RX Tackles Sports Audio

Grueling athletic events like the Tour de France present unique audio challenges that can only be solved through experience, intense work ethic, and a little creative RX’ing.

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Scores of screaming fans. On-the-fly iPhone interviews. And the swift whoosh of a cycling team flying past you at more than 20 miles per hour.

It’s an understatement to say that the recording environment during the Tour de France is less than ideal. Fortunately, multitalented audio freelancer Filip Jacobs eagerly welcomes the challenge. In fact, he’s made a reputation for flagship athletic projects that require some creative audio problem solving: His resume includes five Olympics, three World Cups, and six Tour de France events. (He’s also acquired an enviable variety of TV series, award shows, and feature films to round things out.)

His go-to tool for audio repair? RX Audio Editor.

Getting started in sound

Over the last 15 years, Filip has created a niche for himself in both broadcasting and post production. He began his career studying Jazz at the Royal Conservatoire Antwerp in Belgium. After graduation, Filip stayed busy playing guitar with some of Holland’s top musical talents as well as recording in his own home studio.

His reputation as a savvy audio expert grew. Before long he was working on TV talk shows, feature films, sound design, and Foley. Throughout these diverse experiences, he continued to lean on the insights gained from his early years as a performing musician.

“I feel that the marriage of music and audio engineering is booming,” he explains. “As a jazz-schooled musician, we were trained to be creative in all circumstances, both in playing as well as in writing. So when mixing for cinema or TV series, I let my feel for rhythm and musicality guide me. I use it as an extra sense.”

“We can’t air an excuse!”

Eventually Filip was tapped by NBC for audio engineering on the Tour de France. It goes without saying that multi-location events are incredibly demanding. Relocating each day from finish to finish, following the riders from stage to stage and mountain to mountain, is a grueling job for both the body and the mind.

The standards for high-profile, global athletic events are also incredibly high. Filip recalls NBC Executive Producer David Michaels motivating his crew with a forceful yet clear directive: “Get it done! We can’t air an excuse!”

Audio engineers have to rely on the proper equipment to get the work done quickly and correctly. So when time is limited—and excuses aren’t an option—Filip turns to iZotope’s RX audio repair and enhancement software. Filip used “virtually ALL features in RX 4” on this year’s Tour de France. “It helps me in an unbelievable way,” he explains. “RX Connect and RX Monitor have sped up the workflow so much! I enjoyed every bit.”

Tackling the Tour

One example of the unique audio challenges of the Tour de France are the post-race interviews recorded in buses on iPhones or other solid state recorder. Often, the audio is captured from too far away with excessive room tone. Fortunately, RX excels in this workflow. “The producers could not believe what I had done,” Filip remarks, “and how fast I was able to do it!”

Filip also recalls an interview with team manager and owner Oleg Tinkov. The interview, held in a spacious room at a French Alps ski resort, had copious reflections in all kinds of frequencies. The production team was able to quickly capture the footage, but they approached Filip to improve the audio quality. “Once again RX saved the day,” Filip recalls, “and another stage was aired flawlessly.”

The voiceovers of commentators Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen are yet another tricky audio challenge. They are often in a hurry reading their voiceovers because they are excited about the race during a sprint. This hurried approach can result in compromised audio quality. “If it wasn’t for RX Advanced,” Filip says, “I would have had to ‘air an excuse’ multiple times.”

RX’ing away audio challenges

Filip’s athletic audio expertise extends to Olympic events. One typical problem during the Olympics was salvaging the screams and shouts of enthusiastic coaches. As one would expect from on-camera mics, the audio would come back over-modulated and often clipped. RX was Filip’s Swiss Army Knife, giving him a multitude of modules to get the job done.

He’s also worked on British Premier League soccer, where the stadium environment tends to be imbued with heavy crowd noise. For Filip, it was important to retain an appropriate roar from the crowd for ambience, while avoiding the screams or whistles of fans too close to the mic. He used RX’s Spectral Repair to easily remove those unwanted sounds, letting him deliver exactly what his clients want to hear—and nothing more.

For Filip, RX is “the best ever tool to clean up dialogue” on TV dramas. He’s especially fond of the time-saving Ambience Match module. “It’s heaven if a producer asks you if you’re done 10 minutes after your import,” he jokes.

And when doing sound design for TV dramas, feature films, and even corporate movies, Filip uses a combination of library sounds and Native Instrument’s Komplete range of virtual instruments and effects. When going from a library sound to a self-created one, he’ll use RX’s EQ Match module to blend the two sounds together.

Putting it all together

From his early training in Jazz to his ever-expanding repertoire of audio repair know-how, Filip has devoted his life to extracting audio excellence from each and every project. But he’s conscious of the fact that all of his training and technology are simply a means and not the end.

Whether he’s performing the role of an audio engineer, mixing engineer, broadcast sound engineer, or Foley recorder, ultimately it all comes down to the subjective experience of listening. “Never get lost in all technical features,” he advises, “instead let your ears do all the judging.”

With 15 years of experience under his belt, Filip has learned to stick with the tools that help him do his job best. His words and wisdom to newcomers are simple: “Get RX Advanced and change your life in post production. Work faster and better, land more jobs, bigger turnover. Simple as 1, 2, 3!”

What can RX 5 do for your audio? Download your free, 30-day trial and find out.

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