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Mixing choir recording made on mobile phones?

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Mixing choir recording made on mobile phones?

Postby dickiefunk » Thu Nov 12, 2020 11:06 pm

Hi,

I'm currently starting a charity Christmas project with a choir + band and for a video. All the singers have recorded themselves on mobile phones and sent me the audio to mix.
Most of the audio clips have very poor audio quality with lots of noise, phasey digital artifacts and some are clipping!!

Does anyone have any experience at mixing this sort of project and have any advice/tips they could share?
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Re: Mixing choir recording made on mobile phones?

Postby The Elf » Thu Nov 12, 2020 11:25 pm

Best I can say is take it for what it is.

Recently I had to work with a phone-recorded piece of speech as a voice-over for a guitar and strings track. With a bit of tweakery (heavy EQ cuts mainly) I got something that sounds like a decent mic was used, but I did have to create a few artificial 'esses' with synth noise.

But if it was done on phones, then celebrate that, rather than trying to fix it extensively. As audio people we feel we have to get everything to sound amazingly hi-fi, but sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture, and it is what it is - don't hide that!
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Re: Mixing choir recording made on mobile phones?

Postby Aural Reject » Thu Nov 12, 2020 11:27 pm

It’s a case of making the best fist of it that you can with what you’ve been given, really.

It you’ve got something that’s critical but under par, and you have the opportunity to ask for it again then do so.

Other than that, you can run things through declipping plugins and other associated rescue techniques...bury things that don’t work in the mix or leave them out...bend it with EQ, create a space with reverb...anything you need to do to make it work.
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Re: Mixing choir recording made on mobile phones?

Postby blinddrew » Thu Nov 12, 2020 11:57 pm

Going heavy with the HPF and LPF is worth doing too, especially if you've got a lot of sources. Really bracket it down to the key content.
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Re: Mixing choir recording made on mobile phones?

Postby shufflebeat » Fri Nov 13, 2020 12:20 am

Terribly reproduced performances are generally unwelcome unless the technical limitations are a feature of the meaning of the project, like listening to ancient wax disc recordings or field recordings of folk singers with limited vocal skills.

In that case a pristine recording would be just another pristine recording.
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Re: Mixing choir recording made on mobile phones?

Postby Mike Stranks » Fri Nov 13, 2020 12:35 am

On a weekly basis I'm working with several recordings made in this way. Admittedly it's speech, not singing, but in some ways a solo voice shows more obvious artefacts.

I've managed to train most people so that what I'm getting is broadly acceptable. However some recordings are still leaving a lot to be desired.

As I started this process I upgraded from iZotope Elements to iZotope Standard and that investment has made life much easier.

Like all 'fixit' tools the various elements have to be used with care and some fine tuning, but it's first-class in operation, easy to use and has more than justified the outlay I made. I can now transform something that arrives as 'Hmmm' to 'That's much better'. 'Voice Denoise', 'Spectral Denoise', 'De-ess', 'De-mouth-click', 'De-breath' are all getting regular outings and, used carefully, 'De-Reverb' is also surprisingly effective. The results are improving as I'm learning how to get the best out of powerful tools. I find the EQ module very easy to use too...

But as others have said, make of it what you can and accept the limitations.
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Re: Mixing choir recording made on mobile phones?

Postby forumuser840717 » Fri Nov 13, 2020 1:26 am

Why not just refuse to have anything to do with it on the grounds that it's nothing more than attempting to polish/lacquer/glitter coat turds that serves the best interests of neither the music nor the performers?

There's already more than enough awfully recorded, direly perfromed, tenth rate renditions flooding the internet and really no need for yet another one from yet another 'socially distanced choir' where the only excuse for its existence is that it's been recorded under 'Covid rules' to show how "fun", "clever" and "progressive" the self-indulgent MD is when normally it would never have seen the light of day (nor even have been made!) under the most basic of common sense musical good taste rules.

When the first one of these came out (years before Covid) as a novelty and people said set 'ahhhh, isn't it clever how they've done that', even though it asn't really very good despite having been technically worked to death to get it vaguely in time, in tune and balanced to pass some kind of basic quality scrutiny, that was enough if not already one version too many. Since then it's been one ridiculous, half-arsed abomination after another, often produced by groups which wouldn't be able to make a decent recording even in the best possible circmustances, let alone now, and it's not funny any more.

The dreadfulness of this seemingly endless torrent of rubbish isn't a positive, charming thing, nor is it indicative of some kind of stoic resourcefulness, it's just tedious, requiring a complete suspension of musical taste and critical faculties. Anyone still wanting to perform on one of these terrible things should be banned from performing anywhere, ever again and sent on a musical awareness course to understand the difference between good and "yet another absolutely minging socially distanced performance"! Though it's interesting how people can re-calibrate their own sense of embarrassment enough to think people might want to hear them.

There are reasons that nobody in their right mind would ever normally record anything this way expecting to infliict it on anyone else as anything other than a bad musical joke or to "impress" members of their family too elderly and befuddled to have a clue what they're hearing, much less to care, and those reasons don't magically go away because the only thing that's changed is that it isn't practical to get together to rehearse and record properly.

Bah! Humbug!

I'll go and take my tablets now.
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Re: Mixing choir recording made on mobile phones?

Postby Aural Reject » Fri Nov 13, 2020 1:53 am

forumuser840717 wrote:I'll go and take my tablets now.

