5 Simple EQ Tips to Instantly Improve DSLR Audio in Post

by White Rabbit Audio Presets

Whether we like it or not, audio post production is part of our daily lives. Common sonic symptoms include audible noise, hiss and rumble, boomy unintelligible dialogue, clipped or distorted recordings, low quality DSLR audio, over compressed dynamic scenes of crowds to name just a few.

The good news is: One Golden Rule prevails in the murky, waxy realms of audio for post production –

Equalisation

Is Your Friend

If your project’s audio is suffering from any of the sonic symptoms above then the good news is: the majority of audio related issues can be tamed, masked and in some cases completely eradicated with the use of EQ.

No. 5 – Clean Up

Audio can feel stuffy, bloated and lacking in clarity when frequencies below 20Hz or above 20,000Hz are present in coded audio information. Essentially, these frequencies are taking up unnecessary sonic space as we’re unable to hear them and yet they do effect the quality and intelligibility of other frequencies.

  • Insert an EQ plugin at the very beginning of your plugin chain on your audio channel.
  • Most Equalisers in NLEs come equipped with ‘shelf’ EQ also know as ‘High Pass‘ EQ and this is where you can cut everything below 20Hz
  • Set the Center frequency to 20Hz

No. 4 – Set Your Levels

(No, not with the Channel Fader)

Audio has a maximum. Not just a maximum level, but in the apparent ‘room’ that audio has left to move into. This is called headroom. Try to keep your levels 3db lower than you would normally when EQing, especially if you are increasing frequencies rather than removing them.

  • On your Master Output look to reach -6db as a limit. This depends on how many audio channels you have, but it’s a safe bet to begin with.
  • If you’re increasing frequencies look to reduce the output level. Try to think in terms of ‘as above:so below’, so if you increase frequencies, then compensate by reducing output level.
  • Reduce the output level not with the Channel Fader (this is not always the best way to control level) but instead, use the EQs output gain. This is called gain staging in the audio world and effects the quality of processed audio.

No. 3 – Scoop Out the Mess

Mid frequencies, and in particular low mid frequencies are picked up by DSLR cameras and even high quality shotgun mics when conditions aren’t right for recording. This can occur when using too much input gain on the mic during recording or the influence of small rooms and reflective spaces. These frequencies bloat audio feeling muddy, boxy and boomy.

  • Insert an EQ plugin onto your audio channel or clip. You’re looking to affect frequencies from 250Hz to 500Hz.
  • Set one of your frequency bands to cut @ -8dB and whilst playing back your audio sweep the frequency control from 500Hz down to 250Hz slowly.
  • Listen carefully for the audio to lighten, open up and sound clearer as you scoop out the muddy, boxy frequencies.

No. 2 – Brighten

Increasing intelligibility and clarity in audio is not the only consideration. Inbuilt camera mics in particular have harsh compression and noise cancellation which can make things sound less brilliant and in effect less natural

  • Using the same EQ plugin as in Step No. 3 (no need to over process using multiple EQs) head to the far right hand side of your EQ and engage the ‘High Shelf‘ EQ
  • Frequencies between 10,000Hz (10khz) and 14,000Hz (14Khz) are airy and give audio a ‘lift’, without effecting more harsh, sharp frequencies.
  • Apply a + 3db lift somewhere between 10Khz and 14Khz to brighten, and air out audio suffering from dullness and that underwater effect.

No. 1 – Gain Up

As above:so below. When taking away, give back proportionally. If after a large scoop in the boxy mids and cutting everything below 20Hz you then gain up, audio left over can be emboldened and made starker to the ear. The effect is enhanced clarity and presence.

  • Using your EQ plugin set the ‘Output Gain’ to between +0.5dB and +2.5dB. Use your ears. You don’t need to use the channel fader for level adjustments in processing – faders are primarily for mixing a number of audio sources together, not level adjustments after processing.
  • It’s by no means a rule that follows the mantra ‘louder is better’ but it’s a tool, along with the steps above, that molds audio shedding more light on the things your ears like.

EQ is the Alpha Tool

With EQ most problematic audio issues can be addressed, low quality audio improved and in fact sweetening, embellishing and brilliance can all be achieved by confidently wielding Equalisation as a correction tool. These 5 simple tips can be applied to any source audio from dialogue to street scenes, live music to loud crowd scenes, natural location recordings and many more.

I hope you find these DSLR Audio EQ tips useful… let me know how you get on!

We’re doing some cool stuff with audio for video editors
find out more White Rabbit Audio Presets

5 Pro Tips to Reducing Wind Noise: Video Edition

by White Rabbit Audio Presets

Ok, so you have Wind Noise on your recording and it’s distracting you from fully absorbing yourself into the visuals. There’s no chance to re-record, dialogue is suffering from lack of clarity, the scene is more chaotic and it feels amateurish. The fundamentals of Compressors and EQ won’t be covered here, but will get you started working harmoniously with the fundamental architecture of both plugins.

