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The folks at FxFactory emailed me recently asking if I wanted to review some of their latest plug-ins. Curious, I asked what they had in mind. “CrumplePop,” they said. “Their new audio tools are amazing.”
I was interested, so they sent me licenses for:
While each of these plugins is sold separately, I decided to look at them as a group. I also interviewed the CEO of CrumplePop – Gabe Cheifetz – to learn more about these new tools. (His interview is below.)
These five Mac-only audio plugins were developed by CrumplePop and sold by FxFactory. They run on Apple Final Cut Pro X and GarageBand, Adobe Premiere Pro and Audition, and DaVinci Resolve.
These powerful audio effects are easy to use and deliver results that can repair many common audio problems. Designed from the ground up to simplify complex audio work, they easily compete with similar audio tools from Izotope and Accusonus.
If audio scares you, but you need to make your audio sound better, these plugins are a great place to start. You may not need all of them, but, as someone who is always looking for better and faster ways to improve their audio, at least some of these tools need to be in your toolkit. An added plus is that the free trials allow to you test your results before you spend your money.
Installation for all FxFactory plugins is through the free FxFactory interface. It took about two minutes to download and install all five plugins.
When you start your NLE, they will automatically load and be available for use, EXCEPT for Adobe Premiere Pro or Audition.
SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT ADOBE SOFTWARE
Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe Audition do not automatically update when you add new audio plug-ins to your system. Here’s what you need to do to get these, or any, plugins to appear in Premiere.
NOTE: With Adobe Audition, go to Effects > Audio Plug-in Manager. After that, the process is similar.)
After you install the plug-ins, open Premiere.
Click the fly-out (pancakes) menu to the right of the Effects panel name and choose Audio Plug-in Manager.
Click the Scan for Plug-ins button.
The new plug-ins appear at the bottom.
NOTE: If there are any audio plugins you want to disable, without deleting them from your storage, uncheck them in this dialog.
The CrumplePop plug-ins appear in Effects > Audio Effects > AU > CrumplePop.
NOTE: These plugins work the same in Apple Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Premiere Pro, DaVinci Resolve, as well as Adobe Audition and Apple GarageBand. The screen shots are from Final Cut, but the operation and comments are the same for all platforms.
PopRemover AI removes plosives from your audio. Plosives are caused when the microphone is too close and directly in front of the speaker’s mouth.
NOTE: Audio radiates from the speaker’s mouth in a sphere. So, you get just as good audio quality placing the mic near the corner of their mouth, up near their forehead or just below their chin, which avoids plosives entirely.
These pops sound like small explosions, which is where they got their name.
Here’s what plosives look like in FCP X – sharp peaks of sound that tend to distort.
As with any effect, either drag it on top of the clip you want to apply it to, or double-click it to apply the effect to all selected timeline clips.
Select the clip you want to modify, go to the Audio Inspector and click the small settings icon to display the interface.
Something non-standard with the CrumplePop tools is that you need to turn them on. Not just clicking the checkbox in the Inspector but using a power button in the effect itself. I overlooked this initially and was wondering why nothing was working.
NOTE: Fortunately, this power switch blinks red, reminding you to turn the effect on.
Click the power button and the effect scans your clip and configures itself for what it thinks you need to do.
I applied this to a clip with severe popping and it cleaned up all of them. In fact, you would not have noticed something was missing. I was impressed.
It reduced the bass somewhat and dropped the level, so I increased the output level by about eight dB to compensate. In real-life, I would also add an EQ filter after applying this effect to restore some of the missing bass.
The Strength setting adjusts the amount of the effect. For my clip, the settings it calculated were fine.
An interface tweak that I like is that when the effect control panel is open, you can still use keyboard shortcuts to move around the Final Cut timeline. This makes playback and adjusting settings much easier.
At the bottom of all CrumplePop effects are adjustments for low-, mid- and high-frequency settings. The good news is that you can adjust them, the bad news is that there is no documentation I’ve found that explains WHAT we are adjusting. In fact, these are just plain confusing.
NOTE: You can tweak these by dragging the dial interface or by clicking a number and typing in a new setting.
These four small icons under the Strength setting, from left:
I really like the ability to create presets. While you probably wouldn’t use the same preset for different clips, if you have multiple timeline clips of the same master shot with the same audio problems, presets make it easy to apply the same settings to multiple clips.
