When is post production editing too much?

Edited: November 3, 2020, 1:19 AM · Working from home has given me more time for personal violin projects. I recently recorded (separately) all four parts of the 1st movement of Vivaldi's Concerto for Four Violins, and have been spending time learning how to use iMovie to do the post production video editing -- layering all parts together and making audio tweaks where certain parts did not quite sync up.

Every time I created what I felt was a finished version, I would listen to it and decide there is one more passage I could tweak to sync things better. I ended up creating 7 versions of the video, each time syncing the audio parts a bit better (although I might be the only one who would be able to notice the difference, at least from one version to the next).

Once I had that 7th and final version, I discovered that you can use iMovie to easily add sound effects and clip filters. So, I created a version 7b, where I added an echo effect and what iMovie calls their "Flashback" filter.

Here is version 7:

Here is version 7b:

Let me know what you think of version 7b. Have I gone too far by adding the echo and clip filter? Maybe I crossed that threshold much earlier?


UPDATE on November 2: After reading some of the feedback, I created a version 8 of this video, with no altering of the sound.


Replies (13)

Edited: October 31, 2020, 1:21 PM · It's known as "Graphic Equalizer Syndrome." (As soon as you get a 10-band graphic equalizer for your stereo, you're never happy with your sound ever again, because in principle you can always tweak it to make it "better.")

I just played in an "all adults" studio recital. I played two movements of a Veracini sonata (E minor). I recorded my own piano accompaniment. The piano part was a little too hard and I didn't have time to shed it because, well, I do have a day job and I had to work on the violin part beside! So I recorded each hand separately (in some places using both hands to play just the one voice), to a click track, using my digital stage piano as a MIDI controller. I could have input all the notes into MIDI manually, but that would have taken hours. Then I edited the whole thing in my DAW (Studio One made by PreSonus), converting the MIDI codes back to audio using a VST to create the piano sound (Garritan's Abbey Road Yamaha CFX). Like you, I faced an avalanche of choices, starting with how "perfect" to make the part (MIDI enables absolutely perfect alignment or "quantization" to a metronomic grid), how much to "improve" dynamics or the timing of grace notes -- that's stuff you didn't really have to deal with in your violin recordings, because those started out as analog signals -- and then how much post-production processing to allow (I settled on very light reverb which I dialed in using a DAW plug-in rather than using the effects profiles in the VST).

Frankly, that's the point where I would value having a couple of $100 lessons with a professional recording engineer to make some suggestions and guide me -- if I cared that much about how it sounded. My recital was Zoom anyway, so I really didn't need to worry too much. If you're making a recording that people are going to enjoy through "reference" headphones (whatever those are), then I think you either go down the rabbit hole of learning how to produce music, or you hire a professional. Every time I get enamored of a new technology (like this huge effects pedal device that I bought to use when my violin is electrified), I just end up wondering whether I'd be better off just learning how to play the violin better and leaving the crazy stuff to the pros. But then my stratospheric wealth just starts burning holes in my pockets ...

October 31, 2020, 5:16 PM · Paul -- Thanks for the detailed response! I was hoping to get your opinion of version 7b of my video, however! :-D I'm more interested in feedback on the sound (after adding the echo effect) rather than the visual aspect. Do you like the sound better with the echo effect or without it?
Edited: October 31, 2020, 6:45 PM · Is the echo effect the same thing as reverb? I think a bit of reverb/echo effect is nice. However what actually bothered me more was the quality of the audio. It sounds like the attack and the articulation of notes may have been modified in editing, which may make it sound unnatural. When it comes to editing it is important to sync the parts up well. However it's best to try not to mess with the attacks and arsichklations as a result of it. Maybe it's the quality of the mic? I'm not sure, but it just sounds... a bit off.
I apologize if my perceptions are wrong.
October 31, 2020, 8:33 PM · Hi Ella -- Thanks for your feedback! Yes, the echo effect is similar to reverb. I recorded all the videos with my iphone, so the quality of the audio is only as good as the iphone mic. I am also new to extensive video editing and I'm learning how to do it by trial and error.

I noticed that after I created version 1, the volume levels of all 5 videos combined caused the overall volume to go into the red. So, in subsequent versions, I had to reduce the volume after each layer. Using iMovie, you can only layer one video on top of another at a time. So each version I created required 5 (or more) renderings. I'm also not sure if the audio is being altered slightly with each rendering.

iMovie is fairly intuitive and easy to use, but I'm sure it has it's limitations. I've heard that Adobe Premiere is more powerful - at least you are able to combine all 5 videos in a single rendering.

