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iZotope RX: Beyond the Noise!


iZotope RX- Beyond the Noise!
A glimpse at the mix for Amanda Palmer's New Zealand concert

I teach a class in RX noise removal for voice actors where we cover the basics and best practices for things like noise removal, cleaning up mouth noises (for those that might need it), and other tools. But the Standard and Advanced suite of plugins for RX go way beyond cleaning up dialogue, offering lots of plugins and modules for music production. I want to break down a recent project I tackled where RX saved the day!


I was recently asked if I could help cleanup an audio track for a video project for artist Amanda Palmer. It was explained to me that there were a few specific moments in a live concert where they had some concerns. As I watched the edit to see if there was anything I could offer, I noticed that everything seemed to be pretty well mic'd: a stereo pair on the piano, vocal mics, mics for guitars and other acoustic instruments, etc. I suggested that "If the editor has taken in all of the individual tracks for the mics I see, I could quickly and easily knock out a better music mix". However... that wasn't to be the case.


It was explained to me that since this live show had one very specific purpose: a THANK YOU to the people of the small town in New Zealand that took Amanda Palmer and her child in when the world shut down for covid, and they couldn't leave. I highly recommend listening to her album New Zealand Survival Songs, because it has some very emotional and beautiful moments. A decision was made not to go crazy tracking all of the individual mics, and just take a mix feed from the console.


And that was all there was.


So how do you mix something that's already been mixed? Enter Izotope's Music Rebalance (available in RX Standard and Advanced). To be honest, I hadn't had much use for Music Rebalance in my job as a post mixer. There have been a couple of times where I've used it to dial down vocals in music track that was going under a voiceover in a commercial, but that's really it. As proof of concept for my solution, I used one short track and got to work.


iZotope RX: Beyond the Noise!
iZotope Music Rebalance, available in Standard and Advanced


The concert consisted of Amanda and her piano, occasional ukule, acoustic guitar and a couple of guest singers. I wanted to see what Music Rebalance might be able to extract from this single mono track to generate splits. It made light work of separating the vocals from the other instruments, and even determined that the lower end piano notes were a bass performance. Oddly enough, it decided that some of the piano transients were percussion! This all worked amazingly well and gave me what I needed to "mix". The video clip below shows a clip before and after.





I took the isolated splits and lined them up to their original file against picture. From there, I was able to use Waves PS22 Stereo Maker to make the piano wider. I used Symohony 3D to shine it up with a 5.1 concert hall reverb. To add missing depth from the original file, I used Avid's Pro Subharmonic to beef up what Music Rebalance had determined was a bass track (the lower end piano). Similarly, I brightened the isolated attacks from the piano that were identified as percussion to fill out the overall piano track. Now I had a rich, crisp and clean grand piano in a lush surround reverb.


The isolated vocals were handled remarkably well by Music Rebalance! This allowed me to sweeten them as I would for any music mix, with some eq, compression, de-essing and de-plossive as needed- and of course adding some of that delicious surround reverb! On the tracks that had additional singers, I just adjusted levels between them as needed.


The only real challenge was handling the audience. Music Rebalance did it's best to isolate the cheering- but blending it into the final mix took some extra post-production mixing and enhancing. In the end, I was able to generate a full surround mix from that initial mono feed. The final video is available to Amanda's Patreon fans, and was delivered in an LtRt format, which sounds quite full in headphones!


The constant upgrades and additions to the tools that engineers like me can use allow us to pull off small miracles for our clients- whether it's a music mix, TV spot, a radio commercial- or even cleaning up a simple voiceover track. I always love a challenge, and I was amazed by what I was able to accomplish for Amanda and her team.


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