Audio Signals

Audio Restoration: A Powerful Tool In An Evolving Field

Most days of the week, while working on sound design or composing music, I will have a moment when I reflect on how much the world of audio and music production has changed so quickly in the relatively short amount of time I have been in this profession. I remember upgrading from my old Gateway PC to a 2008 Mac Pro tower the summer before my junior year at Western Carolina. The prior year I had become friends with Jonathan Churchill, Co-Founder at Embertone virtual instruments here in Raleigh. When Jon first showed me his compositional works for video games the semester before I felt a switch going off in my head changing my desired course of future employment from band director to composer. My mind was boggled by the fact you could make such great sounding music from one computer! Growing up I always imagined everything had to come from a professional studio with millions of dollars of gear in it. Seeing Jon produce music from a Mac I told myself “I have to get one of those.” Seven years ago I also recall hearing the audio samples he was using and thinking “Wow, that sounds like a real orchestra!” Of course in that short seven years the quality of virtual instruments, analog modeled plug-ins, digital audio workstations, and everything in between has increased exponentially. And it’s only going to do so even more in the years to come.

One of my favorite types of audio software to really come to light the last few years has been software geared towards audio restoration and repair. Now, there have been methods of reducing noise and crackle and various little messes here and there for a long time. Those are certainly all helpful and vital in achieving great audio for any medium of media. Within the last few years software such as iZotope’s RX line have given us ways to dive into audio from a spectral standpoint and remove just about anything you don’t want in your audio recordings.

Anyone who has recorded audio on set for a film of any form will tell you there is quite a process to capturing the purest audio from the shoot. Being outside of a controlled environment there is a good chance that your microphones will pick up anything from car noises, to AC units, to wind, to chatter in the corner, and the list could go on and on. Luckily for us if those sounds creep into our recordings we can remove them and deliver the audio your video deserves!

This tutorial video of iZotope’s RX software is a great demonstration of the difference even the slightest cleaning up of audio can do. Watch as the audio engineer is able to remove the noisy clicks from a wedding photographer’s camera during the vows of the ceremony.

 

But what about the restoration of audio? Some clips may be too loud and distort during the recording process. While it is still in best practice to record at appropriate levels there also could be sounds a client would want to use that they have on hand that need to be repaired.  Those types of recordings or sound effects can be worked with and polished too!

 

Finally, in case you are saying “Dustin, that’s great but have you used anything like this before?”, here is a clip from a project I worked on earlier last year. This comes from a series of recordings done in the New York City metro system. Singer Pavlina Horakova and pianist Drew Spradlin came up with the idea to take a piano to the subway system in New York City and record different movements from operatic works of the past. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you a subway system, let alone the one in NYC, is filled with noise stacked upon noise with a little more noise on top of that. With a lot of determination, and several cups of coffee, I was able to not only clean up this recording of several extraneous sounds but was also able to repair several instances of distortion and clipping to hopefully bring you into the beautiful music these two performed.

 

I hope all of you reading this have found it informative! Feel free to comment and let’s talk about the great things happening in audio and video production.

 

-Dustin

 

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Hello From The New Audio Guy! (read: amazing composer)

Hello to all of you out there reading this on your computer screens, phones, tablets, and all forms of electronic devices! My name is Dustin Painter and I’m the new audio producer at Blueforest Studios here in Raleigh, North Carolina. The higher ups wanted me to write a blog post to introduce myself so here it goes!

I started workiIMG_0715ng here in November teaming up with our insanely talented lead audio producer Donald Best. Together we work on tracking and editing voiceovers, audio mixing, and audio production for clients that come to us for video production. We also produce any kind of audio production that you can imagine.

We take pride in producing excellent quality audio work for our video production team here at Blueforest Studios. Have you ever watched a video online, maybe even on TV, and thought to yourself “something doesn’t seem quite right here…?” The production value of the video looks great, the acting is superb, and the story the company is trying to convey is being told in a solid manner, so what is it? It’s probably because the audio has been thrown on the back burner during the production process and simply placed in. I can tell you one thing: that does not happen here!

