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Old March 1st, 2006, 05:33 AM   #1
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Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
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Urgent help needed to lower ambient sound


Does anyone know of a way to reduce the ambient or background sound of an audio track thus boosting the vocal on the track?

I know that this can be (almost) done in reverse i.e. (almost) remove a vocal from a track (like a karaoke track) but is there any way to actually boost a vocal track and lower the level of the background sound.

I was busy doing an interview and the sound crew started doing their sound checks and people kept on opening and closing the doors to the venue - the end result is that I have an important interview that I cannot re-shoot and somehow need to 'boost' the voice of the person being interviewed so that it is more prominent over the background noise.

I was using shotgun mics and was very close to the person being interviewed so the assumption was made that the mics were not picking up much of the noise and music in the background - but guess what - they picked it all up loud and clear!


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Old March 1st, 2006, 10:37 AM   #2
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The real question may be what level of improvement you are willing to accept, and how much time you are willing to spend trying to improve it.

Your best hope may be to get a BIAS plugin called SoundSoap2 which offers a "Preserve Voice" feature.

You may need to divide your recording into segments based on the background sounds you wish to remove, each on a different track with this plugin so that SoundSoap can learn the specific sound to be isolated.

Another track may be able to geneally isolate all the background noise, room tone and chatter, but for doors opening and specific voices, this process may become very involved.

One thing to watch out for no matter what noise reduction you are using: The greater the noise reduction, the greater the distortion of the audio you wish to preserve.

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Old March 1st, 2006, 12:29 PM   #3
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Southwest Idaho, USA
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There's a method I learned from Instant Vegas that may help some. You can try it until someone with more knowledge posts:

Paragraphic EQ

On the third slider you can turn up the gain quite a bit, then play the clip and move the center frequency slider (that's one way to do it) back and forth until you can hear the room sound at its loudest. When you find that place, turn the gain down to nothing to cut out that noise. Naturally, unwanted sounds at other frequencies--like the doors--will still come through, but it may reduce it. Then you have the fun of trying to EQ the voice so it sounds natural.

There's the noise gate effect, but I've never been able to get that to sound natural.
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Old March 1st, 2006, 12:58 PM   #4
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There are a lot of ways to go about cleaning up sound. How long is piece?
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Old March 1st, 2006, 10:28 PM   #5
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Good Morning, and thanks for the info.

To Robin: the clip in approximately 9 minutes long.

In the meantime I am going to try some of the other methods described above.

I have already sat for a couple of hours trying to EQ the audio to preserve the voice but no success.

The problem is that because of the sound tests going on in the background the background 'noise' is mainly music and is not consistent. The other problem is that the person being interviewed tried to talk over the music and when the music stopped the person talked softer and when the music was changed or started again they attempted to talk over it again AND if that were not enough because they were testing the level of the music is also not consistent.

I don't know if this means anything but if I convert the track to mono (by combining left and right in Vegas it appears to improve somewhat).

Thanks again,

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Old March 2nd, 2006, 07:27 AM   #6
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Just a follow on:

I have now purchased BIAS SoundSoap2 and am patiently awaiting it's arrival - I will post a followup to let everyone know how it performs.

In the meantime - just for interest sake - what ARE the other ways of doing this?


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Old March 2nd, 2006, 07:42 AM   #7
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Stockton, UT
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You haven't yet posted what kind of ambient sound it is. If it's a constant, ie; generator, you can make it less noticable. If it's other voices, traffic, general walla...not much you can do, it's there. soundsoap won't do squat for these kinds of sounds, they're there. It's like trying to remove nuts from a cookie after it's been baked.
This is why you should never, ever turn on a camera to shoot without wearing headphones to hear what's in the mix.
Douglas Spotted Eagle/Spot
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Certified Sony Vegas Trainer
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Old March 3rd, 2006, 11:16 PM   #8
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If it were me, i would try a combination of these things....

