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Fixing recorded audio-speaking engagement

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Skip Hall
Fixing recorded audio-speaking engagement
on Jul 11, 2010 at 11:15:35 pm

I recently shot a high school commencement ceremony.

The so-called "professional" audio guy I was getting my audio feed from, had some kind of equipment glitch which resulted in eight or ten (for lack of more audio-savvy terminology) "drop outs" during the featured speaker's remarks. Most lasted only a second or two, but the effect on her speech was noticable, and very distracting, and I would like to "patch" those drop outs if possible.

She is willing to re-record the speech.

I was hoping some ACTUAL audio professional might be willing to give me a little advice, or better yet, a short telephone consult, as to the best way to set up to re-capture the speaker's audio, and patch it into the footage I already have set up in Final Cut, so it sounds as natural as possible.

I have a Beyer Dynamic M88-TG mic, and a Canon XL-2 to use as a recording device. I also have a pretty good unbalanced stereo shotgun, which I guess I could use to record directly into Soundtreack on my Mac, but I've never tried it before. Can that even be done?

I know a studio would be my best bet, but that's not an option at the moment. I'd be very grateful for any encouraging suggestions about how I can fix this problem that was caused by someone else! (Next year, I'm putting my OWN cabled mic on the lecturn!)

Thanks for any help you might be able to offer.

Skip Hall
Homeworks Video Productions
Suffolk, Va


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Steve Kownacki
Re: Fixing recorded audio-speaking engagement
on Jul 12, 2010 at 12:41:35 pm

Oddly enough we had this exact situation a few years ago! My first suggestion is to contact the audio company, maybe they recorded the presentation and you can get a clean copy of it.

Second: Your best bet is to recreate the exact setup- same mic, same podium, same venue, same signal path. Hopefully it's not too far away. If the audio guy brought in the gear this could be a problem, we were fortunate that the equipment was the house PA. The only difference was that we couldn't fill the house with people which affects sound reflections. We did re-tape it but it had no emotion because of no audience for the presenter to play off of and it was a different time of day so sunlight was off. Ended up patching in those few seconds of audio here and there and you could barely tell. If it was a tight close-up, you may need to put in a cutaway shot for lip sync issues.

Take along a laptop to play back the previous clips so the presenter knows how the message was originally delivered and try to get the same emotion; let them practice reading along to their original track. If you edit on your laptop, fix it then and there and be done.

On a business note, I know you want to produce the absolute best for your client, but this is not necessarily your issue if your agreement stated that someone else is providing sound. You will have a few hours of production in this fix not to mention travel and setup. You can professionally tell them that there is a solution (described above) that can be provided at X dollars.




Steve






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Skip Hall
Re: Fixing recorded audio-speaking engagement
on Jul 12, 2010 at 4:18:47 pm

Thanks, Steve.

That probably is the best formula for success. But I'm afraid resetting things at the venue is not an option, and none of the sound system gear was mine OR the school's. I'm going to have to try to recreate the sound electronically somehow.

As for the audience sounds at least, my problem isn't so daunting. I actually have four good tracks of ambient audio from the venue, captured on my other two cameras. But neither of them captured the speakers words during the dropouts.

And the cost is an issue, of course, but not my main concern at present. This is a new client for us, and I'd love to be able to demonstrate that our company can "save the day," even when the problems are not our fault. So investing a few hours in trying to do that "good will" thing, could have a meaningful payoff later.

I really appreciate your in advice. Thanks again.


Skip Hall
Homeworks Video Productions
Suffolk, Va


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Ty Ford
Re: Fixing recorded audio-speaking engagement
on Jul 13, 2010 at 1:05:37 pm

Hello Skip and welcome to the Cow Audio Forum.

Your professional sound person may have had RF problems that were insurmountable even by Superman. These days, RF hits are all too common, even on hard wired mics. There is no way to know when this will happen. It is the sound person's nightmare.

Most equipment makers have redesigned their mics within the last few years as a result of all of the RF generated by cell phones and other consumer devices.

The advice you're getting sounds good to me.

Regards,

Ty Ford

Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide






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Skip Hall
Re: Fixing recorded audio-speaking engagement
on Jul 13, 2010 at 5:05:24 pm

Hi Ty. Thanks for the welcome message. Such a friendly place, this Cow of ours.

I suspected RF was the problem, or possibly some kind of auto-gain setting. And I realize that sometimes, despite all our preparation and testing, our gear still fails when we depend on it most. (Case in point: when I shoot an hour of dance recital video, only to find out while capturing that the camera's record heads were dirty!) But what got me a little steamed, was how quick the guy was to throw the SPEAKER under the bus... attributing the problem to her "up and down head movements," and such (which was simply not true... I have video!).

We would have been fine if I had seen some urgent-looking reaction from him or his staff when the problem began to appear. But to basically ignore it, acting like he didn't even hear it, and then follow that up by blaming the speaker for the problem... just felt awfully unprofessional to me.

