Bad audio is a reasonable cause for panic in most wedding editors. Only so much can be done to rescue badly recorded audio. A good wedding videographer goes through great lengths to ensure she captures good audio with a combination of on-camera microphones, wireless lavalieres and external audio recording devices. When I edit a wedding, I almost always need to use every audio source I have been given for various parts of the final wedding video.
Occasionally I receive a wedding containing bad audio. Unfortunately, sometimes some of the audio CANNOT BE SAVED. On crime shows and spy movies, techs are often seen taking a bad sound bite and “restoring” it into a perfectly clear audio file.
IT DOESN’T WORK THIS WAY!! Watching these scenes can be infuriating for some editors because many clients expect perfect quality restored audio. That is how they’ve seen it done on TV.
Below is a sentence from an audio restoration I performed recently. It is not wedding because I am using a very exaggerated example.
Often, when you improve one aspect of audio, you will have to sacrifice another aspect of audio.
- Boosting audio volume will introduce hiss and noise. – show boosted audio but with hiss
- Reducing hiss and noise can sometimes create a slight echo. – reduce hiss to show echo
- Trying to reduce the echo can sometimes cause the overall gain to drop drastically.
This is what I call The Circle of Hell of audio editing. It’s possible to improve quality of your audio up to a certain point, but the window is pretty small before you start sacrificing quality in one area or another.
When working with audio, I find it best to work in this order; Audio levels, noise reduction and reverb reduction.
How to boost audio
Normalize! This is a great effect because it boosts the audio the same amount across the board while limiting the peaks to the volume you choose. I recommend between -5db and -2db so that there is room for adding more than one channel of audio without distorting the audio.
How to reduce hiss and noise
Very often, if I am editing a wedding in Adobe Premiere, I try to edit my sound in Premiere as well. Not for noise reduction. Adobe Audition has a great feature where you can create a sound print from a second or two of your ambient noise (if you have any available on your clip). Once you have your sound print sample, when you apply the noise reduction to your clip, it does a fairly good job of cutting out the hiss and hums of ambient background noise.
How to reduce echo
Good luck to you. Kidding. But really, it is very hard to completely cut out all echo from a sound clip. Often, you can improve what you have a little bit, but never remove it. In my opinion, compression effects such as dynamic processing or multi-band compressor will be your best friend. I have used a single-band compressor before with pretty good results, but industry professionals recommend multi for full-mix audio. When audio is compressed, it means that the high and low range is clipped and all of the audio is kind of pushed together a little bit creating a louder more solid sound without raising the actual volume of the clip.
What if I cannot rescue this soundbite?
Often, there isn’t much you can do to fix audio. Background music is a great coverup for a bad recording. When all else fails, reduce the attention being drawn to the audio issue by mixing in a music bed underneath the affected audio and hope for the best.
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