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How to Reduce Sibilance and Hiss in Audio With DaVinci Resolve—De-Essing in Fairlight

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Fairlight is the audio processing suite that's built right into DaVinci Resolve. In this tutorial, we're going over the De-Esser, a filter that you can use to improve and polish your audio.

When we speak, we make different sounds which create harsh artifacts that can easily be heard in a recording. The most common example of this is a popping-P sound that's created by fast moving air when pronouncing words like popcorn. Another common problem is sibilant noise, the harsh high frequency sounds that come from pronouncing the letters  S, F, X, SH, and soft C's. For Example: shampoo, ceiling, Xavier, etc. That's what we'll work with here.

How to Reduce Sibilant Hissing Noise Using DaVinci Resolve

1. How to Use a De-Esser Filter on Audio in Fairlight

Before we start you'll want to have your clip imported and have the Fairlight tab opened up. After that, you can go ahead and select the de-esser tool from the mixer, under effects, noise reduction, de-esser.

Figure 1 - Location the De-Esser Filter

2. De-Esser Filter

Let's get to know the filter. Along the top:

  • Default Presets - a drop down section that has great presets that are broken down into different types; male/female voice frequency, etc.
  • De-esser - on and off switch you can toggle by clicking.
  • A+B - this feature allows you to toggle between two settings for a quick and easy side-by-side comparison.
  • Listen to Ess Only - A tool that lets you isolate the frequencies so you can listen to just the Ess sounds in question.

Along the bottom:

  • Frequency Range - This is where you can fine tune the filter to the frequency that's causing the sibilance. There's also three options for range; Narrow, Wide, and a the last range option is used to reduce anything above your set frequency. These are called bands. I recommend using the narrow band as I like a more focussed range.
  • De-Esser - The amount of the filter you'd like to have effect your clip.
  • Reaction Time - How quickly the effect kicks in. Think of this as an attack dial.
Figure 2 - De-Esser Layout

3. Getting The Best Results Using The De-Esser

While it's nearly impossible for me to tell you what treatment will sound best on your audio, I can share with you some insights that will make using this filter much easier to use. Over-all, I like adding this filter after I've done some general editing of the audio. Follow our previous tutorial on How to Sweeten Spoken-Word Audio and Dialogue in Resolve Using Fairlight, that will be a good start.

Once you've sweetened your dialogue, you're in a good position to add your de-esser. I really think Fairlight does a great job with it's default options, but that's not to say that they're perfect without tweaking. As mentioned above, I like using the narrow band as my range setting. I change this is because I use this filter at end of my editing process, after compressing and equalizing the track. This make the narrow range perfect for isolating the frequency in question.

Personally, for dialogue, I believe less to be more. I don't want to hear the filters. Rather, I want the audio to be as seamless as possible. This is where Amount comes into play. Too much and you'll sound like Elmer Fudd, too little and your changes won't be audible. Use the Reduction Meter and Output to see how much of the filter is being triggered at a given time. As for reaction time, I think medium is the best bet. It offers the smoothest attack for audio that just needs tiny touch ups. 

Note: While meters are great, remember to trust your ears. They are your best friends when editing audio.

Conclusion 

The De-Esser is a great tool to help manage pesky sibilance artifacts in your recording. How much and how you use the filter depends on many factors; microphone used, the quality and natural frequency of the voice, as well as the words used in the dialogue.  Because of this you'll find yourself dialling-in different settings depending on those variables. Play around and get comfortable with this fantastic tool and remember, that the goal is to make the dialogue feel natural and a pleasure to listen to. By using multiple tools like compression and eq to sweeten the dialogue first, you'll make the de-esser's work much easier, resulting in the smoothest, most seamless audio.

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20 Minutes

How to Process Voice Recordings With Fairlight | DaVinci Resolve Audio Tutorial

Learn how to get your audio sounding great using DaVinci Resolve's Fairlight tools. You'll learn how to tweak your audio using Fairlight's tools like the compressor, limiter, equalizer, noise reduction filters, and more.

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