A few years ago, I was the re-recording mixer on MTV’s The Challenge: The Island and I nearly lost my sanity trying to clean up the production dialogue tracks. It seemed every audio clip from an exterior shot was plagued by the incessant chirping of what I assumed to be the world’s largest orchestra of crickets. I spent hours trying to take out their noise, but nothing had much effect.
So when iZotope came out with their RX 2 Audio Repair bundle, I felt as if I had been thrown a life preserver. With the Denoiser, Spectral Repair, and other modules, I could take out not just crickets, but electrical hum, car alarms, and air conditioner noise with relative ease and little artifacting.
Now iZotope has released their RX 3 and RX 3 Advanced bundles, both with updated versions of the repair modules from RX 2, and two new ones exclusive to the RX 3 Advanced: Dialogue Denoiser and Dereverb. The Declipper, Declicker, Decrackler, and Hum Removal worked well in RX 2 and continue to do so in RX 3 without much change, though the results tend to sound a little smoother.
The Denoiser is similar as well, though it seems more powerful. My user default reduction curve in the RX 2 Denoiser Modular was at 18.4, but with the RX 3 version, I’ve found a 10.3 curve setting gives me a similar reduction in the background noise.
For me, the biggest improvement in the updated modules is in the Spectral Repair tool. In RX 2, the module allowed the user to repair only 10 seconds of audio at a time. That meant that to remove background noise throughout a three minute scene, there were about 20 chunks I had to repair and process. However, in the RX 3 version, the user can repair up to 45 seconds of audio at a time, depending on the bit rate. At 48k, I found I could grab 40 second chunks of dialogue, or only about 5 sections in a three minute scene.
In addition to the updated tools from the RX 2 bundle, the RX 3 Advanced bundle comes with two new repair modules: Dialogue Denoiser and Dereverb. The Dialogue Denoiser automatically analyzes the background noise on your tracks and gives you real time noise reduction as you play down. I’ve been using it on my current show and it seems to help… a little. Its reduction curve doesn’t respond as quickly as I would like and is not as specific as I need, and neither response time nor resolution quality are adjustable. Hopefully, there’s an update to the software in the future.
The Dialogue Denoiser in action
The types of noise it does reduce are along the lines of a loud room tone or airy movement, which, for the shows I work on, are generally covered by the music of the episode anyway. It didn’t eliminate my need to use the Denoiser or Spectral Repair tools on any of the noisy clips in my show. However, I did have a scene with no music and the Dialogue Denoiser did help eliminate some of the slapback and movement sounds in the scene. This module would be beneficial for use on podcasts, or if you’re mixing a presentation at a conference. But for any project that uses wall-to-wall music, the benefit seems minor.
The other tool exclusive to the RX 3 Advanced package is the Dereverb. If you’ve ever had to work with poorly recorded ADR or voice over, you know how impossible it can be to make it match production tracks if there’s any reverb in the recording. But with the Dereverb tool, matching the recordings has become much easier. I’ve used it to take the reverb out of a poorly recorded ADR track that was a little too live compared to my production tracks, and I’ve done the reverse and used it to take reverb out of the production tracks to help match a very dry and dead ADR line.
While the tool certainly does not provide a perfect match, it does make the transition from production to ADR much smoothe.
If you don’t have an RX Audio Repair bundle, and you ever need to clean up dialogue from the field, I highly recommend purchasing the RX 3 package (MSRP: $349).
If you currently have the RX 2 bundle, I recommend upgrading to the RX 3 bundle, though the tools you have in the RX 2 are certainly good enough, so upgrading isn’t essential.
However, I think it’s hard to justify spending $800 more to purchase the RX 3 Advanced bundle (MSRP: $1199), for just the additional Dialogue Denoiser, Dereverb, and Insight Audio Metering Suite tools.
For more information on the Emmy winning software visit: izotope.com
The Entertainment Technology Expo (ETE) held by Createasphere has quietly snuck its way into its 13th year, and each time we’ve visited, it’s always been a genuine experience. The alcohol is free. The crowds are smaller. And the manufacturers don’t have that crazed “this-is-NAB” look on their faces. Fujifilm, FreeFly, NewBlueFX, and Azden all had gear worth noting.
The PL-friendly 14-35mm Cabrio ZK light weight zoom lens was on display. It’s the latest in the 35mm family that houses a 19-90 and 85-300mm lens as well. The flexibility of the glass impressed us the most.
Built for speed and designed for 4K cameras, a specially implemented servo drive unit allows operators to use the lens ENG style, or if detached, it carries the standard 0.8mm cine gearing for the traditional filmmaking route.
The lens itself was light – about 6lbs. The operating rings were just what you’d expect from Fujifilm – smooth, easy to read and adjust. The T.29 wide angle zoom lens features a 2.5 zoom ratio, close focus up of 24” (0.6 m / 2′) and has a 114x231mm diameter/length.
I asked Fuji if we could give one away… their only response was just a smile.
