Reduce Background Noise while Leaving Dialogue Intact

Q. I have a tape on which the voice of a person speaking is mixed with background noise from the restaurant. These noises in the background make it difficult to understand the person’s speech. Is there a way to reduce the background sounds and yet keep the person’s speech unaffected?

Don Jamison
Wilmington, Delaware

A. About the only way to reduce previously recorded background noise with the least impact on your talent’s voice is to use a graphic equalizer. In the process, you’ll have to dub down a generation from your original master recording. Basically, you run your original audio signal through an EQ and then to the record deck. The EQ can pinpoint a range of audible frequencies and adjust the level of sounds falling within that range. Try using the EQ to minimize (or cut) the frequencies where the restaurant noises dominate your talent’s voice. At the same time, use the EQ to boost the frequencies of the talent’s voice. Finding the right frequencies to boost or cut takes practice and patience. Remember, also, that an equalizer can never fully compensate for a poor recording.

The background noise problem is common, especially when videomakers rely too heavily on their camcorder’s built-in microphone. Many built-in camcorder mikes have omnidirectional pick-up patterns. This means that they pick up sounds equally from all directions. Thus background noises may end up just as loud as the talent being taped. The distance between the camcorder’s mike and talent is rarely ideal, allowing noise to further overpower the desired audio.

Next time, try using a unidirectional or supercardioid (highly directional) mike. Because these mikes are much more sensitive to sounds coming from directly in front, a camcorder-mounted directional microphone will help cancel out the restaurant noise surrounding your talent. Better yet, use an external directional mike and place it as close to your talent as practical.

Q. When I transfer my Super-8 films to video, I have a line that goes up on the video playback. It’s similar to the lines one sees if a picture of a TV screen is taken with a video camera. Can you help?

Yale J. Berry
Boston, Massachusetts

A. A basic consumer-type Super-8 projector’s speed is around 18 or 24 frames a second. Because the projector is not running at the same rate as the video format (30 frames per second), the difference in speeds will cause the annoying black bands in your recorded image.

Some projectors have variable projection speed controls. Adjusting these will help to match frame rates more evenly. An even better option is the “synchronized” projector that features a special three-bladed shutter, rather than the standard 4-blade shutter. This type of projector synchronizes the film’s shutter speeds to the standard video format of 30 frames per second. In most cases, these methods will help eliminate the rolling bars and flicker in your transferred image.

Q. I have a question concerning the use of Hi8 tapes on a 8mm camcorder. I have a Sony TR-83 8mm camcorder. A friend told me that the TR-83 will record and play 8mm or Hi8 tapes. Will the use of a Hi8 tape damage the heads on my camcorder?

Mark A. Smith
Pittsburg, Pennsylvania

A. Your friend is correct–you can record and play Hi8 tapes in the Sony’s TR-83 camcorder at regular 8mm resolution. Remember that Hi8 tapes cost about twice as much as 8mm tapes, and you won’t see any noticeable increase in image or sound quality using a Hi8 tape in an 8mm camcorder. But if you still want to spend the extra money, using a Hi8 tape in your 8mm camcorder will not harm the heads or transport.

Q. Could you advise me on how to improve the quality of my video when I try to transfer color film slides to Hi8? I project my slides on a white card with a Sony Ektagraphic projector, using a Canon A1 Mark II with the white balance set. The result is poor color with a gray or bluish tint. Also, focus is not very sharp.

R.W. Bailey
Santa Rosa, CA

A. Instead of projecting your slides onto a white card, try projecting the slides onto a piece of light gray or slightly textured paper. This will cut down on excessive contrast. Experiment with various finishes and surface treatments too, because different colors and textures will amplify grain and reflect back too much light.

Be sure and set the white balance on your camcorder using a white piece of paper. If you camcorder offers continuous auto white balance only, simply aim your camcorder at the white paper for about ten or fifteen seconds before you begin taping. If your camcorder offers manual white balance, be sure and use it!

Make sure to connect the output of your camcorder directly to the input of a TV monitor. Now you can determine the sharpness of focus from three sources. Start on the wall using the focus adjustment on your projector. Then adjust the focus on your camcorder to the projected image. Finally, check the image on your monitor.

Q. I enjoyed the article in the November issue about the new Sony DCR-VX1000 camcorder. My question is the following: Does it record time and date onto the tape for viewing during playback?

Joseph Stair

A. Yes, the DV format stores a wealth of data onto the tape for display on playback. This data includes date or time of recording (in hours, minutes, seconds), camera information such as f-stop value or shutter speed and various parameters for video processing. You can display the recorded date, time or camera settings in the viewfinder or on a video monitor while playing back the cassette. The remote is the key to these functions–pressing the DATA CODE button on the Remote Commander gives you two display options: “recorded date and time” or “various settings.”

The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.

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