Posts tagged with ‘audio production’

The Expert Economy

In economic down times, businesses have more and more to do to generate the same levels of revenue, with fewer and fewer resources allocated to those tasks. It’s no secret that marketing activities are usually one of the last areas to be affected, because marketing is (correctly) viewed as the one activity that can still have a bottom-line impact.

But not just any run-of-the-mill marketing activities. After all, marketing dollars have to be stretched too. The holy grail of recession marketing is figuring out how to separate the most expensive, least profitable prospects from the prospects who are eager and willing to do business today, perhaps even at a premium. So how does this happen?

Stand up and be the expert in your market.

It is generally accepted that recognized experts make more than others for the same basic work. It is also generally true that experts stay busier, with fewer recession-related dips in business.  With such compelling reasons to demonstrate your expertise, what steps can you take today to begin doing just that?  Here’s our list:

  1. Start Podcasting. A simple, sustainable, 5-minute podcast production every week with one central point that touches on your area of expertise; that seminal item that you get paid to know or do for your clients. Use the podcast as a teaser to demonstrate the many solid reasons your prospects should be calling you today.
  2. Release regular Video Tutorials that address the most painful problems your prospects face. If done artfully, the unspoken conclusion of these short, pointed video productions is that you are capable of providing the solution they desperately need.
  3. Create a Blog. If you do either or both of the items above, then you will be using a blog to do it, anyway.  A blog post twice a week builds a record of authority, both for human visitors and (perhaps even more importantly) for Google.
  4. Get your best customers to go on the record by testifying to the value of your expertise. A written testimonial, or better yet, a video testimonial can be a compelling badge of expertise.
  5. Begin Publicly Speaking. Anywhere. Anytime. In front of any audience with your market’s focus. This is a long-play strategy, however.  If you signed up today to speak for a group, it might be 5-6 months before the actual engagement.

Expertise is currency. And those that can demonstrate it to their market stand to reap rewards far greater than money alone.

Soundbooth CS4

(NOTE: This post is for the audiovisual creatives among our readers.) The new CS4 suite of creative tools from Adobe is already trickling down the pipe, with Soundbooth CS4 making a particularly impressive mark, in my mind.

Perhaps the most genteel new feature is the simplest one: the ability to preview mp3 compression settings before rendering a whole file. How considerate of Adobe! And what a time-saver, especially in the typical web production workflow we employ around here.

Other, more revolutionary features of note:

  • Multitrack!
  • Batch track volume matching
  • Beat Detection technology (pretty accurate, too!)
  • Improved volume and pan drawing controls in the waveform mode
  • Audio extraction from imported video files (works with an impressive slew of codecs)
  • Audio “Snapshots” in the history state, similar to Photoshop

While a good number of these features aren’t truly inventive (programs like Cakewalk’s SONAR have been doing some of these things for years), their addition to Soundbooth raises the level of usefulness of this particular production workhorse a good deal. With the multitrack functionality, I might be inclined to reach for this app over Audition for a lot of projects.

Go Adobe!

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EXAMPLE: Optimal Recording Levels

A client of mine in Atlanta, GA recently recorded a phone conversation on her computer. She used an inexpensive phone bridge device, and recorded the signal using Audacity, a very useful free software recording application. The same call was also recorded using an online conference call service. She sent me both of the resulting files, asking me which one would be better to use for its intended purpose (a downloadable MP3 file for her customers). Since I would be the one editing together the file, adding intro/outro clips that help to professionally brand her products, she wanted me to have the benefit of choosing the best source recording.

I loaded up both files in my favorite professional audio editing suite, and examined the waveforms. Before I ever pressed play, I knew which recording I would be using (see illustration below, followed by an explanation).

waveformcomparison2.gif

The top waveform (A) was made using Audacity, and the levels were too high for my client’s microphone and voice, resulting in the distortion of the audio signal. Waveform B was automatically recorded by the web conferencing site, and while the audio is much more consistent across the entire recording, the levels were too low.

So which one did I know I wanted to use?

Recording B, unequivocally. The levels were low, but raising the overall volume is much easier and results in a much more coherent audio track than trying to take a distorted loud track and remove the distortion. Once distortion is introduced into the recording, it is very hard to remove it without creating other nasty side effects. Signal level distortion can happen either because the microphone input levels were set too high or the equipment being used to interface with the phone system was mismatched or unable to handle the dynamic ranges of both ends of the conversation (there is usually a disparity between the level of your voice and the voice of the other party when recording).

So what steps can be taken to find the ideal middle ground, the perfect recording that isn’t so loud it causes distortion, but not so soft that the volume has to be artificially raised or “normalized” (a process that usually also raises the volume of other extraneous noises unnoticed before in the recording)?

  1. Do several sample recordings, and closely watch the recording level indicators. If they jump into the red area of the scale, lower the recording level in the software you use.
  2. It is just as important to listen to the recording, too. Just because your level indicators aren’t peaking into the red area, the phone bridge device you are using might be distorting the signal before it ever leaves the unit on iots way to the recording software. If the device is adding distortion (either when you speak or the other party speaks or both) you will need to see if the device has a way to adjust the signal strength. Some do ($$$$), but most don’t ($).
  3. Another option, and one I would strongly encourage you to explore, is to get off the phone company’s lines and use your high-speed internet connection to make the voice call. This is not an expensive option when you use Skype to place the call, and a simple recording tool such as PowerGramo to record the call. I will cover these two tools in more depth in a later post (let me know in the comments if you would find such info helpful).

Obviously, there is quite a bit more technical information that could be offered here, but I like to keep things simple on the blog. If you have any questions, please let me know!