iZotope RX8 & Podcast Production (First Impressions)

iZotope RX8 & Podcast Production (First Impressions)

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10 SEPTEMBER 2020

written by Mike

IZOTOPE RX8 & PODCAST PRODUCTION

For people who aren’t familiar with iZotope, they make a highly respectable, top of the shelf tools for producers and audio engineers – everything from mixing, mastering to, of course, audio restoration.

On 1st of September, they released the latest version of their audio restoration tool, RX8 and I got the update as soon as I woke up! Just kidding, I did check it out on their website first.

I use iZotope software for all my work. Some time ago, when I was still collecting plugins I decided that I will focus on just a handful of them and try to master them. I wanted to limit myself consciously. I find freedom in certain restrictions. 

I used iZotope stuff the most, so I stayed with them.

I use Neutron for mixing, Ozone for mastering and of course RX for audio restoration. I started on RX4 back at my previous job at the movie studio, but for podcasting, I bought version 5 and upgraded from there. I also tend to get the upgrades with the Post Production suite rather than buying single plugins.

I use RX every day, I have my module chains, my shortcuts, my workflow. I was looking forward to RX8, wondering what they will come up with.

After they released the video, I watched it first, and even though I didn’t feel like post-production modules got the most significant upgrade and I thought they focused on music production more, I decided to get it.

I bought it as part of Post Production suite 5 upgrade. I could upgrade for 299 dollars from RX7 Advanced to RX8, or from Post Production suite 4 to 5. In Post Production suite, I had most of the tools already except for Nectar 3, so that was an easy choice.

The install was easy with their Product Portal, and I authorised to my iLok.

After the initial launch, I imported my presets and wanted to set up my keyboard shortcuts. 

When I upgraded from RX6 to RX7, preset import didn’t work that well. It didn’t get the modules nor the settings right, and I ended up re-doing everything manually.

What pleasantly surprised me was that import from RX7 to 8 was easy and worked well. I doubled checked the modules and settings, and they were on point.

All the keyboard shortcuts were automatically implemented as well, and I didn’t have to do anything at all.

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I mentioned RX7 full-screen performance in a post about my system upgrade, but long story short my 2015 iMac wasn’t happy with the full screen, so I have the window a bit smaller. I wondered if RX8 performance would change in that regard, but no. It was laggy when I made it full screen.

Fortunately, I am updating my iMac to the latest model, and it should be delivered in a few weeks. Hopefully, on a new and faster system, I will be able to operate in full-screen mode.

I work on module chains with various De-clicks, De-noise and others. However, I don’t think any of these were changed. If they updated the actual algorithm – I don’t know. But the ones I use every day and with module chains look the same.

The first significant and helpful improvement is horizontal scrolling. I use Magic Mouse, so this will be a big help. In the past, I had to operate with keyboard shortcuts and drag the screen from the window’s edge to move around. 

This update will make editing much faster and easier.

The interface looks the same, so no big changes there. 

What about new modules?

First one is Guitar De-Noise. It looks cool and will help guitar players to make their recordings cleaner. I won’t be needing it for the foreseeable future for podcast production though.

One option that may be beneficial is amp/buzz removal. Some dialogue clips that I work with suffer from that, so maybe this tool could help with cleaning them up.

Next one is Spectral Recovery. Now, this is interesting. It takes audio with limited frequencies like a Skype or phone call and tries to rebuild higher frequencies.

This is the tool that made my decision to upgrade, to be honest. At this moment I’m working on two Casefile Presents podcasts that have a tonne of audio clips – phone calls, remote recordings, location recordings. Most of them are of mediocre quality.

I decided to use Spectral Recovery on some of the clips.

 

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The verdict?

The render is relatively slow, similar to the old Dialogue Isolate. Of course, the performance may be better on a new iMac.

Second of all, it doesn’t work 100% perfect yet. 

Especially if you set a higher value of added frequencies, it seems to work great on sibilance – words like she, search, case. But it creates a weird effect where the sibilance is prominent and sounds out of place. So what I’ve been doing is setting the amount to quite low, around 20% and sibilance balance to -50. It still makes some of them stand out, which I then had to erase with Insert Silence manually.

