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Author Topic: Can Limiters Lower Crowd Chatter Effectively?  (Read 3898 times)

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stevetoney

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Can Limiters Lower Crowd Chatter Effectively?
« on: June 01, 2016, 02:26:46 PM »
I've said before that I know I haven't tapped the power of my software.  With that in mind, the only time I use a limiter is to limit loud volume sounds (e.g. claps up close to the mic).  However, I recently made a recording from the midst of a chatty audience in which the stage music is only a couple of instruments and the vocals.  In other words, the stage sound doesn't seem to have a huge dynamic range and it's loud enough that it almost completely masks the chatter when there's music, but then when there's a pause in the music or of course between songs the chatter predominates.  I realize this describes almost all audience recordings but all I'm trying to say is that in this case the difference in loudness between the music and the audience is quite distinct.

That got me thinking...can i create a volume based filter, or envelope, that leaves the music alone based on the volume level, but focuses on the lower volume crowd chatter to lower it another say 10 db or so, but also doesnt change the dynamics of the music enough that it ruins the recording?

Or would I just save time and be better off just parsing through the recording and isolating the offending locations and selectively applying negative gain.

Looking for some experience based advice to save me some time from teaching myself some lessons some of you may have already learned.

stevetoney

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Re: Can Limiters Lower Crowd Chatter Effectively?
« Reply #1 on: June 01, 2016, 04:40:41 PM »
If the music is playing at the same time as the chatter, but more softly, a limiter won't help, because it will turn down both together.  Where the peaks are different from program material--such as with clapping--limiters can help.  If the chatter is somewhat incoherent and indistinct, you might try a noise reduction algorithm instead.  But if it's a few people near you talking clearly, your only hope is something like a spectral editor.

Makes sense.  Thank you.  It'd be hard to imagine there aren't some points where the music, even though it's amplified, isn't lower than the chatter.  Generally the chatter isn't the incoherent noise kind, but more like low in background simultaneous conversations with an occasional too-close-to-mics hollar at the kiddies or whatever (which I of course knew I couldn't do anything with.)

Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Can Limiters Lower Crowd Chatter Effectively?
« Reply #2 on: June 01, 2016, 04:59:13 PM »
That got me thinking...can i create a volume based filter, or envelope, that leaves the music alone based on the volume level, but focuses on the lower volume crowd chatter to lower it another say 10 db or so, but also doesnt change the dynamics of the music enough that it ruins the recording?

What you are describing is sort of the exact opposite of limiting - dynamic range expansion rather than dynamic range compression.  Reducing gain once the signal falls below a threshold, rather than reducing gain once the signal exceeds the threshold.   The most common use of an expander is a noise-gate, typically used with a high ratio and a fast attack/release to reduce low-level noise rapidly during moments of no program, and return to full level once the desired program signal returns and again exceeds the threshold.  The signal level needs to be loud enough to exceed that of the noise at all times, and also needs to effectively mask the noise when the gate is not active for this to work.  A noise gate is typically set to operate very quickly like a limiter, and like a limiter needs to be set carefully so as not to cause audible artifacts which are more distracting than the noise itself.  Common artifacts are noticeable pumping of the noise.

You might play around with setting your a dynamics plugin for similar noise-gate-like quick action, adjusting the threshold to a level just below that of the music program but higher than the audience noise, and then either change the gate from a steep ratio to a rather minimal one (play with how much reduction you can get while still sounding transparent, probably no more than a few dB), or use it more like a standard gate with a high ratio (in which case you will definitely hear it working) but mix in sufficient "room tone" to form a new, less offensive noise-floor into which the gate lowers the offending chatter.  The chatter is then masked by the music when the gate is not working, and becomes somewhat obscured by your new noise floor when it is working. 

That second approach might allow for a bit more reduction, but you'd some sort of noise recording to form the new less offensive but quite audible noise-floor.  A good room tone recording might work, if the room tone is brought up in level to be loud enough, and is less annoying than the chatter at that level.  If it was outside you could use appropriate nature sounds, such as bugs and birds in a meadow, trees rustling, good-sounding wind noise (not mic rumble!).  Surf crashing at the beach is broad band and white noise like and should work well but is probably not appropriate!  Plain old white noise may work if you don't mind old school tape hiss!  Go whole hog retro and add some vinyl pop and dust noise too!

Quote
Or would I just save time and be better off just parsing through the recording and isolating the offending locations and selectively applying negative gain.
 
The same/opposite of manually limiting offensive peaks.  Although a pain to do, that may be the most effective way to go.
« Last Edit: June 01, 2016, 05:01:48 PM by Gutbucket »
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stevetoney

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Re: Can Limiters Lower Crowd Chatter Effectively?
« Reply #3 on: June 01, 2016, 11:04:27 PM »
That got me thinking...can i create a volume based filter, or envelope, that leaves the music alone based on the volume level, but focuses on the lower volume crowd chatter to lower it another say 10 db or so, but also doesnt change the dynamics of the music enough that it ruins the recording?

