Thursday, March 25, 2010

VoiceOver hints for YouTube!

I have YouTube channels for both my studio and my record label, but this past week I encountered a voiceover-related challenge that I hadn't experienced with either before. Searching for answers didn't turn up much for me, so I thought I'd share what happened here, in hopes the next Googler will have better luck than I did!

I had created a promo for my Etsy shop, with still images, voiceover, and a music bed. This is no different than other projects I've created, and in fact, we'd just uploaded our new site intro video not long before this!

BUT, the problem I was having with this new one was a really noticeable drop in sound quality. Now, I'm aware that at the basic setting (not the HQ), the audio on YouTube videos is only 96K. So definitely, there's going to be some loss no matter what. But this video sounded a lot different than our other videos at the same encoding. And, when I played it in the higher quality setting, it sounded just like I expected it to! So it really seemed there had to be some tweak I could make or a workaround that would solve my 'technical' problem.

Here's the video:

I spent the better part of this week uploading, re-uploading, re-encoding. Working with .wavs, working with .mp3s, trying everything to change it. I found some links via Google that said other people were experiencing similar problems, and that it had to do with YouTube's servers, or new ways of encoding, or compression in general. Some people were giving advice to remix the audio. I really didn't feel this applied to me. After all, I have lots of other successful videos that don't have this problem, so the issue couldn't possibly be on my end, right?

I finally got wise and decided to go ahead and compress the audio down to 96K on my end, to see what the difference was. Lo and behold, it sounded just like it did on YouTube! So, the problem definitely wasn't them. But I noticed without the voiceover, my sound bed wasn't having the same problems with losing dynamic quality.

Here's the proof:

So it was really frustrating, and still seemed like there should be some sort of tweak or workaround that I could use to fix it!

This is where my most valuable tools came into play: my ears. I wasn't listening critically enough to my other recordings. Sure, my website intro video seemed like it wasn't experiencing the same level of loss, but was it?

I encoded the audio for it down to 96K, and it sounded ok. After removing the big guitar sound bed, you guessed it: the voiceover for this video was experiencing the same loss at 96K as the other voiceover! The sound bed was merely masking the artifacts because it had a much bigger dynamic range.

So, my challenge now is to work within the confines of Youtube for what I post there (and I still think it's great, even at low quality), while coming up with higher quality options (Wimpy is one) for use on my site. The benefit of the social media sites is give-and-take with the quality. With higher quality on my site, I have to store the media myself, and don't get the viral benefits. So it's a trade off, but luckily one that doesn't make me pick just one option.

So, I'll be posting a new video soon (I'm trying to balance bringing the bed and dynamics up without overpowering my voiceover), and continuing on my Youtube studies to find avenues to the best quality, most effective videos. Stay tuned!

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