When it works, it adds a little bit of presence to the clips, but it’s not a game-changer. However, I think that the idea behind this technology could be an absolute game-changer in the future versions. If they could rebuild the fundamental frequency so that it sounds natural, that could be amazing.

They’ve also improved Music Rebalance which I don’t use – although it would be beneficial back in the past when I was remixing Silent Waves podcast from just stereo MP3 files.

Loudness module update – again, I don’t use it within RX. I use iZotope Loudness Control standalone plugin.

Wow & Flutter – this looks cool, but I don’t know if it will be helpful for dialogue and podcasting.

A few more that were improved as well were De-Hum and Dialogue Isolate.

I used De-Hum in the past, but I wasn’t impressed with it, even in version 7 of RX. As I was working on draft 2 of one of the episodes, there were some clips recorded in a room with a very audible hum.

I cleaned it before, but it was still there. So, I applied the new RX8 De-hum module, and I was pleasantly surprised. It is definitely an improvement, and I’ve run adaptive mode once and once more with the Learn option, both very quite helpful. 

Now Dialogue Isolate

I love this module, but it was very slow in RX7, it takes ages to render but incredibly helpful in podcasting. 

They updated it in RX8, and again, I tried it on some clips for the upcoming Casefile Presents show. Clips I’ve already cleaned up, with previous Dialogue Isolate. I rerun it to check if it helps, and it does! 

Not only that, but the render is also much faster than previously so this one is actually what got me excited.

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With Casefile I’m spoiled. The show features one narrator who records in his vocal booth on an excellent mic. I’m used to good quality.

However, Casefile Presents shows are a challenge because they feature interviews, location clips, phone calls, archives and just different types of audio with varied audio quality.

Therefore I need more tools than just de-click, and simple de-noise in my arsenal and RX8 offers that.

Ok, so what’s the verdict?

Overall the performance is better, and even running my module chain I felt like it cleans up the dialogues better than in RX7 so that they may have improved stuff under the hood as well.

It’s a solid update, even though it seems like they did focus on music production this time rather than dialogue post-production. Maybe because their modules for dialogue are what’s enough? Just need improvement here and there.

Should you get the upgrade?

I’m excited about iZotope machine learning technology, and I love their stuff. I also do this every day, and I use their tools every day, so for myself, it was a no-brainer if I want to keep on top of it. However, I also know that their software can be pricey, especially the advanced versions.

I would suggest first to download their trial versions and learn it. See if it helps in your workflow.

Then look at the modules, what you use and what’s helpful and choose the version you need. They have three, Elements, Standard and Advanced.

RX8 is not a revolution if you are upgrading from RX7, but it’s a solid progression and makes work more enjoyable for sure. At least for me!

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Updating My Podcasting System

Updating My Podcasting System

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13 MAY 2020

written by Mike

UPDATING MY

PODCASTING SYSTEM

 

New system updates, new plugins, new software.  Updating your workstation always seems like a good idea, but how is it really?

Today I will be writing a more technical post, detailing my recent adventures with system updates.

My main workstation is a late 2015 27inch iMac, which I purchased in 2016.

I initially bought it with 8GB of original RAM and upgraded to 20GB straight away with 2 x 8GB RAM modules from Crucial. One module of original 4GB RAM and 2 x 8GB RAM from Crucial.

I maxed out the RAM to 32GB a few months ago.

A quick digression – I couldn’t initially max out the RAM because the original memory comes in 2 x 4GB modules and I didn’t have enough cash for four 8GB Crucial modules.

Why didn’t I leave two 4GB modules of original memory which would give me 24GB of RAM?

Well, it seems that the iMac does not like mixing RAM modules from different manufacturers when all the slots are taken. So I had to work with 20GB for a bit which was 1 x 4GB or RAM from Apple plus 2 x 8GB RAM from Crucial.

 

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A year ago or so I bought another 2x8GB RAM from Crucial, got rid of Apple original memory and I now have 4 x 8GB of Crucial RAM, 32GB in total, which is a maximum for my iMac.

