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Filmmaker needs advice!

Postby RSStudios » Wed Sep 15, 2010 6:23 am

Hey folks, I recently completed work on a feature and we unfortunately have a very bad audio situation. I'm wondering if you might give me some advice for clean-up beyond suggesting "ADR." The link to a clip is below. Any help would be GREATLY appreciated. I'm sure you'll hear the problems when you open it.

Thanks!

http://www.megaupload.com/?d=PHWPJ6F2
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Re: Filmmaker needs advice!

Postby Zukan » Wed Sep 15, 2010 7:53 am

Actually, I have spent the last three weeks cleaning up dialogue for a company with really dire files that not only had a ton of noise but also distortion, clipping, glitches, pops and clicks etc and it needed actual letters in spoken words redone plus adding pauses etc.

Absolute nightmare and the fun part is I have done 3 CDs and have 5 more to go.

Image

PM me if you fancy a chat about it.

However, if you want a recommendation for a damn good company, though not cheap, then the Cedar Bureau Service is the way to go.

Apart from that there are others here that can do the job for you.

But if what you want is advice on what you can use then you need a declicker, a noise removal plugin and an audio editor whereby you can zoom in on clicks and the like and deal with them (remove, fades etc).

SoundSoap is a half decent noise removal software and X Noise by Waves is also very good.

There are a load of declickers out there. TBH, I use Sony's one built into Sound Forge and it does the job.

You can download Audacity which is free and get going with the pops and clicks removals plus the usual fades etc.
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Re: Filmmaker needs advice!

Postby ken long » Wed Sep 15, 2010 8:01 am

^ Good advice.

If possible though, round up the actors / producer / director and do it again.
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Re: Filmmaker needs advice!

Postby * User requested deletion 2 * » Wed Sep 15, 2010 8:09 am

In the words of the almighty Walter Murch (or was it Copolla?), 'sound is 50% of a film' - treat it with respect and it'll work it's arse off for you making your audiences imagination run riot, and telling your story in a way that words on a page just can't convey. But if you cock it up, well.....

There's no excuse for having bad sound so long as you budget correctly for it and allow your recordist and boom swinger to do their jobs properly. A lot of inexperienced film makers get this wrong, and boy, is it a hard lesson to learn

Hope you get a solution to your problem.
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Re: Filmmaker needs advice!

Postby James Perrett » Wed Sep 15, 2010 9:00 am

Zukan wrote:
SoundSoap is a half decent noise removal software and X Noise by Waves is also very good.

I must admit that I was disappointed with both of those tools when I heard the SOS review sample files.

You are right - Cedar makes the best tools but Adobe Audition is very impressive in the right hands and other restoration experts give Izotope's RX a big thumbs up (I haven't tried it yet but it is on my list of things to try).

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Re: Filmmaker needs advice!

Postby Exalted Wombat » Wed Sep 15, 2010 9:12 am

Zukan wrote:Actually, I have spent the last three weeks cleaning up dialogue for a company with really dire files that not only had a ton of noise but also distortion, clipping, glitches, pops and clicks etc and it needed actual letters in spoken words redone plus adding pauses etc.

Absolute nightmare and the fun part is I have done 3 CDs and have 5 more to go

Isn't this sort of job usually done by getting the actors back to do some re-recording?
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Re: Filmmaker needs advice!

Postby Zukan » Wed Sep 15, 2010 9:13 am

I think for the price James SoundSoap is, as I said, half decent. X Noise comes down to how well you use the noise profiling and filtering and it can be quite good.

I haven't tried Adobe or Izotope so am keen to get to those.
Will try their trials and see what they are saying.
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Re: Filmmaker needs advice!

Postby Zukan » Wed Sep 15, 2010 9:19 am

Exalted Wombat wrote:
Zukan wrote:Actually, I have spent the last three weeks cleaning up dialogue for a company with really dire files that not only had a ton of noise but also distortion, clipping, glitches, pops and clicks etc and it needed actual letters in spoken words redone plus adding pauses etc.

