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Removing background noise

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Melanie Easton
Removing background noise
on Oct 15, 2015 at 6:20:22 pm

Hello,

Not sure if this is the right place for this question (please point me elsewhere if this isn't the right spot to ask).

I've been given a bunch of footage to edit together for a charity. It's a bunch of interviews with teenagers that were recorded while a big party/event was happening in the background. Unfortunately, whoever recorded this did so on a camcorder with no external mic or sound recorder and the interviews are almost inaudible over the loud background party noise.

They've asked me to turn this into something "high quality" that they can use as a promotional video for their charity. Unfortunately it's kind of a "garbage in, garbage out" problem, but they are a charity so I would really like to help them out regardless if I can salvage the footage in some way. But I have almost no experience with sound editing and am struggling to get the audio to something decent.

So far I've just been playing around with the noise reduction tool in Audacity to try and lower the background noise as much as possible. It's causing some distortion to the voices I want to keep, but I can lower the background noise at least a little bit. I'm still playing with the settings to try to improve this.

Any advice on this would be welcome - is there a better way of removing the horrible loud background noise while keeping the interview voices? Or any suggestions as to noise reduction settings in Audacity?

I've got Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects CS 5.5, and Audacity to work with.

Thanks. :)


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Ty Ford
Re: Removing background noise
on Oct 16, 2015 at 12:44:17 am

Hello Melanie,

My best advice is to run away very quickly and hope they don't notice your'e gone until you're out of sight.

They chose who and how to record poorly and are expecting you to be their savior. There is no "high-quality" to be had in a situation like this.

You are up against the Laws of Physics.

There are several other noise reduction softwares out there, but they all work similarly. If you bought iZotope's RX3 and spent some time learning how to use it, you'd probably improve the situation, but I suspect you'd fall quite a bit short of "High Quality."

They may find it acceptable. At the end of your pursuit you'll know a lot more about noise reduction and you may find that useful.

Regards,

Ty Ford
Cow Audio Forum Leader

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


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Bruce Watson
Re: Removing background noise
on Oct 16, 2015 at 3:54:23 pm

[Melanie Easton] "...recorded while a big party/event was happening in the background. Unfortunately, whoever recorded this did so on a camcorder with no external mic or sound recorder and the interviews are almost inaudible over the loud background party noise."

Trying to fix this is like trying to take the salt out of a cake that just came out of the oven. Just sayin'.

The problem is that the sound you want to get rid of uses the same range of frequencies as the sound you want to keep. You can't delete one without deleting the other. If you work at it for quite a while with a software package like Izotope RX (which is an expensive piece of software on its own) you can perhaps make the sound somewhat better. But I suspect not much better. And even when you're done, it's still going to sound like it was recorded with the mic (way) out of position, because... it was.

For better or worse, they made amateur mistakes. There's really nothing you or anyone else can do to make a pro level result from it.

My suggestion? Subtitles.


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Ty Ford
Re: Removing background noise
on Oct 17, 2015 at 8:08:32 pm

Bruce,

Subtitles are a GREAT idea!

Thanks,

Ty Ford
Cow Audio Forum Leader

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


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Harlan Rumjahn
Re: Removing background noise
on Nov 1, 2015 at 6:48:33 am

I second the opinions of the above kind experts of the Creative Cow Audio Forum.

I'm sorry you were given such a hopeless assignment. I wouldn't even try to improve the audio in the footage they gave you. Even the expensive and well-regarded iZotope Rx 4 Advanced won't help. Believe me, I've experimented with audio not even half as bad as what you describe, and iZotope Rx barely made a difference. In altering the noise, it also alters the main sound/dialogue. In my experience, programs like iZotope are for subtle changes that need to be made in audio that was already captured pretty well.

Hand the footage back to them and tell them sorry but you can't help. If you try to help, chances are they'll get your work back and think you suck when, in fact, it is they who suck for giving you such garbage to work with ;)

Good luck!


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Melanie Easton
Re: Removing background noise
on Nov 3, 2015 at 2:44:15 am

Haha - thank you for the sympathy. It is comforting to know that the assignment was impossible and it's not just my total incompetency with sound editing that's the problem here. :)

I am going the subtitle route for now because I do really want to help these guys out, but will emphasize to them that the only way to get the quality they want is to record it properly in the first place. Hopefully they will understand that. This certainly won't be going in my showreel, at any rate.


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Melanie Easton
Re: Removing background noise
on Oct 17, 2015 at 6:15:48 pm

Thanks Ty and Bruce. That's kind of what I suspected the answer would be, but wanted to make sure it wasn't just my general inexperience with sound editing that was making this so difficult.

I've told them to lower their expectations and have offered to shoot the footage for them next time around. Hopefully they will take me up on that.

Also - subtitles are a great idea. Probably the only way to salvage it in this case. Thank you!


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Craig Alan
Re: Removing background noise
on Oct 27, 2015 at 12:36:08 am

If you can, use the footage they gave you as visuals and record the interviews with the subjects using a quiet environment and good mike placement. Include a little of the party sound on another track. Ask the client what their message is and emphasize that aspect. Along with subtitled scenes from party you've got your doc getting potentially close to high quality, whatever that means. You could also interview your clients as adults working with these kids.

Another approach is a VO track telling us what so and so said with the best little voice clips that you can at least hear the words that confirms what the narrative is telling us.

Fix it in PRE is your best option.

