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Editing Audio - workflow, what processes to use and in what order?


Joe Riggs
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Hello,

 

I was wondering what is the traditional workflow for editing audio (cleanup, amplify, etc..), the process used as well as the best order:

 

Would you Normalize first, then noise reduction, then EQ, then amplify? I just don't know what the best procedure is.

 

 

Also if you have a track where the dialogue audio levels vary wildly, some quiet, some loud, what is the best process or processes to use that will result in a consistent audio level?

 

Thansk       

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I would also recommend using a specific audio editing/mixing application like Pro Tools to do what the o.p. is talking about. Don't try to do this in a video editing program. They're just not fully-featured enough to really tweak dialogue and get the most out of it.

 

Plug-ins like iZotope RX4 can really help a lot, too, at least with problematic dialogue. 

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I would also recommend using a specific audio editing/mixing application like Pro Tools to do what the o.p. is talking about. Don't try to do this in a video editing program. They're just not fully-featured enough to really tweak dialogue and get the most out of it.

 

+1

And besides, they're limited to frames.

In most programs, you have to edit on frame lines. Dialog edits can be much smaller than 1/24 second... some consonants are shorter than 10 ms!

The few programs will let you nudge an in-point precisely... then nudge the out-point to match, so the clip is still an integral number of frames.

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I'm going to try to answer the OP's question, but from the point of view of a film-maker and sound recordist who has worked on sound post for documentary films: 

 

     First the editor cuts the piece and along the way she will make volume changes. These changes may be saved if they can exported and carried over to ProTools. Or they may get tossed. When the picture is locked (usually an optimistic assessment ) , we do a spotting session and go through the film, making notes about all aspects of the sound track, Dialogue , Music, EFX, and Ambiances. The spotting session yields a list of fixes (which I put on an Excell spreadsheet) : clunky edits that need smoothing, music that needs replacing, words that for whatever reason are unclear and can be fixed, ambiances and fx that need to be added, de-noising dialogue that can benefit from de-noising ( minimally!) , adding gain to sounds that were recorded too low in the field, and a ton of other stuff , but no EQ.

 

Then after working through that list , there's another spotting session and the list is updated, and this cycle continues until eventually we end up with D, M, E, and A tracks that are un-mixed and not EQ'd that go to the final re-recording mix sessions.

 

The final mix is where D tracks get EQ'd and that happens in a quality mixing studio that is set up like a little theater with really good audio monitors that are set-up properly. And the film is gone through scene by scene, EQing and mixing the separate elements and building the sound track. It's a very cool time because that's like the birth of the film , where it really starts to come to life. You're seeing it and hearing it in new ways. And you're collaborating with the re-recording mixer who can really bring a lot of skill and taste and creative experience to the project. The re-recording mixer can fix things and solve problems that you may never have been able to do on your own (like the wildly varying audio levels that the OP mentioned.)

 

But it's also expensive to do a mix in a quality studio setting.

 

If you're doing the mix in your home studio, you're going to miss out on that collaboration, but you'll have more time to work things out on your own, and you can follow basically the same process. But if your home work station has low quality monitors , or monitors that are "flattering" but not flat then your EQ adjustments will be skewed. Or even if you've got good monitors at home, there's still many variables that can fool your ears. You need to do a reality check. So when you get close to finishing, take your mix project to a good studio and pay for a playback session with a mixer sitting in on the listen. This is a great way to educate yourself.

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