Absolute nightmare and the fun part is I have done 3 CDs and have 5 more to go

Isn't this sort of job usually done by getting the actors back to do some re-recording?

Absolutely!

The CDs I am working on are company presentation courses and they were poorly recorded and badly storyboarded.
Their budget is so small that they cannot call the lecturers back in for any re-recordings although I have suggested this on countless occasions.

Invariably, when on a tight budget, a lot of small companies try to do most of the work themselves and invariably screw things up.

The CDs I am working on are, wait for it, 22kHz MP3 files. Not WAVs in full glory 24/16/44.1, hell no, MP bloody 3s.

Now, you try removing noise and clicks within a low sample rate environment. Absolute nightmare. The whole point of high samplerate and bit depth files is for exactly this purpose. Low noise floor and better processing.

So, now, it's costing them more for me to sort out the problems than had they paid to have them recorded properly in the first place.
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Re: Filmmaker needs advice!

Postby Keefey boy » Wed Sep 15, 2010 10:02 am

I hope you don't mind me saying but, What idiot recorded that?
I work in tv and film location sound and I have never heard a worse track. Even if you got rid of all the noise the dialogue would still sound like they are miles away from the mike. Which they probably were.
I would also hazard a guess that you didn't have any body listening to the audio as it was being recorded. Thats why you should employ a sound recordists to listen and a boom op to gather.(that sounds a bit pompous but you get my drift).
Why do film makers not consider sound to AS important as the pictures.
You find this constantly in tv and low budget movies.
Well you get what you pay for when making any kind movie and you obviously paid nothing.
It will now cost you more to fix ( ADR is really the only thing you can do ) than it would of to pay for some professional people to record your sound in the first place.
I am now going to have a cup a calming tea to try to stop myself beating my computer to death. GGrrrrrr.
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Re: Filmmaker needs advice!

Postby . . . Delete This User . . . » Wed Sep 15, 2010 11:17 am

yeah,what Keefyboy Said.... !!!!


Zukan, is this noise removal job that lot from down Cookham way that never bothered calling me?
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Re: Filmmaker needs advice!

Postby Zukan » Wed Sep 15, 2010 11:47 am

idris y draig wrote:yeah,what Keefyboy Said.... !!!!


Zukan, is this noise removal job that lot from down Cookham way that never bothered calling me?

Yes m8, and are they regretting it?

I told them a thousand times that had they used your top class services my job would have been acres easier.

They are regretting it now big time m8.
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Re: Filmmaker needs advice!

Postby ken long » Wed Sep 15, 2010 11:57 am

Keefey boy wrote:
Why do film makers not consider sound to AS important as the pictures.
You find this constantly in tv and low budget movies.
Well you get what you pay for when making any kind movie and you obviously paid nothing.

That's exactly what happens. No money for sound: get a mate / runner to do it for free. Then pay out exponentially or abandon project when it becomes nonviable.

These kind of budgets should really factor in sound services. WHen its done well - no one notices (which is what you want). Perhaps that's why they don't attach value to it?
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Re: Filmmaker needs advice!

Postby RSStudios » Thu Sep 16, 2010 12:06 am

I've tried Soundsoap but it leaves the dialogue robotish and tinny. It also seems to fluctuate up and down. Any way to get rid of the hum without sacrificing the dialogue? Or a way to clean up that dialogue afterwards and make it clearer, louder, and bassier?
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Re: Filmmaker needs advice!

Postby RSStudios » Thu Sep 16, 2010 12:09 am

And Keefey, we're not all working with infinite budgets here and access to folks in the know. We have to deal with what we have to work on projects that are dear to our hearts and at the end of the day, get stuff done. Asking for help here not a lecture. Trust me, I know. We got screwed by a shitty sound-guy and equipment.

