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Chapter 4. Optimizing Your Sound Files

Chapter 4. Optimizing Your Sound Files

When you have captured your audio source material, there are three critical steps to take before you integrate audio into your web site:

  • Perform basic sound editing to remove undesirable recording takes and unwanted artifacts, such as coughs or sneezes.

  • Add digital effects enhancements, such as reverb, delay, and pitch-shifting to amplify your soundtrack.

  • Apply web mastering techniques to optimize your sound files for web compression and delivery.

You can perform basic sound editing with any digital audio application that has routine cut, paste, and fade features. The sound-editing application we will refer to in this chapter is Macromedia's SoundEdit 16 (Macintosh and Windows). However, the concepts we discuss are the same for any basic sound editor, including CoolEdit (Windows), Sound Forge by Sonic Foundry (Windows), and Pro Tools by Avid (Macintosh and Windows NT).

Applying digital effects to your sound files is the most creative editing step, but it can also be the most confusing and troublesome. You can, for example, add too many effects and quickly lose track of what you've done to a file or how to backtrack to an earlier state. You can also add subtle effects such as reverb, delay, and equalization, or apply more drastic, sound-altering effects such as pitch-shifting, time expansion, and reverse. Learning which digital effects to use, and how and when to use them, takes practice and experimentation. In this chapter, you'll find guidelines to help fine-tune your application of digital effects.

Web mastering is the final optimization process before you encode your sound files into a web format. Audio files need to be custom-tailored for their respective output mediums: radio, film, television, home stereos, and of course the Internet. In this chapter, we will also discuss the techniques used to prepare sound files for digital delivery, drawing from traditional CD mastering techniques such as normalization and equalization.

By removing unwanted artifacts and glitches, applying the appropriate effects, and properly mastering your sound files, you greatly enhance your web soundtrack or voice-over. This chapter familiarizes you with all three of these techniques which will help bring the overall quality of your sound files up to professional broadcast standards.

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