Use a noise reduction plugin and take a scan of the ambient sound when your subject isnt talking.. Then apply that sound stamp to the whole thing with fairly heavy reduction, monitor a passage where there is talking to get desired effect.

Then for any isolated hits which dont occur with talking i would simply lower the volume manually..

Finally i would EQ and focus on keeping only between 1k-4k.. Things such as doors opening and closing will be causing the most problems on the bottom end, so just get rid of it altogether..

After all this I still wouldnt expect great results it will probably end up sounding tinny but you may be able to at least maintain focus on whats being said...
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Old March 5th, 2006, 10:12 AM   #9
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Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
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Hello and thanks for all of the advice.

Just for the record the 'noise' was actually music coming from the main auditorium while the sound guys were doing their tests.

I have received SoundSoap2 and tried it out and I must say that it appears to be a great product.

It did not work on this interview though (just like DSE said). It actually does remove the background music but would you believe that my audio track now contains the voice of the person being interviewed as well as (just) the vocal from the music that was being played! How's that! That is something! I will definately be able to use this for lots of other stuff.

Fortuanately the customer was happy with some parts of the interview that did not have the background sound tests evident so I could use these.

I am shocked, though, that this happened - I was using 2 x Sennheiser MKE-300's mounted on camera (stereo) and really did not think that they would pick up the ambient noise as they did.

I know that this is all my fault though and that I should have used any one of my Sony UWP Series Wireless Mics (they are EXTREMELY directional and nowhere near as sensitive as the Sennheisers) but there just was no time to swap things around.

The solution:

I have now purchased an Alesis Multimix Firewire 16 and I will now be going to these events with this desk, a notebook, and a sound guy. The idea is to have all of my mics, wireless and otherwise, plugged in simultaneously and record the sound from each of the mics (regardless of their position or purpose) to seperate audio tracks (16 in total) and then use these tracks as the audio for the footage shot (only using each cameras onboard audio as a reference or in an emergency). This will allow freedom to shoot without having to worry about the sound. I'm not sure if this is how the pro's work but it works for me.

Actually - that is a good question - how DO the pro's work? How would YOU mic up an entire event assuming for example that you have a podium (for the main speaker subject), a stage (that from time to time would have subjects on it), and an audience (individuals in the audience may sometimes ask questions).

And just by the way:

I am a bit upset with the software that is supplied with the Alesis unit though. It is Steinberg's CuBase LE which works perfectly except for the fact that this is a 16 track mixer and the LE edition of CuBase ONLY ALLOWS YOU TO RECORD 4 TRACKS SIMULTANEOUSLY!!! You have to upgrade to the SE edition of CuBase in order to record all 16 tracks simultaneously. I will be taking this up with Alesis and Steinberg tomorrow though - this is an unfair marketing practice in my opinion i.e. if you are supplying a 16 track mixer then the bundled software should allow for the 16 tracks to be recorded not just 4!!! It's like buying a car and only being supplied with one tyre!!! And it is also not like the software is optional - without it you are only able to record 1 track at time using WDM.

I just want to say to anyone that is new and still learning this game (although I suppose the last statement applies to all of us) - you have to realise just how important what you do actually is and be able to accept the responsibility. I mean if someone has entrusted the capturing of their event to you you HAVE to have your act together - there is no second chance. Someone once told me that if a customer wants and 'A' grade production let them pay 'A' grade prices. Boy oh boy - this could not be any further from the truth! The point is that anyone would rather pay the price for an 'A' grade production and have 'something' than pay the price for a 'B' grade production and having 'nothing'! The simple fact of the matter is if you purport to be able to do the job you had better be sure that you can do it properly or not do it at all. People are entrusting you with their first time, one time only, memories - you are capturing history so make sure that you do it well. (I don't know where all of this is coming from but I just feel that it is necessary to express my view. Maybe this mess that I made of this interview has jolted me back to reality).


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