But you mentioned RF problems can happen with cabled mics as well? I've never heard of this phenomenon before. Should I be concerned about it? I know 60 cycle and ground hums can be a problem, but RF-like dropouts? That's a new one on me.

MAN! It just keeps getting harder and harder to do quality work these days, doesn't it?

Thanks again for the reply, Ty.

Skip Hall
Homeworks Video Productions
Suffolk, Va


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Ty Ford
Re: Fixing recorded audio-speaking engagement
on Jul 13, 2010 at 5:14:13 pm

Hey Skip,

Please bookmark the forum and stop by to pitch in when you can.

Yes, he should have alerted you that there was a problem. I know his feelings. NUTS! something's wrong and I don't know what it is or how to fix it.

The hardwired mic thing. Yes, mostly its interference from personal communication devices, cell phones, ipads, ipods, sometimes light dimmers and the list goes on.

Basically, you hear the chirps and glug, glug, glug from these devices in the audio.

Regards,

Ty Ford


Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide






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John Fishback
Re: Fixing recorded audio-speaking engagement
on Jul 18, 2010 at 4:02:30 pm

IMHO, AT&T cell phones are the worst. In our studio I now recognize the odd chattering sound they make. When I first heard it some years ago I thought it was a hardware issue. But an associate clued me in that it was probably caused by a cell phone. After that every time I heard that sound, I checked if the talent had their cell turn on and every time they had. On a set or in the recording studio you can ask (demand) everyone turn off their phones. However, with a public audience there's little you can do but hope you don't get hits. In a situation like yours you might put a Zoom with mic on the podium and record independent of the sound company. Take their feed, but the Zoom might be a backup. Often, it's a combination of cable, grounding, console, recorder that picks up the interference. Perhaps a simpler setup would be less susceptible.

John

MacPro 8-core 2.8GHz 8 GB RAM OS 10.5.8 QT7.6.4 Kona 3 Dual Cinema 23 ATI Radeon HD 3870, 24" TV-Logic Monitor, ATTO ExpressSAS R380 RAID Adapter, PDE enclosure with 8-drive 6TB RAID 5
FCS 3 (FCP 7.0.2, Motion 4.0.2, Comp 3.5.2, DVDSP 4.2.2, Color 1.5.2)

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Craig Alan
Re: Fixing recorded audio-speaking engagement
on Jul 13, 2010 at 8:15:35 pm

An easier solution might be to use a subtitle to fill in the one or two second gaps. You could also add them where it helps the audience 'hear' what she is saying. It's pretty rare to record a live event and not have some missed moments. I think the audience and client can accept this. You could edit the titles over b-roll shots if it helps. Another possibility is to film some cut-a-ways to fill the missed lines. The cut-a-ways could show us what was missed in different settings and therefore would make a different sounding voice acceptable. Since the speaker is available for the re-shoot, why not make it a better production all together by adding shots that the live event didn’t present.

OSX 10.5.7; MAC Book PRO (EARLY 2008); Camcorders: Sony Z7U, Canon HV30, Sony vx2000/PD170, Canon xl2; Pana, Sony, and Canon consumer cams; FCP certified; write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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Skip Hall
Re: Fixing recorded audio-speaking engagement
on Jul 13, 2010 at 11:11:56 pm

Very creative, Craig. Thanks for the suggestions. I really hadn't thought of the subtitling idea at all!

Skip Hall
Homeworks Video Productions
Suffolk, Va


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Skip Hall
Re: Fixing recorded audio-speaking engagement
on Aug 2, 2010 at 8:54:25 pm

Many thanks to all who took the time to contribute to helping me fix my audio!

I think Craig is really on the right track, and I may follow through on that with future projects like this.

Having a dedicated, compact recorder like a Zoom, Tascam, or Edirol on the podium, even using the small onboard mics, seems like a pretty cost efficient way to assure yourself a reasonably good quality recording of the speaker's words, even if the resonance of the speaker's voice sounds different. I know that having such a recording would have saved my biscuits in this case!

Just to provide some closure to the thread, what I ended up doing was having the speaker come in to the office, and record the dropped sections of audio. I played the existing audio track for her to hear, then used one of my MiniDV cameras and an external XLR mic, so the audio was very clear, even if it was a bit on the "low volume"-side (gotta check on that next!). I then captured that audio into FCP, and synched up the words on the timeline, which was of course, a little tedious... but still doable, and worth the effort, I think.

I added a bit of resonance via the FCP audio filters, and even though the result really was a pretty poor match, after tweaking the gain between all the tracks, I was able to "patch" the necessary words in where they belonged. I would describe the result as sounding like the speaker turned her head 90 degrees away from the mic momentary, then back again. That was an acceptable tradeoff for a "black hole" where important words were completely missing.

My thanks again to everyone for your help!

p.s. I wouldn't mind getting some input on which PDR would be best, if any of you folks have any experience using them. The Zoom H4N is a little pricey, but it has XLR inputs, which I would think could be quite beneficial. Any input is welcome.

Skip Hall
Homeworks Video Productions
Suffolk, Va


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