Fine-tuning Sound Settings in the Library Flash

The Publish Settings menu is convenient because it permits you to tweak a minimal set of sound adjustments, whereupon Flash exports all of your “noncustomized”Stream sounds or Event sounds at the same rate. However, if you have many sounds and you are seriously concerned about obtaining the ideal balance of both optimal sound quality and minimum file size, you will need to export them at different rates. Consequently, for the fullest level of control over the way in which Flash compresses sound for delivery, we recommend that each sound should be optimized, individually, in the Library. In fact, it would be impossible for us to overemphasize this bit of sound advice: We recommend that each sound should be optimized, individually, in the Library.

Settings for audio in the Library
Audio settings in the Library are similar to those discussed previously for the Publish Settings. These settings appear in the Sound Properties dialog. To access these settings, either (a) double-click the icon of the sound in the Library, or (b) select the sound as it appears in the Library and (i) click the Properties button, or (ii) choose Properties from the Library Options popup.

There are four groupings of information and controls in the Sound Properties dialog: Status, Export Settings, Estimated Results, and Buttons.

The Sound Properties dialog enables you to control the compression settings and to precisely balance all other related settings for each individual sound in the Library.

The Sound Properties dialog enables you to control the compression settings and to precisely balance all other related settings for each individual sound in the Library.

The top half of the Sound Properties dialog displays status information about the sound file: To the far left is a window with the waveform of the selected audio; to the right of the waveform is an area that displays the name of the file together with its location, date, sample rate, channels, bit depth, duration, and file size.

The lower half of the dialog is titled Export Settings. The first setting is a drop-down menu that is used to select the Compression scheme. The Compression options, and the subsequent compression related options that appear in the other settings, are exactly the same as the sound options of the Publish Settings dialog, discussed earlier.

Beneath the Export Settings is where Estimated Results are displayed. Here, the estimated final file size (after compression) of the clip is displayed, together with the compression percentage. This is an extremely important tool that is easily overlooked.

The buttons to the right of the Sound Properties dialog offer the following options:

  • Update: Click this button to have Flash check for an update of the audio file, if the original .MP3, .WAV or .AIFF file has been modified, and update it accordingly. Generally, this only works on the machine the audio file was originally imported to.
  • Import: Enables you to import another audio file into the Flash environment.
  • Test: This excellent feature enables you to audition the export quality of the sound based on the options that you’ve selected from the Compression dropdown list.
  • Stop: Click this button to stop (silence) the sound Test.
  • Help: Launches the Flash Help system within your default Web browser.

There are three benefits to fine-tuning your audio in the Sound Properties dialog of the Library. Foremost of these benefits is the ability to set specific compressions and optimizations for individual each sound. Another benefit is the Test button this is an excellent way to audition your audio file and to know what it will sound like when it is exported with different compression schemes and bit rates; hearing is believing. Finally, the Estimated Results, which display how each setting will affect the compressed file size, is a powerful tool that helps to obtain the desired balance of quality and file size. In contrast, optimizing sounds with the Publish Settings is more of a blind process it is not only more global; it’s also more of a painful trial-and-error method.

Combining methods for controlling sounds
One of the coolest things about Flash audio is that you can combine the two methods of controlling sounds, using both the Publish Settings and the Library Sound Properties dialog to streamline your work flow while still maintaining a relatively high degree of control over sound quality. (This method works best if you already have some experience with sound behavior in Flash.)

For example, let’s assume that you have three different Event sounds in your Flash project. Two of these are simple button sounds. You decide that you won’t require optimal sound for buttons, so based on your prior experience of sound behavior in Flash, you go directly to the Publish Settings and set Event sounds to publish as .MP3 at 48 Kbps with Medium Quality. Then, in the Library, by setting the Compression to default, you tell Flash to handle the compression for these sounds with the Publish Settings. But the third sound is a loop of background jazz that you want to be heard at near-CD quality. For this sound, you return to the Sound Properties tab and try a number of combinations and test each one until you find a balance between file size and audio quality that pleases your ears. You assign this sound to export as an .MP3, stereo at 112Kbps, with Quality set to Fine.

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