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Audio Post Production: Software Vs The Human Ear

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"They'll sort that out in Post." The phrase that no longer strikes fear into the ears of an Audio Post Producer.

With the help of iZotope RX4, quickly and efficiently de-noising any audio is no longer an issue. Microphone hiss, distortion, unwanted clicks & pops and reverb, can all be wiped away faster than Mr Miyagi can demonstrate the 'Wax on, Wax off' technique. Noise reduction softwares have improved massively in recent years, erasing specific noises from audio and transforming previously unusable audio into pristine material can now be achieved with relative ease. With the help of spectral editing in RX4 you can see the noise or disrupting frequency, making it so easy to isolate and remove the unwanted noise.

We've had clip gain in ProTools for a while now, enabling us to manually adjust volume levels in selected pieces of audio providing a visual reference of the waveform. This is to quickly adjust and match volume levels of individual stems without the need of automating volume levels on the faders. This can still take some time though, especially when mixing and editing an hour long programme. However, the Leveler in RX4 Advanced is a feature that has made this process even quicker. You can take the whole clip and even out the levels automatically, giving you consistent tracks in next to no time without the need of compression. This helps the Dialogue sit far nicer in the mix with Music & FX or Ambience, making it very useful when mixing documentaries that have inconsistent dialogue/audio volumes.

The RX4 Dialogue Denoiser can be left on any Dialogue track, and the automatic feature will clean anything that passes through it in real time, with zero latency. Bang, and the noise is gone. As you'd expect, it's a great helping hand for general clarity control on your Dialogue stems. This saves time and reduces the need of costly ADR sessions by cleaning up noisy Dialogue.

The potential for softwares like this are huge in affecting the audio post production industry, audio standards have definitely increased for the modern day audience, but have been made easier to achieve. The audiences relationship with sound and moving image is constantly evolving, and standards are always progressing. The software thankfully, is being developed at a rate to help us keep up with these standards.

iZotope RX Final Mix makes our lives as an audio post producer a little bit easier, though. Adding clarity to your overall mix. With most audio post production work, the most important audio is the Dialogue, this needs to sound natural, clear and not be overshadowed by the other audio in the mix, whether it be Music & FX, or Ambience. All other audio should hang off the Dialogue. This can be an issue when there is little frequency space left, however RX Final Mix can be used on each bus to carve out space for the Dialogue to naturally sit in, and helps keep the other busses under control and ensure every sound is in its place. Using intelligent Equalisation and True Peak Limiting to transform your audio stems into a smooth and balanced final mix. RX only touches exactly what needs to be touched, nothing more. A good mix nowadays maximises loudness without distortion or over compression, without clipping and transparently meets the True Peak Loudness Specifications. With the aid of these tools, the mixing process has become easier and quicker, it gives us more time to spend tweaking and adjusting the mix to achieve the exact sound you want.

As softwares can do so much for us even now, will the art of the Dubbing Mixer be made redundant to intelligent computer softwares? Well, the thing that softwares will never have is a trained human ear (I sincerely hope not, anyway!). An informed human judgement is incredibly important to anything audio for a smooth, ear pleasing balance. This will never be completely replaced by software. Audio visual standards are increasing, and fortunately there are softwares out there to enable us to keep up.

Feature written by Benjamin Malloy, Polkadot Audio Post Production.

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