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Old December 13th, 2006, 01:02 PM   #1
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Help Mr. Wizard - trying to record a CD

I could surely use some professional advice. I promised my cousin to help her record some CD's where she speaks softly. I first tried to use a GL2 with a Sennheiser quality mic. Can't recall the model but I decided there was too much room noise. I don't have a sound studio or anything. The room is pretty quiet and I have been careful to make sure no fans and such are running. And yet the room noise is just too noticeable. This is the first time I have tried to make a professional audio recording outside of some video projects where the audio is not expected to be real quiet.

It is amazing how the mic can hear sounds like car engines that I can't with my own ears. Am I dead in the water without a real studio environment? Thinking I needed a more appropriate mic I invested in a SAMSON C03U with a Spider Mount and a Flexible Pop Filter and mic stand. The CO3U contains an analog to digital converter so it plugs in directly to any computer with a USB interface. It has a switchable cardioid, omni, and figure-8 pickup pattern. The best results are of course with the cardioid but I can't seem to get it clean enough using Sony Sound Forge and an Audiophile 2496 M-Audio sound card in an XP workstation.

I could use some advise if it is possible - what am I doing wrong? Given the same equipment could someone else do better? Is it my lack of experience that is the problem and not the equipment? I feel reasonably comfortable with the computer part being a geek - but I find I am in over my head - the end result is close but if I can hear room noise when the CD is played back at a decent volume then so can everyone else.
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Old December 13th, 2006, 01:38 PM   #2
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I use a walkin closet in my home which is full of hanging clothes to record naration. Now if I could get a real narator to go into my closet I would have it licked.
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Old December 13th, 2006, 01:46 PM   #3
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My wife hates it when I bring in my entire PC setup into the hallway leading to my closet. The PC sits outside, while the monitor and my wireless keyboard & mouse sit in the closet with me. She has to walk around it when she needs to use the master bathroom.

The old house in Texas had a more convenient closet setup.

There are places where you can rent a sound booth by the hour.
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Old December 13th, 2006, 01:46 PM   #4
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Are you picking up the camera noise ? I've used the room closet for all of time. Since then, I've been researching "Voice Over" equipment, for which you can find a lot of instructional web pages. An excellent source for helping you record voice is VASST's tutorial DVD "Now Hear This".
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Old December 13th, 2006, 02:43 PM   #5
 
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During the live recording, getting the microphone as close to the speaker as possible, without distorting her voice, can be a big help. Using a shotgun mike as opposed to an omnidirectional mike might help. The object, here, is to get the signal to noise ratio as high as possible. there's also a few things you can do in post production to try to mitigate those unwanted background noises. if you have sound forge, try playing with an equalizer plug in to isolate and suppress the frequency of the background noise. if it's a continuous noise, you can also do a pretty good job of eliminating it with Sony's Noise reduction plugin for Sound Forge.
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Old December 13th, 2006, 04:24 PM   #6
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For best results try to use a directional mic such as a cardioid or a hypercardioid psotioned 6 to 12 inches from her mouth. The VASST website has a video clip where Douglas Spotted Eagle shows how to make a table-top 'announce booth' that's very inexpensive that you can build out of foamcore board from the art supply store, some gaffer's tape and spray adhesive and a couple of pieces of acoustic foam such as Aurelex. It's basically a box about 3 feet on a side, open on one side and lined with foam the sits on your desk covering the mic on its stand. Have your talent sit in front of the box. For additional isolation, get a couple of light stands and juryrig a support to hang some heavy comforters behind her and to her sides. Give her a pair of headphones to listen to herself as she speaks and you wear a pair yourself as you record, listening for ambient noise creeping in.

Remember to unplug fans, fridges, etc that might kick in and create noise during the recording session.
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Old December 13th, 2006, 04:30 PM   #7
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I made one of those boxes. I set the Mic on the floor stand an inch from the edge of the desk, and I put the box on the desk. The slip in the bottom of the box allows me to slide the box around the Mic.

