Sunday, August 26, 2012

Fixing Audio Sometimes Is Pure Dumb Luck

I have videos that I have stashed in folders for various reasons. No time to work on them, problems with audio or not sure about how to edit. Mix that with a huge dose of "This is crap, I am not worthy." and you can find your internal and external hard drives stuffed with video.

This is not a good thing. So in-between the required household duties I am pull up a video and, to the extent possible, find a way to upload and display it. This does not always work. I found a video that is 30 minuets of the sound of it banging in my handbag.

In March 2012 I attended the Media for the 99% Summit. Robert Scheer started talking. History and journalism perspective came tumbling out. The man has got a lot to say.

As it happens, the HD camcorder battery gave out and there was no electrical socket near me. I needed to switch to one of my SD back-up cameras. I might have to stop doing that.

Seriously, the dude can go a while. I recorded the video and forgot about it until today.

This morning, I try to import it into Sony Vegas Studio HD and it is a no go, it is a .MOD video. Vegas Studio can do a lot of things but not open my .MOD videos.

I swing over to Serif MoviePlus X5. I bring it in, clean it up a bit so that his skin tone is not the same color as the background. I find a short section and snip out a bit as an introduction to this man for my viewers.

And that is when I heard it. Burrr. It would be silent and then another series of Burrr Burrr Burrr. What the heck?  I know what it is. It is the sound of the motor or electronics in the older SD camcorder.

Stumble Into Solutions

I export the audio from the video into iZotope Music and Voice Cleaner. I could make his voice clear and distinct but so was the Burrr, Burrr, Burrr. I export the cleaned audio but this was not a solution.

I thought, what if there was a white noise/audio mask for the Burrr, Burrr, Burrr? I went looking for white noise. Of which there is a lot of mp3s for very interesting reasons. One of which is babies love certain types of white noise. Parents love non-screaming babies. You do the math.

Over at not only do I find white noise, but pink noise and brown noise. The brown stuff sounded muted and defused. Perfect, I thought. I plunk it in with the intention of halving the brown noise volume to mask the dreadful Burrr, Burrr, Burrr.

It didn't work. I had the Burrr, Burrr, Burrr and the brown noise and Mr. Scheer's voice.  Toss out the brown noise and start again.

I  open Audacity and import the cleaned audio file. I'm thinking if I can snag a segment of the Burrr, Burrr, Burrr maybe I can yank it out.

No disrespect to Mr. Scheer but the man does not take a breath. He talks. Fast. There was no way to find a segment of the sound without his voice.  I am not an audio engineer. The answer could have been siting in my face as I scan the Effects menu. I wouldn't know it.

My eyes land on the track meters. I'm looking at the wave form and the track meters.

I could see that the Burrr, Burrr, Burrr happening on the right track. I did a couple of tests and that is where the buggers were. Ok, I need to delete the right track. Yes?

No. You can delete an entire stereo track. Not what I wanted. But in Audacity you can merge a stereo track to a mono track. I merged the stereo track to mono and there was no more Burrr, Burrr, Burrr. Well, it is there but it is sufficiently muted.

It was a lark thing to do. It worked. Using the cleaned copy I guess his voice on the left track was louder than the Burrr, Burrr, Burrrs on the right track. I don't know for sure.

What Worked

  • Start from simplicity. Try the simple cures first before you bring out the hammers and saws. 
  • I had an updated copy of Audacity. There were more tools to choose from and the interface was tweaked.
  • I  worked from a copy of the original file. Never trash your original file.
  • When you have tried everything you know be willing to try what you don't know. 

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