General Stuff 3

A Simple Trick To Help Remove Background Noise In Videos

So you’ve shot the perfect video.  Everything looks good and everything went exactly as planned.  Then you go to edit your video and your heart stops.

Why? Because you notice annoying background noise in the video.

Maybe it’s minor or maybe it’s kind of destroying your entire video.  Whatever the case, you set out to find how to remove it.

And this time your heart drops.  Because there are so many “tutorials” out there that are either pitching a product, seem way too techie or are just plain confusing.

So let me make things easy for you, by sharing what the average person can do to remove background noise from their videos.  I’ll start with a couple of  cheap or free tools you can use and then end with a simple trick that you’ll likely end up using anyway.

 

You Should Have Done This First

If you plan on using software to remove background noise in videos, first you need to understand how this software works.  And it works by identifying and isolating a noise and then doing it’s magic to remove that specific noise “fingerprint” from the entire video.

The sad part is that to identify and isolate a specific noise accurately, it needs to be able to hear that noise and ONLY that noise.  That means it won’t be accurate if BOTH your good audio and the noise are mixed together.

Great, so how do you make that happen?  The only way to make that happen is to always shoot about 30 seconds of silence before shooting your actual video.  In other words, press record on the camera, be silent for 30 seconds, then start doing your thing.

This 30 seconds of silence provides the separation the software needs between the noise you want to remove and your good audio.  During this 30 seconds, the only thing the software will hear is the background noise.  And that allows the software to accurately identify, isolate and remove the noise.

But let me guess.  You didn’t record 30 seconds of silent video first.  It’s OK, almost no one does.  All is not lost.  It will just make your job harder, but not impossible.

 

It’s Easy To Remove This

The next thing you need to know is what noise is easy to remove from videos and what noise is not.  We’ll start with the easy noise.

The only noise that is easy to remove from videos is white noise.  That means a constant, predictable, never-changing noise.

Hum from lights is white noise.  An air conditioner or furnace running is white noise.  A fan is white noise.  Basically any noise where the frequency never changes is white noise.

If you have this type of noise in your video, congratulations.  It’s easy for software to remove this.  But…

 

It’s Almost Impossible To Remove This

If you don’t have white noise, that leaves all of the other noise offenders.  Like people talking in the background, cars, birds chirping, lawn mowers running, doors slamming, foot traffic or the worst of them all; wind.

If your video has this type of noise, it’s almost impossible to completely remove it without destroying your good audio too.  That’s just the reality, so don’t believe the sales pitches that tell you otherwise.

But really, the only way to know how much background noise you can remove from your videos is to give it a try and see how it sounds.  So now let’s take a look at your software options.

 

Removing Noise with Audacity

Audacity is free audio editing software for both Windows and Mac.  To use Audacity to remove background noise from your videos, do following:

1. In your video editing software, export ONLY the AUDIO portion of your video. In most instances, exporting your audio as a .WAV file is best (MP3 is your next best choice)

2. Open the audio file in Audacity and using your mouse, click and drag to highlight the portion of the audio with background noise you want to remove.

audacity-01

3. Select Effects and then the Noise Reduction sub-menu option

audacity-02
4. Follow the prompts on the Noise Reduction screen. Start with the defaults, but you’ll likely have to play with the sliders to achieve the effect that you want.

audacity-03
5. Export the fixed audio file from Audacity (as a .wav or .mp3). Open it up in your video editing software and replace your original audio track with the new, fixed one.

 

Removing Noise with WavePad Sound Editor

WavePad is free to try audio editing software for both Windows and Mac users.  However, if you want to use it beyond the trial period, it will cost you about $35 USD.  To use WavePad to remove background noise from your videos, do following:

1. WavePad can open most video files directly, but it’s usually best to give it an audio file instead. So in your video editing software, export ONLY the AUDIO portion of your video. In most instances, exporting your audio as a .WAV file is best (MP3 is your next best choice)

2. Open the audio file in WavePad and using your mouse, click and drag to highlight the portion of the audio with background noise you want to remove.

wavepad-01

 

With WavePad, you have a couple of choices to remove noise…

 

3a. If hum or hiss is your issue, from the sidebar menu choose Remove noise or hiss

wavepad-02
4a. In the next screen, choose the Remove Hum and Hiss preset. Try it out. You may have to re-try and play around with the slider to get the result that you want.

wavepad-03

5a. Export the fixed audio file from WavePad (as a .wav or .mp3). Open it up in your video editing software and replace your original audio track with the new, fixed one.
3b. If you have other noise issues or 3a didn’t work, from the main menu bar at the top of the window choose Effects > Noise Reduction > Apply Auto Spectral Subtraction…(slower speed, best quality)

wavepad-04

4b. In the next screen, choose the Apply To Voice preset. Try it out. You may have to re-try and adjust the Silence to Audio Portion % to get the result that you want.

wavepad-05
5b. Export the fixed audio file from WavePad (as a .wav or .mp3). Open it up in your video editing software and replace your original audio track with the new, fixed one.

 

Removing Noise with Your Video Editing Software

It used to be that there were several free or cheap tools to choose from to remove background noise from videos.  But those days are gone and Audacity and WavePad are the best choices that remain.

The reason those days are gone is because many video editing platforms now provide built-in tools for removing noise from video.

There are too many video editing titles for me to cover here, but basically, if your video editing software has a noise fixing option, give it a try.  Just be warned that it probably won’t do any better…and often times will do worse…than the independent options I listed above.

 

Screw It, None of This Works.  I’ll Just Do This Instead.

If you’ve read this far, you’ve discovered the inevitable truth; removing background noise from video either doesn’t work as well as you’d hoped or it totally screws up your good audio along the way.

So what do you do then?

Easy.  Instead of trying to fix the audio issues, just mask them.  And to do that, all you need to do is add some background music to your video.

Often times, this low background music is enough to mask the noise.  At least enough so it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb.

To add background music to your videos, follow these steps:

1. Find some background music you’d like use. One of my favorite places is AudioJungle.

2. In your video editing software, add your background music track to your video and set the volume level of your background music fairly low…enough to help mask the noise, while not so much to drown out the good audio.

music-track
3. Finish editing your video, export it and you’re done.

One final thought.  If you’re video is ultimately intended for the web, don’t get stressed out over the levels of background noise.  Remember, almost everyone will be listening to your video through tiny speakers on a computer or mobile device.  Which means you can get away with not having your audio pristine.  Okay?

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  • Philippe says: October 28, 2010 at 10:10 am

    Hi Dave,

    Thank you so much for all your great tips.
    I have a footage in the scenario you mention. I have 5 minutes of background noise prior to the footage. The footage is recording a single man voice in a very silent environnment. When I sample the noise over those 5 minutes with Amadeus Pro for Mac, it rip off some valuable frequencies in the man voice giving a pretty strange non-human feeling to the initially warm voice.
    Any suggestions?
    Thank you in advance,
    Philippe

  • Carl Vanderpal says: October 28, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    Hey Dave,

    can you do the same for a clicking noise my camera makes when storing the video to the memory I have tried using an external mic but it still picks it up for some reason?

    Thanks

  • abhishek says: December 2, 2012 at 11:58 am

    nice post . I tried audacity but it didnt worked well , any other free tool ?