Audio Topics

Answers to the most commonly asked Moho questions.

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Audio Topics

Postby Lost Marble » Wed Mar 09, 2005 4:08 am

Thanks to forum member Cribble (Scott Coello) for pulling together a large assortment of audio knowledge from previous posts. (And for filling in a lot of the information himself, I'm sure.)

Here's the low-down on getting sound into your animations while maintaining
high quality, to suit your animation requirements. Please note: everything
is in English Pounds (£) so proces may vary depending on your region.

See the following posts regarding Software, Sound Cards, Microphones, Audio Formats, and Mixers.
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Software

Postby Lost Marble » Wed Mar 09, 2005 4:09 am

Software

There are currently loads of software out on the market today, sequencers
and wave editing. Yes it does mean breaking the wallet abit but its worth
investing in these products as they make your work flow easier. Under each
title I'll give a selection of different software products, current prices
and ease of use.

Something that you should also note is that some of the packages multitrack.
As you can imagine, you can layer audio, so say if you want to record a
harmony between four vocals, but don't want to do it all at once, or limited
by equipment, then you can multitrack on to different tracks to achieve
this.

Also I'll be MIDI will be mentioned a few times. MIDI are virtual
instruments that can be found usually on your sound card. These can come in
handy for composing music and sound effects. But be warned, they do sound a
little bit crap.

-All-In-One Packages (Sequencers)-

Cubase - There are a range of Packages for this product:
*SE - (Educational edition) £69.00
Extremely entry level, gives you basic recording and MIDI functions, not
that good and but quite easy. MultiTracks.
*SL - £229.00
Very good audio package, lots of audio functions but does cut out alot of
MIDI functions and other tools. Multitracks
*SX(3) - £469.00
Heres the top end tool, Very good for MIDI but using for audio can be a
bit of a bugger... but once you've mastered it, lifes good. Multitracks.

Tracktion - £50.00
Very simple to use multitracking software with audio and MIDI abilities. I
recommend this package as its cheap and very simple to use.

Ableton Live - £239.00
Very confusing interface, but does have a few powerful features. Multitracks
Audio and Midi, don't recommend this one as much.

Cakewalk Sonar 4 - (studio edition) £199.00
Very good software for multitracking audio, lots of effects and enhancements
which someone could find useful. I Recommend this one aswell if you have the
money. Multitracks Audio and Midi (but very good for audio especially).

-Sound Editing-
These packages are used to edit either a 2 channel (stereo) or 1 channel
(mono) Audio file of different sorts. The editors are handy for cutting out
unwanted sounds at the start, end or inbetweeny parts of audio files. You
can also check sound levels incase they distort or "clip" Also remember that
you can't compile sounds in these programs as if it were a multitracking
program.

Wavelab - £399.00
Haven't used this in a while but apparently has 5.1/7.1 capabilities....
Thats crazy. Anyway, has some useful features and tools etc. You can record
a sound source direct into this aswell.

SoundForge (7.0) - £285.00
Very powerful and easy to use. Has a recording funtion, effects and
everything else you want and if you don't have it, install some plug-ins.


What should i get then?
Tracktion - You won't regret it and especially at that price.
What's Multi-Tracking?
A Way of layering audio onto different tracks/levels/layers which can be
individually controlled.
What is MIDI?
Musical Instrument Digital Interface. Basically, you can create music with
this.
Would I Require a Keyboard to use MIDI?
Not Really, in some programs there is a key-editor, or MIDI sequencer
function which can edit or create whatever you want. But a keyboard can be
useful as it can make any job easier being able to play it in direct.
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Sound Cards

Postby Lost Marble » Wed Mar 09, 2005 4:10 am

Sound Cards

This is how you are going to get your sound into your computer. I've set the
situation as being: you're an animator, and all you want to do is get sound
to your somputer without any complications. So i've given you basic
soundcards that will do this job. Bare in mind i've never tried out most of
these cards, so i'm only listing them and some key features.

Terractec Phase 22 - £69.00
*2 inputs 1/4" (guitar jack style) and outputs.
M-Audio Firewire solo - £169.00
*Microphone, Guitar and line input.
*FireWire
M-Audio Fast Track USB - £77.00
*Mic, instrument input
USB
Soundblaster Audigy 2 ZS - £55
*1 stereo "headphone" style input.
I Recommend: The Fast Track USB, it seems to be simple to use and have alot
of features.
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Microphones

Postby Lost Marble » Wed Mar 09, 2005 4:13 am

Microphones

In this section i will talk about microphones which are great to use for
recording and at a sensible price (all prices below £150). Also there are
two types of mics Dynamic and Condeser mics. The difference between the two
microphones is purely in their frequency responce and the better quality of
audio each one produces as an end result. So dynamics are great slap around
allrounders, while condensers mainly are used for a certain application,
hence making that condenser mic better for the job then dynamics. I will
also be refering to Frequency responce alot. This is basically want type of
sound it can pick up so if i say 30 - 20,000hz, this means that mic can pick
up alot of low end (30hz) while still being able to pick up alot of high end
(20,000hz). So to clear things up 30hz= Low/bass 20,000=High/Treble.
Condensor mics also require power, so you'll need a mixing desk with
"phantom power (48V)" on it to power these bitches.

Shure SM57 - £69.99 (Dynamic)
These are instrument mics, but because of their good frequency responce (40
to 15,000Hz) it means it can do alot. It doesn't have a pop sheild thats
because it can pick up instrument sound better. Although not exactly voice
freq range, i'm suggesting it because you may want to make a sample of
something and because of this mics responce it will be able to pick up that
sound better (like a kick drum for instance with out making it sound crap).

