Fix It In Post, Part One

Q I’m editing a couple of interviews, and there are some issues with air-conditioning noise and clothing noise due to a poor job in rigging a lavaliere mic. What audio tools do you recommend to fix the sound issues?
Roy V.
Via e-mail

“Fixing it in post” is an idiom that’s often mentioned on a set when sound or picture problems crop up that are difficult to fix while shooting. There’s no good substitute for recording sound correctly during production. This is why “looping,” or ADR (automated dialogue replacement), often is used in Hollywood features and television shows.

Audio is difficult to fix if it’s poorly recorded. There are no substitutes for experience and knowledge in solving sound issues as they arise in production; this is why I discourage DIY audio. Using a pro sound mixer always will result in a higher-quality soundtrack over trying to do it yourself, unless you’re experienced and talented with production audio.

With these caveats in mind and assuming that the interview can’t be rerecorded, which tools can you use to improve the sound quality of the poorly recorded clips that you’re working with?

Free Tools That You Already Have
I categorize these tools as “free” because, in most cases, they’re included with your video-editing application. Let’s take a look at several of the most popular editing software packages to see what kinds of audio-restoration or noise-reduction tools are included.

Adobe Creative Suite 4 Production Premium (Mac and PC). Adobe includes Soundbooth CS4 in the Creative Suite Production Premium, Web Premium and Master Collection versions of its popular application bundles. Soundbooth is an audio-editing application that includes the following audio repair and restoration functions:

Elimination of clicks and pops— Remove unwanted clicks and pops due to equipment problems and old media.

Automatic removal of low rumble—Remove rumble to bring clarity to the remaining audio.

Automatic restoration of clipped audio—Remove the harsh artifacts of clipped audio.

Visual healing tools to remove individual sounds—Visually identify and remove, or “auto heal,” unwanted sounds and noises.

Apple Final Cut Studio 3 (Mac only). Apple includes Soundtrack Pro 3 in Final Cut Studio. Soundtrack Pro is a separate application that includes three functions for repairing sound issues:

Intelligent find-and-fix—Analyzes an audio file for common problems, including clicks and pops, hum, phase issues and more. Automatically removes the objectionable sounds.

Ambient noise print—Allows you to identify part of an audio file containing only ambient noise. The Replace With Ambient Noise command applies the ambient noise to the audio file or selection, automatically fitting it to the necessary length and adding crossfades for a natural sound.

Broadband noise reduction—Uses a high-resolution noise print to reduce unwanted background audio with even greater precision. To save time when removing noise from multiple files, create an AppleScript droplet to automate the repair process.