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Chapter 2 Contents


Choosing the software being used and likely investing a large sum of money in, is a crucial decision.  Each software has its pros and cons and it is recommended that one conducts a great deal of research, perhaps even speak to someone who uses the software you are interested in.  You need to pay attention to cost, possible upgrades and cost of adding instruments or DSP, number of virtual instruments and DSP processing included, and overall workflow and user friendliness.  Last, will it work with the latest requirement of 5.1 or higher in surround?


File Formats

Audio Formats

The most used audio file format for syncing with film is AIFF (Audio Interchange File Format.aif), which is the gold standard of 16-bit non-compressed audio.  It exports/imports between Apple and PCs and numerous audio software, includes header information like file name, sampling rate, MIDI note number for samplers, loop points, number of bytes in file. It is also capable of 24-bit and 32-bit resolution and has the capability for surround (5.1 & 7.1).  AIFC or AIFF (.aifc) is a compressed version of AIFF—does not have to be compressed and is popular with silicon graphics (SGI) computers. 


Similar file formats include:  MPEG I-audio layer compression (MP3 and 4).  They are smaller in size but lack quality.  They are not the best to master music on.


Microsoft WAVE (.wav) is designed for Windows based PCs.  They are usable with most audio programs and can be used on Mac or Windows PCs.  They are similar to AIFF for bit-depth and sample rates.  


Other file formats include: 

Sound Designer II (.sd2) is similar to AIFF with added proprietary information such as markers and regions—still very popular on older Macs though Sound Designer is now defunct.  This file format is not portable to non-Mac computers.

Real Audio (.ra or .ram) can be streamed on the Internet from a Real Audio server, so sound starts playing before file fully downloaded.  Windows Media Audio (WMA) designed for use with Window Media Player with various compression ratios.


Storing audio files should be done using at least a 44.1kHz sampling rate and a 16-bit depth resolution.  These settings will offer standard memory requirements coupled with quality.  Using a higher bit-depth may be desirable when wanting even greater audio resolution. Also keep in mind that when working with audio to be included with any visual media, the standard sampling rates are 48kHz, 96kHz, and 192kHz.



Exercise 2.2  

Download a well-produced piece of music as an aiff file.  Now compress the file into an mp3 or 4 format.  Listen to both versions in a quality studio setting or using high-end headphones.  Is there a difference and what do you notice about the difference?  What is your conclusion, which is better?  Discuss further.


Video Files

The latest QuickTime Player and VLC Media Player are user friendly, and allow files to be converted to other audio/video formats such as AVI, FLAC, FLV, WAV, AAC, and MP3 or MP4.  They work well for the purpose of merging audio with images.  The following provides additional information for those with different levels of requirements:


Illustration 2.14:  Additional Video File Formats

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