Thanks everyone! Hopefully someone can at least give me some details on what plugins to use and how to fix this particular clip at least.
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Re: Filmmaker needs advice!

Postby dmills » Thu Sep 16, 2010 1:31 am

ADR is about the only thing that will really fix it so it sounds like the rest of the film, anything else will have artefacts (Can you live with them is the question...).

Bandpass to limit the energy outside the speech range (say maybe 300 - 5K), frequency selective gate gate or otherwise cut away the noise in the non dialogue sections (you will loose most of the reverb tails and all the room tone at this stage, probably best done manually).

Next I would probably fire up matlab or octave and take an FFT with a suitable window, then downward expand each bin just a little.

Finally I might investigate looping some of the noise and mixing it back in to try to hide the pumping in the background (Which is the thing that really makes this hard).

The trick to all this sort of stuff is lots of passes making small incremental improvements, not massive 30+db cuts.

It might be worthwhile seeing if there is some component to the noise (outside the speech band) that is at constant level excepting the agc, you could use this to produce an envelope to feed an expander sidechain to undo some of the worst of the AGC effects (Which would make all subsequent manipulations easier).

Time to fire up the Matlab signal processing toolbox methinks.

Edit: Turns out that a simple high pass at about 10K (if sharp enough) gives something that looks very close to pure noise modulated by the recorder AGC... It needs some minor tweaking but should be easy enough to turn this into a control signal to remove the worst of the pumping.

Regards, Dan.
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Re: Filmmaker needs advice!

Postby Keefey boy » Thu Sep 16, 2010 8:47 am

I am afraid you cannot clean this up to a standard that you will require to put on a movie. ADR is the only way. Yes you can get rid of the hum but this is so far gone that as said above the artifacts will be horrendous. I am all for young or old filmmakers getting it together to make a film. Its fantastic but you have to understand that just getting one person to get the sound for a film is just not practical. Its not fair on the soundy and you will not, as is proved here, get the sound your film deserves.
I don't suppose you employed a blind camera person with a focus puller with no arms?
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Re: Filmmaker needs advice!

Postby Zukan » Thu Sep 16, 2010 8:52 am

ADR won't help if the whole movie is at that quality.

You might as well re-shoot the whole movie.
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Re: Filmmaker needs advice!

Postby * User requested deletion 2 * » Thu Sep 16, 2010 8:54 am

Well, ADR for the entire movie will do the trick - but then you're then going to be left having to tracklay the entire movie from the ground up. Atmos, foley, fx.... it'd be great fun!
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Re: Filmmaker needs advice!

Postby ken long » Thu Sep 16, 2010 8:58 am

Did the recordist get some "clean" room tone?
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Re: Filmmaker needs advice!

Postby tomafd » Thu Sep 16, 2010 10:28 am

RSStudios wrote:And Keefey, we're not all working with infinite budgets here and access to folks in the know. We have to deal with what we have to work on projects that are dear to our hearts and at the end of the day, get stuff done. Asking for help here not a lecture. Trust me, I know. We got screwed by a shitty sound-guy and equipment.

Thanks everyone! Hopefully someone can at least give me some details on what plugins to use and how to fix this particular clip at least.


Indeed, you did get screwed up - I can't add to the technical advice so far offered, but Keefey's rant has some legs ... in the past few weeks, I've worked on two reasonably well budgeted corporate videos (as a composer) and in both cases, the voiceover sounded absolutely appalling, and both directors asked me not only to mix the whole soundtrack but clean up the voiceover- which proved virtually impossible, the problems were so bad. We all know that budgets are tighter than ever, and savings have to be made somewhere, but as most of us on this forum know, it's invariably the sound and the music where the cuts tend to be made. Forums like Shooting People are always full of posts looking for 'free' music and 'free' sound recordists- and the results usually end up sounding pretty 'free' - ie, pretty damn awful.

