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Author Topic: Conference Recordings--Overwhelmed with sessions. Need workflow help!  (Read 5741 times)

Garynyc

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Hi all;

I am in a conundrum over a good workflow for editing conference recordings. We do the recordings live, on site at different conference centers, hotels and the like,  and  have to edit them with a one day turnaround. I have Sound Forge 10 and its a full  featured program, but I would like to streamline workflow and get a consistent result  over many different recordings. Sometimes the rooms are different, the mics are  different, the speakers styles are different, etc. One of the main issues I would like  to solve is the dreaded "panel discussion", where multiple speakers use their mics in  different ways--from the loudmouth to the low talker, the head turner and the off-mic  speaker unaware that there is a mic near them at all.

I would like to know if there is some kind of normalization method in Sound Forge where  I can actually have the program take all of these different speakers and put them  roughly on the same par with eachother. Currently I just click and drag over a low area  of speech and normalize to a level comprable to the others, then select the whole file  and bump it up if I need to. I simply cant take the time now that we have up to 15  simultaneous recordings being dumped to my PC at a time to edit all of them with lots  of care!

Other questions--approximately what decible range should the heart of the speech be at?  I am comfortable with peaks hitting between -3db--1db. Is that too conservative?

I use clipped peak restoration to take the edge off some recordings that are too "hot"  seems to work well. Is this an advisable plug in to use for overdriven speech?
If so would anyone recommend using the "batch converter" in order to automate these  processes? Or should each be taken on individually.

Off-mic questions. Is there a good method for getting them to be audible without making  them sound like a tin can?

I really help someone can help me out here. Thank you for any and all advice!
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lowland

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That's quite a can of worms to try and unravel, Gary, but here are my immediate thoughts:

Are the recordings being actively recorded with an experienced sound person present, or is it a set-and-forget arrangement where 'record' is pressed with the intention of sorting it out at the edit stage? There's no substitute for having someone proactively mixing in the scenario you describe, so I hope it's the former but fear it's the latter, as most of the problems you're talking about should have been reduced or solved with someone who knows what they're doing being there; also, get the material mixed at source and you'll considerably reduce edit time. Off-mic questions? - ideally there should be a roving soundie in the audience with a mic (shotgun type would work well) mixed into the main program.

Editing-wise, I'd think you need at least twice the raw run time to edit, could be quite a bit more depending on content and application. If you're the only editor and you have a one-day turnaround I'm not remotely surprised you're having overflow problems - you really need a team of editors on a job like this, each with their own edit machines and preferably a server.

It sounds as if you're new to this but have a great assignment there, which I hope will spin off into more work for a long time to come; however, it looks on the face of things that you haven't properly thought the requirements through, so if you're going to hang on to the commission you probably need to hire more people and buy more kit, or look forward to no sleep for some time to come. Either way, all the best with it: if you survive this it sounds like you'll emerge having learnt some important lessons on how to do that kind of work, a valuable knowledge-base for the future.

Hopefully you can see there's little in the way of a 'magic bullet' for a job such as this - it's down to preparation and costing sensibly so you a) have the resources you need to do things properly and avoid overworking yourself but b) end up making a profit so you'll want to do it again.
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Nigel Palmer
Lowland Masters
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Garynyc

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Thank you for your reply Nigel. Unfortunately, the conference conditions vary, from large ballrooms with a pro board operator to set and forget rooms that have 5-6 people in a 300 sq ft hotel meeting salon.

I really need practical help here, as I am just a freelancer who has been tossed into the waters and told to swim...without any real professional lessons.

The company has hundreds of clients and records thousands of sessions a year. I cant change the way they operate, so at this time I would much rather receive practical advice on specific workflow techniques over a general critique of the underlying situation.

Thank you for any and all assistance you can give.
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lowland

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If you can't change the circumstances under which the recordings are made, then your original post would suggest you're probably making about as much as can be made of a difficult situation. I realise you don't want to hear any of this, but I'm afraid you'll probably just have to dig in and make it happen this time round, and try and exercise more control over what you're given next time.

Specific workflow and editing tips are fine, and others may supply those, but IMO it's the bigger picture that's the more important one. You're hurting right now because you feel you're getting little or no help either from people like myself or your employers, but I assure you that these are exactly the kinds of situations that sort those who are adaptable, inventive and have stick-to-it-iveness from the rest, and that you'll come out of this stronger or find something less stressful to do.

