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How To Remove Unwanted Sounds in Your Recordings

Everyone runs into this scenario at one point in their voice acting career. You’ve just finished recording your latest voice over, and you’re excited to dig in and start editing only to discover some extra noise in the recording.

Mic pops, background conversation, perhaps even the weather; these sounds and more plague voice actors and editors.

The question is, just what can you do about it? That’s where this article comes in. By the time you reach the end, you’ll have all the tools you need to purge those pesky soundbites.

What Are Unwanted Sounds?

To begin, it’s important to understand what unwanted sounds in a recording are. Thankfully, the definition lies right in the name. Unwanted sounds are any noises in a recording you did not intend to record or no longer want in the track. 

These unwanted sounds could be a cough from the voice actor or perhaps a door slamming in the background. All sorts of sounds can sneak their way into a recording. The tools used and the space in which you record affect sound quality.

How Does an Unwanted Sound Show Up in a Recording?

Voice actors can encounter lots of ways that unwanted sound can appear in their recording. The most obvious way is for the microphone to be near the sound source.

Always consider the directional sensitivity of the microphone you use. The term refers to how the microphone picks up sounds in a given direction relative to itself.

Omnidirectional microphones record sound from any direction. In contrast, cardioid microphones detect sound in front and slightly to the side. Figure-eight microphones that detect sounds behind and in front. Choose a microphone that fits your purposes and environment.

Background noise like wind or floorboard creaking can sneak in, or the equipment may have a physical defect.

Investing in quality equipment goes a long way in reducing unwanted noise. You can also absorb or block sound with walls, curtains, or clothing. You can use many strategies to prevent unwanted noise.

How Do You Remove Unwanted Sounds in Recordings?

Now that you know what unwanted sounds are and what can cause them, it’s time to learn how to remove them.

There are many ways to deal with unwanted sounds in recordings, ranging from simple to complex. The method you choose will depend on the circumstances of the sound and where it is in a recording.

Cut It Out

If the sound you’d like to remove is isolated, simply delete it. Take, for example, a bit of breathing from the voice actors heard over the mic during what should have been a moment of dead air. This sort of unwanted sound would be easy to cut.

Every audio editing program has a slightly different way of managing tasks, but this article will use the process within the audio editing software called Audacity as an example. Thankfully, nearly every program will have similar, if not identical steps for this problem.

  1. Activate the “Selection” tool.
  2. Highlight the section of sound that you would like to remove by clicking and dragging your mouse over it.
  3. Adjust the selection by clicking and dragging its edges.
  4. Preview the selection by playing it with the spacebar.
  5. Press the delete key (or go to Edit -> Delete in the menu options).

See? Pretty easy right? When it comes to the small, simple sounds, removing them is as simple as highlighting and deleting. You can also access the Spectrogram View via the Track Dropdown Menus. It will display a waveform of the track in which you can select and modify regions of unwanted sound.

For more info on removing breaths, some industry professionals have provided advice for breathing noise.

Built-In Automation

But what about the sounds that aren’t as isolated? Thankfully, most audio-editing software provides tools that can automate removing small unwanted sounds and background noise.

The Click Removal tool in many audio editing programs easily removes unwanted pops and clicks from a selection. Here’s how to use it in Audacity:

  1. Select the portion of audio you wish to edit.
  2. Select Effect -> Click Removal
  3. Choose the sensitivity of the tool with the Threshold setting
  4. Decide on ‘Spike Width’ which refers to how long a click or pop should be
  5. Preview, then confirm.

Use the Noise Reduction tool for background noise.

  1. Select Effect -> Noise Reduction.
  2. Select a portion of the track that is just background noise.
  3. Click ‘Get Noise Profile’ to teach Audacity what sounds it should seek.
  4. Select all of the audio that you want to be filtered.
  5. Adjust noise reduction settings.
  6. Preview and apply noise reduction.

Most audio editing programs have some form of these effects. Unfortunately, automation is not perfect. Sometimes, you have to edit manually. Automated processes are becoming more useful every year, however.

Best Apps That Are Making Removing Unwanted Sounds Even Easier

New tools that help voice actors with their sound editing appear every year. There are plenty of old favorites to pick from as well. There is no end to the options available, but here are some recommendations:

Adobe Audition

One of the titans of the industry, Adobe Audition remains a viable and desirable contender to this day. It is included as part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscription and boasts powerful features from recording to sound creation.

While a bit expensive compared to other options, this tool remains an excellent choice for any content creator.

Audacity

Audacity may not be as powerful as others on this list or have the same number of features, but it still holds everything you need to make stellar recordings. Best of all, it’s completely free! This software features frequent updates and an easy-to-use interface, making it a stellar option.

Alitu

Alitu is a lesser-known tool designed for automation and ease of use. It excels at making the editing process easy for the user and handles much of the audio cleanup with the press of a button.

Much like Adobe Audition, you pay a monthly subscription, but it is well worth the price.

Final Words

You now know how to remove unwanted sounds in your recordings and which tools to use.

Be sure to check this article on what audio recording software to use! There are factors besides noise reduction, after all. The best way to start is to make effective choices early on.

Hopefully, these resources will help you go through your recordings faster and achieve greater results and quality. Happy recording!

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