For years I’ve worked on the original OS which was El Capitan. I’ve also worked on Pro Tools 12.4 which was the latest version that I could have with my perpetual license (which I purchased with Pro Tools 9 years ago). 

A couple of months ago a few things happened.

I decided to buy a new Macbook Pro as the new 16inch model came out.

I had an old MacBook Pro 15inch early 2011 which I upgraded with RAM and SSD hard drive, but it was now too old to do anything except simple work. Besides that, the graphics chip on the motherboard failed and I had to disable it. The laptop served me well, but it was time to say goodbye and I needed a proper machine to do remote work.

I pulled a plug and got a new Macbook Pro 16inch, which came with the Catalina OS which is fully 64bit OS.

Before the Macbook Pro was delivered I also decided to purchase a subscription to Pro Tools with the latest 2020 version which I knew worked with Catalina OS.

The laptop was delivered and as I was installing the software I realised that RX6 from iZotope which I use every day wasn’t compatible with Catalina OS. 

There was a workaround on their website that I used, but the situation prompted me to start thinking about upgrading to the RX7 version. I wanted to do it for a while but RX6 worked fine and the price for upgrade was around 500 dollars which was a bit too much for not a significant change in my workflow.

What I also noticed was that Pro Tools was running much much smoother on the Macbook Pro. Better than on my iMac in fact, especially during playback.

I knew it was partially to the new hardware but I also knew that the new ProTools and iZotope plugins will work best with Catalina and a fully 64bit system, so it was time to update the software on my iMac.

Another digression – days before the update, iZotope ran a promotion and the upgrade to Post Production Suite 4 was offered for 199 dollars. That included RX7 Advanced, Insight 2 and Stratus reverbs. It was a bargain and given the fact I didn’t want to do the workaround with RX6 and Catalina (just like on the Macbook Pro) – I got the update.

 

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I was ready with the latest Pro Tools and plugins and downloaded Catalina OS on my iMac. It was the evening and the install took around 2 hours. After it finished, everything looked alright so I switched my iMac off and went to bed.

Fresh and early I got to my studio, switched on the iMac as I needed to do some admin tasks and install a few things before I got to work.

The computer started and the initial startup progress bar appeared. It was slow so I thought, ok, it’s the first time so it takes time. But it was bar stuck at 80% in and that’s it. No movement, nothing.

Initial panic ensued. 

I’ve done the hard reboot several times but nothing helped and the boot wasn’t progressing.

What to do, what to do?!

I tried safe mode login – it didn’t work. 

I tried launching the disk repair mode – it didn’t work.

I tried resetting PRAM upon start – nothing helped.

Hopeless.

I thought I was going to punch the screen.

But! I searched how to reset SMC which is a system management controller setting and for iMac it meant unplugging the power cable for 30 seconds and plugging it back.

Lo and behold! 

The disk utility screen launched after connecting to the network!

From there I’ve run the disk repair and initiated the boot from the hard drive rather than from the Catalina OS boot image and the system started.

What I think happened is, I had programs on launch that were 32bit and Catalina could not verify them during the boot (they were verified once I logged into the system) therefore I had to boot from the main hard drive instead.

I hope it makes sense, I’m not an IT professional though!

Mission one completed.

Step two.

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I’ve installed the remaining programs, run the new ProTools 2020 as well as replaced my Eventide reverb with Stratus which came with Post Production Suite 4.

Just as predicted, the software runs much smoother than on El Capitan, it’s like breathing a fresh life into the machine.

I’ve then launched RX7 Spectrogram, and it all looked good.  I’ve imported my presets and had to adjust some of them as the import from RX6 didn’t work perfectly.

I started doing a bit of work and realised that the performance is lagging. The playback and doing on the fly repairs with my keyboard shortcuts were slower than with RX6 on El Capitan OS!

Well, that’s not what I expected at all. 

I played with the performance settings but nothing helped. I’ve emailed iZotope support with the problem.

They’ve emailed back saying that I should reinstall and see if the issue persists, then reset the display to default as it is the most optimised option.

I’ve listened and it didn’t help.

I thought ok, I have a Chrome browser in the background which is CPU heavy. I switched it off – it helped a little but not as much as I hoped.

