How Acceptable is Clipped Audio for an Independent Film?
We're in the process of finishing an independent film... however, we've come across a few instances where the audio is clipped.
How acceptable is clipping? As a sound/music guy I hate it- it makes me sick. However, we had a very slim budget, and I also realize that I am quite bias because I've heard the clipped scenes so many time.
Does anyone know of examples where independent films have been successfully distributed in spite of clipped audio? Also, what is the best way to cover up clipped audio? I have access to Adobe CS 5.5 & Adobe After Effects. What would you do in our shoes w/2 weeks before our due date, probably no hopes for reshoots, and the programs that we have at our disposal?
Possible solution 1 - Are there any takes that are not clipped? You could replace the word or syllable or line.
Possible solution 2 - Use the drawing tool to smooth out the waveform. If it's a very short transient that isn't too far out there the drawing tool can work. No guarantees; I've done 45 minutes of work on 0.5 (yes, one half [1/2]) seconds of audio and had it not work. But I've also worked five minutes on a different half second clip and had it come out great. The harder it's clipped the less chance you have to fix it. The longer the section of clipped audio is the less chance you have to fix it.
Possible solution 3 - Again, if it's really short, pull high end and upper mids out (a low pass filter works well) for just the length of the clipped audio. Then squash the hell out of it with a compressor. Dip the volume a bit when you mix.
Edit unvoiced phonemes from other parts of the dialog that are not clipped, the voiced phonemes will then need to be messaged as indicated above, or replaced and delicately cut in from other parts of the dialog from the same character.
The unvoiced (no breath behind them) are constant sounds from the same person, the voiced (with breath driving them) produces the tone of the dialog as air vibrates the vocal chords. I can't specifically remember which phonemes are voiced and unvoiced off the top of my head, there was a chapter in the book, "producing great production sound for digital video" by jay rose ( http://www.amazon.com/Producing-Grea.../dp/1578202086 ) I had for a sound production class.
If you have access you can try Waves DeClipper or iZotope RX 2 Advanced. Other noise reduction packages (like Waves Restoration, Sonnox Oxford, McDSP, TC Electronic Restoration Suite and even SoundSoap Pro) in noise reduction mode can reduce the clipping a little bit as well. None of these are sure fire cures; they work by themselves 30% - 40% of the time and in conjunction (using them together) 40% to 50% of the time.
The Cedar System will do a good job 75% of the time - if you can afford it. Entry level packages start at about $4,500 and go WAY up from there, and you'll need the pricier version to correct extensive clipping. And, BTW, it's for forensic purposes, so you'll hear every word without the clipping, but the results may be very thin or watery.