iZotope’s RX 4 ensures on-location recordings make the cut
WORLD: iZotope’s RX 4 audio repair and enhancement toolkit was used extensively by Ray Beentjes throughout the production of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. The software reportedly allowed him and his team to save up to 80 per cent of the on-location sound recordings captured, resulting in less time and money spent in the studio in postproduction and ‘more emotional performances’.
According to Mr Beentjes, dialogue editor for both trilogies, when first embarking on the filming of The Lord of the Rings 15 years ago, just 5 to 10 per cent of the on-location audio could be used for the final cut, owing to issues with noise contamination.
‘An actor could have delivered a stellar performance on location, but the audio would often be unusable,’ Mr Beentjes explained. ‘They would then have to spend hours in a dubbing room re-recording their lines, and due to the complexity of the production, they might be covering what was six months’ worth of filming in a two-day ADR session. That often makes it very difficult to create the same mood again.’
‘RX has been fantastic, and we’ve developed a completely different workflow,’ he adds. ‘Now we can focus on finding the best performances from the original material delivered by the actors. Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh love utilising production audio over ADR where possible if it sells the performance better, and then it's up to us to clean up that audio and get it working. That's their gold, and that's where the magic is for us.’
Moving on to The Hobbit, several new audio issues were encountered. With the movie being shot at 48fps, many of the set lights had to be reengineered for flicker-free operation and these introduced high frequency noise in the same 3 to 8kHz bandwidth that governs speech intelligibility. These artefacts and others were removed with the toolkits Denoiser and Spectral Repair tools.
‘The magic of Spectral Repair is actually being able to take away the sounds that would take the audience out of the scene. It could be a very important line, and there’s a Cessna prop plane taking off from a nearby airport that’s buzzing through the track. With Spectral Repair, we can go in and remove sounds that are completely out of context for the scene.
‘Like a person who is retouching photographs or restoring a historical film, I love the ability to rebuild or restore things,’ he concluded. ‘RX 4 is the most complete set of tools we have, and I'm looking forward to whatever's next. Each version drastically improves what we can do.’