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New School Blues Dev. Diary #21: Sound File Types
by Yoyo Bolo on 02/13/13 10:24:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Now for a tiny bit on sound file types.  For the sake of keeping things simple we’re just going to go over the basics.  Generally when creating and recording sound assets you want them as either wav files or mp3 files.  Each file is better suited for certain types of sound, but there are other differences as well.

Wav files are generally of much higher quality then mp3s and the sound is uncompressed.  This means wav files are bigger and take up more space then an mp3 of the same sound and length.  Mp3s on the other hand, are compressed and of lesser audio quality.  The trade-off being since they are smaller they run faster.  Sometimes the loss of fidelity is barely noticeable but sometimes the wav sounds natural and the mp3 sounds like it was recorded in a tin can.

image

My beautiful soundtrack…  Compression!  What have you done?!

So, in sum, wavs are usually the initial high quality recording, which if size doesn’t permit their use, can be compressed into lesser quality, but smaller files known as mp3s.  Since space is an issue during development, all of NSB’s audio is in the mp3 format, but at high enough quality that it is pretty much indistinguishable from the initial wav files (see last few posts for samples).

So when to use wavs and when to use mp3s?  Popular consensus seems to be to use wavs for when absolute audio integrity must be maintained.  For example during a film score or TV show.  Wavs also provide the quality necessary to seamlessly loop whereas mp3s do not.  In past projects, members of YoyoBolo used wavs for looping ambiant tracks and music.

image

Second best just won’t cut it with high profile works like these.

Mp3s are better suited for short audio clips that need to be played quickly and frequently (since they are so small), in other words: sound effects!  For example the sound of attacking in a game or collecting a power-up.  It doesn’t help that mp3s don’t loop well, in the words of audio designer Ryan Roth “mp3s don’t loop due to a .125 second bumper placed on the front and tail of any bounced mp3.  Can’t get around it!”

That about wraps up another busy week at YoyoBolo, have a great weekend everyone and thanks for reading!


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