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Old April 17th, 2009, 04:27 PM   #1
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My audio sucks - please help!

So, my company has been doing a video podcast for the past few weeks. We use 3 Sennheiser Wireless G2 (with the default ME2 mic), a Roland M-16DX mixer, Garageband for the actual recording, and Soundtrack Pro for the audio effects (would like to use Soundtrack Pro for everything, but it and the mixer were having some driver issues that I just haven't ironed out yet.

I really really hate how my audio sounds. We have to shoot in a small office that's got a noisy air conditioner going that cannot be turned off. But even aside from the noise, the audio itself seems very tinny and echoing, like I was in a bathroom or something. And when I use the same mics in a different room, it still just sounds oddly tinny and wrong somehow.

I've been reading and trying to use Soundtrack Pro to apply compressors, gates, limiters, but I don't think I'm using them right as everything just seems to make things worse.

So now, I basically looking for somewhere to start fixing things. Two roads I guess - we've already sunk a fair bit of change into our setup, so I'm trying to avoid spending more money on equipment unless its something essential we need.

If you all where given this audio, where would you begin to try and fix future recordings? Some magical combination of compressors/gains/etc? Settings on the mixer (which is currently pretty much set to its defaults)? Settings on the lavalieres themselves? I've lowered the sensitivity and outputs on all the receivers and transmitters as they were set way too high when we bought them.

If you do suggest spending more, where should we invest in? Some kind of compressor/limiter box? New microphones? I realized after spending all that money on the wireless units that the ME2 may not be all that good. Is that true, and if so, what mics would work well with the wireless units?

Here's a sample of the audio (outtakes, so that's why it doesn't make sense). Really sorry for the long rambling post, I've just been trying to get our audio up to par for a while and am frustrated that I am failing!

http://dl.getdropbox.com/u/575197/dvinfosampleaudio
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Old April 17th, 2009, 05:13 PM   #2
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I've had no luck with the file. I've had a look at the content and can see you created it in soundbooth, but I cannot open it after renaming in all the soundbooth formats?

Without hearing the audio it makes it difficult, but there's nothing wrong with the Sennheiser microphone - quality wise. What you are describing is the usual result of a mic working in a difficult room at a distance. The hard walls reflect, and create the 'boxy' sound. The problem is that the room really does sound like that, and the microphone is actually doing a pretty good job! One thing to bear in mind is that the mic is doing what it is designed to do, pick up sound from all directions - so if this is a problem in the room you have to use, then a directional mic will produce better results, as it rejects unwanted sounds off the main axis. Downside is that you have to aim it properly. If you have to use the omni, then the only thing possible is to get it as close to the mouth as possible. Can you do this? Depending on the person, this may be simple, or really hard. Do they have long hair, so you can hide the mics in the hairline? That kind of thing.

You also say it sounds wrong too? Using the mic and receivers you have, the sound should be ok. One thing to check - and this might sound odd - is to check that you haven't bought Chinese counterfeit Sennheisers by mistake. It's one of the most counterfeited pieces of audio kit going. If they cost 400 a system, they're probably real. If you got them for a 'special' price, or from eBay - they're probably dodgy. I've a fair bit of experience of these, having bought some myself in the past. They appear to function like proper ones, but the quality is nowhere near as good. the mic itself has a very poor frequency response, emphasising certain frequencies - which in my business, means feedback is grim. If you're not sure, there are some easy ways to spot fakes - PM me for details, probably best off forum.

Compressors, gates and limiters are the spawn of the devil, until you really have good audio to start with. Compressing audio needs to be subtle. It also needs decent monitoring for you to be able to hear what is happening. Rarely is it needed to make sound better - it is good for helping certain things cut through, or sit better in the mix. Gating is useful for noisy sources - notably hissy equipment that the gate can silence when it's not contributing. This means it could help with the aircon noise - when people stop speaking, it either shuts off the audio (with the noise) or reduces it a bit - depending on how you set it. Limiting can be handy too - but really it just stops occasional extra loud bits exceeding whatever maximum level you set. All of these features can really make the audio worse, if you mis-set them. Good ears and subtle adjustments make a real difference in a positive manner - heavy handed settings spoil it.

As you have soundbooth, why don't you use that for recording. I'm not quite sure why garage band is in there.