I have a 27inch screen and working in RX6 I had the Spectrogram on full screen and it worked fine. 

That’s how I was testing RX7 in Catalina OS.

However, when I made the RX7 display smaller, the performance jumped and the shortcut response was much faster! 

So that’s the solution – for some reason RX7 is not optimised on Catalina to have a full screen display on my 27inch screen.

Is my iMac too old? 

Maybe, but RX6 on older OS worked fine. I did email iZotope with my solution and findings but for now, I work in a slightly smaller display window with Chrome browser off and Pro Tools minimised.

It’s not ideal but it’s fine for now. 

I may upgrade my iMac when the new one comes out this year and will update you how that is working for me! 

If you are thinking about upgrading your system, it may sound as easy as just installing new plugins but I find that it’s always a bit of an adventure to get everything in order.

 

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My Current Recording Setup

My Current Recording Setup

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13 FEBRUARY 2018

written by Mike

MY CURRENT

RECORDING SETUP

Most of my audio work is done at the post-production stage. I edit, mix, master, and even with scoring I solely use synths and virtual instruments. The only recording I do is for team chats and AMA episodes we publish for Casefile patrons.

I’ve done live recording and live sound before, and it wasn’t for me. Setting up the stage, holding a boom microphone or mixing bands live didn’t spark any interest, and I much prefer doing the work at home. Therefore today’s list isn’t ideal for sound recordist but rather a view of a setup that is enough to do a good quality recording at home if required.

The recording equipment I have is decent and does not break the bank.

Why do I have it in the first place?

Content creation – I recorded few YouTube videos in the past, an online course, we release monthly AMA with Casefile team. Even though I don’t use it every day, I do need it from time to time, and I need something that offers flexibility and decent quality at the same time.

Clip microphones

For some content, you will need video and audio. The best way to do it is, of course, having a camera (DSLR) pointed at you and a clip (lavalier) microphone.

That’s how I recorded my online course and a few YouTube videos in the past. The clip mic I used is Audio Technica 3350. It costs around $30/£25 on Amazon. I also have a lavalier for GoPro camera – it’s called Movo clip mic.

Both mics are powered by a LR44 battery, which is important as the mics don’t rely on camera for power. The mics are decent quality, but you will need to use Denoise processing for hiss and preamp noise.

They are very sensitive so reduce the input gain where possible and clip them lower than a collar. Unfortunately, you cannot operate input gain in GoPro, at least the one I have (GoPro 3). Audio Technica clip does not have a light that would indicate if it’s recording, so you will need to check that on DSLR screen.

In summary, I would recommend checking them out, especially if you need a quick solution for your camera.

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SM7B

At home, I only have one microphone – a dynamic Shure SM7B. It’s a legendary vocal mic, widely used in broadcasting and podcasting. It’s a perfect solution for commentators.

I use it for Skype calls, recorded AMAs and other sessions that I can do from home.

It doesn’t need a pop shield however it does need a lot of input gain. If you want to use it for everyday recordings, then the best solution would be to invest in input gain booster such as Cloudlifter.

All in all, the best dynamic out there in my opinion.

Audio Interface

I recently changed my interface and purchased a small Audient iD4. It’s a USB interface with one XLR preamp and D.I. input.

For simple work, it’s one of the best solutions you can find on the market, and it sounds great. The cherry on top is the volume wheel that also works as control surface knob.

iD4 has seamless integration with most sequencers (ProTools in my instance), and with one touch of a button, I can control any automation with the volume wheel. It’s the first step to classic ‘mix’ control surface, and it’s so much easier than using keyboard and mouse. Especially if you are running low on budget, want to learn automation or just simply don’t have enough room on your desk.

I’m very happy with iD4, and I recommend checking it out, or other solutions from Audient.

 

Other stuff

Apart from that, I don’t have anything fancy at my home. It would look different if I were producing music and doing live recording but for post-production with occasional recording work, it’s more than enough. I have a couple of old mic stands, XLR cables, pop shield – the classics.

I mentioned it before, but for listening, I use Sony MDR-7506 headphones and Adam A5x as studio monitors. I know both systems inside out and wouldn’t replace them.

