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High noise level when recording foley

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Leonhard Wolf
High noise level when recording foley
on Jul 26, 2017 at 2:16:01 pm

Hi guys,

I recently tried out recording footsteps in my room. I basically walked on gravel and recorded it with a mic. The sound itself was pretty ok. Sadly the noise level was pretty high. So more subtle sounds like movement of clothes etc. can't be recorded. The noise is mostly a deeper frequency humm. If I cut that out I still end up with lots of noise across all frequencies.

I am recording with either a t.bone SC 400 (large diaphragm, pretty cheap at around 60 bucks) or a AKG D5s. I don't own any other mic at the moment. The signal than goes into the preamps of my Eleven Rack.

I know that my pc fan is not silent but there is way more general noise that either the mics or the preamps produce.

My question is: is it normal to get high noise levels at these recording volumes (footsteps, cloth movement, breath etc.). If yes: what would you recommend to change? Is it more likely the mic or preamp?

I would be very happy for help. I couldn't seem to find

Mainboard: Asus Maximus Ranger VII
CPU: Intel i7-4790k (not overclocked)
GPU: AMD Radeon HD 6870
RAM: 8GB
Soundcard: Avid Eleven Rack
HDD: 2TB
OS: Windows 10 Home, 64bit


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Richard Crowley
Re: High noise level when recording foley
on Jul 26, 2017 at 2:46:08 pm

Is your noise mains-frequency hum? (60Hz in North America, and 50Hz in most of the rest of the planet). Perhaps it is related to how you are connecting your microphone to the preamp (not revealed here). Assuming you have the phantom power turned on to the microphone (or you would likely hear nothing).

It is also helpful to identify whether you are talking about acoustic noise from your room, or electronic noise from the microphone, cable, preamp, etc. One technique is to take your microphone and bury it inside a large heap of pillows, blankets, etc. And then try recording in the middle of the night (presumably when everything is quiet). That will let you record your baseline floor noise level of the microphone and electronics. You need to get the electronic noise very low as well as the acoustic noise of your room.

It is not clear that either that microphone or that preamp are noted for being low-noise. It seems quite possible that you may need better gear to record Foley effectively.

Help with diagnosing specific noise is nearly impossible without posting a sample clip that we can hear.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Recording audio without metering and monitoring is exactly like framing and focusing without looking at the viewfinder.


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Leonhard Wolf
Re: High noise level when recording foley
on Jul 26, 2017 at 4:00:13 pm

Thanks for your fast reply.

I am not sure if there is mains hum in there.

I recorded the mic signal when it was put in a big blanket (noise1). I also attached the file where I noticed the problem the most. It is a recording of someone rubbing his hands (noise2).
These two recordings are amplified by 36dB.

I noticed that my CPU fan is pretty loud. Maybe this could be a major problem. But I think the noise when the mic is in a blanket is still quiet high.

And yes, phantom power is turned on and the pad button is not active.

Noise 1: 11541_noise1.wav.zip
Noise 2: 11542_noise2.wav.zip

Mainboard: Asus Maximus Ranger VII
CPU: Intel i7-4790k (not overclocked)
GPU: AMD Radeon HD 6870
RAM: 8GB
Soundcard: Avid Eleven Rack
HDD: 2TB
OS: Windows 10 Home, 64bit


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Bruce Watson
Re: High noise level when recording foley
on Jul 26, 2017 at 4:27:29 pm

Three major sources of problems that I can think of.

First, most rooms are considerably noiser than people think. That's because the rooms aren't built to be either sound proof (blocking sound transmission from inside <-> outside), or treated to give reasonably flat frequency response (absorption and dispersion).

Second, you'll need mics that have low selfnoise and are also sensitive, and mic preamps that can give you a lot of very clean gain. This is going to be somewhat expensive. The reason for that is that cheap mics tend to be less sensitive, thus requiring more gain from the preamps. And cheap preamps tend to need more sensitive mics because they can't give you a lot of clean gain. It's a vicious cycle.

Third, there's this: [Leonhard Wolf] "These two recordings are amplified by 36dB."

Most Foley work isn't meant to be heard at levels like this. Part of the art of sound design is knowing how to place the sounds in the context of the sound track. Hands rubbing will be barely audible. Like real life (sound design is often thought of as "world building" in that you have to build a sound world that supports the story being told on screen). So try to resist the urge to put the sound under a microscope and make it huge when it's not going to be used that way. You'll just drive yourself crazy.

First thing to do IMHO is to buy, borrow, or rent a better mic, and look for a used SD MixPre-D (which are way cheaper now that the SD MixPre-3/6 have come out). The MixPre-D has lots of good clean gain, excellent limiters, and can act as a USB interface to your computer if you still want to go that way. Once you have this, you can find out what your room really does sound like. You can therefore decide whether you can live with it, treat it to make it better (seal the windows better, double glaze them, add thick velvet curtains over them, add bass traps, add absorption, add diffusion, etc.), or start looking for a better room.


