Expected Surprises | Part I: Restoring the Past

Just a few weeks ago, BabbleLabs launched its Clear Cloud speech enhancement product — available as both a cloud streaming API and via a web interface for handling individual files. The early results, as we expected, have been quite surprising ;-)

Find out what I mean in this four-part blog series. We’ll post a new part every few days for over the next two weeks:

Part I: Restoring the Past
Part II: Rebuilding Speech 
Part III: What’s Missing?
Part IV: Better = Cheaper

Part I: Restoring the Past

First, we’ve been struck by the uniform response from people who make video — ordinary consumers, video bloggers and professional video producers: “Wow! That’s pretty amazing.” For the amateurs, I think they are just shocked when you strip away the noise from a video — it feels as if speaker has been transported out of the noisy scene to some quiet place, yet there they are immersed in traffic, the windy South Atlantic, a club, an ice skating rink. For the professionals, they know that with great care in recording and post-production, distracting noises from field recording can be painstakingly eliminated, but it is expensive and uncertain. For them, the impact of Clear Cloud is how close it gets to professional, manual sound editing for no effort. It has become obvious to us that Clear Cloud has great potential in the video production, distribution, and sharing world.

Second, we’ve started to pick up anecdotes that suggest a whole set of unanticipated applications for Clear Cloud. One colleague decided to try it on some 40-year-old audio cassette tapes of his German grandmother. The speech was unintelligible because of tape print-through and material deterioration. (The expected longevity for cassette tapes is just 10-20 years). Clear Cloud was able to cut down the resulting noisy artifacts enough to make the speech intelligible — he could hear and understand his grandmother from 40 years ago! We have started to explore the world of audio archives — from UCSB’s rich collection of Edison recording cylinders (http://cylinders.library.ucsb.edu) to oral arguments before the US Supreme Court in the late 1950s (https://www.oyez.org/cases/1955). One of the most compelling sets of recordings is an archive of highlights from 56 great speeches in English from the 20th century. The original set can be found on archive.org: https://archive.org/details/Greatest_Speeches_of_the_20th_Century. And now, the BabbleLabs Clear Cloud enhanced versions are also available there: please see https://archive.org/details/GreatestSpeechesEnhanced. The early recordings (especially from before 1945) and one recorded under field conditions are the most interesting. I particularly recommend the following:

Title

Speaker

Year

Link to Original

Link to Enhanced

First Recorded Promotional Message on the Edison Phonograph

Len Spencer

1906

https://archive.org/details/Greatest_Speeches_of_the_20th_Century/FirstRecordedPromotionalMessageontheEdisonPhonograph.mp3

https://archive.org/details/GreatestSpeechesBabbleLabs/First+Recorded+Promotional+Message+on+the+Edison+Phonograph+-+Len+Spencer+(1906).mp3

The Farmer and the Republican Party

William Howard Taft

1908

https://archive.org/details/Greatest_Speeches_of_the_20th_Century/TheFarmerandtheRepublicanParty.mp3

https://archive.org/details/GreatestSpeechesBabbleLabs/The+Farmer+and+the+Republican+Party+-+William+Howard+Taft+(1908).mp3

The Ideal Republic

William Jennings Bryan

1908

https://archive.org/details/Greatest_Speeches_of_the_20th_Century/TheIdealRepublic.mp3

https://archive.org/details/GreatestSpeechesBabbleLabs/The+Ideal+Republic+-+Willam+Jennings+Bryan+(1908).mp3

The German Peril

James Gerard Watson

1917

https://archive.org/details/Greatest_Speeches_of_the_20th_Century/TheGermanPeril.mp3

https://archive.org/details/GreatestSpeechesBabbleLabs/The+German+Peril+-+James+Gerard+Watson+(1917).mp3

Inaugural Address

Franklin D. Roosevelt

1933

https://archive.org/details/Greatest_Speeches_of_the_20th_Century/InauguralAddress-1933.mp3

https://archive.org/details/GreatestSpeechesBabbleLabs/Inaugural+Address+-+Franklin+D.+Roosevelt+(1933).mp3