If you want to start creating videos for YouTube, start a podcast or record someone else – there are plenty of solutions on the cheap, starting with USB microphones that have built-in audio interfaces. In the beginning, don’t go overboard with the gear. Unless you do professional recording work and get regularly paid for it, start small and go from there.

By learning with minimal equipment, it will be much easier to pick up exactly what you need in the future.

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My Current DAW Setup

My Current DAW Setup

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08 JANUARY 2018

written by Mike

MY CURRENT DAW SETUP

 

I get asked a lot about my workflow and what exactly I am using to produce Casefile and other projects. I’ve already explained the way I work in my book “How to Start a Podcast” however, I’m always on the lookout for the improvement and I update my system as often as I can.

In my opinion, it’s important to shake it up every few months. Otherwise, there is no progress.

When I was a student, I used many different audio sequencers with multiple plugins. If there was a new demo, trial version or a deal – I wanted it. I wanted as many as possible.

The truth was, I never used 90% of them, I was a classic example of a hoarder. I think that the more ‘stuff’ – equipment, gear, options we have, it gives us an illusion of choice. The more we have, the more we can do, right?

It may be true in some instances, but when it came to sound production, I realised that the old Pareto’s rule was on the point. The so-called 80/20 rule indicates that usually, 20% of tools bring 80% of results.

A few years ago I sat down, and I wrote down what exactly I am using for work, how and why. I decided to simplify my system and my workflow radically; I wanted to learn few tools inside-out – to become an expert.

By limiting my choices I wanted to be free of the illusion, and only if I needed something else, to add it to the existing selection. So far it worked. My system and tools are very few, but high quality.

Let me go through the list with you.

 

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Hardware

Computer

My primary tool is surprise surprise, a computer. At this moment in time (January 2018) I’m working on 27 inch iMac with upgraded RAM. The screen is enormous and the processing power more than enough to handle my workload. Apple systems are more expensive than Windows but most audio industry professionals use them. Therefore I followed the same rule at home. Of course, select what you feel is most viable for you – for example, video game sound designers work almost solely on Windows.

Listening

I’ve owned a pair of Adam A5X speakers for a few years now. They sound great, and I know them well. Apart from listening to music during work I use them to reference the mixes.

For podcast mixing I use headphones. The leading pair is Sony MDR-7506, amazing closed-cup phones with a clear sound, perfect for editing. I also have a range of earphones – from very cheap ones to a decent pair. Most people listen to music/podcasts on their earphones so I make sure my final masters sound good on them.

Audio Interface

Recently I bought a small Audient iD4 interface. Not only it’s a fantastic tool for production, but it also has a control surface functions. The main volume knob can be used for controlling various aspects of the audio sequencer. I’m using it for volume automation during a mix. I’m planning on buying a proper control surface for mixing in the future, but I want to hone my craft by using just one knob – limiting my choice again.

 

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Software

 

Pro Tools

I’ve used many different sequencers in the past but in my quest to minimalist workstyle I’ve decided to focus on just one. Avid Pro Tools is a standard in music and post-production industry, so it was quite clear that it was the one I needed to stick with. I knew that the MIDI functions are not the best, but it was much easier to learn how to use PT for everything rather than using multiple sequencers to do the work, as I’ve done in the past.

iZotope

Plugins were the central area where I had to downgrade. I’ve used iZotope’s tools when I worked at the movie studio, so I knew these were top quality. I’ve deleted all of my 3rd party plugins and started using only iZotope products.

I currently use Neutron, Ozone and Alloy. (I also have Eventide Ultraverb on dialogue tracks for reverb).

Spectrasonics

When it comes to composing music, especially inside your DAW, the choice is limitless. There are so many synths and virtual instruments that for the rest of your life you could be learning a new one each week (*not official stats, but there is a lot of them!).

At some point, I decided to get rid of most of the ones I had, also deleting a 500GB Kontakt library and just stick with one company – SpectrasonicsAt the moment of writing this paragraph I only use two synths from them, Omnisphere 2 and Keyscape.

Do I wish I had more options, for orchestral sound or bass? Yes, and I will expand in the future. However, for now, these two synths are more than enough to produce good work.

