So……audio formats. You are probably already familiar with the two most common formats: MP3 and WAV. MP3 is a compressed file that is standard for anything on a CD album, Apple iTunes, and most internet digital download services –basically anything for the average consumer. WAV files are usually not as compressed (or not compressed at all) and gives you a better audio quality. However, when it comes to the world of film, there are LOTS of different formats.
Most portable field recording devices (such as Zoom or Tascam -as mentioned in another post) record in WAV formats and you generally have control over how much it is compressed. It might be good to stop and Google “WAV” at this point to learn more about the intricacies of this format. Basically, if you capture sound at 96kHz in 24-bit, you would have really good, relatively uncompressed audio. Anything less than that and you start to lose quality.
More sophisticated devices and even some prosumer cameras can capture Linear PCM audio. What’s that? It’s purely uncompressed audio. Think of it as the same as RAW for video. In fact, DVDs and Blu-rays use Linear PCM audio. Given the option, you should always choose LPCM over anything else your camera or recording device has to offer. It will give you the highest fidelity –of course the quality also greatly depends upon your recording equipment.
Most video editing software available (stay away from the free or cheap versions…we’re talking pro stuff here) accepts LPCM just fine. You don’t even have to worry about it. There’s no need to convert it into WAV (unless you have a lousy software program). You should avoid using any audio on your film that is MP3 format since it is highly compressed. Sound effects and music should always be in at least a WAV format.
Once you have finished editing your video, you must now edit your audio. Keep in mind that your video editing software is just that….VIDEO editing software. Your program may give you tools to add effects or correct audio, but they generally are just bandaids and shouldn’t be relied upon. To give your video truly professional sound, you must export your audio into an audio editing software program. There are many of them out there and most professional video editing software programs have audio software included with the product. Here’s a list of audio editing programs that come bundled with video editing software:
Adobe Premier – Adobe Audition
AVID Media Composer – AVID Pro Tools
Sony Vegas Pro – Sony Sound Forge
Final Cut Pro – Audio Essentials
There’s also numerous other programs out there for professionals like Steinberg Nuendo that can do much, much more –but have a pretty stiff price tag associated with them.
Another post will deal with how to export and mix good audio.
Learning how to capture and mix good audio is just as essential as learning how to capture and edit good video. Both work together and either one can take the whole project down if not done right.
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