Fix It In Post, Part Two

Fix It In Post, Part Two

iZotope RX is an advanced audio-repair application that includes Hum Removal, Declipper, Declicker, Denoiser, Spectral Repair and Advanced Spectrogram.

Q How can you fix noisy audio in post? We were shooting intros for a television show, and the building that we were shooting in had air-conditioning that couldn’t be turned off; it was one single control for the entire floor we were shooting on. We’re now stuck with air-conditioning sound on all of our takes. We did record room tone.
Jack P.
Via e-mail

A In last issue’s “Audio Assist,” we covered several audio-repair tools that are included with some of the most popular video-editing programs. The great thing about these tools is that if you’re using your video-editing program, they’re already there for you, included in the price you paid for the software. For the most part, these tools work well, but they’re somewhat limited in their sophistication and effectiveness.

If you’re using video-editing software that doesn’t include audio-repair tools or if you’ve already tried the audio-repair tools included with your application and found them lacking, your next move is to step up to dedicated audio-repair tools.

Third-Party Audio-Repair Solutions

The simplest and easiest audio repair is what’s known as “broadband noise.” The reason that broadband noise is easiest to repair is that it’s typically a constant-level noise. The consistent levels in noise-like air-conditioning, 60-cycle hum, and refrigerator and computer noise are easier to repair than random noises that change each time they occur.

Random noise like dogs barking in the background, clicks, crackles, wireless mic interference and the like can be more difficult to repair. With many sound issues, software can’t totally eliminate the offending sound in every instance. If the offending sound falls into the same exact frequency range as the voices in your clip, you may have to be content with merely dulling or reducing the levels of the offending noise, and you may not be able to totally remove the offending noise without adversely affecting the audio that you’re trying to enhance.

NewBlue FX Audio Scrubbers (www.newbluefx.com/scrubbers.html). NewBlue Audio Scrubbers seem to take the simple approach to audio repair. You’ll find that the audio-repair tools included range the full gamut of capability, and the amount of parameter control offered to the editor varies widely. For the most part, the less expensive the software, the fewer controls are included. The NewBlue FX Audio Scrubbers lean toward the simple, with each module offering between one and four simple parameter controls.

This collection of audio plug-ins attacks noise and hum problems from every direction. NewBlue offers this plug-in package for all popular PC and Mac video-editing programs, as well as Adobe After Effects and Apple Motion, and are VST plug-in-compatible, too.

The collection includes Audio Polish, Auto Mute, Cleaner, Hum Remover, Noise Fader and Noise Reducer. Estimated Street Price: $59.95 (download).

Bias Inc. SoundSoap 2 and SoundSoap Pro 2 (www.bias-inc.com/products/soundSoapPro2). SoundSoap Pro 2 is an advanced noise-reduction and audio-restoration plug-in that’s powerful enough for audio professionals, yet simple enough for video editors to use. SoundSoap Pro 2’s unique and comprehensive approach combines hum, rumble, click, crackle and broadband noise-reduction tools with a sophisticated noise gate in a single, intuitive user interface. The unique property of SoundSoap Pro 2 is that all of the different sound modules are accessed through a single, tabbed interface. This speeds up workflow over competitive products that use a separate program or interface for each audio operation.

SoundSoap Pro 2 tools: Hum Removal, Rumble Removal, Click Reduction, Crackle Reduction, Adaptive Noise Reduction, Noise Gate.

SoundSoap 2 is a simplified version that has an extremely easy-to-use interface with few options. SoundSoap 2 runs as a stand-alone application, as well as Audio Units, RTAS/AudioSuite and VST plug-in formats. Estimated Street Price: $129 (Standard); $599 (Pro).

iZotope RX and RX Advanced (www.izotope.com/products/audio/rx). iZotope’s RX is at the more advanced end of the audio-repair applications, featuring sophisticated controls and feedback. RX can be used as either a stand-alone application or as a plug-in in certain audio-oriented programs like Soundtrack Pro and Pro Tools. The iZotope RX plug-in isn’t supported in video-editing programs directly, other than in Sony Vegas. RX offers some unique features like elimination of overload distortion by automatically re-building clipped sections of audio.

iZotope RX includes Hum Removal, Declipper, Declicker, Denoiser, Spectral Repair and Advanced Spectrogram.

RX Advanced is an extended version of RX designed for professionals who want greater control over signal processing and delivery options.

Additional RX Advanced features include the iZotope MBIT+ dithering panel with full control over dithering options; the iZotope 64-bit SRC resampling panel with a full range of control; advanced manual declicking; multiresolution declipping; multiresolution spectral repair modes; and advanced denoiser parameters. Estimated Street Price: $349 (Standard); $1,149 (Advanced).

Waves Restoration (www.waves.com/content.aspx?id=197). Waves plug-ins are considered an industry standard with audio postproduction professionals. The Restoration bundle consists of five tools, each used for a specific operation. For video editors who may not be well versed in the finer points of audio work, the Waves tools can be used in an automatic setting that’s fairly effective. Once the editor’s skills advance, each of the tool parameters can be modified with a lot of different options. Waves Restoration modules include Z-Noise, X-Noise, X-Hum, X-Click and X-Crackle.

Waves makes many different sound plug-ins. Restoration isn’t inexpensive, but the end result is very high quality. If you want the ultimate in software audio-repair tools, consider Restoration. Estimated Street Price: $1,860 (Native); $3,100 (TDM).

Putting The Tools To Work

There are many ways to reduce broadband noise, clicks, hum and other undesirable audio artifacts. It’s a given that the lower-cost software will be simpler and less sophisticated and will appeal to video editors who may not specialize in audio editing. The more costly tools will tend to appeal to video editors who are responsible for actually performing final sound mixes for television and theatrical projects where the absolute best-quality audio noise reduction is desirable. Hopefully, this overview will put you on the road to finding the most effective solution for your needs.

16 CFR Part 255 Disclosure: None of the manufacturers listed in this article are paying me to write this article. No material connection exists between myself and the software companies whose products I wrote about. I wasn’t given any promotional copies of any of these software products in conjunction with writing this article. I’ve worked with all of the software profiled in this article, except NewBlue FX Audio Scrubbers, in my job as a producer/editor on systems that were owned by my employer at the time. I own SoundSoap Pro 2, which I purchased at full retail price with my own funds.

Send your audio technical questions to [email protected] or mail them to Audio Assist, HDVideoPro Magazine, 12121 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 1200, Los Angeles, CA 90025.