Limitation is freedom. It sounds so paradoxical, but in podcast production it is true. By freeing ourselves of choice paralysis, we are free of anxiety and burdens that come with limitless options.

This way of thinking does not apply to every aspect of our life, however, think about your work, day to day life and habits. Maybe some areas would be much better and more comfortable if you set some boundaries and rules?

The decision is up to you.

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Scoring Podcasts – My Tools

Scoring Podcasts – My Tools

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18 DECEMBER 2017

written by Mike

SCORING PODCASTS

MY TOOLS

 

As podcasts become more recognised, there is room for different styles and genres of audio storytelling. One of the big ones at the moment, at least when you look at the top charts, seems to be scripted dramas and narrated storytelling content.

With podcasts, you don’t have that many tools behind your belt – it’s all about the sound so, in reality, you have three elements to play.

Dialogues

Sound Effects

Music

Each is important and plays a different role; all depending on the project. For example, with a podcast like Casefile, we tend to go with just two of the elements – narration and music. Sure, from time to time we do include extra elements such as recorded interviews, police archive audio, and even reenactments.

However, most of the times the centre of the show is the narration of Anonymous Host and music underscore for the emotional connection. The goal is to create a complete audio experience with just two elements. The listener does not feel that it is either too much or not enough in the mix – balance is the key.

Today I wanted to talk about my tools I use for scoring Casefile podcast. I treat the work as I would with writing music for films therefore if you are looking at tools for creating songs, this post may not be the answer.

 

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Before starting in podcasting, I always recorded and wrote music. I used ‘normal’ recording with microphones, as well as plugins for computer music. I’ve tested many different sequencers and solutions, but in the end, decided to limit my tools and work with a minimalistic setup.

Just like for mixing, I prefer to work with only a handful of plugins but to know them inside out, to understand how far I can push them.

Limitation often offers more freedom than we think.

For some time I used software instruments in Logic, Native Instruments Komplete with 500GB of synths and Omnisphere on top of that. Before writing and recording, I often found myself sitting in front of the screen thinking what I should use as a cue. By having so many options, I was paralysed with choice and too many possibilities – until I decided to simplify the workflow and my system.

I moved everything to ProTools and stopped using Logic altogether, I’ve deleted Native Instruments and got rid of 500GB of synths. I was left with my favourite synth of all time – Omnisphere. From there, I’ve upgraded to Omnisphere 2 and for months just used that for scoring, nothing else.

Surprisingly it gave me freedom and unleashed more creativity than I imagined. Even during script reading I immediately knew what patch I would use for a particular scene, what kind of sound.

Unfortunately, Omnisphere wasn’t enough. It’s an excellent solution for scoring however it missed a vital element of writing music – pianos.

 

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Enter Keyscape.

When Spectrasonics released Keyscape, I watched all the videos and tutorials on it. However, it still took me a long time to purchase it. I wanted to be entirely comfortable working in just one synth – Omnisphere, before opening another one.

In the end, I got Keyscape, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. For now, these are the tools I use for scoring – Omnisphere for atmospheric sound and general cues and Keyscape for melodies, themes and building blocks for underscore.

I often start in Keyscape; I heard a long time ago that by learning the piano you learn how to play all instruments, I think that’s somewhat true.

Keyscape is often a starting point for creating cues, even if I write simple acoustic piano melody I can always use the MIDI and play it through Omnisphere crazy sounds, making the initial themes virtually unrecognisable.

Another great thing is that by using two products from Spectrasonics I have everything in one window – Omnisphere plugin window supports Keyscape libraries as well as other sounds such as Keyscape Creative.

For now, these tools are more than enough to create amazing scores and themes. The other solution that I could use would be an orchestral synth with possibilities of creating full orchestrated music that sounds as good as Keyscape pianos (I’m looking at you Spectrasonics!)

The take away from this (apart from my obvious love for Spectrasonics products) is that you don’t need much to get working and create great sounding scores. Frankly, sometimes too much choice is more limiting than having one or two solutions that you know better than anything else.

