Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Removing background noise with Soundtrack Pro

This evening I published a wonderful presentation by 5th and 6th grade Kansas teachers Linley Voboril, Tamara Padfield, and Kimberly Herron from the 2009 PodStock conference. I rather thoughtlessly placed my audio recorder during this session right next to the projector fan, so there was a LOT of background noise in the original recording.

During the MacWorld 2007 conference, I saw a memorable demo of Adobe Audition software in the Adobe booth, where someone demonstrated removing the blaring sound of a fire alarm from a recording of a quiet phone conversation. It was amazing! I was disappointed to learn this evening, therefore, that Adobe dropped the Apple/Mac version of Audition at some point and only offers the lower-powered Soundbooth application. A comparison between Audition and Soundbooth is available, if you’re a Windows user contemplating the purchase of a new audio editing program.

I continue to edit almost all my podcasts using Audacity, which is free and open source audio editing software. Audacity does have a noise removal tool, and perhaps I should have given it a try tonight. Instead, however, I used SoundTrack Pro for the first time, and was able to remove most of the background noise. SoundTrack Pro is included with Final Cut Studio, which is a $1000+ (commercial price, not educational) software package I’m fortunate to have on my Storychasers‘ laptop. I used this tutorial to figure out how to remove background noise.

The first step was to find a portion of the audio recording which JUST had background noise, and no speaking. After highlighting that portion, I chose PROCESS – NOISE REDUCTION – SET NOISE POINT.

Soundtrack Pro noise removal - set noise point

I next selected the entire audio track, and chose (from the same menu) to apply noise reduction. I had to rachet up the “noise threshold” quite a bit to remove most of the fan noise.

Soundtrack Pro - Reduce Noise

There is still some humming in the background of the final audio file, but it is MUCH better than the original. The noise reduction process did reduce the quality of the teachers’ voices and made them a bit “tinny,” but they are still understandable and overall I think the noise removal process resulted in a MUCH better final file.

Have you had experiences, good or bad, removing background noise from audio files with Audacity, Soundtrack Pro, Audition, or other programs? What are your tips or suggestions for doing this well?

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3 responses to “Removing background noise with Soundtrack Pro”

  1. David Gran Avatar

    Hey Wes- Thanks for this post- I’m glad to know that you had some success with soundtrack pro- I had used the FCP suite for cleaning up audio a few years ago and was less than satisfied… but I don’t even remember at this point what the issue was. Instead, I found a program called “soundoap” by BIAS- it was hit and miss. It allowed you to identify the sound (or frequency) you wanted removed and did its best to strip the rest of the audio automatically. Sometimes it was like magic- the sound was just gone, and sometimes it made the rest of the audio tinny and… just terrible. However, it was relatively inexpensive, and to me it was worth it just for the times that it worked.

    Basically, that whole experience taught me how little I know about sound engineering!

  2. Wesley Fryer Avatar

    Looks like there is a SoundSoap2 for $130 and SoundSoap Pro 2 for $600. Yikes! Glad to know about these programs and your experiences – thanks!

  3. Lauren Avatar

    Thank you very much!