TikTok Loudness Normalisation

You’ll learn in this article how exactly Tiktok does it’s loudness normalisation, the secrets to this are revealed 😉

A lot of users use Tiktok on their phone and use one of the stock audio or music tracks of TikTok.
But more and more content creators are stepping up their game with professional video and audio, 
 which is created on desktop and then uploaded to tiktok.

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What is happening with the audio on TikTok?

You should know that there are a few things happening with the audio of TIKTOK.
On the desktop playback, which almost no-one uses, the audio get’s capped at -1dB.
Nothing exciting here.

But, on the tiktok app, which everyone uses,  very interesting things are happening with the sound. 
The TikTok app playback doesn’t have any loudness normalisation or any eq happening.
The Tiktok Loudness normalisation uses volume compression and limiting with a volume peak normalisation.

Tiktok uses this loudness normalisastion method to achieve a constant volume for all videos.

You really hear the pumping effect of overcompression and limiting.
This is the reason I wanted to find out what is happening.

The Testing:

At first I was under the assumption TIKTOK does what youtube does,

and that is taking the average audiolevel measured in LUFS of your video and lowering the volume when its too loud.
So I tested it by uploading a whole bunch of files to a TIKTOK test account and did before and after comparisons. 
I noticed it was not a normalisation method which is used on TIKTOK.

It was obvious the audio got compressed so I needed to retest.

So I created two new videos, one with a snaredrum with increasing volume and one with a white noise volume ramp.

First I did a frequency test by raising the tiktok recording from phone track to be equally loud as the original video.
By phase flipping one of them there was no audio which means there’s no frequency roll off or enhancing happening.
They are exactly the same.

And I checked also with a ramped white noise audioclip to see what the compression does.
There’s a soft knee on a compressor which gradually compresses more and more.
A hard limiter would have shown a normal constant rise and then a hard straight line where it kicked in.

How to rebuild the TikTok Compression for Reference.

So to have a reference in mixing the compression behaviour of tiktok had to be rebuild as good as possible.
This took some trial and error.
Simply having one setting on an audio test didn’t work with others and vice versa.

I came close and it’s not perfect, but as reference the following step will work perfectly.

The idea is that you insert the reference plugins after you have done all of your mixing and master bus limiting.

The first plugin I used is a compressor.

First thing to do is to set the threshold to -12dB.
The knee is set to have a linear behaviour but more of gradual decent into limiting at the higher volumes so it hits harder there.
The ratio is set to 50:1.
This means that every decibel above the threshold get compressed by a factor of 50.
It really is limiting.

The knee has a curve which kicks in at the higher volumes.

The attack is set to fastest attack and the release is set to autorelease.
This gave the most repeatable result in all tests.

You can compensate the gain if you want , tiktok has reduced output by about 2 to 3 decibels with my original audio.
So I’ll add a limiter set to -2 to -3dB to reduce output.

The audio codecs used in both video export and by tiktok will also shave off some of the transients and have an effect.
To reference that I run 2 two instances of Adptr Streamliner running.
Adptr Streamliner will emulate both the video export codec and low quality codec for tiktok.
This is optional though.

How to mix for TikTok.

To get the best mix for tiktok, mix as you normally would for a video.
Make sure it sounds good on mobile.
The low end is less audible on mobile devices has more low to high upper mid range playback.

I would add a limiter to your end bus before all these reference plugins.
Dial back the output level of the limiter and increase the volume.
You can do this untill you hit the tiktok compression and turn it up as far as it still sounds good.
When it start to compromise your mix, dial back.

You can also add an master eq to see of dialing back the low end will make the tiktok compression work a bit less aggressive.

If you’re happy remove or mute the plugins for tiktok mix reference and export the audio.

That’s it, I hope this helps to get your perfect Tiktok audio mix!

And here’s the link to the video again: