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Removing footsteps, creaking floorboards, etc. from dialogue recording

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James Winslett
Removing footsteps, creaking floorboards, etc. from dialogue recording
on May 1, 2012 at 4:06:37 pm

Hi there,

Total noob to sound editing. Our team just got back from a music video shoot in Italy. We're not used to working with sound as we usually just use the audio track the artist provides us and just use the live audio for lip-syncing. This time though, as a bit of fun, we decided to experiment and shoot a short dialogue scene in the bar where we were filming to use at the start of the video. We had one camera for video and a second camera dedicated to capturing the audio - a Canon 550D mounted on a tripod, with a Sennheiser ME66/K6 mic mounted on the hot shoe and we recorded using Magic Lantern to override the camera's automatic gain control. Digital gain was switched off and analog gain set to 32dB.

We made sure to switch off the AC, the fridge, the cappuccino machine, etc. so there's no background hum, but unfortunately while the camera/mic setup captured the dialogue fairly clearly, it captured footsteps, creaking floorboards and cluttering crockery even more clearly and the dialogue gets a bit lost in the mix. I was wondering whether there is anything we can do in post to make the unwanted sounds a bit less dominant and boost the dialogue a little? We'll be using Final Cut Pro 7 and Soundtrack Pro. I'll be adding room tone and trying to cut out as much of the unwanted noise as possible during the breaks in the dialogue, but I've no idea how to tackle the bits where they're talking. Any advice would be much appreciated.

Thanks,

James


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Scott Sheriff
Re: Removing footsteps, creaking floorboards, etc. from dialogue recording
on May 1, 2012 at 7:53:50 pm

[James Winslett] "it captured footsteps, creaking floorboards and cluttering crockery even more clearly and the dialogue gets a bit lost in the mix. I was wondering whether there is anything we can do in post to make the unwanted sounds a bit less dominant and boost the dialogue a little?"

Doubtful. If the sound of footsteps or dishes buries a piece of dialog, it's gone. Time for replacement. If its just distracting, some EQ (probably in the hi, to hi mids) might help.


[James Winslett] "We had one camera for video and a second camera dedicated to capturing the audio - a Canon 550D mounted on a tripod, with a Sennheiser ME66/K6 mic mounted on the hot shoe"

Camera mounted mics are a disaster waiting to happen, and are only good for capturing ambiance 99% of the time. Shotgun mics capture what they are pointing at. If you want to capture dialog, the mic must be pointed at the speaking talents mouth.


[James Winslett] "We made sure to switch off the AC, the fridge, the cappuccino machine, etc. so there's no background hum,"

Actually cyclic background sounds like this are not that hard to eliminate. Given the choice of spending the set-up time on proper mic placement, vs doing this, I would have gone with better mic placement. Additionally proper mic placement might have killed most of the BG hum.
Hiring a sound person would have been the right move. You will probably spend more than a sound person cost, in additional post cost trying to fix this, and it will probably never sound as good as getting it right in the first place.

Scott Sheriff
Director
http://www.sstdigitalmedia.com


"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur." ---Red Adair

Where were you on 6/21?


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Mark Suszko
Re: Removing footsteps, creaking floorboards, etc. from dialogue recording
on May 1, 2012 at 8:16:33 pm

If you have money, ADR "loop" the dialogue and insert it over the original.

If you lack money or the ability to call the actors back in for an ADR session, but have time, work on sweetening the audio you DO have.

Open up the waveform display and you will see the spikes where the noises are. My step number one is to isolate those peaks and edit them down, using the tools in the audio editing app. Often, for a very brief transient, like a bang, some of the good sound will "wrap-around" the noise and the ear will "fill-in" some of what's missing. Step number two is to comb thru the entire recording to see if there are individual phonemes (components of word sounds) you can pick from one section and copy/paste over another.

Like pick up a sibilant "sss" from one word spoken earlier, like "businessss", and plaster a piece of the "sss" over the damaged part of the word "routines". I used to have to do this sometimes in the linear editing days (when this was much more tedious to try and do) and I felt like Gene Hackman in "The Conversation", when I could pull it off, and make it seem like there was never a problem. Had a deal where the speaker had a speech impediment and the producer was really upset the audio was worthless, I told her to take a long lunch and come back. I had plastered one little sibilant "s" into each badly-pronounced word, editing a frame from one tape to another, over and over, the client/producer was astounded: "you found an alternate take!?!?! Where???" "Here" (points to cranium and smiles wryly).

Pulling the right phonemes, with the right inflections, takes time and is not always intuitive: you really have to study the words to see where you can pull a plosive, a glottal, a sibilant. That's hard core EDITING SKILLZ, man:-)

I am FAR from an audio guru, you will want to ask the guys in the dedicated audio forums, but my standard bag of tricks would include notch filtering, compression, muliband Equalizer and downward expansion filters, to try to get some distance between the noise and the voices. Unfortunately, anything you do to filter the noises that is in the same frequency range as the human voices, will alter the vocals a bit. Maybe too much.

A tip to add to the list of "stuff we should have thought about while we were there, and is too late to help us now", is to not just roll some room tone, but to also have the talent sit and just record extra back-up versions of the dialogue, if there is time left to do this.


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Jean-Christophe Boulay
Re: Removing footsteps, creaking floorboards, etc. from dialogue recording
on May 1, 2012 at 8:38:37 pm

Mark, you're much closer to being an audio guru than you give yourself credit for. It's all there.

JC Boulay
Technical Director
Audio Z
Montreal, Canada
http://www.audioz.com


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Mark Suszko
Re: Removing footsteps, creaking floorboards, etc. from dialogue recording
on May 1, 2012 at 9:06:48 pm

No, just the "gu" part: I missed out on the rest of the classes:-)


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James Winslett
Re: Removing footsteps, creaking floorboards, etc. from dialogue recording
on May 4, 2012 at 2:10:34 pm

Thanks for the advice guys. As it's a music video, I think we'll just forget the audio and go for subtitles instead :)


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