Mac Pro, macbook pro, Imacs (i7); Canon 5D Mark III/70D, Panasonic AG-HPX170/AG-HPX250P, Canon HV40, Sony Z7U/VX2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; FCP X write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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Melanie Easton
Re: Removing background noise
on Oct 28, 2015 at 5:12:26 pm

Thanks Craig! Unfortunately re-recording the interviews isn't an option in this case, and if I were going to do that, I'd most certainly re-do the visuals as well because they're not great either. Subtitles are probably the best way to go in this case. But thanks for the great ideas - will come in handy if the charity takes me up on my offer to do the shooting myself next time around. :)


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Don Baarns
Re: Removing background noise
on Oct 29, 2015 at 1:48:01 am

I'm late to this party, but just for future reference:

In lots of cases you can use RX4 or 5 to remove an amazing amount of background noise. In most cases it won't be production quality when you start with very low quality audio, but if you know what you're doing you can make huge progress.

The Audacity noise reduction is not very effective, but RX is in a different league.

How long is the audio? Can you post a sample? (I'm new to this forum, I don't know if that's allowed.)

Or I can set up a Google drive share and I'll give it a few minutes with RX. It really depends on the exact nature of the background, but the Dialog Denoiser is pretty slick.


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Melanie Easton
Re: Removing background noise
on Nov 3, 2015 at 2:47:33 am

Hey Don! Thanks for the offer! The clips aren't long - maybe 30 seconds to a minute or so at most each. I will try to upload a sample for you in a few hours time (when I get home from work this afternoon) and let you have a go of it. I wouldn't waste much time on it though - pretty sure it's unsalvageable. But I'm curious to see what RX can do compared to the limited reduction I got in Audacity.


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Don Baarns
Re: Removing background noise
on Nov 3, 2015 at 4:58:21 am

Works for me...

I'll run it and see if it's any different.

Some audio can't be saved no matter what we are using. Just depends on the source and the nature of the noise compared to the dialog.


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Melanie Easton
Re: Removing background noise
on Nov 16, 2015 at 7:31:35 pm

Hi Don,

Sorry for the insane delay - have had some absurd technical dramas these past few weeks (include smashing my laptop screen - aughhh).

Anyway, I've attached the audio from one of the clips that I'm working with. I've got 7 of these (all a similar length) to deal with. If you want to take a shot at cleaning it up I am most happy for you to, but please don't expend much time/energy on any of it. Not really worth it - happy to go with the subtitle suggestion in this case!

Note: I tried to attach the file to my message post and it went to the link below so not sure if it shows up as attached to this thread or not, but here it is:

https://f1.creativecow.net/9463/audio-for-charity-video-with-atrocious-back...

Thanks!


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Don Baarns
Re: Removing background noise
on Nov 21, 2015 at 4:17:34 pm

Hi Melanie,

I was travelling on business so didn't get back to this until today.

Here's two versions, the first with one pass of Spectral Denoiser (RX5), and a second version with 2 passes, one Spectral to knock down the majority, and a second pass with the Dialog Denoiser.

There's also a hi/low pass.

You could be more aggressive if desired, but both of these are certainly a decent improvement, with NO hand processing (you could easily run the complete file safely without damaging your audio.)

If you have questions or comments, fire away.

Don

9484_9463headspace16denoised.zip


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Melanie Easton
Re: Removing background noise
on Dec 1, 2015 at 11:23:29 pm

Hi Don!

Sorry for the extreme delay in reply again. Thanks for the help! That actually makes a surprisingly decent difference in the audio, and is significantly better than the results I got in Audacity, which was just causing too much distortion to the voices and making it worse. I think the one pass version is best - as you said, the two passes kind of just draws attention to how bad the recording is!

This is great though - I just saw on izotope's website that they have a free trial so I might give this a go. Also would come in handy for a few other videos I'm working on with less than stellar audio, so will play around with it and see if I can get it to work as well for me. Pretty new to audio software though so might be a bit of a learning curve for me.

Thanks again for your help and advice! :)


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Peter Groom
Re: Removing background noise
on Dec 2, 2015 at 3:25:11 pm

you can use the trial and hear the effect , but saving or recording isnt allowed in the trial. Hand in pocket before that becomes available.
Peter

Post Production Dubbing Mixer


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Don Baarns
Re: Removing background noise
on Dec 2, 2015 at 4:45:07 pm

[Melanie Easton] "This is great though - I just saw on izotope's website that they have a free trial so I might give this a go. Also would come in handy for a few other videos I'm working on with less than stellar audio, so will play around with it and see if I can get it to work as well for me. Pretty new to audio software though so might be a bit of a learning curve for me.
"


Melanie,

RX is in a different league compared to tools in Audacity. It's a pro-grade solution, it's not cheap but you get what you pay for.

Worth it for anybody serious about audio-production/restoration. It has a great set of other tools beyond just Noise Reduction, so it will solve issues and/or improve other areas that are not even on your radar screen yet.

People in our FB group get a deal on it ($275 for Standard edition last time I checked...) We have around 700 people in the group who use it regularly to solve a wide range of issues.

Again: An investment, but worth it.

Don Baarns
Audio Rescue RX - iZotope RX Users:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/AudioRescue/

Studio One and iZotope RX Tutorials for Narrators, Podcasters, VO, Spoken Word:
https://www.youtube.com/user/RedBaarnsAudio


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Melanie Easton
Re: Removing background noise
on Dec 3, 2015 at 3:21:18 am

Ahhhh, okay - thanks Peter and thanks again Don. I'm not opposed to buying good software but at this stage it's not something I'd use often enough to justify - I'm not getting paid for any of the stuff I'm working on, and I primarily do music videos at the moment anyway (in large part because the audio is locked in before I even start shooting - I'm a one person operation and recording/editing sound is a bit too much to handle by myself). This was just a charity project I was doing as a favor, so won't drop the money on it now - but definitely a good program to be aware of if I start editing audio more seriously in future.

Thanks so much for all the fantastic advice and assistance here. I'm learning a lot!


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