I don't want to lecture you further, but please - tell your mates in the film-making world that getting cheap or free sound and music simply doesn't work. It just makes the entire product look crap, however beautiful the visuals ! You'd be doing us all a big favour ...
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Re: Filmmaker needs advice!

Postby James Perrett » Thu Sep 16, 2010 10:59 am

RSStudios wrote:Asking for help here not a lecture.

Unfortunately many of us have had problems with poor film/ video producers and directors who have ignored the sound until too late. You're not going to get a great deal of sympathy around here until you (and your colleagues) realise just how important a good sound recordist really is.

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Re: Filmmaker needs advice!

Postby Keefey boy » Thu Sep 16, 2010 11:19 am

You are absolutely right. So lets see.
You say you have a feature film so that's about 1 1/2 hours.
Full ADR, foley, atmos. Basically completely relay all the sound.
As said, what fun. I could do it in my studio, as could many of the people here and I would look forward to the challenge. The cost even at a massively reduced price would be about £150 per day and take anything from 1 month to the rest of my life.
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Re: Filmmaker needs advice!

Postby Exalted Wombat » Thu Sep 16, 2010 12:49 pm

Keefey boy wrote:You are absolutely right. So lets see.
You say you have a feature film so that's about 1 1/2 hours.
Full ADR, foley, atmos. Basically completely relay all the sound.
As said, what fun. I could do it in my studio, as could many of the people here and I would look forward to the challenge. The cost even at a massively reduced price would be about £150 per day and take anything from 1 month to the rest of my life.


I think we need to know more about this project. It obviously isn't a "feature" as in a commercial production for cinema release, else at the first day's rushes the sound operator would have been replaced and they'd have started over, losing just one day's filming. Is it a student project? Maybe the kindest thing would be to mark it "fail" and learn from the experience. Or is it just one scene that slipped through the quality-control net? Get the actors back to re-record. It's a technique that both film actors and film makers need to be practiced in.
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Re: Filmmaker needs advice!

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Sep 16, 2010 4:12 pm

RSStudios wrote:And Keefey, we're not all working with infinite budgets here and access to folks in the know.


Er... a decent sound recordist doesn't cost much in the grand scheme of things, and any 'film-mnaker' worth the title knows how to find professional sound recordists. Come to that, there are plenty of students and budding amatuers who would be able to do substantially better than that clip.

We have to deal with what we have to work on projects that are dear to our hearts and at the end of the day, get stuff done.


But you haven't 'got stuff done' have you? You've ended up with something that is virtually unusable and unsalvagable. So everyone's time (and money) has been wasted...

Asking for help here not a lecture.


I appreciate that -- no one likes to be told they've done something stoopid. But such is life. It's all about learning and moving forward.

The best advice I can give is the same as everyone else has said -- either try ADR and foley, or do a complete reshoot. I'd recommend the latter as the cheapest and fastest way if it is at all possible.

This material is just not salvagable to a standard that would be acceptable for a 'feature'. You might get away with it for a hot news item maybe, but absolutely not for a feature. The signal-noise ratio is just much too poor to get anything decent out of it.

Trust me, I know. We got screwed by a shitty sound-guy and equipment.


Maybe. Did anyone check this sound person's credits and competence?

But actually, it doesn't sound to me like this was done by a 'sound guy' at all. For a start the recorder's AGC is on. That's a pretty basic no-no. Secondly, the mic is no-where near the action. And thirdly, it has been recored in the most ludicrously noisy location, directly under an air conditioning unit, at a guess. No 'sound guy' worth the name would have done this.

This sounds like to me like a classic on-camera mic recording made in a lousy location.

Hopefully someone can at least give me some details on what plugins to use and how to fix this particular clip at least.


Not everything is fixable and plug-ins aren't magic.

If you can find someone with the kind of expertise, tools and time to do what Dan has described you might be able to make this a bit better, but not much. And that someone would cost way more than a half decent sound recordist would have done and take way longer than an experienced ADR engineer will need to re-dub it.