IS0-mini / IS-100 Fujifilm also had their coveted IS-mini box coupled with the IS-100 CCBOXX. The IS-100 allows you to create LUTS, live color grading on set live with a camera image. The CCBOXX uses 16bit ACES color space and the information can easily be exported for a regular REC709 workflow.
When paired with the IS-mini, viewing an accurate color profile over HD-SDI or HDMI on a monitor is fast and simple. If you’re in a multi-camera shoot, onboard LAN ports allow up to 300ft of additional coverage. Each camera would need its own IS-mini, but Michael Bulbenko of Fujifilm mentioned that a recent production used 48 different IS-mini devices without a hitch.
The IS-100 comes with its own free color software for use on an iPad. The user friendly curve tools and menus are easy to understand and have great response from software to screen. If you’re a DI, it’s definitely work checking out.
I mean, what can I say about the MōVI that hasn’t been already typed since the Seattle based company broke onto the scene? If you’ve been hibernating, the MōVI is a 3-axis stabilized gimbal that gives operators a new space to create magnificent shots. At first touch you want to run away with it in hopes no one catches your license plate number. The thing is kickass.
Available in a variety of flavors, M10, M5 and the MR – “Majestic Mode” allows for a single operator to control the unit all by his lonesome. The motorized systems – pan, tilt and roll follow the movement of the operator and can all be adjusted via bluetooth connectivity.
The M10 and MR can hold up to 10lbs, which includes cameras like the RED EPIC, Scarlet, Canon C500, C300, 1DC, 5D Mark II, 5D Mark III, Panasonic GH3, Black Magic Cinema Camera and the Sony FS100.
So what’s the difference? They say if you’re looking to do more handheld work, the M10 is a better fit while the MR (multi-rotor) is preferred for aerial work.
While the motor/drive system is quiet to the ears, I haven’t been able to test it with a microphone to hear exactly what’s picked up. The creators say it’s virtually inaudible, but I wouldn’t take their word for it just yet if you’re a production mixer.
I’ve been a Red Giant Magic Bullet guy for 11 years or so now, and haven’t looked at anything else out of laziness to learn something new. My color correction requirements are not as robust as most professionals, but the NewBlueFX ColorFast software grabbed my attention.
A color correction, color grading and color enhancing plugin for Premiere, Final Cut, Vegas, Avid or EDIUS, the primary and secondary color correction controls were quite advanced. With the secondary correction, you have a variety of controls for highlights, midtones and shadows. You can also create and work with masks within the plugin. This is great, as you don’t have to add additional tracks to your timeline for one instance of using ColorFast.
The skin preservation mask was very precise, allowing grading without touching skin tones. With the combination of its counterpart, shape mask, you can fine-tune and adjust specific areas in a background that the skin preservation wasn’t allowing you to grade. Both of these tools are key frameable so you can change them at any time in a scene.
Besides ColorFast, NewBlueFX has software bundles for transitions, titling, motion and audio. Check out their entire line: http://www.newbluefx.com
For the budget-conscious DSLR operator looking for quality audio, you might want to consider the FMX-DSLR mixer and SMX-20 stereo microphone from Azden.
The SMX-20 is an onboard microphone that’s easily mountable to a hot shoe. The mic is just under 5 inches long and has an attached 3.5mm output stereo cable. It carries a sensitivity of -40db and a frequency response of 100-20,000Hz.
While the signal to noise ratio is 60db, to us, this is more of a directional microphone, picking up what’s in front of the camera up to 5ft, and a left or right shift of about 3ft. Anything outside that range, I would be conscious of unusable audio or a higher noise ratio.
For power, the SM-20 uses a LR-44 battery and comes complete with windscreen and shock mount.
The FMX-DSLR mixer has inputs for two XLRs, headphones, a 3.5mm stereo input and can supply phantom power. The mixer also has line/mic input switches, adjustable knobs for level, can kill AGC and has a 3.5mm unbalanced output switchable to stereo or mono.
If you’re a DSLR shooter and care about audio, you should know the name Beachtek. Developing an extensive line of solid audio adapters for the last 16 years, the Canadian company’s low noise preamplifiers can put a smile on any post sound mixer’s face.
To me, the DXA-SLR Pro is their flagship piece. Built from an aluminum chassis, the first thing that made me clap was when I saw the two Neutrik XLR inputs. There’s Neutrik, then there’s everyone else. Each channel provides up to 20db of gain on the unit’s high setting, and for the more sensitive condenser mics, you can set it to 0db. 12 or 48v phantom power is standard on this guy, and it has a limiter feature for those unforeseen audio level overloads.
Another gem is its ability to cut Auto Gain Control (AGC) aka the “we-do-what-we-want-with-your-audio” feature found on most DSLRs. If you own a 7D, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The audio capabilities on these first generation DSLRs were not as robust, and some of them still aren’t today. I mean, could Canon/Nikon have predicted filmmakers would use their budget-friendly 1080p images for feature films? Maybe. Either way, at least they’re listening.
Besides the Pro version, they have a slew of adapters including the DXA-SLR Mini. It’s an active adapter that boasts a VU meter, limiter and gain options as well as the AGC kill. This box is more suited for connecting wireless mics and microphones that use a mini connector (3.5mm).
