Avid produces several great dynamics processors for use in Pro Tools, from the included Channel Strip (with its roots in Euphonix boards) to the Pro Series Compressor and Multi-band Dynamics. Each of these dynamics plugins has a parameter that makes them stand out in a crowded world of compressors and limiters; the depth control. Let’s take a look at what it does and why it’s great.
We all know the core controls of any standard dynamics processor: ratio, threshold, attack, and release. You often also see input and output trims, knee, and sometimes more quirky parameters like the “bite” function in McDSP’s multi-band compressor.
Avid’s inclusion of the “depth” parameter adds meaningful utility to all of the dynamics processors on which it’s included. Simply put, depth allows you to define a maximum amount of compression that the plugin will apply to the signal. Take a look at this example from the Avid Pro Compressor:
Here the depth control is set to -6dB. This means that the compressor will never attenuate the signal by more than 6dB. You can see that fact represented by the central graph line, showing the compression’s downward slope plateaus at -6dB of gain reduction.
The value of this is that you can be confident that your compressor will never over-compress your signal beyond your chosen depth amount. The result is that you can set a lower/more aggressive threshold, resulting in more of your signal getting some compression applied, without overly squashing the whole thing.
This is extremely beneficial when mixing dialog, which is inherently very dynamic. With a moderate depth control setting of -6dB or so, you can be confident that you’ll never over-compress your dialog. You can then lower your threshold and extend the benefits of compression to a greater amount of your total signal. You can also more confidently leave a set-it-and-forget-it compression preset in your dialog chain, knowing that it won’t ever go overboard.
Compression is one of the most powerful tools in the mixing arsenal, and also one of the most easily over-done. The depth parameter gives you security against the consequences of over-compression, and also opens up dynamics processors for more creative use.
So next time you’re compressing audio with the Channel Strip or Pro Compressor, try dialing in some depth!