frequency spectrum starting at the selected frequency. This more or less replicates the treble control on your stereo.

Parametric EQ—You use this to boost or reduce a specific frequency or frequency range. Use BW to set the bandwidth centered on that frequency.

Notch Filter—Another undocumented feature. This silences anything from a single frequency—such as the 60 Hz power-line hum—to a wider frequency range. Note that when selected it automatically sets the Gain to "-inf" (that is, silence).

Figure 10.21 With Low or High Shelf selected, the BW (bandwidth) window (highlighted) is where you input the dB (decibel) change for the shelf.

Now's the time to experiment with this powerful audio production tool. There's so much it can do to enhance your sound. And remember, you can use any of the TC|Works tools multiple times on the same audio clip. So if you want to create a true graphic equalizer with 15 bands, for instance, you can use TC EQ five times, defining three narrow "parametric" bands in each instance.

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