The importance of audio in live video training

It’s pretty well understood (although not commonly implemented) that live video in the live online training environment makes a significantly better training experience. However, the importance of high quality audio and the synchronization of audio to video are not fully appreciated.

At a core human level, research has shown that people are predominately visual in their perception of the world.  That said, one of the interesting aspects of video interpretation is the association of audio.  With changes in audio quality, the  perception of the quality if video changes independent to the video quality.  For example, if a video is encoded at a low resolution and frame rate, and the audio has a narrow filter applied and small bit depth, the perception of the quality of the overall image is lower.  If the audio quality to the same video is increased dramatically, the perception of the video quality increases as well.

The same goes for audio synchronization. Chalk it up to decades of badly dubbed movies, or that  icky feeling you get when you see a robot that does not look quite human, or whatever, but when a person’s lips and voice are out of sync, it is problematic for effective communication. Unfortunately it’s one of those things that you don’t notice until it happens, and you don’t really want it to happen.

The thing is, traditional telephone, and now services such as Skype and webinar services, sacrifice audio quality and video synchronization in the service of connection.  It’s tricky balance to strike – low latency (lower bandwidth) or higher quality audio (higher bandwith and often higher latency).  And – when video is incorporated, services like webinars and skype will send the audio and video separately leading to out-of-sync situations on a regular basis.

There are a couple ways to combat this:

  1. For big-tent productions with limited online interaction, use a broadcast medium rather than a webinar or voice-based medium.  That means using a streaming appliance such as rVibe’s rCast with best in class audio.
  2. Ensure your audio source has the highest quality possible. Using on-board computer microphones, or tiny USB mics are a recipe for low quality.  Make sure the microhones you use are high quality. Best quality starts at the source.
  3. Increase the bandwidth and quality of connection you have available. The fatter the bandwidth and the higher quality (low jitter and latency) the connection, the greater quality you can drive through to the other end.

At the end of it, the goal is training engagement. Content is super important, but it’s also important to not underestimate the quality of the medium of delivery.

Posted on August 2, 2011 in Updates

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