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How to Equalize Volume When Watching Movies on Mac



Do you hate the quiet dialogue followed by ear-blistering explosions in movies? Here’s how to equalize the volume and fix the problem on your Mac.

If you watch a lot of movies on your computer, you’re no doubt familiar with the way that audio is handled. Throughout a movie or TV show, volume fluctuates tremendously, usually with quiet dialogue scenes being too quiet to actually hear, followed by really loud explosion scenes with music. Especially when you turn the volume during those quiet dialogue scenes, the explosions and music that follow can be ear-shattering.

This happens mostly because audio on a DVD (or any other format) is usually designed for surround sound setups, and the volume is actually quite perfect when you have the right home theater gear, but seeing as you can’t really plug your laptop into a surround sound system in a practical way, users have to cope with headphones, a small 2.0 speaker setup, or simply just the laptop’s built-in speakers.

However, there is a way you can equalize that volume so that you no longer need to keep adjusting the volume for a movie accordingly.

Some video players come with their own equalizing technology to make this happen, with VLC being one of the most popular options. The next time you find yourself trapped in a volume battle with your computer while watching movies, try playing it in VLC and use these settings to finish the battle once and for all.


The first thing you’ll need is the VLC video player, which you can download from the developer’s website for free. If you don’t know what VLC is, it’s an open-source video player that can play pretty much any video file type you can throw at it.


Perhaps the best part about VLC is that its settings are as complicated as you want them to be. In other words, if you’re a novice user, VLC works right out of the box, but if you’re more experienced, you can take advantage of some of the more advanced settings and features.

Once you have VLC downloaded and installed, begin playing a movie with it, pause it, and then click on VLC in the menubar in the upper-left corner and click on Preferences.

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Next, click Show All down in the lower-left corner of the window.

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Then, navigate to Audio > Filters > Compressor. You should see a handful of numbered settings that you can change with up and down arrows to the right. If so, you’re at the right place.

When a scene in a movie is really quiet, you need to turn the volume up in order to hear it better, but if you do that, then the louder scenes are really loud and you have to turn down your volume. To fix that, you use a compressor to automatically turn the volume down when there’s a loud scene, and then it turns the volume back up afterward. With that said, let’s get started by changing around some settings.

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The first thing you’ll want to do when you have your movie open is to adjust the volume of your computer to the level that you usually have it at when you watch videos. Then, find a quiet dialogue scene within the movie. You may notice that it’s barely audible, so go back to the audio settings that you have open and raise the number next to Makeup Gain until the volume is at a comfortable level so that you can hear the dialogue. This will raise the volume of the entire movie, but don’t worry, we’re also going to adjust the loud scenes to compensate.

Next, raise the Ratio setting as high as it can go. This will simply make sure that any sound over a certain volume will be turned down to a level that you set yourself, which brings us to the next step.

Next, find a loud scene within the movie and begin playing it. Make sure not to adjust your computer’s volume at all during this entire process. Lower the Threshold Level until the sound isn’t ear-shattering.

Last of all, raise the Attack up to around 50, and raise Release up to around 300. These two settings make sure that automatic volume adjustments happen gradually instead of instantaneously. These numbers are measured in milliseconds, so you can adjust them to your own liking if you want.

Click Save in the lower-right corner of the window and enjoy your movie! You should notice that the quiet dialogue scenes are easier to hear and the louder explosive scenes are a bit quieter and not as ear-blistering. Of course, you may have to go back in and make minor adjustments if you want it perfect, but these are rough settings that should get the job done for the most part.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Sarah

    01/20/2016 at 12:03 pm

    My problem now isn’t shifts between scenes. It’s during scenes when the Dialogue and the Sound effects are happening together, at the same time. The Dialogue is minute or barely audible and the sound effects overpower them, to the point of me having to back up the movie a dozen times so my ears can isolate the dialogue and understand what was just said. How do I use VLC to boost the dialogue AT THE SAME TIME as turning down the background sound effects.

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