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Enhancing sound with the EQ 3 7-band equalizer plug-in

From: Audio Post Workflow with Final Cut Pro X and Pro Tools

Video: Enhancing sound with the EQ 3 7-band equalizer plug-in

The Equalizer is possibly the most powerful sound processing tool we have, because it can fine-tune specifics of the audio spectrum that we hear. In this movie I'll show you how to hone in an unwanted audio, so you can make your clips sound better. As you might have noticed, the John Downey interview in the kitchen has a lot of noise in it. Let's open a real-time EQ-7 plug-in from our Inserts Menu on that track to see if we can do something about this. Just click on any of the available Insert slots and under the plug-in > EQ, you see the EQ 3 7-Band Equalizer. That's the one we're going to use.

Enhancing sound with the EQ 3 7-band equalizer plug-in

The Equalizer is possibly the most powerful sound processing tool we have, because it can fine-tune specifics of the audio spectrum that we hear. In this movie I'll show you how to hone in an unwanted audio, so you can make your clips sound better. As you might have noticed, the John Downey interview in the kitchen has a lot of noise in it. Let's open a real-time EQ-7 plug-in from our Inserts Menu on that track to see if we can do something about this. Just click on any of the available Insert slots and under the plug-in > EQ, you see the EQ 3 7-Band Equalizer. That's the one we're going to use.

The EQ 3 7-Band EQ comes with Pro Tools, and it gives us a really nice display to work with. Audio frequencies are measured in hertz. At the far left we see 20 Hz. This is the lowest pitch sound our ears can hear. I'm talking about earthquakes, low rumbles, thunder, these are the kind of sounds that have frequency information down here at this range. At the top end we see 20K. This means 20 kHz, it's the same as 20,000 Hz. This is the highest pitch sound we can hear.

I'm talking here about very high pitched hisses and really trebly stuff in the 10-20K range. Now in the middle lies where the human voice exists, mainly from around 100 Hz to 6000 Hz. We can start out helping our audio here by removing anything we don't need. In this audio clip we're primarily concerned with hearing this guy John's voice. So let's start by removing any low frequencies that exist below the frequencies of his voice. To do this we'll use something called a High Pass Filter, abbreviated here by HPF.

So let the highest pass and remove any low frequencies that exist below the frequencies of his voice. I want to click the IN button for HPF and change the Slope to a higher slope. Let's go up to 18 dB/octave. This will help cut out low frequencies more directly than the default setting. We'll move the frequency with this knob up to 80 Hz. If you're wearing headphones or have good speakers with extended low end, you'll immediately be able to hear difference here as we play it through.

Let's take a listen, and I'll bypass the plug-in as I play it back. (male speaker: We opened this restaurant in 1982, and in about 1983 BD came through. We opened this restaurant in 1982--) If you can hear those low frequencies come and go, you'll notice it's really helping. I'd say it's safe to insert a High Pass Filter on every dialog in B Roll track in this whole session. Since we don't really need any low information from these tracks to tell the story, it will clean up the project to a great deal just by doing that.

Next, we'll use the parametric or bell-shaped EQs to hone in on some hum coming from the refrigerators and other machinery that are in the room. We'll again start low, using the LF Low Filter. Let's switch it to Parametric mode by clicking on the little circular button. Now for hums in kitchens or indoor spaces, I always start around 60 Hz, because in the United States the alternating current of our electricity is 60 Hz. And a lot of machines generate hums near that frequency.

So I'll turn the queue here all the way up. This makes the EQ Band as narrow as possible. Then I'll increase the Gain and sweep it around until the hum becomes the loudest. (male speaker: We opened this restaurant in 1982, and in about 1983--) I noticed the hum is most evident just below 60 Hz, around 57 Hz in this clip. Now we'll just turn the Gain down to notch it out. Next, go up to double that frequency, so that will be 114 Hz.

This is how a lot of hums work in multiple harmonics, twice and three times the base frequency. We'll want to notch this frequency out too. Now let's go one more to 230 Hz, which is two times 114, the last setting we made. We have to be careful here because this is getting into the tone of this guy's voice, but we can still notch it out a little bit. Now what about high frequency hiss? In this clip, we can definitely use a Low Pass Filter, which is the opposite of the High Pass Filter.

It lets the lows pass, and it cuts out the highs. Let's introduce that one more gradually to the top end as I'm doing here. Finally, there's one more frequency that I can hear. It's a very high frequency that televisions make. I'm not sure, but I'm willing to bet there's a TV off screen somewhere in this kitchen. That frequency is a very specific 15,650 Hz. It's just a number that you kind of know if you've been doing this for long enough. Let's type that number into the highest frequency band, and we'll notch that frequency out, too, to get rid of it.

Okay, now let's play this clip with these settings, and I'll Bypass it as we're going to hear if we are actually making a difference. (male speaker: We opened this restaurant in 1982, and in about 1983 BD came through the back door. He's dedicated--) As you can hear, it's a lot clearer and cleaner with these EQ Settings. So we're doing something good. So now you can see just how effective EQ can be with carving out unwanted frequencies. Now that you've got some insight on how EQ works, feel free to enhance and fix problems on all your audio with these powerful tools.

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