The good news is: some techniques exist in post that can remove wind noise, tame Wind Noise and in some cases mask Wind Noise completely

One Tool:

Multiband Compression

No. 5 – Assess the Problem

First off, Wind Noise does not always sound the same. If you use your ears you’ll hear it sounding Boomy (bassy sub frequencies) Boxy (Middly and Growly) and/or Sharp (Whistly and Harsh).

  • Insert an EQ plugin at the very beginning of the plugin chain on your audio channel.
  • Set one of your frequency bands to cut @ -12dB and whilst playing back your windy audio, sweep the frequency control from 1kHz down to 20Hz and back again very slowly.
  • Listen to where the Wind Noise reduces the most, look to find the center frequency of which most of your wind noise is comprised.
  • Make a note of that frequency (or frequencies) – you’ll need it later

No. 4 – Clean Up

Low Shelf EQ in FCPX
This demonstrates what High Pass and Low Pass looks like at it’s most extreme

Frequencies below 20Hz are inadible to the human ear and are taking up unneeded space in coded audio information. Subby Wind Noise can also be embellished there. Cutting all frequencies below 40Hz is the first step to opening up your source audio and having it breath

  • Using the plugin inserted in tip No 5. Look to the far left of your EQ window and engage the ‘High Pass’ shelf
  • Most Equalisers come equipped with ‘shelf’ EQ also know as ‘High Pass‘ EQ (letting high frequencies ‘pass’ unchanged) and this is where you can cut everything below 40Hz
  • Set the Center frequency to 40Hz

No. 3 – Dynamic Reduction in Real-Time

Now you have identified which frequencies contain the most Wind Noise in your recording we want to dynamically reduce these levels in real-time. Static alone equalisation won’t do it. An EQ cutting 180Hz at -6dB will cut the warmth and low end from the entire recording. Multiband compression can compress certain frequencies dynamically reducing levels over time.

  • Insert a multiband compressor after the EQ on your audio channel or clip
  • The 1st and 2nd ‘bands’ are those that reduce the low frequencies where wind noise resides. Essentially you are looking at 4 separate compressors that reduce the level of 4 different frequency bands
  • Now set the compressor to reduce only the frequency of the Wind Noise and nothing more.
  • Look Top Left of the plugin for ‘Crossover‘ and set the ‘Mid’ frequency from 2000Hz to 800Hz
  • Set the ‘Crossover’ Low frequency to the frequency you found in No.5 Assess the Problem above. 250Hz, for example (Boxy, growly wind noise).

No. 2 – Zone In On the Sweet Spot

With the compressor now tuned to only compress low frequencies it can dynamically reduce Wind Noise during playback.

  • Reduce the ‘threshold’ control of the lower most band to -24dB
  • Reduce the ‘threshold’ control of the mid band to -24dB
  • Press play to see the compressor reduce these low frequencies dynamically
  • Slowly reduce the ‘threshold’ control of the lower most band back up towards 0db whilst playing back your audio.
  • Watch the ‘level reduction’ meters with playback and use your ears – as the Wind Noise blows and growls, watch and listen to the compressor reducing it’s level. Try to aim for -6db maximum reduction on the meters.

No. 1 – Gain Up

This is the basic setup for a Wind Noise reducer but don’t forget to discover your own frequencies and levels in order to customise it fully

Try to think in terms of give and take. When taking away, give back proportionally. With dynamic reduction of 6db due to wind noise your output level will be lower. Adding back 3db will lift into focus all the uncompressed frequencies more pleasant to the ear.

  • Using your compressor plugin set the ‘Output Gain’ to between +1.5dB and +3.5dB. Use your ears. You don’t need to use the channel fader for level adjustments in processing – faders are primarily for mixing a number of audio sources together, not level adjustments after processing.
  • It’s by no means a rule that follows the mantra ‘louder is better’ but it’s a tool, along with the steps above, that molds audio shedding more light on the things your ears like.

Get to Know Multiband Compression

Ok, there’s a lot of theory coming at you but understanding compression can help you tame problem frequencies in your camera audio. It’s not easy to think about sound in terms of imagery but that is in effect what sound is – the sonic representation of our physical reality, and as such is likewise bound by time (frequency) and space (level). Dynamic reduction of sonic problems can feel more natural and less processed than using static EQs and DeNoise techniques.

I hope these 5 tips get you on the path to taming Wind Noise in your DLSR audio recordings.. tell us how it works out for you!

We’re doing some cool stuff with audio presets for video editors
find out more White Rabbit Audio Presets

5 Essential EQ Tips to Improve Dialogue: Video Edition

by White Rabbit Audio Presets

Whichever way you look at it dialogue is an essential part of the cinematic experience. It’s true to say that the quality, clarity and intelligibility of recorded voices varies wildly from one to the next. Common sonic symptoms include muffled speech, boxy room sounds, boomy low tones, sharp sibilance (‘S’ and ‘Shh’ sounds) and that distracting nasal sound picked up by most internal DSLR camera mics.