Here’s the onscreen help, accessed by clicking the small “i” icon (red arrow) in the plugin interface.
The interface and operation of all five plug-ins is the same, so I won’t repeat myself. This is the help screen for Rustle Remover. As you can see, all plugins, with one exception, have the same controls and work in a similar fashion.
While I don’t have any audio I can test with this, rustle most often occurs when you hide a lavalliere mic under an actor’s clothing and the cloth rubs against the surface of the mic.
NOTE: Each effect has its own color scheme – purple, green, blue – to help you remember what you are adjusting.
I hate wind noise. It is almost impossible to remove, destroys otherwise good takes and reminds me that blimps were invented for a reason.
Wind noise occurs when a puff of air rushes across the face of a mic causing a “scraping” sound. This is a full-frequency mess and, most of the time, impossible to clean up.
This is a plug-in you should download for yourself and test with your own footage. I don’t have any handy – um, not that I’ve never had that problem, but those are the clips I don’t keep.
A de-noise filter removes background noise. Well… actually, I should probably write that it reduces background noise. If you totally remove the background, it tends to make voices sound very electronic.
NOTE: Remember, one of the reasons you go on location is to give your audience the sense of “being there.” If you remove all the location noise, you create a very sterile environment. You want to reduce the noise, so you can better hear the dialog, not remove it.
This filter operates a bit differently from the three I discussed earlier.
Once the effect is applied to a clip, put the playhead in an area of the noisy clip which contains noise, but no speaking, then click the Sample button (red arrow). This tells the filter what it is supposed to remove.
NOTE: If you are not happy with the results, try sampling a different part of the clip. You can also sample while the timeline is playing.
The results are impressive. Noise is reduced significantly. I noticed that the default settings seemed to reduce the noise a bit too much, causing it to sound “choppy” or “electronic.” This was easy to fix by reducing the Strength setting.
Again, I needed to boost output gain 3-4 dB to compensate for a decrease in level caused by removing the noise.
NOTE: I also used this filter to remove power line hum and it seemed to remove it completely.
Without a doubt, the most common audio problem is echoes. Echoes are caused by a mic that is too far from the person speaking. (This is another really, really good reason to never use camera mics to record dialog.) The saddest emails I receive start with: “After three years, I’m ready to submit my documentary to festivals, I just need to remove the echoes from the audio and I’m all set.”
Up until a couple of years ago, echo removal simply wasn’t possible. Now, while it is still an excellent idea to record the best possible audio that you can, Echo Remover 2 provides a tool we can use to make our voices sound more “present.”
This filter does a nice (two years ago I would have said “incredible”) job of reducing echoes. Again, there are trade-offs, echoes are reduced, the voice sounds more present, but it isn’t the same as if you had used a good mic and put it close to the talent.
Still, if all you have is hollow audio, this will make it sound much better.
THINGS I’D LIKE TO SEE
There are three things I’d like CrumplePop to consider:
NOTE: The video tutorials are not close-captioned, making understanding harder for non-English speakers.
These plugins are easy to use, work across all major NLEs and do solid, professional-grade work. As with all audio plugins, your ears are the ultimate judge, which is why I’m pleased that FxFactory makes free trials available.
AN INTERVIEW WITH CRUMPLEPOP CEO – GABE CHEIFETZ
As I was working on this review, I emailed Gabe Cheifetz, CEO of CrumblePop, about these plug-ins.
Larry: Gabe, how would you describe CrumplePop?
Gabe: CrumplePop makes a range of software plugins for people who make video and audio. Our tools help you quickly solve difficult problems in Final Cut Pro X, Premiere Pro, DaVinci Resolve, Audition, and GarageBand. We’ve been doing this for over 10 years and we’re based in Minneapolis, MN, USA.
Larry: In the past, your company created a variety of visual effects, why the switch to audio?
Gabe: When we started CrumplePop in 2009, it was hard to find good, simple visual effects for the most popular editing platform at the time (Final Cut Pro 7!). So that was where we got our start. As time went on, we began to realize that there was a huge need for simple, effective tools for fixing audio problems. Video editors don’t want to spend years learning how to be audio engineers. They want to get their audio sounding great, quickly and easily, and make their clients happy. We realized that if we really wanted to help video editors, the best area was audio.
