Does audio format matter? Who can tell the difference?
We get asked this a lot.
We all know the adage – “Garbage In = Garbage Out”… Whether it be food, words, movies, or computer programming – it’s true!
When it comes to audio for the purpose of video productions, this is very true. If we record high quality audio for clients, it will impact the final product.
We regularly ask clients to supply the ‘highest quality audio’ they have so we can blend their original music in with the audio recorded from our cameras. However, we are frequently supplied with compressed audio – usually MP3 or AAC format (even YouTube links, on occasions!). While these formats can produce ‘good enough’ audio quality, this depends largely on a number of factors such as bit rate, sampling, compression and the quality of the original recording.
In the ‘old days’, songs were recorded to (and sourced from) CDs – a digital audio format. Before CDs we had cassette tapes and vinyl records – but we won’t go there! Digital audio is, according to the Red Book (basically ‘the Bible’ of Compact Disc format specifications), a 2-channel signed 16-bit Linear PCM recording sampled at 44,100 Hz. This is darn good audio and it is enough for the productions/events we film – assuming the original audio is a high quality.
In more recent times, with the advent of portable audio players and online music – plus the need for audio to be compressed in order to fit songs onto said devices or within internet download speeds & available bandwidth – audio has been compressed. Audio data compression has the potential to significantly reduce the transmission bandwidth and storage requirements of audio data. This, however, results in a trade-off between audio quality and transmission/storage size). Depending on the device and speakers used for playback, this trade-off may not be very evident.
We understand that clients may not have very high quality audio available for us and we will work with that. Sometimes there are things we can do to make improvements to poor audio. Sometimes the need for ‘high quality’ audio simply is not required by clients.
If you are thinking about running an event where audio is used, please try to use high quality audio recordings.
Our preference is to produce videos where the audio does not trade quality for smaller storage requirements. Hence, we ask clients for the highest quality versions of their songs as they have access to.
* We’ll go into more detail on audio formats at a later time. Stay tuned!