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Ten Sound Tips for Flash Users

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People are so accustomed to silence because, in the beginning, the only audio found on the Web was either nice-sounding but incredibly slow (WAV) or fast-loading but universally awful (MIDI). With the Flash Player plug-in and its supports for MP3 encoding, though, you can add plenty of high-fidelity sound into your movies. David Emberton walks you through the process of bringing music and sound effects into Flash, from preparation to compression and delivery.
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Not counting the occasional cloying MIDI left over from 1996, the Web is a quiet place. People browse, people read, and people move on. They do not expect to hear Eminem blasting out of the browser.

Why are people so accustomed to silence? Well, in the beginning, the only audio found on the Web was either nice-sounding but incredibly slow (WAV) or fast-loading but universally awful (MIDI). Sure, there's RealAudio, but that came later and tends to be used only for radio rebroadcast. The Flash Player plug-in has really been the only significant, lasting advance in Web-based audio. And now that Flash supports MP3 encoding, you can squeeze even more high-fidelity sound into your movies than ever.

The purpose of this article is to take you through the process of bringing music and sound effects into Flash, from preparation to compression and delivery.

Preparing for Import

Flash cannot create sounds from scratch, so you'll need to find or create files of your own. You'll find many sources of royalty-free music loops and sound effects on the Web, as well as software for generating original audio. It is also possible to rip music from audio CDs, but you should seek a license for any use that isn't personal or academic.

Because the sound will be compressed upon export, it's best to get source files of the highest available quality (usually 44KHz, 16-bit stereo). Using files that already are compressed or that have been recorded at lower quality is more likely to result in a poor-quality end product. It's a bit like wrapping a gift with used paper; it all gets a bit more crinkly than it otherwise would have.

The most common import formats used are AIFF (Mac) and WAV (Windows). These are uncompressed and, therefore, yield good results. Flash is capable of importing other formats—many, in fact, if you have QuickTime installed on your system. Flash draws on QuickTime to convert certain formats that it doesn't have built-in support for.

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