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Making the best of phone recordings

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Making the best of phone recordings

Postby ManFromGlass » Sat Dec 05, 2020 11:46 pm

I am working on a score for a solstice dance video. Some of the performers chant and the choreographer wants their voices in the video. The only option for all of them is their phones to record their voices. I’ve had test recordings sent to me and I will suggest they re-chant their parts in a closet or the closest thing to a cloth tent they can make.
I was thinking of this approach for making the files as usable as possible and perhaps you may have a suggestion or two which would be appreciated.

First I roll off as much low roomtone mush and high end hiss I can get away with. I don’t have Izotope RX but have been having success with Izotope Nectar Elements - Hide The Room Sound patch or Klevgrand Brusfri, positioned after the EQ. I’m quite surprised at how well they work - but - I’m losing a bit too much high end.
I was considering a) running the cleaned up voice through a tiny bit of pleasing distortion to bring back some high harmonics (EQing all distortion lows and mids away leaving those high harmonics) or b) using some form of exciter. I also have 2 of the UAD tape machines. Perhaps if I push those hard?
It’s nice to have a challenge like this to be working on but rather than reinvent the wheel I would think some of you have been through this already!
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Re: Making the best of phone recordings

Postby The Elf » Sun Dec 06, 2020 12:06 am

I've done some of this. For me it was all about careful EQ (dyamic EQ is very helpful), but I also simulated some replacement/enhanced esses with white noise - it worked well.
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Re: Making the best of phone recordings

Postby James Perrett » Sun Dec 06, 2020 12:24 am

A couple of thoughts...

First, don't overdo the noise reduction. Leaving a little noise helps things sound more natural.

Second, if you don't already have them, download a copy of the Reaplugs plug-ins (assuming you don't use Reaper) from the Cockos website, install them and then go for the JS Exciter by Scott Stillwell. This does the Aphex thing of generating high end from almost nothing. Other exciters that I've tried haven't been anything like as effective. It may be worth saying that adding an exciter after noise reduction is a perfectly valid technique that is used by RX's Spectral Denoise plug-in.
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Re: Making the best of phone recordings

Postby John Stafford » Sun Dec 06, 2020 1:24 am

Good idea. If you get rid of some noise, the exciter will be generating harmonics from the voices. I did this once on a film where I had to use camera sound on some scenes. I cut out the high end, and then used an exciter. It takes a bit of experimentation, but you might be surprised at how well it works.
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Re: Making the best of phone recordings

Postby Tim Gillett » Sun Dec 06, 2020 4:06 am

The "exciter" type plugins I've tried I havent got along with. Yes high frequencies were missing from the voice recording and the "exciter" did add high frequencies but they didnt make it sound convincingly like a human voice. More like distortion which if I heard it in a voice recording, I'd find grating and unnatural.

I think there's more to individual human voices. I doubt it's possible from a limited bandwidth recording to "synthesise" the actual missing overtones of that voice. Maybe if we had a long enough high quality recording of that same voice we could use that information to rebuild the poorer recording piece by piece.
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Re: Making the best of phone recordings

Postby blinddrew » Sun Dec 06, 2020 12:31 pm

Just another +1 for the JS exciter. As Tim says, don't expect miracles, but it can help a bit.
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Re: Making the best of phone recordings

Postby ManFromGlass » Sun Dec 06, 2020 1:39 pm

Unfortunately the JS Exciter is VST so a no go for Logic on Mac. But I’m encouraged by the thoughts here so will explore that route.
There’s one guy who has a ticking clock in his space and I could swear his mom is saying time for dinner through the closed door. All in a days work.
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Re: Making the best of phone recordings

Postby blakedirksen » Mon Dec 07, 2020 3:26 am

Izotope RX elements has been helping me and it is on sale for $30 now. Good deal.

This post was a great help as I was struggling with some tracks from phones today and they sounded a little lifeless after the noise removal.

Quick follow up question. When I get tracks that were recorded on a phone, they are always in stereo. I do not see any difference between the two channels. Is it worth converting to a mono track? Is there a downside to leaving the track stereo?

Thanks!
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Re: Making the best of phone recordings

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon Dec 07, 2020 10:30 am

I haven't yet seen a phone with a stereo mic built in so phone recordings presented as stereo files will be dual mono. No reason not to convert to mono by whatever means you choose.
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Re: Making the best of phone recordings

Postby blinddrew » Mon Dec 07, 2020 11:06 am

Actually my Samsung S7 has a stereo mic so it's not that uncommon. But I'd generally stick stuff like this to mono anyway.

On a related note, for the OP, I've found previously that you can get a huge difference in quality depending on what app people are using to make the recordings. Some apps seem to use the telephone mic and the quality is generally very poor, others use the video mic and the quality is much better.
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Re: Making the best of phone recordings

Postby Mike Stranks » Mon Dec 07, 2020 11:15 am

I'm dealing with voices recorded on phones all the time at the moment. They're all spoken words so it may not be relevant...

I've found that even the basic 'Voice Recorder' apps (ios and Android) work surprising well - especially on more current models of phone. Many of my contributors are either 'older people' or technophobic or both! :) With those who aren't going to be spooked I show them how to use the improved settings - basically recording WAV files.

I have found that whoever and however the recordings are made, the acoustic environment is the absolute key to a good recording. If they've recorded in a good space then the rest is comparatively easily.

I'm now exclusively using iZotope RX standard on the 'polishing' front. If necessary I'll be using:

* Voice denoise
* De-ess
* De mouth-click
* De-reverb (used sparingly and with discretion)
* EQ - high-pass usually improves things greatly as well as some careful adjustments in the 1.5k and above regions and the low-mids

Despite my gentle instruction I regularly have to contend with ticking clocks, noisy central-heating systems, other devices making their 'hello' noises and, during the summer when windows were open, our feathered-friends joining-in with gusto! People do need instruction about quiet spaces. Non-recording types just filter-out noises-off unless specifically asked to listen for them.
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Re: Making the best of phone recordings

Postby ManFromGlass » Mon Dec 07, 2020 1:40 pm

Time to check out RX for me then.
Other noises I’ve been getting include -
Sliding the phone on the surface it’s on while recording and other handling noise. Clapping while chanting, the autolimiter has fun with this. Turning the head away from the phone while singing. Baby gurgling in same room. Furnace turning on. Rubbing hands together.
All a good challenge.
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Re: Making the best of phone recordings

Postby ManFromGlass » Mon Dec 07, 2020 2:23 pm

Mike -
Which version of RX are you using?
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Re: Making the best of phone recordings

Postby James Perrett » Mon Dec 07, 2020 3:08 pm

ManFromGlass wrote:Mike -
Which version of RX are you using?

Mike mentions RX Standard - but it may be cheaper to buy RX Elements first for $29 and then upgrade to Standard rather than buy RX Standard outright.
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Re: Making the best of phone recordings

Postby ManFromGlass » Mon Dec 07, 2020 3:16 pm

It looks like Elements doesn’t include De-Reverb. Too much room tone is one of the issues I am dealing with. If the other progs I mentioned earlier can’t deal with this to an acceptable level then it looks like RX Standard is the way to go.
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