A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from Frank Eriksen, who produces the All Things Boulder podcast (which is a really cool show, by the way). In the email, Frank asked me if I had any ideas why my podcasts sound “so much better sonically (louder/cleaner)” than his show. I listened to a few of Frank’s episodes, and here’s what I found.
Although Frank is using an impressive list of equipment (Audio Technica 4033 mic, Grace Design mic pre-amp, Pro Tools, etc.), I did find what I think was the issue. From my email to Frank:
The major problem I found is that you are not compressing/limiting your audio files. If you were to open any of my audio files in a program like Audacity or Adobe Audition (or any other audio editing software), you’ll find that the amplitude of everything is exactly the same. It’s set to -1.0db, which is just below distortion.
I provided Frank with a couple images–one that showed what his show looks like and one that shows what one of our Polycom on Demand episodes looks like.
Frank’s Show (as seen in Adobe Audition):
Polycom on Demand (as seen in Adobe Audition):
See the difference? It’s that roller coaster effect (LOUD. . .quiet. . .LOUD. . quiet. . .LOUD) that’s causing the problem.
Here’s the rest of my email to Frank:
I have a custom built Digital Audio Workstation I use for all my audio recordings (and audio feed to the Tricaster). For the main outs of my recording software (Cakewalk’s Sonar. . .which is the same software I used to record all my music CDs), I use a VFT plugin that is a mastering limiter. It adds gain when needed and at the same time limits the output to -1.0dB. That way, all content (me, my co-host, phone-based guests, Skype-based guests, audio-clips, sound effects, bumpers, songs, etc.) all are played at the exact same level. Also, because my voice is pretty deep/boomy as it is, I also add a 5.3dB gain of EQ at the higher end (1980Hz). This is done within the DAW software as well.
If you’re wondering why your audio isn’t as rich/full as you’d like, take a look at your waveform. . .are you seeing a roller coaster? If so, create an even better sounding file (and make it easier for your fans to comfortably listen as well) by applying some limiting/compression yourself!
(Thanks to Frank for allowing me to blog about this!)
I’m pleased to see a measurable increase in online video. I’m seeing them more and more in podcasts, embedded in websites, and as a means of driving traffic to your site through Video on Demand sites like YouTube. We’ve begun using video to further improve the connection and approachability of PodWorx and as a means of creating a more intimate setting for out Living in Las Vegas Podcast audience. This is a good thing.
In a business setting, a well thought out video will decrease the time to close a transaction with your visitor by accelerating the mandatory “getting to know you” phase of any sales cycle. But with this exciting increase of online video, I’m seeing the same thing I saw with the initial wave of audio podcasts.
Terrible audio quality.
Those developing video content must recognize that the most important component to your video is not the video. IT’S THE ABILITY TO HEAR THE STORY BEING TOLD. If I cannot hear the story being told, or if the quality is so bad that it is distracting, you’ve lost me.
This means that if you’ve created this beautiful video, with clever transitions, lovely on-screen graphics, compelling on-screen talent, and story-enhancing music, but the sound coming from the talent is tinny, contains too much room echo, is too quiet or too loud and distorted, I’m not going to spend the time suffering through it just to watch the talent be, well, talented. Instead, I’m going to move on to the next item on my to-do list.
But here’s a hint – you already knew that.
Here’s why. Look at one of the most impressive pieces of video/audio technology we have at our disposal today: Skype. When using Skype to place a video-to-video call, what does the software do in the event the bandwidth available will not provide enough throughput for both the audio and video signal.
It degrades the video portion of the connection to ensure the audio is still as good as it can be. The smart people at Skype know that if you can’t hear each other, being able to see each other clearly would only make things MORE annoying.
So, be Skypish with your video. If you’ve done a great job with your audio podcast and you’re now bringing in a video offering, be certain the audio is at least as good with the video as it was with the audio-only product. And if you’re initial go-to-market plan is using video, don’t skimp on the audio side of the story. . .doing so will leave your “talent” with nobody for whom to perform.
What say you? Are you struggling to maintain great sound quality with your video? Are you wondering how to do so? Let me know.