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Excessive Ess-es. What causes them


Henchman
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As some of you might now, I am a re-recording mixer.

Do any of you know why some projects suffer from extreme explosive ess-es?

When you see the waveform, the ess-eh can be as loud and louder than the rest of the dialog.

Is there anything I can pass in to the location guy to prevent thus?

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If the person is being miked with a boom try aiming more at the forehead or chest instead of directly at the mouth. The mic might have a brighter frequency characteristic rather than a smooth response and is exaggerating the person's essey voice characteristic. The subject doesn't know how to modulate their voice and is pushing too much air on certain words. Combine that with a dry mouth (maybe nervous)and all kinds of weird mouth noises happen. If they're on a lav, try a different position if possible, or a lav with less of a bright response.

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there are actors (mostly female) who have these types of sibilants. maybe deep in their subconscience they might be concerned about not be heard. But that ist some personal guess only. In my experience this pattern comes along with fast speakers and rather low voices.

as a location sound guy, I can

.) use mics with less high freq boost for those actors. Sennheiser 416 and to less extent 8060 shotguns put additional emphasis on ssss frequencies, which is helpful for intellegibility of dialogue, but also boosts those unwanted sibilants. A foam windshield on a 8060 already helps a little, using e.g. a Neumann, Schoeps or DPA Shotgun is better. Nevertheless I love my 8060s for their punch and clarity even from the distance, but they are only 2nd choice for sizzling speakers.

.) make use of the EQ. Start trying around 7500 - 8000 hz, -3 dB Q= 1

.) hidden Lavs are less susceptible to sizzling SSS nouns, cardioids are also doing better, shotguns are worse as they pick up most of the esses energy

best Axel

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As Jason said, a faulty mic or maybe something else in the recording chain that isn't set up right. I had a substitute I hired for my son's show last year that delivered sound similar to what you're describing. I tried to get to the bottom of it but never got a definitive answer. It was the same on lav or boom, quiet or noisy background. I'm pretty sure it was the limiters on the mixer. I could hear they were getting slammed and everything sounded brittle and crunchy. Maybe not the exact same issue but something to think about.

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Some people just talk that way, it some cases with so much sibilance that they actually whistle as they speak.  There are some fairly famous VO and on camera talent who have this issue, even.  As a location soundie about all I can do is "aim off" a bit or change mics if I have time and the new mic works as well in that situation for the other talent, BG noise, wideness of shot etc.  In general I've found that longer mics, esp interference tube shotguns, seem to make the problem worse--switching to the venerable MK41 or etc usually helps.  I don't stress a whole lot about this anymore since I know how to fix sibilance pretty well in post without too much effort. 

 

philp

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Yea, certain people are terrible and the 416 has a high end boost.also,as has been said have them angle the mic. away from the mouth until they think it's acceptable. 

 

                                                                                       J.D.

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Some people just talk that way, it some cases with so much sibilance that they actually whistle as they speak. There are some fairly famous VO and on camera talent who have this issue, even. As a location soundie about all I can do is "aim off" a bit or change mics if I have time and the new mic works as well in that situation for the other talent, BG noise, wideness of shot etc. In general I've found that longer mics, esp interference tube shotguns, seem to make the problem worse--switching to the venerable MK41 or etc usually helps. I don't stress a whole lot about this anymore since I know how to fix sibilance pretty well in post without too much effort.

philp

This. I have heard it so bad before from one talent in particular that I thought at first I had a broken COS-11D. He was indeed almost whistling certain parts of words. And it was a red dot COS-11D to boot. It is what it is.

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After you've ruled out the mics and transmitters (and the actors), don't forget room acoustics. Reverb times are by no means linear across the band, and a small bright hard-walled room can emphasize sibilance (particularly when an actor is facing certain directions). 

 

Inverse square says this will be more noticeable with booms than lavs, of course.

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+1 on compander issue. I experienced it heavily with older HiDyn plus and HDX. The only chance to lower the effect was to reduce the level, so it becomes overall too low in technical aspects.

Mostly happening with women having perfect teeth.

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I have seen some mixers routinely boost the high end on all their channels for every mic... they do this thinking the windscreens or buried lavs loose the high end.. so they boost it...  If this was the case it may of made things sound this way... high end a bit cooked... couple that with many of the fine suggestions so far and that may of been the cause...

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A COS-11 is particularly noticable for sibilance. Operate into a mis-adjusted, or mis-tracking, transmitter and you have a "perfect storm" situation, sibilance-wise.

However, to properly diagnose the root cause in the stated situation, the entire recording chain should be known.

Can you give us an idea about what transmitter adjustments you mean? And what other things to look for in the signal chain?
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This is may be where Eric Toline was leading with his recommendation to look up "Dry Mouth Sibilance."

 

Some recording engineers recommend having the sibilant talent eat an apple (or apple slices) just prior to recording. The apple seems to absorb extra moisture in the mouth that accentuates sibilance.

 

Advice more suitable to studio recording than production but apples are often available from the crafts service table, so it could be helpful in production as well.

 

David

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I've done all the apple and apple juice things, but they've never helped me with sibilance, they do help (for a short time) with mouth noise like tongue drops and drymouth (try to get VO talent to avoid coffee right before the session).   But the apple effect wears off pretty fast if the speaker has a lot to say….

 

Fire up your de-esser…   I sometimes end up doing edits and manual level drops on very "essey" esses.

 

philp

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Can you give us an idea about what transmitter adjustments you mean? And what other things to look for in the signal chain?

That's a huge task -- trying to outline all the specific gear and combinations of settings that might contribute to this issue would require a rather detailed white-paper.

Basically, examine anything in the recording chain that might alter the linearity of frequency response, or anything that could result in frequency-dependent phase shifts.

Even before you get to the many stages of mixing and recording electronics involved, there's: The talent -- room acoustics -- microphone choice -- microphone placement -- anything affecting the mic, such as windshields (yes, they introduce frequency dependent phase shifts) -- linearity of the preamp stage, and any pre-emphasis it might employ -- linearity of compression/decompression stages -- linearity of modulating stage, and subsequent linearity of demodulation, or A-to-D and D-to-A nonlinearity if the system employs a digital signal.

Settings? With a companding system, the linearity can be affected by too hot a signal, or too low a signal. Any compression will likely affect frequencies differently, or be triggered by them in a manner that results in nonlinearity. Proper gain setting can be crucial with even the best of wireless systems.

Then, there are all the stages of preamps, mixing busses, A-to-D in the recording process, etc., etc.

If you compound any given issue such as sibilance, the problem can become obvious, whereas the cause is much more elusive as it may be the result of a "perfect storm" of several nonlinearities combined, any one of which may not be an issue.

What all my rambling reveals -- more so than an answer to the original question -- is why expensive professional equipment triumphs over less expensive consumer gear that is accompanied by the claim "it sounds just as good."

Put more succinctly: Lots of little things add up.

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If it's all actors in a mix then blame the post mixer for keeping it bright.

 

Or it could be you listening facility.

 

Low cost radio transmitters if pushed can over deviate

 

With actor their sibilants are often caused by their front dental work especially if false!

 

mike

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