The Ebb and Flow of Audio Production

Much like the neverending tides that rise and fall along the seashore, audio production has a constant ebb and flow. Join me in a reflection about the nature of working with audio every day.

We listen closely to more than we’re aware. Our brains are constantly blocking sounds that our ears pick up from reaching our conscious thoughts because if we did actually listen to all the sounds around us all the time we’d go quite mad. I listened to a fascinating podcast the other week that described this in detail. I’ve provided a link because it was so well explained and you might enjoy the listen too.

Back to audio production’s ebb and flow, and how it’s related to this post. Audio gets recorded. It gets passed through the production department. We listen to it as it arrives, as we process, as we edit, and once we’re done we listen to it one more time to ensure accuracy.

The sound changes each time.

First, it’s raw and imperfect, full of little noises and the occasional false start or complete mistake.

As audio editors we act like the brain does for the ear/mind connection, we find such sounds and remove them. No one wants to hear clicks, pops, static, or distortion in speech when they need to understand the content. We remove all the ‘noise’ and leave only the best bits.

We tighten up the speech here, we add a needed pause there, and we finely craft the perfect voice prompts by whittling down the recording of one of our many professional voice talents into small, precisely named nuggets. Most are .wav files, some are .mp3, and others are formatted for increasingly rare IVR systems that play VOX files.

The playback of each edited audio file is optimized for the system on which it will be used. Some take a 44.1 kHz, 16-bit, mono PCM wav file. Other systems prefer an ITU G.711 encoded wav file. These sound radically different in my headphones on my PC, but in use, as they are designed to be used, they sound just perfect alongside the other digital prompts in the library.

Sometimes I’ll get to hear the same speech in as many as 32 different languages on a given day. This is a fairly rare occurrence, to be sure, but it sure is neat when it happens. Which languages you might wonder? Why so many all at once you may ask? If you really want the details I’m happy to share, just comment below and I’ll let you know. By the way, we’ve worked with over 80 different languages in the past and always enjoy learning to work with a new one.

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