Good sound, the Web, and Toon Boom

After having complained of audio problems with Toon Boom’s export I am pleased and happy to the point of near religious ecstacy to report that a recent upload (my first TBS 4 upload) onto YouTube is just exactly as it appears on my computer. There is only one significant difference, and that is the sound. The FLV version on YouTube sounds exactly as it did in my Audition program before Toon Boom appeared to scratch it to pieces.

I had reason to hope it would clean itself up once I finally got around to converting my files to FLV with my Riva encoder. A Riva player will give anybody a good clue to how their features will look on YouTube; so never mind the scratchy weirdness that comes out of TBS at almost any setting.

On the Web it just cleans up once it becomes an FLV file.

My little test animation is a matter of 100% satisfaction in sound and picture. I go forth with confidence to conquer world with my animation equipment, and Toon Boom has found its place as a worthy pre-production workshop to my Flash and Photoshop. I wish the same happy ending to all who might read these words. Don’t be discouraged by Toon Boom’s eccentricities. Like it can give you a picture that doesn’t look like the lip synching is working, just as the export can be strange, yes–but put the file in Flash, and usually you’ll see it’s fine. It’s the same with the audio. I have no idea what the bugs are, but at the end of the day they’re just minor annoyances for working around. What looks good in Riva will look good on YouTube. For me there was no other issue.

What a sweat to get to where I know what I’m doing and what I’m talking about! This has been work! The whole summer has been one long hard slog with this, but now at last it will become FUN!!!
Best of luck, Neal

Oh, but before I ride off into the sunset I guess I should mention a few tips about sound here. A guy, Jonah, recommended to me that I use an uncompressed wave file, an AIFF, and to let Toon Boom take over the compression from there since compression on top of compression might have been the problem.

It wasn’t. The problem is Toon Boom’s buggy audio export, and nothing anybody does is going to even that out one way or another. Fortunately in the grand scheme of things that is unimportant.

I have to recommend the opposite of Jonah’s suggestion.

For YouTube you’ll want an MP3 file, so format that to a high mono setting, the highest, 128 kbps set to a sample rate of 44100. Then in your sound export settings in Toon Boom choose Uncompressed–the “None” option. The goal is to keep Toon Boom as uninvolved in the process as the program allows. Something is wrong with Toon Boom on this score, so just try to keep the program as out of the way as possible. You’ll have to choose a sample rate, so just make sure it’s the same as you originally formatted for the MP3 file.

Put at 16 what TBS calls the “sample size” (bit size? Who knows what they mean!—the developers are not exactly the audio masters of the universe). Just keep it at 44100 and their “bit” thing at 16 and let your sound file pass through without being molested by any TBS attempt at compression.

Then, to make the production small enough for YouTube (and, yes, I know YouTube allows a whole gigabite for a post these days, but don’t think for one minute that anything that big will not suffer huge abuse in the upload; just pretend the smaller your upload the better so long as it still looks and sounds good on Riva.

That means having an MPG-4 converter on hand that’s worth the $30.

I have Alive. It lets me set the picture and the sound to exact numbers. Go no higher than a bitrate of 400 for the picture and 56 or 64 for audio set to a sampling rate of 22050.

See, this is where you’re doing your final compression—and compression works best from higher to lower rather than the other way around (in fact the other way around isn’t working at all, it’s mangling). Also, no matter what YouTube says, what I’ve been getting at are the parameters they set to any video. They won’t admit it, but that’s the story. And don’t be taken in by all the choices in file formats. They recommend MP4 for the picture and MP3 for the sound, which means you better do it their way, even if you’re not ordered to do so.

Always check your original AVI file on the Riva player.

But I guess I haven’t mentioned much about AVI. Your Toon Boom export doesn’t have to be AVI, but your only direct export from Toon Boom that will work on Riva will probably be AVI stuff. Riva can handle anything that I’ve put through my Alive converter and made into an MP4, but it has a problem with Quicktime movies made in Toon Boom.

I’m pretty sure it just doesn’t know what they are.

What Quicktime calls “MP4” is like what Microsoft calls HTML, it’s own flavor with all kinds of things in it to make it, let’s say, unique. Riva doesn’t understand—and what Riva doesn’t understand I pass over.

The Riva FLV converter (which is a free download) is your best reality check as you get excited over the quality of your show and want to make sure it will translate well on a public file sharing site.