The good news is: Equalisation can improve recorded dialogue inside one plugin

The Human Voice

Piques the Human Ear

Understanding the human voice is key to understanding how transducers convert it’s analogous origins into correlating digital information. How microphones work, what rooms to record voices in, how to position yourself, your actors, your crew and your equipment to best capture voices in the way we hear them in perceived reality. But do we have time for all of this? – not always. Hence, quick steps can be made to sweeten and enhance Dialogue in audio post production

No. 5 – Lows and Highs

Low Shelf EQ in FCPX

Poorly recorded Dialogue often falls into 4 categories, which are:

  1. Sounding muffled, boomy and dull
  2. Feeling boxy, roomy (echo) and smeared
  3. Sounds sharp, burned and lispy
  4. Sounding noisy and overly dynamic (too loud to too quiet)

Identify which of the above categories your camera audio falls into

  • Insert a graphic EQ plugin at the very beginning of your plugin chain on your audio channel or clip.
  • Set one of your frequency bands to cut @ -6dB and whilst playing back your audio sweep the frequency control from 20kHz down to 20Hz slowly.
  • Here you are ‘Cutting’ and so you are scooping out a band of frequencies that your recording has too much of. Listen carefully for the audio to lighten, open up and sound clearer as you scoop out the muddy, boxy frequencies.
  • As you move higher you’ll hear the dialogue get duller and more muddy. Try to focus on just the high frequencies, listen to the clarty in the voice, the amount of sibilence ‘S and Shh sounds’ and the taming of harsh burned top frequencies.

No. 4 – Cut Out More Than You Add On

The common misconception is to lean towards boosting frequencies when trying to improve DLSR camera audio dialogue. The opposite is true, in fact. Cutting problematic frequencies to then gain the output level back up is the technique here. It’s like removing lead balls from a weighted scale full of gold. The best frequencies ascend as the problematic frequencies are removed.

  • During playback of your source audio set another band on your EQ to cut @ -6dB at 20Hz and slowly sweep the control up to 250Hz. Use your ears and listen for the boomy, muddy frequencies to lighten up and ease back.
  • Set another band on your EQ to cut @ -6dB at 250Hz and slowly sweep the control up to 600Hz. Listen for the boxy, room boom sound to be tamed. 

No. 3 – Move in Steps of 3

When molding your dialogue recording it can be beneficial to always move in steps of 3dB. Cutting and adding frequencies proportionally results in a more natural sound, preserving the natural dimensions of the original audio, in the much the same way as when transforming an image.

  • Whilst playing back your source audio set another band on your EQ to cut @ -6dB at 600Hz and slowly sweep the control up to 2000 Hz (20kHz). Use your ears to hone in on the nasal, honky frequencies of voices captured on inbuilt camera mics. Once you find this frequency sufficiently tamed, stop.
  • Set one of your frequency bands to cut @ -6dB and whilst playing back your audio sweep the frequency control from 2kHz to 9kHz. Listen for the sharp, burned high frequencies to tame and lispy ‘S’ and ‘Shh’ sounds from the voice reduce

No. 2 – Add the Smile

‘The Smile’ is an audio engineering term for adding a ‘Shelf’ EQ to both the very low and very high frequencies. If you want to know how to EQ dialogue, this technique can be applied almost all of the time, as well as to any other audio source from crowd scenes, location recordings to live music. ‘The Smile’ adds warmth to the low end and airy sparkle to the high end.

  • Using the same EQ plugin engage the ‘High Shelf‘ and the gain control to +3dB. Frequencies between 10,000Hz (10khz) and 14,000Hz (14Khz) are airy and give audio a ‘lift’, without effecting more harsh, sharp frequencies.
  • Engage the ‘Low Shelf‘ and apply a + 3db lift somewhere between 20Hz and 200Hz to ease warmth and body back into the recording whilst at the same time compensating for cutting problematic frequencies that had left audio feeling thin and vacuous.

No. 1 – Gain Up

When taking away, give back proportionally. If after sweeping to discover your problematic frequencies and applying sizeable cuts your DSLR audio dialogue gain is not used to compensate, it can suffer. Boosting the level of your Eq’d audio by as little as +1.5dB can make it ‘pop’.

  • Using your EQ plugin set the ‘Output Gain’ to between +0.5dB and +2.5dB. Use your ears. You don’t need to use the channel fader for level adjustments in processing – faders are primarily for mixing a number of audio sources together, not level adjustments after processing.
  • It’s by no means a rule that follows the mantra ‘louder is better’ but it’s a tool, along with the steps above, that molds audio shedding more light on the things your ears like.

Get it Right At The Source

With EQ most problematic audio issues can be addressed, however it’s limited in it’s ability to mold only the information present, if the pleasant qualities aren’t present it can’t work miracles on damaged recordings. The rule of thumb is to get it right at the source, record dialogue as best you can. Use your ears during recording and do test runs to make sure you’re hearing as sweet an intelligible voice as you can, that way next time in post you’ll be taking that dialogue audio to the next level.

I hope you find these tips on how to EQ Dialogue useful… let me know how things work out for you!

We’re doing some cool stuff with audio for video editors find out more White Rabbit Audio Presets