The magic zap tool

I don’t know how to say this without sounding like a geek, a noob, or both. I don’t care. I’m happy. I’ve just captured a noise print.

CAUTION:  This article is rated T for Techie. May contain explicit references to recording devices, digital nonlinear editing, waveforms and gaffer’s tape.

My smile is about sound editing, but this seems as good a time as any to describe the core production tools my little film studio is using to make My Shanghai:

Ginny’s interview shows in Audition’s Waveform Editor.
Photo © 2012 First Straw Films


•  Panasonic AG-HMC150 camcorder

•  Libec TH-950DV tripod

•  Ikan Recoil shoulder support


•  Sennheiser ME-66 shotgun mic

•  Sennheiser EW100G3 wireless mic system

•  Sony MDR-7506 pro headphones


•  25″ iMac with 2.8 GHz Intel Core i7 processor with 12GB internal memory and AMD Radeon HD 6770M 512 MB graphics card

•  22″ vintage Dell auxiliary monitor

•  13″ MacBook


Adobe Production Premium CS5.5 for Mac (I know what you’re thinking — Adobe’s Mercury Playback Engine isn’t optimized for a non-CUDA graphics card. But since I’m not loading My Shanghai with special effects motion sickness sequences, I’m hoping it won’t matter.)


38″x70″ Ethan Allen pine trestle table, the repurposed dining room furniture. The numbers 648 and 49 are engraved where my eldest child quietly did his homework.


•  Sharpies and stickies

•  An Editor’s Guide to Adobe Premiere Pro by Richard Harrington, Robbie Carman and Jeff I. Greenberg

•  Magic 8 Ball® (“Will I finish this column today and post it on the website?” It is decidedly so… if you get to the point.)

Point is, I’ve learned to zap the wind.

Adobe has this wonderful program called Audition. It comes in the Production Premium suite along with Premiere Pro and several other high-octane programs. In Audition, the bad noises go bye-bye. You go into the Waveform Editor, make a noise print and noise magically disappears. Premiere Pro has its own noise reduction toolbox. Audition has Home Depot.

Back in June, Joan and Ron and I had hoped to interview Virginia in a beautiful spot overlooking the estuary. This was a property owned by one of her neighbors, and we would use it if the weather cooperated. It didn’t. But even though it was too chilly for Virginia, her daughter Ginny was game.

I believe I’ve mentioned the problem we had with the rope banging against the flagpole (Unscripted, June 28). Today I know the pole is no match for the post. Post-production, that is. “Fix it in post” means, “Get rid of the wind noise, the pole noise, the kids down the street noise —”

The kids down the street. I’d forgotten about them. While Ginny was on camera, I was not aware of the children chortling in the background because I was focused on her. I must’ve tuned them out, this being a skill I developed while raising three boys. I heard them later, going through the clips.

Well, I’m not worried. You can’t expect to control everything on location with a documentary film, especially kids. I can see where a roll of gaffer’s tape might’ve come in handy, but never mind. I’ll zap them in post.


© 2012 First Straw Films

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