Hang in there, Gary!
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Nigel Palmer
Lowland Masters
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Garynyc

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Thank you for your thoughts and encouragement Nigel!

Anyone else out there who can offer up a streamlined workflow for conference recordings?
 ;)
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ggidluck

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You might want to try Samplitude. Working in the context of a virtual project you can split the regions where each person is speaking into an object. Each object then has it's own properties. You can set the volume level (like normalization) and it doesn't have to be rendered. Any undo is just a setting change (not unrendering of a previous snippet). It is a very good/fast environment in which to work.

I would preview each section on speakers and use a level meter to get the audio into the right ballpark. After a while you will be able to make a quick level adjustment by ear.

Once all your regions are marked for a uniform level if it were me I would run the whole thing through an analog compressor to smooth it all out and get the levels up. If you do this step your initial adjustments don't have to be as precise.

This doesn't have to cost a fortune to make the change. You can get the lesser version of Samplitude and for a compressor something like an ART ProVLA will do.

This is just my approach to the problem. Not necessarily the best or worst, but using equipment and software that I have firsthand knowledge about.




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Garynyc

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Sorry but we are required to use Sound Forge only. Thank you for a possible solution though.
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thechrisl

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After dealing with any clipping, you might want to run everything through a pair of filters (High Pass ~ 80Hz and Low Pass ~ 9kHz) to remove any rumble and edgy treble (+ help with noise).  Then try a limiter plugin with a threshold set close to the lowest talker to get everything roughly at same level.  Normalize after that.  Use some Noise Reduction to help with the noise floor which will be made worse with the limiter.  It won't sound very "natural" but it should get the job done quickly since that's the situation you've been forced into.  I'm pretty sure SF includes plugins that do this but there may be some free ones out there if not. 

Assuming you can get a formula/combination of settings which works pretty well with every scenario, the batch converter would definitely help.  I would think -3 to -1 is fine as a final level.
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SafeandSoundMastering

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My immediate advice once you completed this job is to buy a small mixer with insert points and a couple of low cost compressors to sort this out at source.

Have you just began recording speech?

Being freelance you must invest in some kit man, if jobs go sour you are history.

Seriously you best pick up a little Mackie desk and do it right next time, no joke Behringer kit would have stopped these problems.

You are going to have to use some plug in compression to even stuff out and the clipped stuff is
unlikely to be rectified, just pull it down compress/limit tastefully, High pass it at 60Hz roll off some 14kHz and above.

Don't batch it if you want to work again pop some low DSP use plugins on the output
and render each file with some custom settings, otherwise there might not be a next time, you learnt a lesson here don't repeat it.

I have done absolsutely sh*t loads of location recording in my time and you need the kitchen sink as you are on your own and jobs need to be done right, back ups recorders, UPS, spare cabling, spare everything basically.

Good luck.
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Barry Gardner
SafeandSound Mastering UK based online mastering studio.

Garynyc

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Well that would be nearly impossible since we have up to 15 concurrent sessions going off at a time. We are given Marantz PMD CF recorders to use, and they arent too bad.

If the CF card/recording fails, it fails--the company does not run backups.

I will take your suggestions seriously.

Thanks Safensound!
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Garynyc

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Safensound can you recommend any low cost compressors?
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Garynyc

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Chris Thank You for these ideas...I will experiment.
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Ed Littman

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Really Nice Compressor 1773
http://www.mercenary.com/realniccom.html

Garynyc

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Thank you Ed. Unfortunately we get so many rooms sometimes that its almost impossible to get compressors for all of them. Most meetings we do arre well set and with a board op. Sometimes with a cheap client we get the set & forget rooms, different mics, lousy boards etc..
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Treelady

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What you're doing is "essentially" broadcast work, meaning: multiple sources, different processing requirements by source, and killer deadlines.   

There is a reason SADiE and Samplitude are used in broadcast: they were designed to do the things you need to do fast.  SoundForge was an awesome two track editor, but what you're required to do, well its tough to work as fast as you would if you were allowed to use a DAW that was designed with Broadcast requirements in mind.

Sorry to be a downer.
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Garrett Haines
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Senior Contributor, Tape Op Magazine
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