MP3: Understanding Compression
While there are a variety of current and legacy audio formats available, the three most producers will deal with are MP3, WAV, and AIFF. While you don't need to be familiar with all of the technical aspects of these formats, there is one characteristic that is essential to understand: compression. Compression is used in two different ways in professional audio. In this case, it refers to the reduction in file size. MP3 is a compressed audio format. It was developed to decrease the storage space required for music. This was excellent news for the introduction of portable digital music players since they could hold more titles within their limited storage capacity.
MP3 promised to deliver smaller files without losing any sound quality. MP3 was successful to a point. The compression behind MP3 is "lossy" compression. This means that it discards some of the data behind the digital music file. It does so without significantly reducing the quality of the track. However, there is still significant data loss. That is usually fine for casual listening, but it can cause problems when using a track in a video production setting.
WAV and AIFF: Lossless Formats
Unlike the compressed data of the MP3, standard WAV and AIFF files do not discard any data when storing audio information. WAV and AIFF are very similar formats, one initially developed for PC and the other for Mac. WAV has become a more universal format. They are both "lossless" formats. Both WAV and AIFF use PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) which digitally represents analog audio. These files retain all of the data captured and lose no quality along the way. The downside is that the files are significantly larger than MP3 versions. However, even these large sound files are smaller than the massive video files producers are used to working with. So, the size rarely causes an issue for video production.
Why Compression is an Issue in Video Production
High-quality video creation always begins with the highest possible source material. Creators think carefully about their video file formats, pay attention to the quality of their graphics, and check frame rates of cameras to ensure that they are starting with everything they need to create an excellent final production. Creators know the problems that can occur when working with sub-standard source material. There are ways to use software to improve the quality of imperfect sources, but the best option is, to begin with, the best possible material.
This is why it is essential to begin with lossless, uncompressed WAV or AIFF files. Not only will compressed audio lower the quality of the final product, but it can also create problems during the production process. Compressed MP3 files, because they are missing some of the data, can cause issues during the editing process. Depending on the exact method of compression, MP3 files may not be handled natively by video editing software like Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro. This may cause problems like audio drift and introduce clicks and pops into the mix.
Conclusion: Choosing WAV for Video Creation
There are certainly other things to consider in working with audio, including bitrate and sample rate. But, for now, starting with WAV (or AIFF) will ensure that you are starting with the highest quality audio available. And that will save you headaches down the road.
When you purchase or download, say, a background music track for your video from any production music library, ensure that you download the WAV/AIFF formats to be used in your editing. LigarMusicLibrary.com, we offer WAV files for download to be used in your vlog, video productions, or even TV broadcasts, to ensure the highest quality.