Shure SM58 - £69.99 (Dynamic)
These are designed for voice applications and are standard because of their
better made pop sheild cone bit. With a huge freq responce (50-15,000Hz) it
can pick up alot of vocal range. With these mics i tend to notice that they
pick up maybe abit too much low end, making it sound sloppy, but in a decent
sound editing program, this can be cleared up. Recommend these.

Samson CO3 - £59.00 (Condensor)
These a good mics. They have a polority changer so you can pick up sound
from infront, infront and behind and everywhere in a circle. Very good mics
with little distortion. This mic will require a better pop-sheild.

AKG C 2000 B - £109.00
This is another good mic. Tight frequecny responce (30 - 20,000Hz) so you
vocals won't sound flabby (like the sm58's do). Low distortion rate and will
give you a golden sound. I recommend this mic.

What should i get? Shure SM58. Because it can do voice and many other
applications. And you don't need to power it. But do get a pop sheild for it
though.

What's a Pop Sheild?
A pop sheild is a piece of mesh which you place about an inche or two away
from the mics to help prevent blasts of air from words with "SSS" and "PPS"
(Like "Pie" and Sophie") leading to everything sounding crap. A pair of
tights could do the job.

-Using your mics-

Now that you've got your mic, nows the time to use it.

First of all, open up you music recording software and set up the track you
want to record on.

Now set up you mic. You'll think to yourself "how do i get my mic from here
into my sound card?" Simple, buy a cable converter. You see on your
soundcard a jack where you can input you mic, but because you have a 3pin
XLR cable, it won't fit, so check out audio web sites and places like radio
shack for a converter to a headphone jack (as thats what they tend to be on
a sound card).

You are going to want to get the sound to go into the sound card at a
workable soundlevel, so keep speaking into the mic and try and set the
"gain" or "Input" level to be in the yellow area. Do not put the gain up
into the red area as this will distort your sound.

Record your sound.

If its distorting, turn down the input gain or move away from the mic.
Usually speaking too close to a mic can internally overload it and cause it
to distort.

Now that you have a recorded sound you'll notice that it leaps in different
volumes now and again. We are now going to use "compression." Within your
program find an effect or process called "Compressor" or "Dynamics."

Upon opening these you'll be faced with alot of controls. Theres a control
called threshold, attack, release and make up gain/volume. Threshold is the
area of volume the effect works, Attack is how fast the effect works and
release is how long it takes for the effect to turn off. You'll also see
another control called Ratio, this sets how hard the threshold will be, so
lower ratio will make less difference, while a large ratio will make a
noticable difference.
I recommend you play around with this for a bit as it can take some time
getting used to, also listen to how it changes the sound. For the time being
lets say you have the controlls set to Threshold: -20db Attack: 10ms
Release: 235 and Ratio: 2.00:1. Like i said play around with the ratio and
threshold for a bit.

Hopefully that sould set you up good, the compression will knock down
differences in volume and adding effects and other bits and pieces is
entirely up to you.
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Audio Formats

Postby Lost Marble » Wed Mar 09, 2005 4:14 am

Audio Formats

There are many audio formats nowadays, but we'll only be using two: WAV and
MP3
.WAV files are uncompressed and are the type of files that usually play in a
CD player. Audio CD's are 44,000Hz, 16bit. This way the audio is crystal
clear and CD lasers can read the file format properly. Don't go under 16bit
as it really effects how things sound very noticably aweful. Now with the Hz
you can go quite low, and this helps covert it to lower compression rate
later on. If I'm making something for TV, or something along the lines of
that, I usually leave it as 44,000Hz, but nowadys i drop it to 32,000hz just
incase i compress it. If i'm making something for flash, i usually lower the
Hz rate down to 22,050Hz. You'll notice alot of treble has been cut off,
this is because you limited the hearing range of the file (so it should be
somethng like 11 - 11,025Hz hearing range, well within our hearing range,
hence being very noticable). And because you've cut some bass and treble
off, you can compress it alot more. Experiment with different Hz rate and
see what happens when you compress it later.
You'll notice back there I referred alot to compression, compression is MP3
in this case. MP3 is great (or some believe!), it reduces those big WAV
files down and makes our life, and hard drives spaces better. But think
about it, when you compress something, you lose something. Like when
compressing images, you lose definition and quality. Same with Audio, you
lose general quality. Look at what i've written a second ago, I mentioned
putting the hz rate down, this is where it comes useful. Before you could
only compress to say 112Kbs with a noticable, wishy-washy sound, now you can
go lower becasue of the dropped Hz rate. So after experimenting around abit
with the Hz rate, you can drop a file down to 48kbs, which is untra
compressed, especially seeing that we need small, good quality file sizes to
put in our flash cartoons to help keep fies sizes small as an end result.
So to sum up, Lower Hz Rate means better compression. Don't use MP3 if your
making stuff for TV, use it for flash stuff.
How can i lower the Hz Rate?
You can do this within any good WAV to MP3 converter usually, but you can
also do it within those sound editing programs.

What about WMA, I like that format?
Well i don't, its not a workable, industry format compared to MP3 and WAV.
So don't use it really.
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Mixers

Postby Lost Marble » Wed Mar 09, 2005 4:14 am

Mixers

Some of you may want to use a mixer for this. Mainly because you need to
power a microphone or just want the extra routing features a Mixer can give
you. Either way here are a few, small format mixers that could prove very
useful.

Behringer UB1002 - £38.00
*supports phantom power

Behringer UB502 - £25
*supports Phantom Power

Because i don't know what everyone wnats, i'll only post two. If you have
any questions about mixers, please email me at shutupyoutw@hotmail.com and
please state the situation you wish to use the mixer in aswell... otherwise
i can't help you.
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