What you are describing is sort of the exact opposite of limiting - dynamic range expansion rather than dynamic range compression

Thanks Lee.  That ^ was my thought process.  I almost didn't even pose the question because, well, if it were simple and transparent to isolate and minimize crowd noise people would be doing it.  My thoughts in this case were that I might have a unique recording in that the music seems fairly uniformly amplified to a level above crowd level.  At the same time, I'm sure that as notes decay and as transients happen, the volume level falls off, so logically I'd be kind of surprised if anything works without creating some nagging and unnatural sounding artifacts.  Anyway, I'll still probably play around with it using your suggestions.  If nothing else I'm sure I'll learn something about using some of the tools in Audition.

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Re: Can Limiters Lower Crowd Chatter Effectively?
« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2016, 09:16:14 AM »
Yeah, like a lot of this kind of thing don't expect a dramatic improvement.  Somewhat better is a practical goal.  Same goes for noise reduction and spectral editing.  If the offending bits are well defined and distinct enough from the rest of the program material, a spectral editor like Jon mentioned can work amazingly well, but since you need to identify and isolate each offense it takes a lot of manual work.

Jon's other suggestion of trying a few different noise reduction algorithms may be the easiest and most practical.  Some of them probably incorporate modifications on noise gate-like approaches.  Play around with the threshold and other settings to see if you can find something applicable.  The key is not pushing so hard in trying to reduce the offensive chatter that the noise reduction becomes audible making the cure worse than the disease.

Might work best to combine a few different approaches, each of which contributes a small amount of reduction without artifacts, the combined effect being greater than any one of them would be able achieve alone in a transparent enough way.
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Re: Can Limiters Lower Crowd Chatter Effectively?
« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2016, 12:07:42 PM »
Interesting, thanks Jon. That would seem to imply that in recordings with low diffuse field correlation the nice diffuse ambience may be easily stripped away along with the noise.  Recordings with higher diffuse field correlation should suffer less from that kind of algorithm, yet tend to be far less ambiently immersive to begin with.
musical volition > vibrations > voltages > numeric values > voltages > vibrations> virtual teleportation time-machine experience
Better recording made easy - >>Improved PAS table<< | Made excellent- >>click here to download the Oddball Microphone Technique illustrated PDF booklet<< (note: This is a 1st draft, now several years old and in need of revision!  Stay tuned)

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Re: Can Limiters Lower Crowd Chatter Effectively?
« Reply #6 on: June 02, 2016, 01:07:57 PM »
That got me thinking...can i create a volume based filter, or envelope, that leaves the music alone based on the volume level, but focuses on the lower volume crowd chatter to lower it another say 10 db or so, but also doesnt change the dynamics of the music enough that it ruins the recording?

What you are describing is sort of the exact opposite of limiting - dynamic range expansion rather than dynamic range compression

Thanks Lee.  That ^ was my thought process.  I almost didn't even pose the question because, well, if it were simple and transparent to isolate and minimize crowd noise people would be doing it.  My thoughts in this case were that I might have a unique recording in that the music seems fairly uniformly amplified to a level above crowd level.  At the same time, I'm sure that as notes decay and as transients happen, the volume level falls off, so logically I'd be kind of surprised if anything works without creating some nagging and unnatural sounding artifacts.  Anyway, I'll still probably play around with it using your suggestions.  If nothing else I'm sure I'll learn something about using some of the tools in Audition.

This is interesting but I think potentially easier than the alternative (which I'll get to in a minute).  You are looking for expansion rather than limiting (assuming you want to increase the level of the music (though you may be looking more to reduce the level of the ambient noise).  If they are truly distinct from each other it should be fairly easy to raise and or reduce passages.  I lean to a manual approach rather than an automated one though. 

My experience is that you can easily bump *passages* 3 dB one way or the other with complete transparency as long as you pick the right points so it is not in the middle of a phrase.  Sometimes considerably more.  Studio mixing does this sort of thing all the time (but they have distinct isolations in tracks so it is much easier).  You can reduce random single note spikes/peaks in the middle of a passage a lot more than that with relative transparency. 

The big issue for me comes in at the end of a song where the music is fading out and the crowd starts clapping.  There is often a big mismatch in those levels and the crowd almost always starts clapping before the music fully decays.  My usual issue from one place I frequent is that the music is pretty quiet so the crowd (while often fairly quiet during it) is orders of magnitude louder than the music.  So I usually approach that by going song by song to boost the music to the best final level (often 10 dB or so) but leave the crowd where they are (usually right about 0 dB).  I'd say 95% of the time I can get natural edit points (by essentially selecting the music segment to end right at the initial clap - which provides a distraction to the change in program volume).  If they clap too early I may go peak reduction or just leave it with a somewhat apparent artifact.  When they applaud during the music (as jazz crowds are sometimes wont to do) it is infinitely more a PITA... 

