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Workflow Question and Advice

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LandofNid
Workflow Question and Advice
on May 22, 2006 at 6:49:55 pm

Hi, I am new to editing audio. I just read Peter Perry's article on basics of audio. It was a great help. I have been working on an audio project that has been going well.

The project involves phoning interviewees across the country. They give a prepared speech on a topic. Then there is a Q & A session with our producer about the topic.
He remains on the phone while they answer. (Even though I have recommended that he should not do this because it adds noise to the audio track)

I have been getting satisfactory results recording through a phone patch into a mixer then into a compressor/limiter which runs straight into Peak, and also to a backup tape. (In case Peak quits suddenly)
Currently we only use the limiter to prevent audio clipping as the signal comes into the computer. (The main reason that I don't use the compressor as well is:
When we have the interviewee talk to set test volume levels they never speak at the true volume they will during the actual recording. So we end up having to tinker with the settings during the first minute and a half and it sounds wierd because you hear the adjustments we are making. How do I get the talent to talk in their true voice?)

I then go through the audio and clean the tracks using SoundSoap to remove hums, and noise added by the phone line. In the past I have normalized the audio to 50% of it's waveform then limited the output to around -3 db.
This has worked well. My boss, and client are happy with the results.
However recently instead of using a straight limiter on the recorded audio I have begun using a compressor/limiter to compress the audio UP to around -3 db, and then set the limiter to keep the peaks of the audio down around -3 db.
This has worked really well...so my question is...which the correct way to master out this project?


Should I be compressing and limiting the signal as it's being recorded in real time? This means that the levels should be hitting consistently around -3db.
Then should I SoapSoap the recording, and make adjustments as needed using a limiter or a Peak limiter or a compressor/limiter?


Or I do continue using my current protocol using a limiter to prevent audio peaks during the phone interview.
Then SoapSoap the track. Normalize the waveform to 50% (To smooth out the waveform so there are far less valleys and peaks) Then limit the track using a limiter to bring the program volume to 3 db?


I guess what I am asking is "What is the correct procedure or workflow for recording a telephone conversation through a phone patch and the proper steps to clean up the audio recording?
For example, "Is is best to normalize first then SoapSound the audio track? When I normalize should it be to 50% or 80%?
If I SoundSoap first then normalize and limit the audio up to -3 db does this add more noise than if I had normalized then soaped and limited up to -3 db?

Any and all direction or critique on what I have been doing would be greatly appreciated. And please feel free to be blatantly honest and tell me "You're doing this wrong because...etc..." You won't hurt my feelings...I don't have any.
Well rather I should say I am more eager to learn than be handled with kid gloves. So any thoughts or suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.


-Nicholas Bierzonski
Editor/DVD Author/Java Boy
http://www.finalfocusvideo.com


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LandofNid
Re: Workflow Question and Advice
on May 23, 2006 at 12:28:36 pm

I will be making another recording today. Does anyone have any advice before I do so?

-Nicholas Bierzonski
Editor/DVD Author/Java Boy
http://www.finalfocusvideo.com


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Peter Perry
Re: Workflow Question and Advice
on May 23, 2006 at 10:39:56 pm

Okay, I'll take a shot at this.
First off, there are two schools of thought on recording audio. One says that you try to get the best sound/levels while recording. The other school says to record straight... with maybe a limiter in line, as you do...and then EQ and compress in post. There is no single "right" way to do things.
In your case, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Your workflow seems to work well for you, your boss and the client are happy. Life is good.
I would be wary of using too much compression/limiting. As you may have found out, too much sounds like crap. I would adjust things so that the compressor doesn't compress more than 3-6 dB on normal speaking levels. If your meters show you compressing 10-12 dB, back off the input. Keep your ratio around 3:1. Also, be aware of using too much makeup gain on the comp/limiters. When you do that, you increase the noise floor as well as your desired audio.
As for your workflow, it sounds right to me. I might skip the normalize step and not do it at all. But that is just me.

[LandofNid] "How do I get the talent to talk in their true voice?"

Welcome to the world of audio. I just lie and tell them I am doing a take, and if I don't like what I hear, I fix it and stop them and then start again.
Peter



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LandofNid
Re: Workflow Question and Advice
on May 24, 2006 at 12:07:16 pm

Thank you for your response. I appreciate it. I have found that by recording without compression during the actual recording this means I am free to add it later when I master it. I don't like being unable to adjust the compression after the fact because of the way it was recorded. I have found that normalizing is no longer necessary if I use a compressor/limiter. I have read about using compression at 3:1 That seems to work the best but I always trust my ears first.
I will take your advice and just tell the client we are recording a take. Then stop them as needed. That's was my guess on what I needed to do I just wanted to double check. Thanks for you help.

-Nicholas Bierzonski
Editor/DVD Author/Java Boy
http://www.finalfocusvideo.com


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David Jones
Re: Workflow Question and Advice
on May 27, 2006 at 1:35:42 pm

I have recorded audio from phones once or twice over the years, so here's my two cents worth.

I record straight most of the time without processing.
The last time I used the normalize function on an audio file was with the 2.7 version of Sound Designer II, so it's been a while.
I apply EQ, compress/limit, and what not in the computer.
I record the interviewer and interviewee on separate tracks, with the interviewer recorded through his/her own mic, and wearing headphones.
I will generally use an aux send to feed the phone hybrid, and adjust the null so that only the audio from the interviewee is coming back down line.




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LandofNid
Re: Workflow Question and Advice
on May 30, 2006 at 1:28:40 pm

Thanks for your reponse David. I've also found that normalizing is not necessary if the levels are correct. From what I've noticed with my finished recordings is they sound best when I use a limiter to prevent peaks during the live recording. All EQ, compression/limiting/soapsound is finished up on the computer. This seems to work the best.

-Nicholas Bierzonski
Editor/DVD Author/Java Boy
http://www.finalfocusvideo.com


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