The Future of Women Flying

Amelia Earhart

1935

https://archive.org/details/Greatest_Speeches_of_the_20th_Century/TheFutureofWomeninFlying.mp3

https://archive.org/details/GreatestSpeechesBabbleLabs/The+Future+of+Women+in+Flying+-+Amelia+Earhart+(1935).mp3

Abdication Address

King Edward VIII

1936

https://archive.org/details/Greatest_Speeches_of_the_20th_Century/AbdicationAddress.mp3

https://archive.org/details/GreatestSpeechesBabbleLabs/Abdication+Address+-+King+Edward+VIII+(1936).mp3

Inaugural Address

Franklin D. Roosevelt

1937

https://archive.org/details/Greatest_Speeches_of_the_20th_Century/InauguralAddress-1937.mp3

https://archive.org/details/GreatestSpeechesBabbleLabs/Inaugural+Address+-+Franklin+D.+Roosevelt+(1937.)mp3.mp3

On His Return from the Munich Conference

Neville Chamberlain

1938

https://archive.org/details/Greatest_Speeches_of_the_20th_Century/OnHisReturnfromtheMunichConference.mp3

https://archive.org/details/GreatestSpeechesBabbleLabs/On+His+Return+from+the+Munich+Conference+-+Neville+Chamberlain+(1938).mp3

Farewell to Baseball

Lou Gehrig

1939

https://archive.org/details/Greatest_Speeches_of_the_20th_Century/FarewelltoBaseball-1939.mp3

https://archive.org/details/GreatestSpeechesBabbleLabs/Farewell+to+Baseball+-+Lou+Gehrig+(1939).mp3

Address to the Nation on the R.A.F

Winston Churchill

1940

https://archive.org/details/Greatest_Speeches_of_the_20th_Century/AddresstotheNationontheR.A.F.mp3

https://archive.org/details/GreatestSpeechesBabbleLabs/Address+to+the+Nation+on+the+R.A.F+-+Winston+Churchill+(1940).mp3

First Radio Address as Prime Minister

Winston Churchill

1940

https://archive.org/details/Greatest_Speeches_of_the_20th_Century/FirstRadioAddressasPrimeMinister.mp3

https://archive.org/details/GreatestSpeechesBabbleLabs/First+Radio+Address+as+PrimeMinister+-+Winston+Churchill+(1940).mp3

Greetings to the Children of England

Princess Elizabeth

1940

https://archive.org/details/Greatest_Speeches_of_the_20th_Century/GreetingstotheChildrenofEngland.mp3

https://archive.org/details/GreatestSpeechesBabbleLabs/Greetings+to+the+Children+of+England+-+Princess+Elizabeth+(1940).mp3

Declaration of War Against Japan

Franklin D. Roosevelt

1941

https://archive.org/details/Greatest_Speeches_of_the_20th_Century/DeclarationofWarAgainstJapan.mp3

https://archive.org/details/GreatestSpeechesBabbleLabs/DeclarationofWarAgainstJapan.mp3

The First Atomic Bomb Attack on Japan

Harry S. Truman

1945

https://archive.org/details/Greatest_Speeches_of_the_20th_Century/TheFirstAtomicBombAttackonJapan.mp3

https://archive.org/details/GreatestSpeechesBabbleLabs/The+First+Atomic+Bomb+Attack+on+Japan+-+Harry+S.+Truman+(1945).mp3

There are audio historical troves around the world. Getting the audio digitized is often the least difficult step. The storage media — cylinders, platters, reel-to-reel tapes, and audio cassettes — were not meant to be stable over such a long period. So bringing back these compelling pieces of world, national, and family history relies on easy and effective restoration processes that can be applied by millions of people without professional audio editing software or experience. Making BabbleLabs Clear Cloud so accessible and easy to use may help preserve our heritage for future generations.

Last Updated: September 7, 2018 8:06pm

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