June 19, 2014

Bad Production Audio? Adobe Audition's Sound Removal Tools to the Rescue!

Few things in filmmaking are as difficult or headache-inducing as getting clean production audio while you're on set. Hence the reason that ADR is such a widespread practice throughout the narrative filmmaking industry. In almost all cases, even with the most talented boom operators and on-set mixers, there will be imperfections in the production sound. However, before scrapping the original sound for ADR (which is an incredibly time-consuming process), there are some nifty post production tricks in Adobe's lineup of programs that could save you hours upon hours of time with just a few clicks.

Although shooting on location can have its benefits, for sound recording, it's almost always an absolute nightmare. Very often we end up with unwanted sounds in our production audio -- everything from airplanes and ventilation systems to sirens and barking dogs. Luckily, Adobe Audition has some simple and extremely intuitive tools that can fix most audio dilemmas.

First up is the issue of round-tripping audio clips between Premiere Pro and Audition. The process is almost identical to the "dynamic link" between Premiere and After Effects, but with one key exception. When you're in your Premiere sequence, right click on the audio clip that you'd like to correct, then click the "Edit Clip in Audition" option. What this does is create a copy of the original audio, and that copy replaces the original in your sequence. The copy will then open up in Audition and you can begin working on it.

In this video, you can see what that round-tripping process looks like as Maxim Jago removes unwanted background noise and sirens from a piece of audio that he's using in Premiere:

Then there's the issue of removing unwanted hiss or hum from your production audio. Anyone who has ever shot in a bar or in a kitchen knows the drudgery of battling hum from refrigerators and freezers that have obnoxiously loud cooling cycles. In this video from the Infinite Skills Course Learning Adobe Audition CC, Jeff Sengstack shows us how to utilize the multitude of noise reduction tools in Audition in order to tame those nasty noises.

One of the most challenging aspects of manipulating your audio with these tools is that they can not only remove frequencies that you'd like to get rid of, but also frequencies that you need to keep. In cases where you end up removing too much of your source audio, it's a good idea to use some secondary effects within Audition in order to get your audio back to a natural sounding state. Personally, when restoring dialogue, I use an instance or two of the 10 Band Graphic Equalizer effect and some light compression in order to artificially restore the frequencies that were removed by the noise reduction plugins.

Here's a brief rundown of how to apply and manipulate effects in Audition. Usually when working with more than one effect or more than one instance of the same effect, it's best to layer those effects in the "Effect Rack" before destructively applying them to you clip.

So there you have it, a few of the quick techniques that editors can use to clean up production audio. Oftentimes it can take quite a bit of tinkering to find the perfect balance between noise reduction and total destruction of the audio file, but when that balance is found, it can drastically improve the quality of your production audio and save you from some costly ADR sessions.

Have you guys used any of Audition's noise reduction tools to clean up noisy production audio? What tips or techniques would you recommend to get the best results? Let us know down in the comments!

[via PremiumBeat]

Your Comment

20 Comments

ADR is not a painful process and can enhance a recording twofold. Done right, it is much quicker than filming and can often be done on location. It is increasingly easier these days than you think to set up your own ADR booth at home, also.

Ultimately, the fear of ADR rather than understanding the process is detrimental to everyone involved in the film making process.

Sound is 50% of the film, you wouldn't cut corners with the camera department would you?

June 19, 2014 at 10:58AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Jay

Hey Jay,
Do you have any good ADR resources? Looking to shoot a short film this summer and I want the audio to be legit. I know ADR will most likely be my best friend during this process but unfortunately I don't know much about it. Any recommendations or tips would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks!

June 19, 2014 at 11:33AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Quick question Jay. I've recorded/cut ADR on 8 feature films. Sound is great but performance is hit or miss depending on actors, time allotted and the perfectionism of the director. Not to mention scheduling all the principals even if it is a no budget film. Additional pay is mandatory for everyone on a studio or any budget shoot. That said...ADR on location? Do you mean using the shooting day on location to isolate actors and somehow playback video for them so they can attempt to match emotion and delivery while the director supervises? Sound is paramount to me as an editor...would love to hear your take on the logistics of the situation you are proposing. Thanks in advance.

June 19, 2014 at 9:03PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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ADR on dramas on location is pretty common, especially with so much edit gear on set.
You can either just get the actor to redo the line cold (no playback). Surprising how often this works.
Or you can rig up playback loop of the line (I've seen it done just with an iPad) and get it that way.

If you're doing an effect heavy/action show (GRIMM, 24 etc) then you can put a portable booth on set or in a truck. They can be pretty cheap now, even down to using one of those wrap arounds that goes on mic stands. The actor is still 'in the moment' and you have useable audio to cut the scene with ASAP.

