Sound restoration is the process of removing extraneous noise such as: hums, hissing, pops, crackling or environment noises like an airplane or train. With today’s “run n’ gun” shooting style for videos, the need for sound restoration is growing. Media makers need more and more help reducing distracting noises or clarifying dialogue for their videos. Let’s save you some time and money. Here’s how The Sound Jack reduces the need for sound restoration and why you should hire a professional audio engineer when all else fails.
VERY IMPORTANT: not every ambulance siren, fridge hum, or hiss can be removed from your recording in post-production. The “fix it in post” mentality is a myth that only exists in a world filled with teenage wizards and unicorns.
PLAN AHEAD AND EXECUTE
The best way to avoid the need for sound restoration or noise reduction is to record the audio correctly from the start. Now assuming you have hired a professional sound recordist for your team, bring he/she in on the pre-production planning. Like a director of photography will plan out the look of a shot, a sound recordist needs to think about the environment and how they can capture the best audio. To avoid having to pay for sound restoration, follow these preventative steps:
Prior to the shoot:
- Check a map for any near airports, train tracks or major highways
- Scout the location: explore neighborhood and actively listen
- Ask video team about shot: is it an interview, action shot, indoor/outdoor, and how many people
- Communicate any possibilities of noise intrusion with director
- Test all equipment
Day of the shoot:
- Arrive early and walk around before the team arrives
- Record a full minute of room tone in each shot location
- Set up noise blankets if a room is too live
- Use a combination of lavalier and boom microphones
- Actively listen
- Communicate any noise intrusions with director
In post-production (if you hire and export to an audio engineer):
- Cut video while using over ear headphones or speakers that represent the full frequency spectrum
- Organize and separate audio clips on different tracks: voice overs, on screen dialogue, backgrounds, sound effects and music
- Export audio at appropriate bit rate/sample rate and with handles
- DO NOT EQ, COMPRESS, or PERFORM NOISE REDUCTION
HIRE AN AUDIO NINJA
Not everything goes according to plan on set and sometimes the sound is sacrificed to capture a great moment. When the plan goes awry, be prepared to call in help.
Most video editing software programs come with noise reduction plugins or effects: Final Cut Pro – Background Noise Removal and Hum Removal; Adobe Premiere – DeNoiser; and Sony Vegas Pro – ExpressFX Audio Restoration and ExpressFX Noise Gate. These plugins are among the lowest quality of noise reduction plugins available on the market and offer very little control over what noise is being reduced. They will often times leave your dialogue sounding robotic, boxy, or littered with artifacts. These plugins and effects do not get the job done. To remove destructive sounds like loud beeps, hums or large machinery; hire a professional audio engineer that is a fourth degree black belt in sound restoration.
Audio engineers are able to meet this growing demand for sound restoration by using the most advanced technology available. Companies like Waves and Izotope lead the pack with plugins that pick out specific sounds (frequencies) and can remove them with few or no artifacts. The sound restoration plugins available to audio engineers dominate the plugins and effects that come standard with video editing software programs like Adobe, Final Cut, or Sony Vegas. Here we compare Adobe’s DeNoiser to Izotope’s RX 5 to illustrate how far behind the technology is:
If the picture doesn’t convince you, listen to the impact an audio engineer can have on poorly recorded dialogue using only a few of the features in Izotope’s RX 5 in this before and after video.
In conjunction with these sound restoration plugins, every audio engineer is trained to apply other tricks. They use techniques like notch filtering, noise gating, and high/low pass filtering to remove the appropriate amount of noise and bring your audio to life. Only with all of these skills combined can you become a black belt in sound restoration. Protect your sound. Hire an audio ninja.
The best way to avoid the need for sound restoration is to record the audio in a quiet and controlled environment. If that fails or isn’t an option; hire a professional audio engineer that can help you remove all of those annoying hums, clicks, pops, and environment noises.
The Sound Jack offers sound editing, sound mixing, sound restoration and sound design for all video, film, and podcasts. If you like this article please share it or leave us a comment. For more sound help, check out our other articles on sound editing, sound mixing and sound design.