Monday, November 25, 2013

What is 'Broadcast Quality'?

I remember hearing the term 'broadcast quality' in radio back in '98, but that was a term related to analog and actual film. I've heard it a few times in conversations and seen it written recently in my studies, related to Voice Over. I've been really curious to understand what that might mean in our now all digital world of file delivery. 

First, it's my understanding that quality can be sacrificed at any point in the equipment set up and recording process. I know you have to have a good quality mic that is designed for vocals. I know that it should be xlr so  to usb  for recording on computers if you want a good quality (usb mics are not well liked). I also know that the preamp can affect the sound of your voice considerably, the recording volume, and finally what software you're mixing with. Wait. That's a misconception. According to tons of professionals, the software you're using will not lower the quality of your voice (unless you put a bunch of silly bad effects on it). I know feel there are other misconceptions and that the term 'broadcast quality' has actually change its meaning. This is important related to the explosion of home studio voice over vs. being in a professional whisper sound booth with thousands of dollars of higher end equipment. 

I went searching for what the industry is using this old term for and I found the following quote. "Editor In Chief Paul White replies: 'Broadcast quality' is a bit of a vague term, as much of the material that goes out on air now is data-compressed in some way (a bit like an MP3), so it doesn't really refer to a specific technical benchmark. I think what it means is that the material has to sound good on the radio and stand up well alongside commercial records, which in turn means recording a good performance and choosing a suitable range of sounds, then mixing it all carefully so as to avoid unwanted noise or distortion. []".

So, it really is about making sure there is no feedback, static or white noise, no red hot levels to create distortion your recordings (this isn't grunge rock), mixed with the specific configuration of each of our audio chains. I still think there is a mix of concepts around this term, but I'm going to walk away from my search with the conclusion that as long a I have a quality microphone, eliminate outside interference in the equipment and environment, don't add a lot of odd effects that could ruin the quality, (perhaps mix the levels to avoid any high tones) it seems I will have a quality recording suitable for broadcast. I'm sure the term 'your mileage may vary' 100% applies here, but its an interesting discussion.

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