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Reducing Noise in Apple Final Cut Pro

Nov 16, 2010 12:00 PM, By Jan Ozer

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Figure 1. The first stop was Compressor's filters, which worked OK but left me looking for something better.

Figure 1. The first stop was Compressor's filters, which worked OK but left me looking for something better.

A funny thing happened on the way to this episode of Final Cut Pro Insider. As you may recall, the last episode detailed the results of an extensive visit to iTunes, where I downloaded and analyzed about 50 files, and presented strategies for producing podcasts for the increasingly diverse range of iDevices. This episode was going to cover device presets in Apple Compressor, Sorenson Media Squeeze, and Telestream Episode. I hope this doesn't cause any riots in the heartland, but I'm going to delay that awesomely compelling subject for two weeks in favor of one that has more immediate relevance to yours truly.

Here's the back story. A couple weeks ago, I was in Los Angeles at Streaming Media West, a tradeshow sponsored by, where I'm also a contributing editor. Sorenson Media was introducing a new product, Squeeze Server, and had volunteered to bring a camera and camera operator so that I could interview several Sorenson executives and those of their product partners, Aspera and RightScale, for the website. The interviews were at Squeeze Server's launch party at the Rock Sugar nightclub, and though the camera operator brought an on-camera light, lighting was inadequate. The inevitable result was noisy video.

Said video was delivered to me already compressed in H.264 format, albeit at a very high data rate. Unfortunately, this only emphasized the noise, which obviously degraded the quality of the video. Suddenly, it seemed like a good time to get smart about noise-reduction filters in Apple Final Cut Pro.

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Final Cut Pro doesn't have any native noise-reduction filters, so I tried the Noise Removal filter in Compressor. The filter worked OK, reducing noise, but adding a bit of blur that I could have minimized via the Sharpen Edge filter. Noise reduction is a science, however, and it didn't feel like Apple had invested much science in this filter. So, I endeavored to find a higher-quality alternative.

I Googled "noise reduction and Compressor," and saw a bunch of video producers who seemed to have the same opinion about Compressor's Noise Reduction capabilities. Though many third-party products were mentioned, the one that garnered the most digital ink was the Neat Video noise reduction plug-in ($99.99). So I got a copy and gave it a try, with very impressive results. As you'll see, the product dramatically improved the compressed quality of my video and offers a tiered interface that's simple enough for beginners, but can definitely go deep for editors who like to tinker.

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