Audio - editing breathes out of elearning

Dec 13, 2011

I just read this discussion about whether you should edit breaths out of auditions.  I'm wondering what people think about editing breaks out of elearning, say a typical self-paced learning module.  I think I read somewhere the dead silence isn't good and it seems logical to fade in and fade out, but curious to know what people think.

33 Replies
Stephanie Dyke

Bruce Graham said:

I produce eLearning and create voiceovers.

I do not regard "dead air" as a bad thing - silence can be very powerful, and you can always have something visual going on when the audio is absent.

Breaths mid-sentence are OK, however, I prefer to just take deeper breaths and do the whole thing in one go, or to take a mid-sentence breath and then edit out the gap. If breathing, I always turn away from the mic for the duration, and the breath seldom if ever shows up.

I try to remove as many lip and mouth clicks as possible, they are just plain annoying

I never use the AP'09 audio tool for audio work, I do not find it robust or detailed enough, I prefer to import files recorded and post-produced elsewhere (NCH Soundwave Pro).


I have to second Bruce's suggestions and also his reference to NCH products. I've actually used their WavePad which I think is a free/low-cost version of Soundwave. I have had better results with WavePad than Audacity. Some of the other suggestions such as applying noise gate filters when editing and pasting a silent section of your audio over any obvious gasps/clicks/pops has worked well for me and resulted in more professional sounding audio.

Art Montes

I use a quality microphone and Audacity software.  I record and silence out breathing, mouse clicks, chair squeaks, etc., As the software will allow you to select a section of audio and silence it.  I use the mouse to select the section of audio then a custom keyboard shortcut to silence to make it quick and easy.  If you have ambient noise in the background, then using Dale Hargis' method would work well.

Eric Bybee

I too use Audacity.  It is a great tool for all my audio needs when recording and editing my voice-over work.  I tend to listen to my narration through headphones so I am very aware of any clicks or pops and I do edit them out.  Breath sounds in mid sentence are not usually something I worry about, but any long (read LOUD) drawn breaths at the beginning of a sentence I do try and edit out with clean sound from within the recording.  To me, the ambient clean sound is more natural than inserting silence digitally.  I also agree with those that say that AP '09 sound editor is just not great.  It is useful for small tweaks and such, but for any real editing and it kind of lacks.

One small anecdote...recently while recording material for one of my modules while work was being done in our server room, the electricians managed to take out the whole building's power which was preceded by a rather loud POP!  I work on a laptop and was wearing my noise cancelling headphones when this occurred.  While I did not hear the POP, I did see my lights go out.  I finished the narration for the slide I was working on and went out to see what happened.  I returned after a time and moved on to the next slide. 

When going through my work to do edits and such, imagine my surprise when the POP was on my audio.  Funny thing though, it fell in line perfectly with an animation!  No way I could have done that better if I planned it.  That POP is now a sound effect in my library.

Philip Lima

I do a lot of custom audio work here, whether it is adding sound effects to coincide with animations on screen, or processing narration.  I always remove breath sounds that are at the beginning and end of a sound file. 

As far as sounds in the middle of a take, we record our own audio, so everyone knows to turn their head away from the mike when they breathe.  That helps minimize it.  Everyone who said the audio is different when listening through headphones as compared to speakers is absolutely correct. 

The most important thing to keep in mind is eliminating all background noise when recording.  It is much easier to eliminate background noise when recording, then to process it out of audio.  This makes editing out breath sounds in the middle of a file much easier.  It there is background noise and you need to edit out breath sounds then I do what Dale suggested.  If the transition from the existing audio to the newly pasted section of dead air is noticeable you can fade in and out of the whole section of dead space (not just the new bit) and lower the volume of the section slightly.  That sometimes helps smooth it out.

We use sound forge for all audio editing.  As Michael Fimian said, we are able to set up noise gates to eliminate some of those noises.

A pop filter (really inexpensive, saves a lot of labor in audio processing) helps to eliminate a lot of the popping noises (hence its name).  It also helps to keep volume levels the same if you are using more than one person for audio.  Just have everyone touch their nose to the filter, and volume levels across multiple people are much easier to normalize.

Just my two cents.

Sara Reller

Part of it is what you are doing. I worked on a scenario with a phone call. So I left in excessive breathing and sighs for effect (this is what it sounds like to a caller). It is disconcerting to have those long pauses where you can hear typing or clicking or breathing while you are waiting. And sometimes that's exactly what you want your learner to experience. 

In general I've found turning the level down on many of the breaths is more effective than chopping them. (Though I will definitely look at the replacing a loud breath with a clean breath free spot. Thanks for that tip!)

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