Larry: Audio requires a special skill set, which most video editors don’t have. Where did CrumplePop develop its expertise to create these?
Gabe: That is absolutely, 100% true. Video editors and audio people think completely differently, have different standards and expectations – and they almost never talk to each other! If you are a video editor and you search on the internet for how to fix an audio problem in post, you will invariably find an audio person who says, “You should have recorded it correctly.” Of course that would be ideal – but editors often have to work with material that’s not ideal. I think CrumplePop has been successful at creating audio tools because we come from a video background – not an audio background. This lets us create a user experience that is really pleasant for video editors (and, it turns out, for audio editors too). Our software doesn’t look like the controls for an alien spaceship – it’s very simple to use.
Larry: Are you using your own audio technology or did you license existing tech? (I’m reminded of how CoreMelt licensed Mocha Pro to provide new features to existing software.)
Gabe: We’ve developed and use our own audio technology. The exciting opportunity here was to make the technology from scratch. This takes a lot longer than just licensing someone else’s technology – we’ve been working on it for over 4 years so far. And it’s not easy. But it allows us to deliver things that no one else can deliver, which you’re starting to see with our newest tools, like WindRemover AI.
Larry: Why did you create the plug-ins you did?
Gabe: We’re video editors, so we gave some thought to all of the terrible audio we’ve had to work with in the past. For instance, an interview that was shot in a live room with lots of reverb. The client asks – can you remove the echo? In the past, the answer was always, “sorry, you can’t remove echo.” So we thought – it would be amazing to be able to easily remove reverb from an audio or video clip. This led to our EchoRemover plugin. This was the same process we used to develop AudioDenoise, WindRemover AI, and all of our other audio tools.
Larry: Final Cut Pro X is not known for its audio handling. Can editors create high-quality audio inside Final Cut, or should we use these as temp filters until we can do a “real” audio mix using other software?
Gabe: Yes, it’s possible to deliver high-quality audio in Final Cut Pro X. But CrumplePop audio plugins work in a variety of host applications, including Premiere Pro and Audition – so if you’re editing in Final Cut Pro X and want to finish your audio in Audition or Logic, then we support that. Our audio plugins allow you to export your plugin settings, from, say, Final Cut Pro X and then import them in Adobe Audition. We see people using all sorts of workflows for audio right now. Some people prefer to finish their entire project within Final Cut Pro X or Premiere Pro, for the sake of simplicity. Someone else might edit in Final Cut Pro X but then take their audio somewhere else for a traditional multi-track audio experience.
Larry: Which of these plugins are you proudest of and why?
Gabe: At the moment, we’re very proud of WindRemover AI. This is, to our knowledge, the first plugin to automatically remove wind noise in real time. Wind noise is a very common (and difficult) problem, and this plugin has been received very well.
Larry: If someone is new to audio, what’s the “secret” to using these effectively?
Gabe: Our plugins are designed to be accessible to people who are new to audio. So we wanted to give people tools with no “secrets” – that was the whole goal. We wanted to deliver an experience where you drop on the plugin, and simply turn a knob until you get something that you like. And that’s pretty much how these plugins work.
Larry: For someone who isn’t sure about these plug-ins, which one should they buy first to get a better sense of what they can do?
Gabe: All of the CrumplePop plugins are available as free trials. We encourage everyone to download the free trial first, and try it on a real project. EchoRemover 2 would be a great one to try, because there’s a good chance you have some audio with reverb problems sitting on your hard drive. If you like the results, then consider making the purchase at that point.
Larry: What would you say in one paragraph describing CrumplePop plugins?
Gabe: CrumplePop plugins solve a variety of real-world audio problems that video and audio editors face every day. They automatically and intelligently remove reverb, air conditioner noise, wind noise, rustle from lavaliere mics, plosive noise, and automatically level your audio. For over 5 years, video and podcast creators have depended on CrumplePop plugins to quickly fix extremely difficult audio problems. The plugins work with Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro X, DaVinci Resolve, Audition, and more, and they are available at www.crumplepop.com.
Larry: Thanks, Gabe, for your time and the opportunity to review these plugins.
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