Ever been told something that you knew – at some level – but weren’t aware that you knew? Jason, a really good, experienced professional Editor once told me one of those things. We were shooting the breeze in an edit suite and came across a video clip with some poor quality audio from an interview. He mentioned that there was a “rule” in TV production – not written down, not expressed that often, but a guiding principal nonetheless. It says that the average viewer can put up with fairly poor video quality but if the audio quality drops off below a certain threshold, which is quite high, they become really distracted and ultimately exasperated. I had not really thought about it much at the time but it was of course absolutely right! People will tolerate all kinds of focus, exposure and framing issues if they can HEAR what is being said by protagonists on their TV (I am thinking here of innumerable docu-soap shows, for example). But if they struggle to hear them speaking clearly their attention wanders and the remote control is soon reached for. The lesson is that people ignore sound at their peril. From my experience 99% of domestic family videos are ruined by atrocious quality sound recording. The onboard mics are simply not good for recording the spoken word. At a professional provider like feelgood footage that’s not an issue of course. We use a neat little audio recording device called the Zoom H4n to record important audio. This means your words – the single most important elements of your message – won’t be lost.
OK, this involves a little techo-speak, but really not much. A client gave me some feedback about his films, which he loved. He has two computers at his home. One is a laptop, connecting wirelessly. One is plugged into the router. He noticed that on one the film played back fine. On the other the same film was a little jerky. He wondered why that was? Well without seeing the spec from the computers I can only guess but – all other things being even – there’s a good chance that the laptop was the jerky one. Generally speaking a wireless connection is not as fast as a wired broadband connection. When you watch a film over the internet the information that comprises that film is obviously not stored on your own computer. It’s somewhere else and needs to be ’streamed’ to your computer to enable playback. The faster the connection, the faster that information can stream. That’s important with video because video involves a lot of information (as compared to, say, audio in MP3 format). So the faster the connection the more likely that information can be fed into your computer at the rate it’s required to produce smooth playback. So one key reason that a video can be jerky is the connection speed to the internet. Of course, other factors can be involved, like the processing power of the computer itself (if it is budget, old processor it could struggle), and a critical factor, the size of the video itself. The size of the video is determined by its duration (is it a feature-length movie, etc) but also, crucially, its resolution (the size of the image and the way it has been compressed). So when you are trying to produce films for the internet that will stream satisfactorily for the maximum number of people you clearly want short films at minimum resolution. Simple, right? But the problem with that is low resolution can look rubbish! So, like so much in life, it’s all about compromise.
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