The DXA-SLR Pure is a passive adapter that’s good when running your audio through a mixing board or when you don’t need any additional amplification. Beachtek also created the DXA-BMD designed to work perfectly with the Blackmagic Cinema Camera.
Side tech tip: The term “passive” is used to describe a clean audio pass through where no electronics get in the way nor does it require power to pass the signal. While “active” boxes usually require power to pass an audio signal and provide more complex gain structure and limiter options.
One of their newer boxes is the DXA-Connect. The adapter has an ingenious top mountable design. It carries 2 XLR inputs, phantom power, and the multiple shock mount options attached allows you to slip on additional mics, receivers or record directly into an Atomos recorder.
The two fresh products they let us see at DV Expo this year were their recently released PRO 5180, a rechargeable 9V battery system, and the DXA-Ultra, an adapter system complete with rails. To us, manufacturing batteries makes sense for Beachtek. Their adapters run off 9V so why not provide a system for users that works great with their products. The lithium polymer batteries provide 10 hours of battery life and the entire kit which comes complete with two batteries and a charger only costs $89. Additional batteries can also be bought separately.
Their latest adapter, the DXA-Ultra is set to come out early 2014. It’s similar to the DXA-SLR Pro we mentioned earlier, but with a rail system already attached. The prototype had a standard 6” rail, but Harry Kaufmann, president of Beachtek, shared with me further testing will need to take place to find the sweet spot for the unit before it hits the market.
When Redrock Micro released their Cobalt Cage for GoPro HERO, HERO2, and HERO3 back in April 2013, you probably could have placed a bet that changes and improvements would come down the line as user feedback trickled its way back to the company’s desk.
The $99 Cobalt is a stellar security solution for the popular POV cameras, and the military-grade aluminum housing gives enthusiasts and creators the kind of impact, crush-proof reassurance they need.
The cage itself is saturated with 1/4 20 mounting options on all angles to add LEDs, mics, maybe even another GoPro… The team at Redrock has already introduced a Deluxe Accessory Kit that allows you to attach a GoPro without the need of its housing, but they added a few more surprises for us. Sound & Picture was the first outlet to see the new peripherals at DV Expo this year, and we were quite pleased with the new direction.
Bear in mind these were prototypes, but they’re planning to add two new accessories to the line. One of them being the Power Plate, which provides a GoPro with an additional 10 hours of battery life. Say what? Yeah. 10 freaking hours. That’s more time than if you sat down to watch the Star Wars trilogy then followed it with a few eps of Bob’s Burgers. The Power Plate runs off 4x AA batteries and securely connects to the GroPro via USB.
The plate does add a little weight, but you can also use it to provide power to another USB device simply by switching the USB plug from the GoPro into something else.
Another add-on accessory they let us look at was a standard 55mm neutral density (ND) filter. ND filters help reduce the amount of light reaching the lens so this is perfect for those bright, sunshiny days. Did I just quote Jimmy Cliff’s I Can See Clearly Now?
No word on pricing or availability, but I’m sure it will be announced soon.
My friends at Zacuto took some flack last year as they showed documentary coverage of a Camera Evaluation project they organized and sponsored under the supervision of longtime DCS member, the renowned DP, Bruce Logan, ASC. The program was set up as a “blind” test, where a particular shot was done with a variety of cameras, then projected back to back without revealing which camera had shot which takes. The cameras ran the gamut of cost and quality, from a Sony F65, Alexa, RED Epic, as well as Canon and Panasonic HDSLRs; interestingly, they also included an iPhone.
Different Cinematographers who had experience and were comfortable working with the various cameras were allowed to do a little relighting for each shot. The idea was to help compensate for any weaknesses of the lesser quality cameras which generally needed more exposure and less contrast in the lighting. Detailed notes were taken of the additional resources needed to make the best looking shots, both on the set and in color correction. According to the documentary’s Producers, Zacuto’s Steve Weiss and Jens Bogehegn, the test was designed to show that it was the talent of the Cinematographer that really determined the quality of footage, more so than the tools they were using.
From the makers of the Ninja, Ninja-2, and 3 Ninjas Kick Back (kidding) comes their latest creation, the Samurai Blade. Jeromy Young has an inventive mind, and to us, Atomos has put together a formidable portable recorder that shouldn’t go unnoticed.
The 325dpi (1280 x 720) 5″ touchscreen monitor is super bright and its menu system is easy to navigate. The Blade has the ability to record 10-bit 4:2:2 ProRes or DNxHD in S-Log or C-Log. Focus assist, zebra, false color monitoring, trigger REC/STOP functions for the major cameras and ability to record timecode from the camera is just the tip. This HD-SDI camera mountable recorder even has in menu editing so you can set in and outs on clips on the fly. Your media is recorded on either 2.5″ HDD or SSD drives and are hot swappable.
As for audio, you can monitor up to 12 channels of digital and 2 of analog. There’s also a line out and a headphone jack.