I think the best thing is to chalk this one up as a serious learning experience, and start again.

Sorry for the lecture.

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Re: Filmmaker needs advice!

Postby RSStudios » Thu Sep 16, 2010 4:20 pm

"Feature" means "feature length" and has nothing to do with the scale or budget of a production.

As far as the sound, the rest of it is nowhere near as bad. Guess it's gonna have to be ADR.
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Re: Filmmaker needs advice!

Postby dmills » Thu Sep 16, 2010 4:49 pm

Agreed, learning experience.

Hugh, I think you are right, this does sound like an on camera mic doesn't it. Did someone cheap out on actually having a recordist at all?

I spent about 20 minutes monkeying with it in Octave and audacity, (plus a few tools of my own creation) out of curiosity and you can easily push the noise down by 10db or so, pushing it down further then that gets tricky (artefacts) but can be done, and the AGC pumping can indeed be mostly removed (custom software - feedforward downward expander with LONG IIR filter in the sidechain, which makes the noise constant and also gets you about 6db improvement in the dynamics), which leaves you something good enough for the local news.

That is however a LONG way from good enough for feature release and even if you go back in and gate the hell out of it, then return to the location and record some room tone, the result will never be natural.

To take that little piece of audio as far as I can would take me a week and cost well north of a grand (And still wouldn't be that good), ADR or re shoot really is your best option.

It is terrifying how often I see this sort of thing (About once a week at one point) pretty visuals but completely unusable sound. I suspect that the film courses are not teaching anything about the actual business of capturing good audio, and the fact that good audio kit costs as much as a not so cheap camera tends to be an unwelcome surprise.

Regards, Dan.
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Re: Filmmaker needs advice!

Postby Exalted Wombat » Thu Sep 16, 2010 9:34 pm

dmills wrote:It is terrifying how often I see this sort of thing (About once a week at one point) pretty visuals but completely unusable sound. I suspect that the film courses are not teaching anything about the actual business of capturing good audio, and the fact that good audio kit costs as much as a not so cheap camera tends to be an unwelcome surprise.

That was ok under the old assumption that location sound was only a guide, re-recording was a given. I thought the move now was towards getting it right in the first place!
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Re: Filmmaker needs advice!

Postby Zukan » Fri Sep 17, 2010 8:47 am

reid wrote:Well, ADR for the entire movie will do the trick - but then you're then going to be left having to tracklay the entire movie from the ground up. Atmos, foley, fx.... it'd be great fun!

I know m8. I meant it wasn't an option in terms of dropping in occasioanlly. I still think a reshoot is the best way forward.
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Re: Filmmaker needs advice!

Postby Zukan » Fri Sep 17, 2010 8:48 am

I'd also throw it at Cedar and let them come out with a quote. That would give a reference for whether to budget for the reshoot or not.
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Re: Filmmaker needs advice!

Postby Rob456 » Tue Sep 21, 2010 3:13 am

RSStudios wrote:And Keefey, we're not all working with infinite budgets here and access to folks in the know. We have to deal with what we have to work on projects that are dear to our hearts and at the end of the day, get stuff done. Asking for help here not a lecture. Trust me, I know. We got screwed by a shitty sound-guy and equipment.

Thanks everyone! Hopefully someone can at least give me some details on what plugins to use and how to fix this particular clip at least.

Nonsense. It costs piratically nothing these days to record sound a thousand times better than you have there. There's also loads of people out there who would have helped you out recording sound for free. Ive seen many messages on boards from sound engineers willing to do it out completely free just so they can get a foot in the door, something for the CV., but they seem to be completely ignored.

I have tried to hook up with budding film makers on Vimeo to do some visual for music (and yeah its good music), but as soon as I try I'm confronted with "how much" which is strange considering the people I have approached do it as a hobby, or im just ignored. I don't really know why this is but there's a hint of ego in there I think.
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