What you are aiming to do (reduce the ambient level of the crowd when it is all crowd) should be pretty easy if you can find clean edit points.  You shouldn't notice the drop in level unless the drop is right in the middle of a crowd section so you'd hear the change within that part of the material.  Regardless you should be able to easily duck them 3 to 5 dB with no artifacting. 

I think it's a manual process to get really good results. 
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Schoeps MK4V
Nak CM-100/CM-300 w/ CP-1's or CP-4's
SP-CMC-25
>
Oade C mod R-44  OR
Tinybox > Sony PCM-M10 (formerly Roland R-05) 
Video: Varied, with various outboard mics depending on the situation

Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Can Limiters Lower Crowd Chatter Effectively?
« Reply #7 on: June 02, 2016, 03:03:52 PM »
Ugh. The premature applause thing is a strong personal peeve of mine. I really wish everyone would simply hold their applause until the the last sounds made by the musicians has decayed, and have felt that way since long before I ever began recording live performances.  It often seems more like an unspoken competition to applaud first and loudest, than a true expression of musical appreciation in the moment.  It's especially egregious in genres of music where the "landing approach" at the end of a number is so often ripe with interesting subtleties and improvisations as it decays into silence, and those things become completely obscured and made utterly inaudible by the mindless race to applaud.  Jazz suffers from this frequently. 

I find the jazz-idiom-thing of applause after solos less problematic as long as it is heartfelt rather than by rote after each and every solo.  It can be a direct communicative connection between the performer and audience, encouraging them to reach further and take risks appreciated by the audience, but only if it rewards actual excellence rather than being applied formulaically. Similar to that is the now ubiquitous standing ovation made at decidedly non-standing performances regardless of the excellence of performance or composition.  The significance of the standing ovation becomes meaningless once it becomes common and is no longer a rarity.  It's become the equivalent of the "participation trophy" in kid's sports.
musical volition > vibrations > voltages > numeric values > voltages > vibrations> virtual teleportation time-machine experience
Better recording made easy - >>Improved PAS table<< | Made excellent- >>click here to download the Oddball Microphone Technique illustrated PDF booklet<< (note: This is a 1st draft, now several years old and in need of revision!  Stay tuned)

stevetoney

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Re: Can Limiters Lower Crowd Chatter Effectively?
« Reply #8 on: June 02, 2016, 03:51:57 PM »
I really appreciate the continued discussion on this topic.  For what it's worth, I normally wouldn't care too much about an individual recording but I taped a guy named Seth Walker that I heard for the first time and he pretty much blew me away.  The sound I got was stellar except that the crowd imposes a bit too much at times.  With all these things combined, I'm willing to spend some time with this one to see what I can do to enhance it.  Like many of us, I kinda live for these types of recording moments, so even a minor improvement will be worth the time spent.

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Re: Can Limiters Lower Crowd Chatter Effectively?
« Reply #9 on: June 02, 2016, 04:26:40 PM »
Seth Walker is a great performer and a very cool cat in person.  Lota T-Bone Walker influence.  Equally attuned solo or with his band.  He lived around Jacksonville FL in his early 20s and fell in with those promoting a couple long-running festivals at the nearby Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak FL.  He was a regular at Magnolia Fest and Springfest throughout the 2000's and made it all the way down here as well a few times.  Lots of recordings made of him at those two fests over the years if interested in searching them out and hearing more.  Unfortunately I haven't seen him come this way again in a number of years now.  Glad to hear he made such a good impression on you Steve.  I'll have to pull some of mine out at some point and polish them up for you.
musical volition > vibrations > voltages > numeric values > voltages > vibrations> virtual teleportation time-machine experience
Better recording made easy - >>Improved PAS table<< | Made excellent- >>click here to download the Oddball Microphone Technique illustrated PDF booklet<< (note: This is a 1st draft, now several years old and in need of revision!  Stay tuned)

Offline bombdiggity

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Re: Can Limiters Lower Crowd Chatter Effectively?
« Reply #10 on: June 06, 2016, 11:49:57 AM »
Ugh. The premature applause thing is a strong personal peeve of mine. I really wish everyone would simply hold their applause until the the last sounds made by the musicians has decayed, and have felt that way since long before I ever began recording live performances.  It often seems more like an unspoken competition to applaud first and loudest, than a true expression of musical appreciation in the moment.  It's especially egregious in genres of music where the "landing approach" at the end of a number is so often ripe with interesting subtleties and improvisations as it decays into silence, and those things become completely obscured and made utterly inaudible by the mindless race to applaud.  Jazz suffers from this frequently. 

