In today’s digital age, audio recordings have become an essential part of our lives, whether it’s for podcasts, videos, voiceover, or professional audio production. However, these recordings often suffer from an unwanted guest: background noise. In the realm of audio production, background noise is an ever-present challenge that can significantly impact the quality and effectiveness of recordings. Whether you are creating a podcast, recording a voiceover, or producing a video, background noise can sneak its way into your audio, causing distractions and diminishing the overall listening experience.
Background noise can manifest in various forms and arise from different sources. It can be the hum of electrical equipment, the subtle hiss of a microphone, the ambient sounds of a room, or even external factors like traffic or wind. And at the same time, they will not be noticeable during recording, since the person around him always hears the background noise. But when the audio file gets into the hands of the editor, the background noise is immediately heard.
Understanding background noise
Background noise in audio refers to any unwanted sound that accompanies the main audio content. As already mentioned, it can be the sound of the noise of the room (the equipment in it), buzzing, rustling of clothes, or sounds produced by audio equipment (microphones can phonate, etc.).
One of the key consequences of background noise is the diminished clarity and quality of the audio. It can mask important details, such as speech or subtle audio cues, making it difficult for listeners to discern and understand the content. For example, if this is a scene where there is a dialogue in an apartment near a window. It is raining outside and this sound is the background noise that adds realism. And if there is any extraneous noise (such as buzzing or rustling), then it will not be clear what is happening in the room. A person will constantly be distracted from the dialogue and try to understand what is happening around him. The clarity of the audio is crucial, especially in contexts where information dissemination or storytelling is paramount.
How background noise appears
Background noise appears for various reasons, but always in one way – during recording. In audio recordings, several common types of background noise may be encountered. One such type is room tone, which refers to the ambient noise in the recording environment. This can include the sound of air conditioning, fans, or external noises leaking into the recording space. Room tone can be particularly noticeable in quieter sections of the audio. It is left to the edge of rare cases at the discretion of the editor or writer. But in such cases, it is not counted as background noise but is one of the central sounds.
Another type of background noise is electrical interference, which often manifests as a subtle hum or buzz. They can be issued by devices that record sound, lighting systems, or faulty cables. It can also be extraneous signals caught by the device if the sound is recorded remotely (radio loop microphones). Such interference is characteristic of the fact that they are heard during the entire audio from the moment it is turned on until the end of the recording.
Microphone noise is another prevalent form of background noise. It can result from the microphone itself or the handling of the microphone, leading to undesirable mechanical sounds or movements. Usually, these are cheap microphones, or audio remotes for them, which cannot adjust sound levels. It can also be faulty cables connecting the microphone, or the microphone itself is faulty and needs to be repaired, or bought a new one.
By identifying and analyzing these noise types, video editors can employ appropriate techniques and tools to minimize or eliminate their impact. Because to understand what to do, it is necessary to understand what you are dealing with.
Why is it important to remove background noise from audio
Imagine listening to a podcast where the speaker’s voice is overshadowed by a constant hum or static. Focusing on what is being said will take a few seconds until you get used to the voice. Next, you will start hearing background noise that will soon become annoying to you. How long can you last? 5 minutes or less. That is why it is important to remove background noise.
When background noise is present, it competes with the primary audio content for the listener’s attention, creating distractions and making it challenging to focus on the intended message. This distraction can lead to reduced comprehension, diminished engagement, and unsatisfactory user experience. It also shows the unprofessionalism of the editor who made such content. Listeners may perceive the presence of background noise as a lack of attention to detail or a lack of investment in delivering high-quality audio.
And if we think more globally, in various professional contexts such as broadcasting, film production, and voiceover work, maintaining high-quality audio is paramount. Background noise can compromise the professionalism and credibility of the content, reflecting poorly on the creator or the brand. Removing background noise demonstrates a commitment to delivering a polished and professional final product. And these are big expenses and little earnings. It can also show indifference to one’s audience and neglect of one’s work.
Troubleshooting and limitations
It is necessary to understand that it is not always possible to get rid of background noise without a trace. Too loud background noise can interfere with the main sound (human voice) and then compromise is inevitable. Applying aggressive noise reduction settings can lead to artifacts, unnatural sound, or distortion in the audio. It is crucial to find a balance between noise reduction and preserving the desired audio content. Various complications make it difficult for editors.
If the background noise varies significantly throughout the recording or is too loud it may be challenging to achieve consistent noise reduction results. Excessive noise reduction can significantly damage the main sound and make it sound distorted or robotic. In such cases, manual adjustments or the use of adaptive noise reduction tools can be beneficial. Some background noise, such as overlapping conversations or dynamic ambient sounds, may be difficult to reduce without affecting the desired audio. Careful parameter adjustments and targeted noise reduction techniques may be necessary.
Troubleshooting Tips and Solutions
Preview and fine-tune
Before applying some settings, always preview the effect in real time and adjust the parameters to strike the right balance between noise reduction and audio quality. Listen and make incremental changes until the desired results are achieved. If you apply an effect by mistake, simply undo the last action.
Segment and apply
If the noise characteristics vary within the recording, consider splitting the audio into segments and applying different noise reduction settings to each section. Just select the first area, and perform all the necessary effects on it. Then go to the second section. This approach allows for more precise control over noise reduction in specific areas.
In complex cases, manually selecting and adjusting certain segments of the audio to remove noise can yield better results. Standard settings are rarely good at all when it comes to removing background noise. The best way is to manually try to adjust each parameter of the effect until you achieve the desired result. And don’t forget to listen to how the effect works in real-time mode.
For persistent or challenging noise, performing multiple passes with different settings can yield better results. Just do each effect step by step. Listen to the result and proceed to the next effect. Start with a conservative approach and gradually increase the noise reduction until the desired balance is achieved. The main thing here is not to overdo it!
Balancing noise reduction with preserving audio quality is the main task for every editor dealing with editing audio materials. While noise reduction techniques can greatly improve audio clarity, it is essential to exercise caution and avoid overprocessing, which can lead to artifacts or distortion. By previewing and fine-tuning the effects in real time, editors can strike the ideal balance and ensure that the desired audio content remains intact.
Each audio recording presents unique challenges and characteristics, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach or preset that can handle every situation. And this should be remembered. By familiarizing themselves with the tools, adjusting parameters, and applying various strategies, editors can develop their proficiency in achieving optimal noise reduction results. Taking the time to understand and analyze the specific noise elements in each recording will contribute to more accurate and satisfactory results.
Embrace the opportunity to improve your skills, explore alternative tools if necessary, and approach each audio file with a tailored approach. With diligence and expertise, you can produce professional-grade audio content that captivates the audience and delivers a superior auditory experience.