Re:Bad sound

Hi Neal,

Video and audio compression are handled separately in Studio, so there is nothing inherently inferior about Cinepak as opposed to DVCPRO-PAL in terms of audio. In either case, you have the choice of ALaw 2:1 or uLaw 2:1 for audio compression, or none at all. You also have to set sample rate, size and channels. What are your audio settings when exporting AVI with DVCPRO-PAL?

It can also be the case that your imported audio has already been compressed, which would add an additional layer of compression when exporting from Studio. This should be avoided if you want the best audio fidelity in your exports. I’d recommend importing uncompressed WAV or AIFF files and letting Studio handle compression from there. If you’re still unable to get satisfactory results, you can always contact support to have them run a test with your project. Hope this helps.

You may also want to try using third-party codecs, many of which are freely available on the internet.

Bad sound export. The only audio that really works on my Windows XP is AVI set to the default Cinepak setting. I have a big problem with that sad fact because, while the sound is okay with Cinepak, the picture is just terrible. I use photographs in what I do, so my stuff is more demanding than what others might be about. Because posting on YouTube requires such a low bitrate, it’s always an issue getting the best quality for the smallest file size. Toon Boom has a great option with its DVCPRO-PAL setting on its AVI export. It’s really amazing how well the picture comes out in MP-4, even at bitrates lower than YouTube’s lowest! I thought I had happened on a miracle and did not know why Toon Boom did not boast some fantastic new breakthrough that nobody but me had discovered, but then I realized that the audio quality at that setting is really pretty embarrassing. Apparently nothing related to DV works very well with MP3 or ACM (so why include the option at all?). It’s frustrating to have to choose between a really impressive picture and adequate sound. I would really truly like both. Is this expecting too much? Anybody been where I’m at? Got a trick? Magic ritual? Convenient converter solution? Anything? I’ve wracked my brain.

Hi Jonah, I really appreciate your suggestion, but I’m sorry to say it made no difference at all; not with any sampling rate or kbps, high or low. I was very methodical with the whole issue this morning. Sitting down, following your thinking, I converted my Windows PCM sound file to AIFF in my Audacity 2.2 program (PCM is uncompressed, I should mention). Then I exhausted every option available, beginning with zero compression (the “none” choice) at the 22050 sampling rate (the rate that YouTube favors). Then I took the file and converted it down to MP-4, which, as I’m sure you already know, is the standard Web format. Here I gave it the miserably low 64 kbps that YouTube allows. Then I played it back in Quicktime.

Not good.

Next I went through the same process with the u-LAW and a-LAW compression (which I had already fooled with earlier to no avail). When all this came to the same cackle I decided to get academic with it and went through the entire process at a higher kbsp and sampling rate, just to see if your AIFF suggestion would at least make some difference when more quality is allowed; but I have to say in some cases the higher setting actually made for poorer audio. This is why I strongly suspect that if DVCPRO-PAL does not have some intrinsic issue with the sound files admissible to Toon Boom, then Toon Boom Studio 4 itself must be to blame.

The sound files are okay in Audacity and export fine in my old Flash 4 as ACM wavs. I do have to be careful about what Toon Boom and my old Flash can handle from one another. On that score things have been trial & error, but, in this case, the current problem has had nothing to do with mixing TBS with old software. My tests have been strictly between Audacity and Toon Boom, drawing a small “X” for each frame in order to test the audio alone. Flash has not entered into any of this (besides, my old Flash has a lot more issues with TBS than TBS really has with it).

The bottom line is that everything works but Toon Boom. The minute I export from Toon Boom my Media Player just about chokes on what I give it, and Quicktime, while better able to cope with the file, still can’t quite deliver anything that doesn’t embarrass. Cinepak works better, if I’m careful of what I give it (and nurse the normalization beforehand in Audacity), but none of it is perfect, and the AVI export set to DVCPRO-PAL least of all, which is vexing because Toon Boom is sitting on a real revolution here.

My visuals are hard to get right at a low bitrate, but picture-wise AVI set to DVCPRO-PAL is almost like magic. I couldn’t believe the quality. I put it at a 216 bitrate—which is a good 14 points lower than YouTube at its rock bottom stingiest—and it still communicates with reasonable clarity, leaving Cinepak’s picture quality far behind at that low level. People don’t understand what this could mean if the audio came out okay. It’s a whole new landscape, the things a person could do at a file-sharing site—the integration of photography and cartoon animation at a low bitrate like this for an audience as potentially huge as YouTube—genuinely amazing, but still, as far as I can honestly tell, Toon Boom has failed to give the option a decent audio component.

If I could combine the Cinepak audio with the DVCPRO-PAL AVI setting, the possibilities would be really impressive. It would still require skill at nursing sound files along in a program like Audacity, but, with enough talent, a person could do some way cool things.

As it stands now, it just has the makings a silent movie.

