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Old August 22nd, 2007, 03:28 PM   #1
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Cicadas In The Background—Arrrggghhh!

I shot an interview outdoors with a Lavalier lapel mic and didn't notice the cicadas in the background. Now in the quiet of my studio they're pretty noisy.

Anybody got some tips on how to strip the insect noise away without adversely affecting my interviewee?
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Old August 22nd, 2007, 04:06 PM   #2
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Anything that "strips" something out of your audio is going to adversely affect it; minimizing how much it affects and how objectionable the effect seems should be what you're after.

What tools do you have at your immediate disposal? Audition, Sound Forge, Soundtrack Pro, Sound Soap?

To make a short story long...

I had a shoot last year where cicadas were completely noticeable during the shoot, I was biting my nails over it because I was short on time, had one chance with a subject and had to forge ahead. As you know, the cicadas are quiet at certain times and loud at others. My only hope was that they didn't step on important parts of the interview--Of course, they did...horribly.

I've been a long time Cool Edit/Audition user and had good results with its noise reduction filtering. In this case though, I couldn't find a point where I could be satisfied with the artifacting. Again, I didn't have any time, so I let it go. I rationalized that the cicada noise wasn't an unnatural part of the outdoor, summer scene, so it would probably be accepted by the viewer.

A few months later, I shared it on a forum, and another user downloaded it and used Sound Soap's noise reduction and uploaded the result. Although I didn't particularly care for the way he did it, the Sound Soap filter did appear to work without objectionable artifacts on the remaining audio. When I had tried Audition, any significant lowering of the cicada noise made it sound like the subject was under water.

So, you might try some different noise reduction filters, if you have access, and see if one does a particularly good job.

Last edited by Roy Colquitt; August 22nd, 2007 at 05:38 PM.
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Old August 22nd, 2007, 04:59 PM   #3
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You have learned, forever, that listening is important.

I'm not trying to bust your chops. I DO feel your pain.

Add some music to cover em up a bit and listen more next time.


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Old August 24th, 2007, 10:10 AM   #4
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Thanks, Roy. It indeed sounds like you've been in my shoes and understand the circumstances that occasionally force us to shoot in less-than-optimum conditions. I have Soundtrack Pro and eliminated the cicadas but didn't care for the artifacting. I'll give Sound Soap a shot.
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Old August 24th, 2007, 12:15 PM   #5
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One thing you might try is opening up a spectral analysis of the sound and figuring out what frequencies the cicadas and the voices occupy. My guess is that you'll find some higher-frequency areas where the sound of the cicadas are isolated from the voices. Then you can use EQ or FFT filtering to reduce those areas. I'd use a sort of lightly sloped notch-type filter.

It's been easy for me to do this in Audition. I'm sure there are other options, but I'm most experienced with that one.
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Old August 25th, 2007, 02:17 PM   #6
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To add, you can use a multiband compressor when you do zero in on the problem frequency. That way, when they quiet down, it'll remove less of that frequency.

Also, another way to find the frequency is use a very narrow Q on a parametric eq, then turn it UP all of the way. Then slowly sweep the frequencies until you hear them JUMP out at you.
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