No matter how deep your interest in animal husbandry may be, you’re probably never going to figure out what the spawn of a camel and a mollusk might sound like. Or will you? Interested sound designers still have a little more than a week left to enter the Hybrid Animal Sound Design Competition, where the creation from scratch of a brand new animal call could net a share of $6,000 worth of prizes from Pro Sound Effects, Avid, iZotope, Rode, and Ric Viers. The deadline for entries is Tuesday, April 8th. Check out the rules, restrictions, and other details over at the Pro Sound Effects Blog.
My first exposure to noise reduction processing was with Waves X-Noise, working clip-by-clip, finding a snippet of noise in the clear, setting the noise profile, then processing the clip before moving to the next one. This offline processing method, while effective, would end up taking a lot of time, especially on long-form projects. Similarly, if you had a processed clip that needed its noise reduction altered, you would have to restore the un-processed version, find the noise print again, re-adjust the parameters, and then re-process it. When time is short (and when isn’t it?), real-time processes begin to look like a much better option. Unfortunately, plugins like X-Noise or iZotope RX Denoiser can’t be used effectively in real-time due to the enormous amounts of processing overhead required and the unmanageable latency added to the signal. With plugins like the new RX 3 Dialog Denoiser and Wave’s WNS and W43, real-time noise processing without expensive hardware is feasible, but it requires a change in workflow to utilize effectively. As I found once I started using the RX 3 Dialog Denoiser, putting one per dialog track was an inefficient use of CPU resources, and simply putting an instance on the main dialog bus proved problematic, especially when dealing with adjacent clips that had drastically different noise profiles.
Finding and removing noise (image display from iZotope’s RX 2 Advanced)
As a sound designer, there are many different thoughts that come to mind when considering a topic such as noise. Everything from using tone generated noise, like white noise in the designing of sound effects, to a technical discussion on different types of dither algorithms, but when I kept thinking about noise, one slightly different viewpoint of the word “noise” kept coming back to mind; like attempting to attenuate something that just won’t go away, this question kept creeping back into the forefront of my mind:
How does a sound designer get their “signal” heard through the ever-increasing amount of “noise” that surrounds us (and our intended audience)?
iZotope RX is legendary. Every other week I see a tweet about how it saved someone’s job (or life) and in these few years that it has been around it has become a go-to standard for all noise reduction magic, if you can afford it. What makes RX so powerful is the fact that you can get it working really well with just a few parameters while also having the option of diving into a spectrogram and literally sculpting out the offensive frequencies.
There are loads of reviews and resources online, including YouTube videos and content from iZotope themselves. Its capabilities are well known. When iZotope sent us a review copy I thought it might be best to look at some of the features available only in RX 2 Advanced while also using it for what it is not really meant for – sound design.
RX in its current version (V2) comes in two flavours: RX 2 and RX 2 Advanced. Here’s what is extra with RX 2 Advanced:
- Adaptive mode in Denoiser: It automatically adapts to changing noise profiles. We all know that even broadband noise doesn’t stay constant with scene and perspective cuts. It also includes a high frequency enhancer.
- Deconstruct: “This new class of audio manipulation tool intelligently separates audio into tonal and noisy components. For example, a singer’s voice has tonal parts (vowels, M and N sounds) and noisy sounds (breath sounds and sibilance like H, S and Sh).” Sound design possibilities right here!
- Third party plugin support: Load up your favourite DX/AU/VST plugins with RX and process only parts of a file with Spectral Selection. It also works for batch processing. More sound design opportunities!
- Advanced Denoiser options for precise control: Self explanatory
- Zotope 64-bit SRC and MBIT+ dithering: iZotope’s famed sample rate conversion algorithm and dither – also found in other audio applications
- iZotope Radius time and pitch control: Originally available for Logic Pro and Soundtrack, it is a time stretch and pitch shift algorithm.
- Export History as XML: Seems useful for archival and forensic work
- Azimuth Alignment: For tape restoration
RX 2 works both as a standalone application and as plugins in your favourite DAW. For this review I have explored most of the features using the standalone application.
Thoughts by Ian Palmer:
Anyone who knows me will know that 4 years on I am still madly in love with iZotope’s RX noise reduction package. So it is rather exciting to see what else this company can do. I had high hopes for this meter after hearing about its launch. If only I could do this review in three words, as in “It’s bloody good”!
Just to note, that I am reviewing Insight on an iMac running OSX 10.7.4 with ProTools 10.3.3, in stereo and from the point of view of a Dubbing Mixer in Europe using the forthcoming R128 mixing specifications.
Installing and registering the plugin is very simple and straightforward, as was finding it in the Sound Field folder. I easily located the preset folder and changed the settings to R128. Or BS ITU1770 Loudness Meter with History Graph EU. It’s easy enough to add my own presets and name them, but for the inexperienced I think the names could be simplified.
I really like the UI of Insight. Whilst it is busy, it is also easy to navigate quickly. It is customisable so that you can also make it as crowded or simple as you wish. The display options are Levels, Loudness History, Spectrum Analyser, Sound Field and a Spectrogram. It’s really interesting to see things that previously I had to listen for, like a mix being bass heavy. Tis is useful for those of us in smaller rooms and with smaller speakers wher such things can be difficult to hear. I welcome the phase meter in the Sound Field, something lacking from the likes of Waves’ WLM. The Loudness History gives you the ability to quickly identify where in a mix a problem might lie. Clicking on the plus button expands (any) the display where you can take a screenshot or even copy a very long list of measurements. Great for attaching to a mix delivery to placate those evil number crunching bureaucrats in QC.