Explaining Compression: Like You're Five Years Old

Explaining Compression: Like You're Five Years Old

Explaining compression to you like you're actually five years old, since no one else seems to.

Alright, kiddo. Say you're watching TV and trying not to wake mommy. And the commercials are really loud. Way louder than your cartoons. So you grab the remote and turn down the commercials. Now things are at a good volume.
But now your cartoons are too quiet! So you turn the volume up when it's quiet back to where you like it. And then the commercials come on, and they're loud again! So you turn the volume down to normal, and when your cartoon comes on, you turn it back up. Commercials down, cartoons up. Again and again.

Now your arm is tired from all this up and down! If only you had a magic box that turned the volume up and down for you? But how would it work?

Well, you'd have to tell it that the loud commercials are too loud. There's an invisible line it can't cross. Adults call that the threshold.

And you may have noticed that sometimes you weren't fast enough with the remote to turn the volume down! But you don't want to be too fast with it either, or it'll sound funny. Adults call this the attack.

And when things get quiet, you need to turn them back up, fast, or you'll miss hearing something important! But not too fast, or it'll sound weird. So you need to control how fast the volume turns up. Adults call this the release.

Now listen, sport: the real question is, how much quieter do you want the loud things made? Do you want to cut off all sound that's too loud? Put a limit on how loud it can be? (So you don't wake mommy and daddy on an early Saturday morning, of course) We adults call this a limiter.

So, champ, let's say you're not worried about waking up anybody and you just want the commercials to not be so loud. How much should you turn it down? A little? A lot? Twice as quiet? TEN TIMES AS QUIET??? Maybe your magic box could adjust this. We adults call this the ratio.

So you've got a box that turns down loud commercials automatically. Well that's great, kiddo. Everything's nice and evenly quiet. But now mommy's got the vacuum running. And you can't hear a thing! At least it's even though, and now you can turn the whole thing up over the vacuum and hear it all loud and clear. We adults call this makeup gain.

So there you go, sport. You can enjoy your cartoons at a nice, even, loud volume. Now go play outside, you little scamp, and give me back my TV! By the way, Santa is really just your parents.

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