Edited: October 31, 2020, 8:57 PM · Sounds good. I've done similar projects and edited and mixed them (orchestral in fact) but they were all audio only so I don't know much about the video side. IPhones have a decent mic so it is more likely to be the issue of rendering and compressing things multiple times, but I have no experience to back it up.
Edited: October 31, 2020, 9:59 PM · There is something about both versions that I find very unpleasant sounding (not your playing!), that I can't seem to put my finger on. I don't know if it's the mixing or something else. I think Ella may have been hearing the same thing.
October 31, 2020, 10:40 PM · Yeah exactly. I don't know what it is though :(
October 31, 2020, 11:48 PM · Thanks for the feedback, Christian and Ella. My wife described the sound as a bit unnatural. I guess I didn’t want to believe it lol. Maybe that’s enough experimenting for now. I’ll leave that sort of thing to the sound engineers! :-)
Edited: November 1, 2020, 4:49 AM · First off my comments are not about the playing -- that all seemed fine to me. And I congratulate you for undertaking such a project and being willing to share it with us for comments -- that's a brave thing to do!

If you're going to use your iPhone to record yourself you should invest in a better microphone -- Shure makes on that plugs right into the the lightning port, and there are others that do also.
There is no "bottom to your sound" no richness of tone, which is a result of the microphone. iPhone mics are meant for speech, not for music. Perhaps if you had recorded into a different app than you used more of the tone might have been captured. People who make professional quality videos use one app to capture the sound and one to capture the video and then they do heavy editing to put the audio with the video. And they certainly do not use iPhones to do it (despite Apple's ads which seem to imply that it can all be done on an iPhone.)

As far as "how much post-production is too much" -- when you do an A/B comparison with the original unedited audio and cringe at the edited version. Most of the time the most limiting factor in how much is "too much" is the deadline -- professional recording engineers and mixing engineers (usually not the same people) have a limited amount of time they can work on a project. Sometimes it's the amount of money available (time is money!) and other times the money might not be an object but the deadline is fast approaching so at some point they have to say "this is as good as it gets."

Look at the different DAW apps available for iPhone and try the project again without the video -- just work on the audio. You can always produce video later to which you can attach your superior audio.

Edited: November 3, 2020, 1:17 AM · Hi David -- Thanks for your response. I'm not planning on buying any new recording equipment or apps right now, but maybe in the future. Your comment about doing an A/B comparison with the original and cringing at the edited version makes a lot of sense.

I didn't think I would make yet another version of this video, but here it is, with no altering of the sound. Though probably not anywhere near professional sound quality, it might be the best sounding of the 3 videos I have now shared.


November 3, 2020, 11:42 AM · Frequently, phones are preset to capture audio by compressing the dynamic range, thus making the entire recording sound like it was played at the same sound level. This is great for most of the situations people want to capture, but for violin recording, it is the opposite of what one would typically want to do.

Playing with an expanded dynamic range is one of the main performance differences between a sorry hacker, like me, and an accomplished player, like you.

Check to see if your phone is recording using automatic volume level adjustment and try to disable it. Then, see if there is a gain adjustment. Play forte and adjust the gain until the captured audio no longer sounds clipped or distorted. Then capture the entire performance with that gain setting and distance from the phone.

You can always adjust the dynamic range in post-production, by either compressing the entire range, compressing just the higher volume range, or raising the lower volume range.

But f the raw audio is captured already compressed, anything you try to do to expand the dynamic range tends to sound a bit odd.

November 3, 2020, 12:53 PM · The less effects you add, the better, the more pure and the more authentic your sound will be. But... there's a huge problem: you are gonna have a really tough time trying to record an acoustic instrument, specially a traditional one like the violin. It's almost guaranteed any microphone you use in your home made studio is gonna kill your violin sound. The problem with the violin or any bow string instrument is that it's one little single voice, that sound fantastic in real life, but that gets killed really easy by a microphone. If you try to record your voice, you will notice it as well.

The only way to "fix" that broken sound is to add, as you have discovered, echo and reverb and all those things. Layers and layers of patches. If you really want to record a proper violin video, you really have to use professional equipment or know a lot about sound recording to make a decent setup. Not only the rig, but the room is very important.

I've recorded my violin playing kind of quickly and fast and the results were very bad, thing that does not happen if you try to record an instrument that can play chords and have natural huge reverb, such a piano or a guitar.

November 8, 2020, 11:05 AM · I like No. 7 better than 7b or 8. I agree with David about the lack of "richness" and I also suspect it's your microphone. Instead of reverb what you need -- more than reverb -- is the kind of equalization you might get in a decent channel strip. There is probably a plugin that you can get for your app that will do this.

I do my recordings by using a microphone that goes through an interface box into my laptop, and I have equalization and other plug-ins for my DAW. I'm just now learning how to do it. Maybe someday I'll be brave enough to share one of my "products" here.

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