Works when I am in a hurry or too lazy to set up in the closet.
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Old December 13th, 2006, 05:00 PM   #8
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Thanks

Thank you all for the advice. I did discover on the third and last session when I left our "studio" - which is a room with our large screen projector, some couches and chair with a carpet floor and typical drywalls as well as the standard drop ceiling tiles - that she was not close to the mic. That solved some of the problem but not enough. She is speaking somewhat softly, after all it is a relaxation DVD she want to sell.

I have mixed a Native American flute player who is local here as a mellow background track. No problem with an instrument - it has lots of signal to noise ration, as was mentioned. But a voice has proven to be difficult. The software is Sound Forge Audio Studio version 8. I don't believe it will except plugins - I suppose I should get the "real" version. I have tried all the processes and effects with marginal success. A little better has been Ableton M-Audio because you can adjust the equalizers and cut out various frequency while you listen to the track. Sound Forge applies the effect to the track and then you either keep it our discard the changes - but you are guessing only at what frequencies to eliminate. I have not tried filters just for noise reduction - that might be the best solution. And perhaps the mic is not the right one but so far it is the best one. I even tried a wireless mic setup and it picked up the voice perfectly - and of course had the most room noise by a wide margin.

I could build a curtain around a small area like pulling a curtain around a hospital bed. I wonder if that would be enough to make the difference? Perhaps some special curtain material? Or do I really have the best mic for it? The XLR mounted mic on the GLS is really nice and on other projects has been suitable. This mic hooked up to the laptop USB port is at least as good or perhaps a little better and of course very easy. Just plug it in. This is the first time I really started to appreciated what a sound stage or studio is all about. I am starting to believe the audio part is harder than video or lighting!
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Old December 13th, 2006, 11:24 PM   #9
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If it is a constant ambient noise - like a hum or something, you can get a sample of just the room tone, and run that through a noise reducer - something like Soap (I think it is called).
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Old December 14th, 2006, 06:32 AM   #10
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Curtains may not have much effect, you need a dense material to eliminate more ambient noise. Thick duvets would be a cheap option or get hold of some sheet rockwool insulation to fix around the recording position at mic-height. When you have more time you can build frames around them and cover them with fabric to create a more professional look.

A cardiod mic will reject sound from behind it to a large degree anyway so if there is a 'source' to the ambient noise such as a computer or fridge, have the mic facing with it's back to that source. Then build any insulating materials behind the recording artist to prevent reflections off the walls from bouncing back into the mic.

If trying to remove the background noise with EQ, make sure you boost the gain first and sweep with the frequency control to find where in the range the sound is most prominent, then reduce the gain in that range - but not so much as to lose the quality of the voice, that's the tricky part. Better still, locate and remove the source of the noise. If it's a computer it might be worth trying to get hold of a quiet laptop to record with, or some extension leads so that it can be placed in another room. If it's something larger causing the problem, probably better to find a different location to record in.

Good luck,

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Old December 15th, 2006, 08:59 AM   #11
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Thanks all - great advice

I love it when the Internet works. I have hope I can glean enough from the advice here to fix my problem - certainly I know which direction to go it. Thanks again, Steven, Colin and you others who took the time to point me in the right direction. See you all at Sundance Awards Ceremony when your next production hits a sweet spot. :-)

Actually, that is something like my dream but first is learning the craft and generating a decent income. No small feat when you live in the Artic Circle of video production.
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Old December 21st, 2006, 09:59 AM   #12
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A simple solution that can be reused often would be to build some portable sound barriers. Then you can use your higher quality condensers.

http://www.foambymail.com/Pyramid.html

We have that foam glued on 2 x 4 ft panels. I like to use the clear plastic panels that go into fluorescent light fixtures because I can get the real ugly ones at home depot for about a $1. We then glue them on with construction adhesive. You could do the same thing with plywood but I dont own a saw ;)

We then hang these around the room to build a portable mixing or tracking environment. We have hung these from light stands, mic stands, the wall and even propped them up around the talent. When we are done they stack nice in a closed. I would suggest some nice color then the "chamber" does not seem so industrial. We use burgundy.

Good luck with your project.
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Old December 21st, 2006, 10:35 AM   #13
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My wife has no sense of humor. I showed her this and she wouldn't even discuss it.... But to be honest, if I had a studio I would probably just take this route.

http://www.vocalbooth.com/products/silverseries.html
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