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Leonhard Wolf
Re: High noise level when recording foley
on Jul 27, 2017 at 5:07:23 pm

To point one:
My room sadly isn't sound proof at all. But I have some diy absorbtion. Sadly no diffusion or bass traps either.
I made some measurements which are, as far as I know, not too bad. Though the bass is pretty out of control.

Listening position:


Foley position:


Point two:
Maybe I will have a look at the Rode NT1-A. I read somewhere that it would be pretty sensitive for the price.
The SD MixPre-D looks good. And it seems to be a portable recording device which is pretty cool! But I try to keep my spendings as low as possible since this film thing is only a hobby for me right now. Maybe this could be a thing for the future.

Third point:
I amplified the sound examples attached to my last post this much only for the ease of listening. I didn't want you to have to turn your volume up like crazy. In the final mix I have it, as you suggested, way lower in volume. And the extreme noise seems to kind of disappear in the mix.


As you can see in the images the RT60 is at about 300ms. I read that this would be good for voice and instruments. But all the sounds I recorded (rubbing of hands etc.) sound pretty wet.
Do you know if this could be because I have no diffusion? Or would a typical foley theatre have even less reverb?

You can listen to an example here:
11544_footsteps.wav.zip

And thanks for taking the time to help;)

Mainboard: Asus Maximus Ranger VII
CPU: Intel i7-4790k (not overclocked)
GPU: AMD Radeon HD 6870
RAM: 8GB
Soundcard: Avid Eleven Rack
HDD: 2TB
OS: Windows 10 Home, 64bit


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Bruce Watson
Re: High noise level when recording foley
on Jul 27, 2017 at 9:18:51 pm

I'm not at all a Foley (note the capital "F", Foley is the inventor's name) expert. I thought about venturing into sound design a while back, but my investigations led me to the conclusion that it would probably break me. I didn't have the time or resources to do it well. So most of what I "know" is really just hearsay. And mixed in with what I know about music recording. Make of my advice what you will, ignore what you want, because clearly YMMV.

Your room seems to want both bass traps and some more absorption. Most Foley and sound effects people record relatively "dead" so that they can add reverb later to match the video -- if the video is showing small office, the footsteps made in the office, and the pencil dropped on the desk, etc. need a small room reverb to make them sound right, etc.

I suspect the mic preamp available from your Eleven Rack is probably sufficient for your current needs. The SD MixPre-D isn't a recorder, it's a mixer. A nicely versatile mixer with excellent clean preamps, but none-the-less it duplicates some functionality with your Eleven Rack. Might not be worth pursuing unless your needs change later.

I've got no experience with the Rode NT1-A, so I can't really comment on it.


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Leonhard Wolf
Re: High noise level when recording foley
on Jul 28, 2017 at 10:57:55 pm

Ok, thanks for your advice.

Mainboard: Asus Maximus Ranger VII
CPU: Intel i7-4790k (not overclocked)
GPU: AMD Radeon HD 6870
RAM: 8GB
Soundcard: Avid Eleven Rack
HDD: 2TB
OS: Windows 10 Home, 64bit


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Simon Billington
Re: High noise level when recording foley
on Aug 15, 2017 at 1:50:16 am
Last Edited By Simon Billington on Aug 15, 2017 at 4:40:34 am

You'll be surprised how the ambient noise of your environment sneaks up on you. We become accustomed to it and our brain tends to tune these things out, until a certain point. Too much noise is hard to ignore and can really fatigue the listener.

In your case, its most likely an accumulation of noise. Your CPU fan, any external patter-based hard disks, mic self noise, pre-amp noise, the outside leaking in, the fridge humming from all the way in the kitchen. There are some tools you can use after the fact, like Waves Restoration tools or iZotope RX, which can help. Although nothing does a better job like good isolation in the first place.

I'm just not sure if an NT1-A will help you out in this case. It's a cardio pick up pattern so that helps to eject some of the surrounding audio. You could try checking out hyper-cardioid designs or shotguns, they will tighten the focus even further, but the trade off is it will pick up more noise from the rear than a standard cardioid. This where auditioning the mics will be extremely important. Perhaps hiring a few mics over time so you can see how effective they are in your given situation before you buy. Also position your mic as close as feasible to the source if you are combatting noise.

Ideally you will want to sound proof the environment if possible. Failing that just sound proof the immediate environment which you want to record in. Turn everything non-essential off. If the fridge is a factor, turn that off, but leave yourself a reminder to turn it back on!! See if you can throttle down your computer fan. There are reflection filters you can attach to the mic stand, that can help to some degree. Surround the mic with thick blankets can help further. Just be careful not to suffocate the sound too much though as that can also be problematic.

If you were doing dialogue I could suggest looking into something like this.
https://ask.audio/articles/review-isovox-2-portable-isolation-recording-boo...

...Perhaps you could even some roadworks signs so you can divert outside traffic for a cleaner recording!! Haha!!


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