The purpose of audio is so much more than just you hearing what someone is talking about in a marketing campaign. Nobody wants low quality audio in their videos. Even when you watch TV how many times are you actually watching? It’s easy for us to flip the tube on and go about working on different tasks. Maybe you’re cleaning the house, or cooking, or even just have it on for background noise. Why is it so easy to still enjoy TV even if you aren’t watching it? Perfect audio is why! Audio, even without the visual aspect, can bring you into whatever medium you are exposing your attention to. Audio is a vital part of storytelling and very well may be the most immersive part. What else in the audio realm is important for videos? Music! This is where I hope to come in and and to help you out personally here at Blueforest Studios: original music designed specifically to YOUR needs.

Outside of my work here at Blueforest Studios I work as a freelance composer and sound designer for film, TV, videos games, and any form of media possible. I studied “Commercial and Electronic Music” at Western Carolina University here in the mountains of NC and was lucky enough to do graduate studies at the University of Southern California in the “Scoring For Film and Television” program. During my time in Los Angeles I had the chance to study with some pretty incredible composers such as Christopher Young (Spider-Man 3, The Rum Diary, Sinister), Bruce Broughton (Silverado, Tiny Toon Adventures, Lost In Space), and Garry Schyman (Bioshock Series, Dante’s Inferno, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor) among many others.

As a composer my purpose is to bring you into the heart of the story. Music should help to propel the piece of media forward into a part of your brain that will make you remember what you just saw. It is all about making a personal connection to the viewer! Once again, how many times have you had something on in the background while working and have known exactly what is on because of the music that’s playing? Music not only works directly on viewers but can access a subconscious level of the brain to tell them how to feel, what is happening, and can engrain itself into the memory without you even knowing it’s there.

With all of that said I want to help bring your story, your product, your ideas, or anything you want to tell to the forefront of people online and everywhere! I feel very lucky not only to make music and sound as a career but to also have the chance to do it here at Blueforest Studios with some of the most talented, creative, and kind people you’ll find in the business of marketing and video production.

Of course there are some times when trying to create that right piece of music feels like this:

Then an idea comes along and it feels like this:

Finally a music track that fits just right is made and both I and the client I’m working for can sit back and know their video is ready for everyone to see!

Now that I’ve talked your ears off, or I suppose typed your eyes out, feel free to check out this playlist of some various work I’ve done on projects!

I hope you enjoyed what you’ve heard. Thanks for a few moments of your time and I hope to work with you all very soon!

Cheers,

Dustin

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What goes where? – Composition Basics

Maybe you watched our documentary on NCRLA, and wondered about setting up a video interview, maybe not. Regardless, I wanted to share a few basic tips when composing your shot for a video interview. First off, you need to pick a place for the interview. Often times, people will want to do an interview in a certain room because they think the room is their most impressive or comfortable or just “looks the best.” However, it is important to remember that with a video interview, you will only see a very small portion of the room. So, you only need to have a small section of the room “look the best.”

When choosing a location, keep in mind that you want to have at least a few feet between the camera and the interviewee and at least a few feet between the interviewee and the background. Sometimes this is easier said than done, but it will give you a better depth of field and keep your subject from blending it with the background. (Note: in a tiny nutshell, depth of field refers to how much of the image is in focus.)

So after you pick a location, you want to choose where to put the subject in the frame. There is a pretty simple guideline for this called the Rule of Thirds. If you divide the frame in to thirds both horizontally and vertically with lines, you want to have your subject in one of the intersection points of the lines. You can look at this picture of a puppy for an adorable example of the Rule of Thirds:

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 Next, you want to light the scene properly, for more information on that, watch this video we made on lighting basics.

After you have your subject lit beautifully and properly placed in the frame, you will want to eliminated anything distracting from the frame. Sometimes, what is not in the shot is just as important as what is in the shot. If you are interviewing someone at a messy desk, you might want to have a tighter (closer) shot that doesn’t show much of the desk. Or, you might want to clean the desk. Also, if there is a window or other really bright object like a lamp in the shot, you might want to move the shot the those objects are out of the frame. Simply put, you want to make sure the viewer is NOT going to be paying attention to something in the frame that isn’t your subject.

These are just a few basic ideas that can help improve a video interview on the visual side of things, but don’t forget about audio. For more on audio in video read this.

If you have any questions of this topic or other video ideas, let me know in the comments section. Thanks!

Bryan Reklis
Video Producer