Hey guys,

I'm a long time lurker on this network! Love it.

I just got my first gig as a an all around sound guy on a movie (the on site recording is done by other people). It's a sort of documentary type one, but including actors.

I'm trying to clean up the dialogue in one of the parts, but I find it nearly impossible! There is this broadband noise that when cleaned up, destroys the voices. I can get away with some level of noise, as as far as I know the director doesn't want it super polished. But I have no luck getting to a satisfying point.

The action is in the forest. there's constant broadband noise there, how do I go about cleaning it?

Thank you very much!

Have a great week!, Mister Ve

  • Try working with something like the Waves C4 as an expander and it behaves a lot like a CEDAR - by noise reduction you've done I'm assuming that you mean FFT based (iZotope, DNR, etc). Dec 11, 2012 at 20:52
  • This other method operates off of different principals Dec 11, 2012 at 20:52

4 Answers 4


This is a documentary. You can get away with noise in the production audio, and people will accept it. They key point is whether or not the audio is intelligible. Listening to that example you linked to, I would suggest you leave it alone. The noise floor, while present, is not interfering with my ability to pick out the phonemes. Give it some EQ to reinforce the voices just slightly, and leave it alone beyond that.

Don't fall into the trap of trying to have everything sound pristine. In documentaries, you should preserve some of those sonic characteristics of the location.

  • Thanks for your input. The thing is that it is not a full on documentary, it's somewhat a mixture between a feature film and a documentary and I fear that the noise would fatigue viewers at cinema screenings.
    – Mister Ve
    Dec 11, 2012 at 13:26
  • I agree, with docs I've been able to get away with some pretty dirty (but still cleaned up dialogue) compared to feature/TV land. Definitely about finding that balance since at some point you reach of point of diminishing return Dec 11, 2012 at 20:54
  • +1 on intelligability. Most important aspect when dealing with dialogue. Dec 14, 2012 at 13:01

If you allow the download option in soundcloud, I can try to clean it.

  • I thought it was on, sorry! It is now.
    – Mister Ve
    Dec 11, 2012 at 13:28

Problems become most obvious to the general audience when there is a clean bit of audio to compare the dirty one with. Even high quality audio cleaning will have a noticeable effect on the dialog. When that is compared with an alternate track the difference can be much more obvious.

If you are using multiple sources, you will have to do a certain amount of audio cleaning to the track that doesn't really need it. An audience tends to overlook audio fidelity issues when there is no focal point of higher quality. I have had to deal with the exact same issue in Post, Music and SFX production as well.

Not to sound cynical, but I have found that the average person is basically a lemming to what there ears are telling them. The point of reference they use to judge quality is often momentary and unskilled. That being said, minus noticeable distortion, phasing and obvious frequency problems you have a good amount of wiggle room I think.

On a side note, I like to record my field sessions with some low fidelity mics just to taste test them with declared "Audiophile" people. Often, even experienced ears pick out the "Lower Quality" options. Especially if they don't know which mic is which in the first place.


... this technology might be the best available right now:


But before you start trying to get the cleanest sound you can get, think about style. Why is does the recording sound the way it does and what does the quality of audio mean in the given context. This is basically following up on the previous post about documentary sound. Along those lines, Coll Anderson talks about how the lower quality audio makes certain elements of a documentary's sound more believable. He even has gone to the point of adding distortion and mic ruffling sounds to scenes.

I actually just realized that the post I am talking about above is by Shaun Farley. Go figure:




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