Parallel Compression stands out as a secret weapon that allows producers and engineers to have great control over the track's dynamics.
Whether you're a novice or an experienced audio professional, we will discuss the concepts of parallel compression, how to achieve it, how to master it, and its application in films and television.
Parallel compression, also known as parallel processing, involves blending an already heavily compressed audio signal with the original uncompressed audio signal. While the uncompressed signal will keep the natural dynamics of the track intact, the heavily compressed track will add sustain, density, and compression to the final output audio.
This bass compression technique allows sound professionals to control the dynamic range without sacrificing the natural tone. At the same time, it allows them to bring out the subtle details in softer passages and control the high peaks of the track.
From our experience, we can say that Parallel Compression will allow you to have increased control of the dynamics of your audio signals. As we mentioned earlier, when you blend a highly compressed track with the original track, you can achieve a greater balance between the desired level of compression and the natural dynamics of the audio.
One thing that almost all sound professionals know about using an Audio Compressor is that they somewhat destroy the original dynamics of a mix. But, when it comes to Parallel Compression, it is different as it preserves the dynamic range and ensures that the mix remains lively and natural, even when it is heavily compressed.
One of the most loved abilities of Parallel Compression for us is how it adds depth, punch, and presence to tracks post-compression. Because the quieter elements and the louder parts of the mix are now in a much-balanced state, there is an enhanced sense of cohesion
Moreover, because of this, all the individual elements in the master bus are nicely blended, allowing music producers and sound engineers to create polished and professional sound.
While the process of Parallel Compression can vary from person to person as it should, based on our firsthand experience, we have curated a step-by-step guide on how you implement Parallel Compression.
To keep your original track unaffected, you will first have to create a new bus or aux track in your digital audio workstation (DAW) and then route the track to this to compress it.
Once the bus track is ready, you will have to tweak settings to compress the track. As we said earlier, this compression should be higher than usual. You can begin with a high ratio i.e. around 10:1, a fast attack time, and a lower release time, and then start compression. The compressor settings for parallel compression is quite similar to the vocal compression setting.
Now that you have your highly compressed audio signal with you, the next step would be to adjust the send levels of the bus track to blend the compressed and uncompressed signals.
After conducting experiments with it, in all the years we have worked, we recommend that you begin with a lower blend level and then gradually increase it till you get your desired results.
Once you get the first export, you will find the things you want to tweak. You can experiment around with different compression settings. The best thing would be to use your to find the spots you don’t like so that you can change them accordingly.
If you are a budding sound professional, let us tell you that Parallel Compression is not limited to music production. If you are an avid film viewer, you will realize that it also plays a significant role in film and TV soundtracks.
Professional sound designers and sound engineers use Parallel Compression to do so much in the film world, which we will discuss in this section.
Cinema is a medium that requires both audio and video to achieve the right effect. Having clear dialogues is extremely important when it comes to audio, which brings us to Parallel Compression.
This technique ensures that the dialogues remain crystal clear despite all the other audio elements, such as music and sound effects. With a subtle Parallel Compression to the dialogue track, sound engineers can allow the quieter parts to become more audible without affecting the original performances.
It is common knowledge that action sequences in films require heightened impact and intensity when it comes to the background music. This is where Parallel Compression comes in. Parallel Compression can make sound effects more powerful and dominant, making action sequences more immersive and intense.
Background Scores in films and television are one of the most critical things that set and enhance the mood of the audiences. Parallel Compression can further be used to add depth to these background scores.
This specifically works well when composers use orchestral instruments like strings or brass sections, as Parallel Compression brings out the richness and warmth of their sound while increasing the background score's cohesiveness.
A common thing that people often overlook is that they do not ensure that their mix is well-balanced. Before applying Parallel Compression, one should see each track is EQ'ed appropriately to get the best results.
Using a single Parallel Compression is an outdated tool. One should not limit themselves to it and move forward with experimenting with setting up multiple parallel chains for different groups of tracks.
For example, you can start by having separate Parallel Compression buses for individual instruments, which will allow you to have a higher level of control over the compression process.
Any music producer worth their salt can say that while using Parallel Compression, finding the right balance between compressed and uncompressed signals is the most critical aspect of the game.
Start with lower blending levels and gradually increase until you achieve the desired effect. Make sure that you don’t overkill the blend.
One of the best tips from an acclaimed music producer is that we should use Sidechain Compression along with Parallel Compression, as it allows you to have a trigger for your Compression on the parallel bus using a separate audio source.
Sidechain Compression in Parallel will help you to tighten the low end of your track, allowing you to add more groove to the music. For example, you can use a kick drum to trigger the Compression on a parallel drum bus that can help you increase the overall energy of the track.
After being in the industry for so long, we have adapted to use visual tools such as waveforms, metering plugins, and spectrum analyzers to provide to see the unseen. These tools can provide valuable insights as they can help you identify if any part of the track has been excessively compressed, if the track has potential phase issues, etc.
Sometimes, you will not understand the difference between compressed and uncompressed tracks. In these moments, human nature forces you to over-compress just to get the feeling that the track is compressing.
Remember that it is important to compare your mix with and without Parallel Compression to know if it makes it sound good. It will help you in making the right adjustments that are needed to enhance your sound as well as keep overcompression at bay.
Music is an audible medium, which makes it an obvious point. Start trusting your ears more than anything else. Anything that you learn from someone else is just a guideline, at the end of the day, what you listen to is what is important.
There is no doubt that Parallel Compression is an effective tool for sound professionals, but they should not forget that overcompressing can do more harm than good in most cases.
While executing Parallel Compression, remind yourself that it is important to balance the compressed and uncompressed signals, as an overcompressed output will have a lifeless and overly squashed sound.
One of the users' most common mistakes is not using the right compression settings. You should understand the fundamental settings, attack time, release time, ratio, and threshold can change the total game and are the first step toward achieving the desired effect.
Remember that you will not be able to get the right thing on the first try. The whole process of Parallel Compression is based on trial and error. You must experiment with different settings to reach the sweet spot for each track or mix.
Drawing from our own experience, we can say that Parallel Compression will introduce phase issues like comb filtering, resulting in a thin and unnatural sound at some point, more importantly when you are working on multiple instances or processing individual tracks separately.
Phase issues during Parallel Compression can be avoided by ensuring that all Parallel Compression tracks are phase-aligned with the source audio by using tools like phase correlation meters or phase inversion to identify and correct any phase cancellation.
Call it a mistake or a compulsion forced out of your budget, but not having good quality speakers or headsets will cost you big time as cheap-sounding speakers will not accurately represent the output. You will always twitch the wrong settings, resulting in an imbalanced or unnatural mix and producing poor-sounding audio.
Another thing that all of us have done at some point in life is to use the skill we have learned in all the places that we can. But as a sound professional, you must remind yourself that Parallel Compression does not work in one size fits all logic.
Using Parallel Compression on heavily compressed sounds will probably ruin your track. Take your time and determine which element needs Parallel Compression and which does not.
By far, we have learned enough about Parallel Compression to come to the conclusion that it is an extremely versatile and powerful technique that can elevate the quality of your audio mixes and take it to a professional level when used properly
You should use Parallel Compression to create the perfect balance between dynamic control and the originality of the track by blending heavily compressed and uncompressed signals But, as users, you should never forget that Parallel Compression should not be used everywhere. Rest, we leave it to your fair judgment. Keep practicing and you will learn how to achieve the desired results.
♥ - Joseph SARDIN - Founder of BigSoundBank.com - About - Contact