I’m not an expert in creating new patches or making sounds with Omni, but if you ask me to score something, be it a podcast, audio drama or even a film – more than likely I will be able to do it with what I got.

P.S.

I’m not affiliated with Spectrasonics and this is not paid advertising – I just love their products!

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Audio Restoration and Podcasting

Audio Restoration and Podcasting

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10 DECEMBER 2017

written by Mike

AUDIO RESTORATION

AND PODCASTING

 

I want to give you a short intro to audio restoration, what I use it for and how you can use it for podcasting.

There are different kinds of audio restoration jobs – you can use it to ‘clean up’ sound for a court, forensic and police needs. You could restore sound from old movies and bring it up to today’s standards and digital formats.

When something is poorly recorded – noisy, distorted, has a lot of hiss or background noise – you can clean it all up with audio restoration plugins.

What I found is that most content creators who don’t dabble in sound, don’t really pay much attention to it. Let’s leave to the side directors and professional producers, but instead talk about amateur or up-and-coming creators.

It can be a lecture recording, a course, a YouTube video or an independent film. More than likely the issue of sound is left to the end, and only after the recording is done, the producers get the full picture – and it doesn’t sound right.

Fortunately, with today’s technology, not all is lost, and a lot of bad recordings can be salvaged and fixed-up to the decent level. Audiobooks, podcasts and radio dramas are a bit different. It’s all about sound so fortunately the quality isn’t left behind. However, especially for new producers, the beginning will be far from perfect.

It’s usually a cheap USB mic and a spare bedroom that acts as a recording studio and with that comes a range of problems.

But what can you do to fix them?

 

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There are different processes that you can apply to the audio in post-production such as:

Noise reduction

Noise reduction will reduce the background hiss and the constant noise-induced with the pre-amp. It’s the best tool to make the recording sound more professional. However, if you apply too much of reduction, you will the recording sound dull. The hiss usually sits in the higher frequencies so when you cut it out, you will cut the presence – the air that comes with it.

Click removal

The are many different kinds of clicks that can occur during the recording, but the most frequent ones will be mouth clicks and lip smacks. Of course, you can try to manually draw them out, but having a process that gets rid of them automatically will save you a lot of time. The thing to watch out is the transients. You want to reduce the clicks but don’t want to get rid of naturally clicky letters such as ‘k’ or ‘t.’

Pop removal

Even with the pop shield, which should be mandatory during the recording, there will be low-frequency pops that will make it. To get rid of them the best way is to apply a pop removal process. A typical low-frequency cut will also get rid of sounds that suppose to be there, that add the bass to the recording, the emphasis on the voice. Pops are much harder to draw out so you will be much better off using the removal effect but be careful – set the strength too high and you will make the voice sound thin.

De-Esser

‘S’ sounding words and letters are hardest to control, especially if you are dealing with a naturally harsh sounding voice. The best solution is to test and choose a right microphone for voice but for new podcasters that is not always possible. Second best thing is to use EQ and a notch filter to get rid of these frequencies. The third thing is to use De-Esser plugin. It works as a compression, reducing the volume of the ‘s’ sounds, don’t overdo it as you will hear the effects straight away.

You can also use the automation and gain control to lower the words and letters manually, but that takes a lot of time to do.

These are the most common processes, there are a lot more advanced effects that can help to restore and clean up the audio, but start with these and move to the other ones when you are comfortable with the basics.

 

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But where can you get them?

Unfortunately, most sequencers do not come with a range of useful audio restoration effects. The one that I know that has them is Adobe Audition. I cannot vouch for the effectiveness of the software as I don’t use it myself. However, I did hear a lot of good things about it so maybe download a trial version.

The ones I use are the top of the market products from iZotope – RX to be exact. These are costly tools but are the best to do the job and all professionals, especially in post-production work, use them.

Don’t despair though. Download the trial version and start learning, before I invested in iZotope products I used the demo versions for a long time – they come with few limitations but if you are able to work with that, only then make the decision to upgrade to the next level.

If you are still at school, you can also email guys from the iZotope and last time I checked they give 50% discount for students.

Of course, I’m sure that there are other solutions available on the market. Do a diligent research, try out trial versions wherever you can and get to work!

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