I just finished helping my friend out with some sound post for a video. He recorded the audio with his in-cam mic, it recorded too much of the room and the track wasn’t that great. It isn’t the worse track that I had to deal with, but it still isn’t ideal.
They had directing/instructions which was WAY louder than the subject. They had some horrible background laughter in the video. So I did my thing and process the track my way. It wasn’t easy at all.
It would be easier if I pull out Adobe Audition and just add in the noise reduction, but the sound isn’t natural. So processing these two tracks needed good judgement and hearing. On top of that, it needed a good grasp on the concept of compromise, let me explain.
Very often, in sound engineering, when we solve a problem, we unintentionally create another one. Oh, the voice sounds harsh, I cut the high mids, oh no, now it sounds muddy, so I cut the lows, oh man, now it sounds so horrible. As a rule, if your track sounds worse after EQ, you are doing something wrong and you are better off with the original track. Most of time, in my experience, a track with minimal EQ–probably just one band–would sound better than a track with crazy amounts of EQ. Why create another problem when you are trying to solve one? If someone sounds harsh, obviously you cut the high-mids, but if makes the person muddy, instead of cutting the lows, it might be easier to compromise and don’t cut the high-mids that much. Sure it may be irritating, but it definitely won’t be as irritating as before. Learning to settle is a great skill.
Actually the more you think about it, the fundamentals of mixing is compromise. What do you do to hear someone more clearly? You either raise that microphone or bring everyone else down. You never can get the everything. In a song, not everyone solos at the same time. If you want the guitar to come out, you have to bring the keys down. It has always been compromise.
Even EQ is a compromise. We all love a well balanced guitar tone. How do we get there? If we want the guitar to sound more warm, you raise the body. If we want the guitar to sound brighter, you raise the string sound. A guitar tone will never be bright and dark at the same time.
What happens when we don’t come to a compromise? You will hear mixes where every instrument is fighting with each other for frequency space. Everything just won’t sound balanced and mixed.
Let’s go back to the treating of the noise in the video track. To reduce noise, I first used an EQ to filter out the frequencies that the Aircon produces. So mainly the highs got taken out. To focus on the voices speaking, I cut the lows as well, because there is no need for the low rumble in their voices. That treated quite well. Next, using an expander to deal with dynamics is a gem, though it only works a little. A noise gate would be cool, but I find the cutting in and out sounds worse than a gentle expanding, so I settled for an expander. Next, a multi-band compressor to compress only the vocal important frequencies, so that it will come out even more. This will also help the irregularity in the volume between the directing and the interviewee.
What I have done here is basically compromise. I hear something cutting out too much, making the track sound bad, I cut back on the effect. I experiment and try different things to get the sound I wanted. If a sound engineer doesn’t understand the concept of compromise, he/she will have a hard time to mix.
As a musician, we have to understand out role in the music. Drums set tempo, drive dynamics. Bass holds constant and glues rhythm with melody. Guitar drives energy. Keys fills spaces. Second Keys creates atmosphere. Can every instrument solo? Sure they can! However, not all at one time. When one solos, the rest follows the soloist. Can a bass play high notes? Sure it can, but there is a very fundamental role in the band that is achieved by the bass, that playing lower notes may help sound better. Staying where we are in the music is a form of compromise we do with each other for a greater purpose; to play a piece of music that sounds good.
In life, what are we compromising for the greater good? Are we the ones that is quick to forgive because we value our relationships? Are we doing tasks that no one wants to do so that everyone can be comfortable?
There were times when people pointed out that I am too easy going and that people are taking advantage of me. Back in the army, in my platoon, everyone knows that I clean the stairs. No one else stepped up. So I basically cleaned the stairs for about a year? It was our area to clean and I don’t want us to be scolded, so I just did it for my platoon. Sure, people may have taken advantage of my initiative and not cleaned the stairs themselves, but ultimately it was for the good of the platoon. When BL stepped up and cleaned without anyone asking him to, I was extremely proud of him.
When people think about the greater scheme of things, many tasks become minor. What may seem big to you, may actually be a small part in the whole process. When we get bitter with the Lord because He doesn’t give us what we want, it is good to look at our motivations. Are we willing to compromise on our comfort for the grand scheme of the Lord? For when we see His plans, we realise that we are on the same team and instead of fighting, perhaps a bit of compromise may help in the long run. It is for the good of the Lord’s Kingdom.
Thank you Lord.