Audio enhancement is the number one forensic activity at Primeau Forensics. Audio enhancement, or sound enhancement, questions and assignments come into our offices daily from around the world. Audio enhancement helps people better understand words that were recorded but not clearly heard.
Last November, I was asked by Jeff Morley to combine two versions of the Air Force One recordings from the day John F Kennedy was assassinated. Once my team and I had the recordings combined, the next step was to work on the enhancement process.
As an audio forensic expert, audio enhancement is one of my favorite forensic activities. This is likely because when I started my career as an audio engineer, one of my first assignments was with the FBI. The experience was extremely rewarding because the two Detroit agents that came into our recording studio, Ambience Recordings, were very appreciative and complimentary. I took an audio recording and used tools to reduce the unwanted background noise and enhanced the speaking portion of the recording.
Audio enhancement is both an art and a science. It is an art because as forensic experts, we have tools like noise reduction, equalizers, and compressors we use to create with similar to an artist who has paint, brushes, and a canvas. We use these tools and artistically repair sound from sounding poor to enhanced and clear to better understand the speaking portion of the recording.
Audio enhancement is a science because the tools have to be scientifically calculated and applied in specific orders depending on the experimentation with the order of application and the results from each application. I find myself using control Z quite often during sound enhancement processes.
Clients from around the world, including police departments and private individuals, use digital pocket recorders to document and preserve a confession or other event in order to refer back to that event at a later date. The problem is that some of the time their recording does not go as planned. Background noise interferes more than planned because recorders pick up unwanted sound. Digital audio recorders do not record in the same manner that our ears perceive sound. When the digital pocket recorder is taken back to have the recording downloaded to a computer, the unwanted background sound is much more obvious than when the recording was created.
This is where our services as an audio forensic expert are sought out. After 30 years, we have become quite good and pretty quick at enhancing audio. Our speed and accuracy save our clients’ money because many forensic experts take long periods of time applying various tools by trial and error. We, on the other hand, have the ability to recognize a noise situation and determine the order of processing necessary for audio restoration in a short period of time.
In fact, we have started a service that accommodates our clients financially. Clients often have much higher than normal audio enhancement expectations. They hope the impossible can be made possible. Even the best forensic experts at Primeau Forensics cannot restore all sound to our client’s expectations.
This is why we have implemented a preliminary investigation process. This process allows us to send a sample of the restored recording to our clients to show them what is and is not possible. That way we can learn for a lesser rate if we can meet their expectations for audio enhancement. I am proud to say that in many cases we meet and even exceed their expectations.