That kind of day, is it? :bouncy:
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Re: Mixing choir recording made on mobile phones?

Postby Tim Gillett » Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:13 am

A little preparation can make a difference. eg: the voice recording app in my cheap mobile phone offers "high" or "low" quality recording. If everyone in the choir had been asked to switch their phones to the high quality mode that would probably have have helped.

Similarly, offering the participants simple guidance as to how closely to sing into the phone's mic, and to try and maintain that distance: the sort of advice we normally offer questioners here probably applies even more so when using less capable recording gear.
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Re: Mixing choir recording made on mobile phones?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Nov 13, 2020 12:21 pm

dickiefunk wrote:I'm currently starting a charity Christmas project with a choir + band and for a video. All the singers have recorded themselves on mobile phones and sent me the audio to mix. Most of the audio clips have very poor audio quality with lots of noise, phasey digital artifacts and some are clipping!!

Does anyone have any experience at mixing this sort of project and have any advice/tips they could share?

:D Don't get involved is the best advice that comes to mind... :lolno:

But that would be a bit pots and kettles, as I ended up working on one of these virtual concerts in the first lockdown, and am now involved in a Christmas service thing much like yours.

And while I completely understand my learned colleague's strong misgivings described at length above, I don't entirely agree when it comes to local community efforts which are only intended for -- and will only ever be shared amongst -- that local community. For these people it can be a positive, enjoyable and much appreciated project.

However, when it comes to complete amateurs recording at home, the quality is always going to be poor. That's just inevitable.

You can try to minimise the problems with a list of recommendations -- listen to the backing track on earphones, record in a well furnished room, set the recording level too low rather than too high, prop the phone on something rather than hand holding... etc etc...) but most will ignore all requests and do their own thing anyway. So you have to resign yourself to a lot of turd-polishing and cleaning things up as best you can.

The first step is to remove distortions, clicks, thumps, wind noise and any other unwanted contributions using RX or an equivalent. The biggest problem after that will be that the vocals are coloured strongly by the recording environments' acoustics, and you'll have to use quite large amounts of EQ to even things out.

Again, it's a case of improving, rather than perfecting. It will never sound like a studio recording, so don't try. Just remove the worse of the boomy resonances... The Spectral Recovery module in RX8 is quite handy for breathing some life back into phone recordings -- or you could use (carefully) a spectral exciter plugin.

And then it comes down to mixing in a way to maximise the strong signers and minimises (but don't remove) the weaker ones. In a community project everyone will want to think they can identify their own voice somewhere in the mix!

Good luck.... the organ backing tracks I recorded before lockdown have just been sent out for my own village's virtual Christmas Carol service, and I'm recording the Minister's readings for it this weekend... The bit I'm dreading most in the project is the local infant school's contribution, which is being recorded on an iPad by the headmistress!
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Re: Mixing choir recording made on mobile phones?

Postby Luke W » Fri Nov 13, 2020 1:06 pm

I did exactly this for a project at work at the start of the first lockdown, everything recorded individually at home on phones. Luckily everyone involved had the guide track in earphones/headphones and stood close enough to their devices so the starting point was actually fairly good.

As Hugh has said above, you have to accept it for what it is. It won't turn out like a perfect recording in one room, but with some careful work it can do surprisingly well. I was really pleased by how ours turned out. I managed to get away with some fairly brutal edits in parts, there was enough going on in busy parts to be able to cut a word that clips completely in one part and then hide it with everyone else for example!

It was certainly easier than the video that went with it, but that says more about my video knowledge than anything...
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Re: Mixing choir recording made on mobile phones?

Postby CS70 » Fri Nov 13, 2020 1:23 pm

forumuser840717 wrote:There's already more than enough awfully recorded, direly perfromed, tenth rate renditions flooding the internet and really no need for yet another one

There's a saying in Italy: every beetle is beautiful to his mother.

For a person, these these aren't generically horrible recordings, but they are *their own* horrible recordings.. makes all the difference :D
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Re: Mixing choir recording made on mobile phones?

Postby Aural Reject » Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:48 pm

CS70 wrote:
forumuser840717 wrote:There's already more than enough awfully recorded, direly perfromed, tenth rate renditions flooding the internet and really no need for yet another one

There's a saying in Italy: every beetle is beautiful to his mother.

For a person, these these aren't generically horrible recordings, but they are *their own* horrible recordings.. makes all the difference :D

He’s understandably still irritated that I had him distance watching some of the ‘interesting’ things unfurling on a recent online ‘competition’ for such videos...including me taking a, er, panning for crap panning (and to be completely fair he’s right now I’ve relistened to it)...I’m surprised I’m not persona non grata after that experience!
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Re: Mixing choir recording made on mobile phones?

Postby blakedirksen » Fri Nov 13, 2020 7:55 pm

Thanks for all the ideas. I am clearly not the only one helping their church out with some sound mixing. We have done one so far and shared it with our church only. It is the worst audio production I have done in decades and it is the one that I get the most heartfelt comments of gratitude on. A mediocre performance of your church or other community can be a moment of light in an otherwise dark year.

Thanks again for all the tips, as always.
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Re: Mixing choir recording made on mobile phones?

Postby shufflebeat » Fri Nov 13, 2020 9:05 pm

While all this is hugely valuable in technical terms it's also worth remembering the value is in the process rather than the outcome.
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