June 20, 2014 at 2:24PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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marklondon

Recording wild tracks of dialogue (without 'looping') is an everyday occurance on location, but ADR on location is extremely rare in professional film/TV, as is having edit equipment on set. For shorts and low budget projects, then maybe.

June 22, 2014 at 9:33AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Andrew

Good luck with ADR on a documentary.

June 20, 2014 at 10:23AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Swissted

So true. Levalier mics definitely help in documentaries, but there are times when even those don't produce good sound. Audition is a wondrous thing.

June 24, 2014 at 9:54PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Rachel Naffziger

ADR in post? Tried that, worked out terribly bad. Nearly ruined a few projects.

If what you go for is realism in any of its form (fictional, documental, narrative, etc), then I'd recommend staying away from ADR, no matter how small the budget. Lip sync can be hard too.

Similarly, if sound elements can be captured on location, then do it! Why recording foleys when you can get natural sounds on the spot? That's not always feasible though, unfortunately.

June 29, 2014 at 8:07AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Raph Dae

That's impressive taking the siren out. Didn't know you could do that in Audition. Amazing tool.

June 19, 2014 at 11:14AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Mike Wilson

Audition has some very nice NR application, but that's because it uses Izotope's Sound Engine for some process. I recommend using Izotope RX3 for this kind of work, it's the best Noise reduction & restoration software on the market, Its like the Neat video for audio. Also Izotope has a NR hardware that it's incredible but it cost a fortune :P https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M874m5YiGkk

June 19, 2014 at 11:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Wild Ranger

I'm not a professional audio engineer, and I'm not paid by anyone to say this, but being a videographer who has struggled with trying to salvage bad audio, let me tell you: iZotope RX3 is nothing short of magic. Most software can do noise reduction, but iZotope can do it better. Most software can de-reverb, but iZotope can do it better. Most software can sweeten sound, but iZotope can do it better. But what blows me away the most is its Declip module, which can recover clipped details. Don't ask me how. Magic?

June 19, 2014 at 1:00PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Sangye

I'll second that! I picked it up when it was on sale a while back and it has been amazing.

During an interview, my producer's iPhone went off with that annoying marimba ring tone. I managed to remove it and save some rather important dialog.

June 19, 2014 at 3:56PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Ben Ehrlich

ADR is not hard at all. Make your edit with location sound then go back and ADR with each actor. It's pretty simple. The director has to be willing to direct and not try to make them sound just the same. I find ADR a great way to fine tune my directing and my actors performance. Directors have to be willing to move on however and not do a million ADR takes. I average just 3, just like the way I shoot.

June 19, 2014 at 2:17PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Darren Orange

These are lovely. They are, however, not a replacement for good production sound. I've been on prime time TV shows as a dialogue editor, where mixers and editors alike will prefer to have noise production sound that has fullness and depth than production sound that has been bitten into with heavy NR. It's fine when you play it on your computer or even on TV speakers, but in a theater it's a nightmare and you can tell right away.

Good NR is like nuclear power. It can either provide electricity to the village when used responsibly and sparingly or it can destroy the village in horrific radioactive meltdown.

June 19, 2014 at 6:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Marcelo

Interesting video but in my opinion the quality of the examples at the end of the process is just not good enough. It sounds metallic, unnatural I wouldn't dear to show that to a client. In my opinion the best is to make the most possible on location, if you have to ADR, record all your sound separately on location (except for dialog) . Even when I had access to a good database of sound I almost always end up using the sound we had record on set.

June 20, 2014 at 12:17AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Antoine

What a stupid example, ok, sirens are gone, but cant even hear what person is saying.

June 20, 2014 at 4:01AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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tolix

I second what you're saying, but not how you're saying it, and in what form. Learn to spell right because if you want to be taken seriously in this industry you'll have to give the impression you're somehow literate.

Also this ain't Youtube man; it's cool to criticise, but do it with flair!

June 29, 2014 at 8:13AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Raph Dae

The example with the siren is brutal, ouch.

Izotope RX is indeed a great tool, you can really retouch the audio as if it was photoshop. In a way you can work the same way as with stamping tool. And the parts of the audio that you don't touch are kept very heathy.

For dereverbing Zynaptiq Unveil is much better tool than RX. They also have other interesting plugins.

June 20, 2014 at 6:51AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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matucha

Just popped by to say that Audition is pretty bloody useful once you get into it.
If you're already a CC customer its almost a no-brainer.

/My fav is the multi-band comp preset 'Kill the Harshness'. Great name, nice effect.

June 20, 2014 at 2:27PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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marklondon

Great tutorials - especially the second one. I did think it was ironic that the audio level on the second video is so low. I had to turn my MacBook speakers all the way up :)

June 21, 2014 at 2:49AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Jacob