Sony’s versatile SpectraLayers Pro audio-correction software with graphical interface for adjustments.
AUDIO EDITING ON A BUDGET
Q I’ve been looking for a better way of tweaking and processing my audio. I mostly shoot live events, weddings and corporate projects, where there’s occasional background noise that I’d like to remove, sounds like excess echo or reverb from an announcer speaking in a lecture hall with a lot of reflective surfaces besides just the stage. I’ve looked at Pro Tools and Sound Forge, as well as other plug-in packages on the market and, frankly, I’m overwhelmed. I’m definitely more of a video editor. I use After Effects and Photoshop in a lot of my work, so much of the terminology and clutter of the audio tools feels intimidating, but I’d like to experiment with some audio tools without spending a fortune or purchasing software that has pro-level complexity. Any suggestions?
A It’s not quite clear to me if you’re looking for a multi-track editor or looking for an interface to experiment with various plug-ins. Many of the more popular audio tools not only will work as plug-ins for popular audio editors like Pro Tools, they also will function as standalone programs. Since you seem to be more of a visual learner who wants to venture into audio, you might consider a software package called SpectraLayers Pro by Sony.
In SpectraLayers Pro, you can work with the individual sounds in an audio file just as if they were objects in a photograph. It’s almost the same as using layers in After Effects or Photoshop. The software lets you do detailed repairs with a lot of precision. In regard to the audio challenges you sometimes face, SpectraLayers lets you reduce the noise and increase audio clarity, but the program also allows you to transform a sound picture into something new and different. The spectral editing experience is a pretty interesting way to edit audio and goes way past the basic audio waveform you see and use in other programs.
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I’ve been experimenting with SpectraLayers Pro, and it’s very effective, and also pretty fun to try different types of nondestructive edits, making it perfect for experimentation. I was able to significantly reduce beeps from someone’s cell phone and basically eliminate a wood chipper in the distance during an interview.
SpectraLayers Pro shares some functionality with other audio-editing software and plug-ins like iZotope RX 5 (discussed in the April 2016 issue of HDVP), but it has enough unique qualities over iZotope to make it worthy of your consideration—if you want to experiment. iZotope is geared more toward repairing poor-quality audio, whereas SpectraLayers is capable of that, but also can be used creatively to experiment with your audio.
Here’s SpectraLayers Pro in broad strokes:
• Noise reduction: Perform print-based noise reduction using customized noise prints containing multiple frequency bands of any width.
• Precise repairs: Remove unwanted noises and artifacts with ease while leaving surrounding audio data completely intact.
• Isolate events: Separate music and dialogue into individual component layers.
• Pitch correction: Perform pitch correction on user-selected components of an audio file.
• Remix audio: Divide audio into component parts for processing and remixing.
The program is available for Mac and Windows, and retails for $399.95. You can download a free trial version, so give it a spin and see what you think: sonycreativesoftware.com/spectralayerspro.
RECORDING QUALITY + SIMPLICITY IN A SINGLE PACKAGE
Q I work with a production company as a sound mixer, shooting several types of projects including shorts, EPK and BTS content, plus videos for a large software company’s YouTube channel. I currently own two of the Sennheiser evolution G3 wireless systems. Overall, I’ve been pretty happy with them, but they’re pains to scan for clear bandwidth if we’re getting audio hits in different locations. I’ve looked at the RØDE RØDELINK wireless systems, and I find the simplicity appealing, but unfortunately the transmitter is too large. I can’t afford high-end wireless like Lectrosonics. What else might I want to take a look at?
A Since you seem to be happy with the performance you’ve been getting with your Sennheiser G3 systems overall, I’d suggest you check out the Sennheiser AVX system (sennheiser.com/avx). The AVX system aims to solve the frequency issue by automatically and seamlessly switching to another frequency whenever interference is encountered. Because the system operates in the license-free 1.9 GHz band, the crowded UHF frequency bandwidth issues that you may encounter in crowded urban areas mostly becomes a non-issue.
Functionally, compared to the G3 system, this system is truly plug-and-play—no need to adjust frequencies while the rest of the crew is waiting, no worries about interference—just plug in the receiver (it powers on automatically when you power on your camera), power on the transmitter, and go. The AVX system is similar in operation to the RØDE system, but as you alluded to, the transmitter on the RØDE is rather large. The transmitter on the AVX system is ridiculously small in comparison; it’s really just a male XLR connection with a tiny body and a short, fixed antenna.
While I didn’t have a chance to really put a friend’s AVX system through all of the paces I’d typically encounter on location shoots, I was able to verify that the AVX system sounds better than the already decent-sounding Sennheiser G3 system. The range is excellent. I was able to receive clean, clear sound up to about 100 feet—even through walls in a hotel. The AVX system is digital and has 19ms of latency, so if you’re monitoring the output of your camera through headphones, it takes a while to get used to the slight delay you’ll hear, but as far as recording and sync, 19ms is a non-issue.
The Sennheiser AVX system is available with a belt-pack transmitter that’s compatible with a large array of lavalier microphones with 3.5mm jack audio outputs or with a handheld dynamic mic for news reporting or live TV situations. Sennheiser chose to completely rethink the established wireless system form factor; this system is small and light, and has great sound. Using it is much simpler than high-end professional systems, but the results are also very good, with better specs and sound than the popular G3 systems.
The Sennheiser AVX wireless audio systems range in cost from $899 to $1,299 for a set that comes with both the lavalier transmitter and the handheld dynamic mic transmitter. For the quality the system has, these are very reasonable costs when you consider that a comparable system from high-end vendors costs over $3,000. It would be worth your time to evaluate the AVX system.
16 CFR Part 255 Disclosure: Neither Sony nor Sennheiser compensated me to write this article. Sony didn’t send me a review unit to try out the software; I purchased my own copy of SpectraLayers Pro audio editor from Sony at full retail cost. I borrowed a colleague’s Sennheiser AVX system for evaluation. No material connection exists between the manufacturers mentioned in the article and myself.
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