Can you sort out a new bit of audio?
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Old April 17th, 2009, 05:41 PM   #3
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I added a .wav extension to the file and it opened in Audition.
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Old April 17th, 2009, 05:42 PM   #4
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There's way too much distance between the mics and the talent - the only one that sounds even remotely "on-mic" is the female and there's a bit too much air even in her's. If you're micing all the talent with individual lavs, place the mic capsule on the midline of their chest directly over the sternum. A good starting point is to make a fist and touch your thumb to their larynnx. Where the pinky side of your fist falls on the chest is a good starting position for the mic and experiment from there to fine-tune the mic position and transmitter levels for each voice by making sound checks before you record. That "boxey" sound is due to excessive room reflections bouncing back to the mic from the walls, ceiling, or floor - suppress it with sound blankets, moving pads, or douvets hung everywhere you can. Once the 'verb is in there, there ain't much you can do about it after the fact other than re-record.

Do not mix down the three lavs to stereo as you record. If the talent is fairly close to each other, one person's voice is picked up first by his own mic and then a very short time later at a lower level by the other people's mic's. When you mix them, instant comb filtering if they're close and reverb if they're a bit farther apart, plus if the mics aren't properly in-phase with each other, when you mix them there can be partially cancellation as the inverse waveforms compete with each other. The best way to do it is to record each mic to its own separate iso track and assemble clean segments from each of the three tracks into the final dialog in post, saving the mix to stereo for the final rendering.

The air conditioner is actually the least of your worries, surprisingly. It's a pretty constant white noise sort of sound, something that noise reduction software like Izotrope Ozone or Rx can do a pretty good job of controlling if not eliminating altogether. OF course it's best if you can nip it at the source but if that proves impossible, that's the one problem you can make a little better with software.
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Last edited by Steve House; April 17th, 2009 at 06:27 PM.
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Old April 17th, 2009, 05:45 PM   #5
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I agree with Paul's comments.

In particular, you're not going to create good audio out of a bad recording. So, that's where you need to start.

Microphone placement - there are lots of links here about how to place a lav. Search is your friend.

If your mics are placed well and your recording systems are working as they should... well, the next step is to get out of that room. Sorry.

If there is really no way to get out of that room it seems likely you'll have to bring in some acoustic treatments to somewhat tame the reflective surfaces. Time, money and trouble - are you sure you can't move this shoot?
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Old April 18th, 2009, 04:54 AM   #6
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The above comments pretty much cover it.

At this point, can you have the cast do a studio voice over to replace the sound?

A lot depends on the intent of the video. If it is an "Office"-like thing, have someone voice over "Man that air conditioner is noisy" as an early off hand comment to earn forgiveness for its noise. Aggressive noise reduction filtering helps tame it, at the expense of possible objectionable artifacts.
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Old April 18th, 2009, 12:28 PM   #7
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Soundbooth won't open it, but Sony Sound Forge does - thanks for the wav tip. Not sure why Adobe doesn't like it? There's a bit of noise that Sound Forge can use to help reduce the problem, but the levels on the talent are a bit low, so it does have an effect - less aircon, but less clarity. The general impression is that the microphones were a long way from the people. I can't really detect too much poor room sound, it's just that the room content overpowers the wanted content, giving the impression the room's poor. How exactly were mics set up?
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Old April 18th, 2009, 01:19 PM   #8
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Chris:

You said you had 3 Senn G2 rigs but this almost sounds like only one of them was operating. Exactly what was your setup for the recording?
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Old April 18th, 2009, 10:25 PM   #9
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Did you monitor your sound with headphones while recording?

I am sad to tell you this but - fixing bad audio in post is extremely difficult.

Always move your mics closer to the sound source (the talent) in a noisy environment.
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Old April 19th, 2009, 06:47 PM   #10
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"I am sad to tell you this but - fixing bad audio in post is extremely difficult"

It certainly is, we call this... "polishing a turd"
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Old April 19th, 2009, 09:54 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick Reineke View Post
"I am sad to tell you this but - fixing bad audio in post is extremely difficult"

It certainly is, we call this... "polishing a turd"

Actually, you kinda need to retire that idiom.

The guys on Mythbusters were actually able to polish one quite nicely.

I think they used elephant dung. Plus a few other variants. Ended up with really shiny stone or marble looking things.

I know, I know. You really didn't want to have that image in your brain. But we've got to keep things accurate around here.

Go figure.
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