I find the jazz-idiom-thing of applause after solos less problematic as long as it is heartfelt rather than by rote after each and every solo.  It can be a direct communicative connection between the performer and audience, encouraging them to reach further and take risks appreciated by the audience, but only if it rewards actual excellence rather than being applied formulaically. Similar to that is the now ubiquitous standing ovation made at decidedly non-standing performances regardless of the excellence of performance or composition.  The significance of the standing ovation becomes meaningless once it becomes common and is no longer a rarity.  It's become the equivalent of the "participation trophy" in kid's sports.

I've had to learn to live with both of these...  Vocational hazard...  My solution is to get stage lip where I can (which takes care of almost all of it). 

The who can clap first thing is definitely part of the psychology of those that do it. 

The every solo thing is definitely overdone.  In larger rooms where it's rote it doesn't help much if at all.  On the other hand one of my favorite spaces here was extremely participatory.  It was one of the few places where the band and the audience would actually lock in and then everything elevates many levels.  As a small room (maybe 100 or so capacity) there was a unique feel.  Not all musicians are necessarily capable or attuned to reach deeper and find more than they maybe thought they had, but those are the shows that remind me why I go.  I've been lucky to be at some of those and to actually kind of get that participatory vibe on the recording.  Something like that also happens in some of the things I don't really go to like go-go and some of the punk/hard stuff (though with the latter it's not really musical but reactionary/sensory). 
Gear:
Audio:
Schoeps MK4V
Nak CM-100/CM-300 w/ CP-1's or CP-4's
SP-CMC-25
>
Oade C mod R-44  OR
Tinybox > Sony PCM-M10 (formerly Roland R-05) 
Video: Varied, with various outboard mics depending on the situation

Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Can Limiters Lower Crowd Chatter Effectively?
« Reply #11 on: June 06, 2016, 12:22:07 PM »
^
Those magical moments are often only well conveyed via the kinds of recordings we make as live music tapers, and are an important part of what makes what we do valuable and unique, at least when done well enough to assist the listener in suspending disbelief so as to imagine being there in that time and space.  Can't convey that through a straight SBD recording or the auditory perspective of most SBD heavy on-demand live releases IMO.  It's one thing we can do extraordinarily well which other sources of music cannot, and I believe ultimately a unique trump card which will keep tapers relevant in this rapidly changing world where live music recordings have become a far more easily consumed commodity.
musical volition > vibrations > voltages > numeric values > voltages > vibrations> virtual teleportation time-machine experience
Better recording made easy - >>Improved PAS table<< | Made excellent- >>click here to download the Oddball Microphone Technique illustrated PDF booklet<< (note: This is a 1st draft, now several years old and in need of revision!  Stay tuned)

stevetoney

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Re: Can Limiters Lower Crowd Chatter Effectively?
« Reply #12 on: June 06, 2016, 07:08:01 PM »
^^ All so true.  I've taped plenty of bands that play their four minute long songs with no variation from one night to the next except their order and that's fine, but the recordings I live for and those that I listen back to are those of skilled musicians that are able to 'speak' through their instruments.  Some nights are better than others, but the 'on' nights are the reason I tape.

Obviously, the energy they receive back from the audience doesn't have to be the 'first one to clap' thing...it can come from the smiles, dancing, someone jumping up and down, head bobbing, whatever.  I totally appreciate a well timed and heartfelt vocal response, even if it intrudes on my recording if it's for the purpose of giving the artist encouragement and feedback.  I'd say that most of the time most people do that...even when they get a little over the top with it.  To me, that's part of the live tape and without hearing that on the recording, well to me you're losing part of the performance.  But yeah...there's always someone in the crowd that doesn't 'get it'.  Or worse there's the guy that's had too much to drink and just wants to be part of the show.  THAT'S the guy I want to roofie...if I knew where to get them.

I think oftentimes people get absorbed in the music and just kinda lose track of themselves.  A couple of weeks ago, a lady was standing next to me...she had a fan cause it was pretty hot out and she was whapping the fan against her other hand making a loud clapping sound to the beat of the music...into my ear.  I was seated and she was standing, so the whapping was like two feet from my left ear.  I shifted in my chair a couple of times hoping she'd realize what she was doing, but it didn't help.  After maybe ten minutes or so, it was getting to be too much so I just had to kinda turn towards her.  I didn't say anything and didn't really give her the evil eye or anything but definitely let her know that the clapping in my ear was too much.  Thankfully, she got the hint, became conscience of what she was doing and stopped.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2016, 07:11:55 PM by tonedeaf »

 

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