ha ha ha!
March 27, 2011 1:58 PM   Subscribe

(Extreme Audio Processing) How would you remove a laugh track from a TV show?

Yes, Minister outshines its laugh track to such a degree that one feels compelled to remove the unwanted canned guffaws ...

(the Internet suggests that it is difficult at best)
posted by coffeefilter to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can't unmix anything from anything else unfortunately.
posted by Not Supplied at 2:20 PM on March 27, 2011

If you had the exact laugh track they used you could put the waveform out of phase and try and cancel it out, but in the absence of that not really.
posted by Not Supplied at 2:22 PM on March 27, 2011

Impossible to do perfectly without having access to the master files. However, there are clips like these which simply play silence or subtle white noise over the laugh track.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:27 PM on March 27, 2011

"Difficult at best," is understating it. Not gonna happen.
posted by rhizome at 2:28 PM on March 27, 2011

Basically you can't do it short of obtaining the original unmixed tracks (which probably don't exist anymore) and trying to do your own mix. If you're an audio editing superstar, you might be able to minimize it a bit, but it would be a very painstaking process and still wouldn't be that produtive Keep in mind that Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister were, I believe, filmed in front of a live audience, so it's not canned laughter, it's actual laughter from the audience.

you're a kitty: tuning them out helps, but Sports Night also used the laugh track less and less as the series went on, so part of the reason you stopped noticing it is that, well, it wasn't there :)
posted by zachlipton at 3:23 PM on March 27, 2011

Perhaps this should be a separate question entirely, but why is audience laughter so much more pronounced on British programs? My experience watching something like Absolutely Fabulous or the IT Crowd is seriously diminished because of the intrusive laughter. What are US sitcom producers doing to reduce noise that UK producers are not? Or are UK producers just doing what market research suggests is best? (I'd ask as a straight up AMF question, but I'm time-barred having recently posted)
posted by holterbarbour at 4:59 PM on March 27, 2011

My experience watching something like Absolutely Fabulous or the IT Crowd

mine too! I would love to watch an episode of the IT Crowd without the stupid laugh track.
sad to hear its so difficult to remove....
posted by namewithoutwords at 5:00 PM on March 27, 2011

you can't do it short of obtaining the original unmixed tracks

Vocals can be extracted from stereo mixes, by identifying the stereo balance applied to each track. Elements with a particular stereo pan in the mix can be isolated.

I'd guess that a custom application could be developed to do it, with some human interaction.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:14 PM on March 27, 2011

What StickyCarpet said. If the audio was in stereo, you could probably hack it by removing everything that wasn't in both channels, since dialogue is almost always mixed front and center. I've also noticed that on some shows (late-night talk shows mainly) the audience/laughter is sent to the matrixed Dolby Pro Logic "rear" channel, so that's another possible approach.

I'm not familiar with Yes Minister, but it looks like it was shot in the eighties, so the audio is almost certainly mono, so this approach wouldn't work.
posted by neckro23 at 6:44 PM on March 27, 2011

Oh, man this would be difficult. I've seen how hard it is to do this for things with predictable sounds, like say, a clarinet when you know exactly what they're supposed to be playing. And while it's doable with top-of-line-technology, the results aren't always fantastic. Removing human singing voices is much, much harder and the result never sounds that great. Removing something as complex and erratic as a crowd of laughing people is essentially impossible with today's technology.

Of course, what I just said is assuming a single channel of audio. For most modern shows, you've probably got two channels at least for most shows, so if they mixed in the laughtrack differently than the rest of the sounds, you might be able to do some trickery to separate it out. But unfortunately, if there's anything else that has a similar mix it will get lost as well.

I guess the short version is: if it's stereo and you get lucky, it's hard, but do-able, but you might lose something else that you didn't want to lose, but otherwise it's essentially impossible.
posted by ErWenn at 8:32 PM on March 27, 2011

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