Youtube Introduces New (Bad) Audio Process

Quality suffers, there's a picture..      06/08/08

Youtube Introduces New (Bad) Audio Process


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I recently saw this article (New YouTube Audio Compression Stymies Uploaders) over at Wired.com by Eliot Van Buskir which confirmed that the audio processing algorithm at Youtube had been tweaked. This is resulting in poor quality audio and frankly is pissing a lot of people off. Theories are that this is a move to try and create a more standard audio experience - like FM or a TV station - each video being pretty much at the same level, or perhaps it’s an attempt to try and cap the bandwidth costs, which of course must be astronomical - even our meager video offerings are multiple terrabytes per month. But it's hard to understand how tweaking the audio processing would make that much difference. Either way, it’s playing havoc with the audio quality, and sounds like a really brutal and inexperienced application of heavy digital limiting with additional clipping from say a 1st generation budget digital console.. If you take a look at these waveform views of audio after Youtubing, you’ll see that it appears to inflict quite a severe envelope to the sound. As well as the bad limiting, there’s been some clipping introduced, which of course is not good. It sounds like they need to or apply a two stage compression – say 3-5:1 then the hard limiting but keeping the peaks BELLOW 0dB – either that or just leave the darned thing alone! There are apparently work-arounds for this:
Sopranoguitar, who started this thread on the Youtube forums, suggests that you bring down the volume to peak at –3 dB, then add a hi-frequency (he uses 19kHz) sine wave to about -4 to –6dB which will then keep the dynamic range intact. The sine wave is not audible once it has been through the down-sampling process and the additional overall average level helps maintain the dynamics of a track. However this is a major PITA and is bound discourage people to whom audio quality is important – eg musicians and er, almost everyone who’s not posting videos of cats in trees from uploading. So what do we do about it? Well, complain for one - you can add your voice to the list here:
Youtube Community Forums or by Digging either this article or this one on Wired.com. Or you can find alternative accommodation for your stuff, Vimeo seems to offer a good service as do Blip.TV, but we’d like to encourage you (of course!) to try our own Sonicstate.TV site it being dedicated to electronic music making videos. Indeed we've added stereo sound as standard and 16:9 handling for widescreen or HD users. Nick Batt

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