A little correction to the above: I have Audition 2.2, not Audacity 2.2. I think I’ve been saying Audacity, meaning Audition, all Summer. Adobe Audition 2.2. I do have an old Audacity on my computer, too, but I don’t use it anymore. I don’t even remember how it works. Audition can export just about anything, but for the Web YouTube claims that MP3 is the sound file best suited to what it does to a member’s video, so that narrows things down quite a bit–and even if not for this, I’ve tried lots of different formats, and not one of them isn’t a problem. AVI export set to DVCPRO-PAL just doesn’t have its act together for sound on Toon Boom Studio 4. It is just plain mediocre in any format and at any sampling rate or kbps.

Somebody in the lab goofed it up good.

Ah, but wait! I found something the Media Player can handle. Toon Boom can export AVI at the DVCPRO-PAL setting if the sound file is Windows PCM, Audition’s premium format. On Audition everything is originally recorded as PCM.

Tragically its file size is beyond huge and no good for the Web at all, not even a video blogging site where somebody might pay for the hosting. And converting any TBS file with PCM on it is going to mess up the audio really bad. Even at 160 kbps and a sample rate of 44100 (almost unheard of on the Web) the conversion produces a result that’s embarrassing.

Still, I have to amend a little of what I’ve been saying. Obviously the DVCPRO-PAL is intended purely for DV sorts of media (I should have realized this). Still, it’s a shame because it has real possibilities for the Web, if not for how poorly the sound holds up.

If ANYBODY out there has any ideas how I can get decent sound out of this setting at a kbps of 64 at a sample of 220590, please let me know. I will be forever grateful and get your name in Wikipedia the same day!

Hi Neal,

Sorry you weren’t able to get the result you were looking for. “Decent sound” is subjective, however, and when dealing with compression settings for the web, different codecs can yield different results. With a sample rate of 22.05 kHz, you’ll be hard-pressed to get audio with no noise/artifacts. From what I understand, audio compression is handled by the available codecs on your system and not in Toon Boom directly, so that you would get the same results when exporting from another application that uses these same codecs.

I’m not a sound expert, so there’s only so much advice I can give you. I suggest contacting our support team directly with a sample of your audio and exported movie. They’ll be able to determine if there is an actual problem that should be addressed in Studio or if the quality is in-line with the settings you’ve chosen. Maybe someone else from the community with more audio experience can help? Good luck.

Hi Jonah, please don’t take these notes as an obligation to reply. It helps me to think out loud like this and sort through what I’m about with what I’m fiddling with here. I appreciate your having plowed through my verbiage and your suggestion did get my gears going in a certain direction. As for your mention of codecs, it’s a little puzzling to me. In fact it belies my experience just twenty-four hours ago when I did the opposite of what you originally suggested. I won’t get into it here since my feeling is that this note should be short and friendly as we wish each other well from across the street and go our separate ways. I am not on this page to pay homage to Toon Boom, but to clarify my thinking to get my projects off the ground. For anybody else interested I think I’m on to something, but I have to try it out first before theorizing too much about it.

Being able to deliver a good picture and good audio at impossibly low bitrates is very important.

Again, Jonah, thanks, Neal

Don’t compress the audio, it doesn’t save you that much in file size. Video does though, use different ones to figure out what’s best for you.

Thanks for a reply to this ancient post, GW. It’s back there for me, but I appreciate that somebody would care to make a reliable suggestion. I posted my ancient sucesses on another ancient post called “Good Sound, Toon Boom, and the Web”–or words to that effect, which can be found a few threads below this one.

Toon Boom records terrible no matter what anybody does, but once it is is converted to FLV it sounds just fine, so long as (as you say) a person does not compress the audio. What I do is I run a strip of audio as a PCM file at a full 44.100. This I do along with a drawing that’s no more than an X or a squiggle or something. Then I convert the clip into a pure MP3 file at 22.050 on a handy converter that I got from ALIVE.

ALIVE can convert to a lot of formats. Mainly I use it to convert AVI to MP3 or AVI to MP4, depending on what I’m up to.

MP3 conversion, of course, conveniently loses the little drawing thing that I gave it just to run it through TBS (it won’t play without some kind of illustration to go with it).

This audio then is my permanent soundtrack. The trick is that once you run that final permanent track through with your actual animation, you must set it at the setting that you already have the file on, namely 22.050. Otherwise it will get really garbled really bad, even once the show is converted to FLV.

See, even though I export to YouTube as MP4/Mp3, the FLV conversion gives me a great idea of how it will sound on YouTube. I can ignore how bad the audio sounds in MP4 because I know that it will sound good enough once YouTube gets done with it.

I’m saying all this for the sake of some other poor soul who might happen on this thread and be freaking out that he or she can’t get it right. What sounds bad on Toon Boom and even worse as AVI or MP4 will still sound decent enough once it is in FLV format, provided that you give your shows an MP3 file that isn’t distorted.

Once it is at 22.050 it has to stay that way as it passes through TBS. That’s very important to keep in mind, and will spare anybody interested in YouTube type distribution from royally bumming out. It can be scary to think you’ve spend hundreds of dollars on an animation program that can’t give good sound.

Have a nice day, Neal