iZotope’s RX4 toolkit streamlines post-production on The Hobbit trilogy

Ray Beentjes, dialogue editor for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, has made extensive use of iZotope’s RX 4 audio repair and enhancement toolkit to capture more of the actors’ on-set dialogue.

"An actor could have delivered a stellar performance on location, but the audio would often be unusable," explained Beentjes. "They would then have to spend hours in a dubbing room re-recording their lines, and due to the complexity of the production, they might be covering what was six months’ worth of filming in a two-day ADR session.”

With iZotope’s RX audio repair software, the team is able to save more than 80% of the original production dialogue, and blend in ADR seamlessly when required.

"RX has been fantastic, and we’ve developed a completely different workflow," Beentjes said.

Instead of the normal 24 fps frame-rate, the films were shot in 3D at 48 fps. Unfortunately, this often introduced extra high-frequency noise from 3 to 8 kHz-significantly interfering with dialogue clarity. However, using the Denoiser feature in RX 4, Beentjes was able to remove many of the artifacts created by new technology, while preserving the crisp definition of the original dialogue.

Another key feature Beentjes utilised in RX 4 was Spectral Repair, which enabled him to isolate and remove unwanted sounds, even during long passages of audio. For The Desolation of Smaug, a large part of the film takes place on a desolate mountain, devoid of animal and human life. Unfortunately, there were birds and other distracting noises all over the audio track.

"The magic of Spectral Repair is actually being able to take away the sounds that would take the audience out of the scene," said Beentjes. "With Spectral Repair, we can go in and remove sounds that are completely out of context for the scene."

The powerful tools in RX have not only advanced Beentjes’ workflow, they have helped the entire audio post team. Beentjes is now able to deliver dialogue to the re-recording mixers that is clean and sonically neutral.

"What used to take us a couple of hours is now taking 20 minutes, which ends up saving the editors thousands of hours over the course of a project," remarks Beentjes. "We are able to create material that is effectively the same as what would come out of a dubbing suite."