Proposal Graphic indicator of optimum recording level on the waveform display

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Proposal pages help us get from feature requests into actual plans. This page is a proposal to improve the User Interface relating to the Metering and Monitoring functionality in Audacity, the Meter Toolbar.
Proposal pages are used on an ongoing basis by the Audacity development team and are open to edits from visitors to the wiki. They are a good way to get community feedback on a proposal.

  • Note: Proposals for Google Summer of Code projects are significantly different in structure, are submitted via Google's web app and may or may not have a corresponding proposal page.

The Problem

  • Many users over-saturate their signal sometimes provoking extended clipping.

Proposed Feature

An optimum recording level drawn on the waveform display.

Developer/QA Backing

  • Peter Sampson:

Use Cases

  • Because the default waveform view is linear (where 50% would be a good recording level) many users needlessly oversaturate their signal believing that the waveform should fill the display area.


James 12Nov14/05Jan15: This could re-incarnate in a slightly different form. I've done some experiments with a vertical slider on the right hand side with multiple sliders to set levels for various things - which show dotted lines across the whole track. The idea is/was to use it for such things as setting the level at which compression kicks in, or to set the levels that distinguish noise from silence, and use that to create labels. The labels are in the usual place, on the label track. Click 'analyse->find-silences' and they are generated depending on current level settings.

Steve (talk) 07:59, 23 May 2019 (EDT): An even more general version could provide "guide lines" (similar to those found in graphics programs such as Gimp) for all rulers, including the horizontal (Timeline) ruler, the vertical track ruler, the "Plot Spectrum" horizontal and vertical rulers, and any others. Link: Guide lines in Gimp.

As stated above in the Problem statement: "Many users over-saturate their signal sometimes provoking extended clipping." The default display of a Linear waveform encourages many users to try to fill the whole of the available 0.0 to plus or minus 1.0 of the gray space leading to an over-saturated (and sometimes clipped) capture. Note that this is less of a problem with the "Waveform (dB)" display mode as the signal fills much more the visually available gray space, however the default view is the linear waveform display and this is the display type that most users will deploy.

  • A grey dashed line extending along the available wave form display set at +0.5 and -0.5 for linear waveform displays and set at -6dB for Waveform (dB) display. Could be a lid or dotted gray line if though visually superior.
  • The gray dashed line should be super-imposed on the waveform so that it remains visible once the waveform exceeds the optimum level.
  • This indicator display to be controlled by a Preferences setting (on or off) in the Recording section, or via a dialog accessed via a right-click in the waveform display - default to be "on".
    • Peter 06Sep14: We could consider making the default setting to be "off" as a) this would avoid a regression and b) there are *many* pages in the Manual with the waveform display in some form or another all of which would need updated images.
  • Optionally: the user should be able to set their own "optimal" recording level via a further additional Preferences setting in the Recording section or via a dialog accessed via a right-click in the waveform display - default to be +/-0.5 or -6dB.

GUI example

Linear waveform with optimum recording level indicators.PNG

Feedback from Gale

Gale wrote today (05Jan15) on the Forum:

  • The Wiki Feature Requests page shows 18 votes for horizontal gridlines. There may be many use cases for them. I favour an option to turn them on so that you get as many grid lines as there are ticks on the vertical scale. I also think like James that there should be ability to add custom, movable horizontal grid lines. I would envisage this as a permanent thin horizontal bar above each track when the grid lines option was enabled.
  • You could drag this bar down into any track and drop it to add a custom grid line to all tracks. Drag from the permanent bar to add another custom grid line. Drag the custom line up or down to move the custom line. Drag it off the track to remove it. James sees doing this with sliders instead (presumably at the end of the track, I don't know).

See this Forum thread for background to Gale's comments