Investing in studio monitors is a good idea when it comes to mixing and mastering your sound. The biggest problem with using any speaker set while mixing sound, even fancy Bose speakers, is these commercial speakers aren’t made with a flat EQ and all have different factory settings. When mixing your audio on regular speakers your mix will be made for those speakers, so if you have a sub and lot of bass and someone listens to the mix on their speakers without a sub it will sound very high pitched . The mix will sound high pitched because the audio was mixed with bassy speakers and you would have reduced the bass too much since the speakers added their own bass.
What Studio Monitors are made to do is give your the most neutral sound possible so that when you mix your audio it will be best suited for all speakers types and you won’t have to worry as much that it won’t sound right on different speakers. It is always a good idea to listen to you final mix on several different system like headphones, car speakers, etc… so you can get an idea of the audio in different environments.
After you get your animation/movie/video rendered and touched up normally your going to want to add sound. A lot of animations use a song or soundtrack now days and don’t add sound FXs. Adding sound FXs can be an annoying task after you’ve just spent 5+ hours creating an animation but it is well worth it to put a little time into adding sound FX. One simple edit that goes a long way is audio panning (shifting the audio more to the left or right channel instead of keeping it centered). Most programs now days will let you do surround 5.1 speaker panning too. What this means is if you have something break on the right side of your animation, pan a “breaking” sound a little bit to the right speaker instead of just having the sound play evenly out both speakers. This will create a much more realistic feel as the sounds are heard more like they would be in real life.
Here is an amazing example of what you can do with audio panning. (You have to close your eyes and use headphones for this to work.)
In this day and age there is an abundance of settings and codecs you can choose for your video and audio exporting. What I usually aim for is good quality while trying to keep the file size relatively low. For this I usually export my videos in H.264 (aka. MPG4). This is a great HD compressor for saving space on your computer and keeping your videos in great quality. If you’re producing your going to want HD quality, meaning you’ll want a resolution of 1280×720 or 1920×1080, both considered HD resolutions. As for frame rate, 24 fps (frame per second) is the most used and widely adopted frame rate. Most online video hosting websites like YouTube and Vimeo have a top fps of 30, so if you’re using a fps over 30 it will be reduced down when you uploaded your video to the video streaming website.
Audio is the other part in the exporting process. AAC is a great quality format that a lot of software will default to when you are exporting. WAV is known as a great, if not the best, quality format, but WAV files are huge and will take up a lot of space on your computer, for an almost unnoticeable difference compared to AAC, so I choose AAC. Two other audio settings to look at are Data rate, and Sample rate. The Data rate is the bits per second that will be used to make up the audio file. So the more bits there are, the better the playback quality will be. The standard data rate is 320 kbps (kilo bits per second), compared to mp3s that use 128-192 kbps, where a lot of quality is lost. I therefor don’t recommend mp3s if you want a quality production. The last audio setting to look at is the Sample rate, which is the amount of samples the exporter takes per second to reconstruct the audio. The sample rate used almost everywhere is 44.1 kHz (kilo hertz), which is chosen based on how humans hear sound. There are plenty of long articles to read on this without making this explanation much longer.
To sum up, what I normally choose is:-
H.264 1920×1080 at 24 or 30 fps. AAC 320kbps, 44.1khz.
I am very picky when I listen to music, I always want to adjust the EQ (equalizer) whenever I can, whether it be an iPod, car stereo, TV, surround sound system, etc… I always start by adjusting the EQ to what others and I call “Smiley Face” EQ. What that means is raising the High frequency range and the Low frequency range, while keeping the Mid range frequencies where they are, giving a U or “smiley face” shape to your EQ. I find this is the best place to start when trying to find a decent EQ adjustment on any system for any music style. On an iPod this would be under the preset “rock” in your EQ settings. Try it out and see if you enjoy your music even more, this should give a fuller sound to the bass and a crisper sound to the treble.
What I mean by using non DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is creating the sound for your project directly in your animation/visual effects software. First off, if you’ve made an animation in Cinema 4D, you can’t really edit sound, so you’re going to have to render it out to Soundtrack Pro, or Adobe Audition, or similar programs. I prefer these to Logic or Pro Tools because they are designed to work with videos, whereas Logic and Pro Tools aren’t made to work with videos.
There are only three reasons I see to edit the audio directly in After Effects, or other visual effects softwares, otherwise you are better off using DAW. Firstly, you have to get the project done within 5-10 minutes, there is no time to push your project out and continue in another program. Secondly, if you are using “stock sound effects” such as Video Copilots Designer Sound FX, and creating an effect using Trapcode Particular (or similar plug-ins) and you need to fit the effect to the “Woosh”, “Explosion”, etc…sound, it would be a lot easier to have the sound directly in your project when you make this effect, rather than go back and add it in when you are adding the rest of the sound for your scene. Thirdly, it is beneficial to use sound directly in After Effects, because if your whole project was created around a sound track, there no reason not to export your project without the sound you were using.
Other than those three reasons, you have a lot more control with your sound if you make it with an audio dedicated program. So, why not take a little extra time and get a better final result? Use your DAW (digital audio workstations)! …if you have one.