1.5. Audio challenges and limitations
Audio formats do not have universal browser support, nor is there
widespread use of one particular format. Adoption of a single audio
format has been slow due to technical challenges that include browser
incompatibilities, severe bandwidth limitations, and unwieldy
Lack of standards.
The persistent incompatibilities between
the latest plug-in releases, combined with a marketplace flooded with
different versions of browsers, have left web designers yearning for
audio format standards. These concerns may eventually disappear as
older browsers go out of circulation and as more web surfers use
browsers supporting audio formats such as RealAudio, Flash, MP3, and
the limited bandwidth of standard analog modems, web developers can
barely afford to have a full-featured graphic interface, let alone
the addition of bandwidth-intensive audio content. Building a web
soundtrack in restricted bandwidth conditions is difficult and
requires stringent use of graphics and audio content as well as some
ingenious workarounds. One such workaround is recycling a small
portion of a music loop clip to use as a button sound, as detailed in
Chapter 9, "Interactive Sound Design with Flash and Shockwave".
Limited bandwidth also makes it difficult to work with many of the
current audio technologies. Shockwave and Flash are great tools for
creating interactive audio content with images and animation, but at
slow modem speeds, frames come jolting to a halt and audio frequently
drops out or skips ahead. The widespread use of high-speed digital
modems will alleviate these problems.
Severe bandwidth limitations also significantly reduce audio quality.
Proper recording, editing, and encoding of audio files is especially
important with limited bandwidth conditions. This book provides the
information that will help you create high-quality audio files that
are optimized for web delivery.
Difficult plug-in installation
The process of downloading and
installing an audio plug-in is problematic for technically savvy
computer users, but for novices, the process presents a whole new
level of challenges. Downloading a plug-in disrupts the viewing
experience, forces users to answer difficult technical questions, and
generally remains far too complicated. In a professional environment
that demands quality and reliability, using plug-in-dependent
technology for critical content is risky at best. RealNetworks and
Macromedia are in the process of developing technical solutions and
marketing deals for making the plug-in download process easier. You
can read more about the advantages of
Smart-Shockwave and Aftershock plug-in download solutions in
Chapter 9, "Interactive Sound Design with Flash and Shockwave". Installing plug-ins is easier in
IE5 and Netscape 5, but
neither browser is ubiquitous.
Sound advice tips from the sound designer of the film Titanic
Gary Rydstrom, Academy Award-winning sound designer for Jurassic
Park, Terminator 2, and Titanic, provides seven common film
design techniques that also pertain to designing sound for a web
Try to orchestrate the sounds in your mix so that they use the entire
frequency spectrum of bass, mid-range, and high-pitched tones. Avoid
the simultaneous use of sounds that fill the same frequency range,
such as a mid-range voice and cello or a bass guitar and baritone
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