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Preparing your music for YouTube… plus some examples May 17, 2008

Posted by ConnorSmith in : Mixing, Troubleshooting, Videos , trackback

A mix that sounds awesome in your DAW can sound terrible after facing the wrath of YouTube streaming conversion.

How can you make your sounds shine on YouTube? Here are some things to check in your mixes to guarantee better youtube results. (And there are videos at the end …)

1. Check your mix in mono. Ever notice videos on YouTube that sound like the guitars have just disappeared? Its probably because of phase issues between the left and right channels. Thus, when summed to mono for YouTube, they cancel out and disappear. A lot of mixing engineers (and especially many “old school” guys) always always check their mixes in mono (or even mix a lot while in mono). Personally, I also think mono is a great tool for mixes. Yes, the argument comes out “Well, who listens in mono anymore….”. Answer: Youtube, some cell phones, other streaming media, etc. Even if you aren’t intending to put the mixes on youtube, I would suggest that you listen to your mixes quietly in mono. That is a great time to set vocal, bass, and drum levels.

2. Don’t slam the mix bus! Distortion is present enough on uncompressed wavs, but slam it to mp3, or youtube streaming audio, and the artifacts get worse and worse (plus the additional problems from the conversion itself). The conversion process will have a hard time chomping on the mix if it is a super compressed “square wave” mix.

3. Really pay attention to your low mids. Clarity is often a problem on YouTube videos. Obviously some of this comes from the conversion itself, but excessive low mid energy will just add fuel to the fire. At the same time, make sure you have carefully mixed the high end of the spectrum. Too much will add more of that unmistakable “internet streaming high-end garbage” (that will inevitably happen n places regardless).

Now I will show you an example here. I’ll be using some live videos of an artist named Chip Christy. (I am actually playing piano on these too). We recorded everything to a laptop with a MOTU 896. Piano is mic’ed in stereo with u87’s, vocals are on an AKG 414, guitar was taken DI as well as an SM81 out front.

First, check out this audio. This is an mp3 bounce of the piano for the beginning of the “Hit the Ground” video. Compare this to how the piano sounds in the embedded video below. It is much different, but it definitely doesn’t sound bad on YouTube.

Hit the Ground piano intro (mp3)

When I mixed these songs down, I mixed mostly in mono at low volume, since I knew these were being done specifically for YouTube. If you are mixing a band’s studio CD, you may even consider doing two different mixes if they will be making youtube videos.

Chip Christy – Hit the Ground (Live Acoustic) <- this one has the piano audio I referenced above

::This is basically the end of the article, but to thank Chip for letting us use him as an example, here is another video and a link to his myspace if you are interested::

This is Chip’s cover of Tupac’s “Thugz Mansion”

Chip’s Myspace Page


The Studio Files


1. Russ - May 22, 2008

Also, the streaming codec seems to really enhance sibilance so make sure you’re managing your ess-es for the YouTube mix. Like Connor said, don’t smush it either. Leave plenty of headroom because the artifacts of a brick wall mixed with the artifacts of the codec(rap) is a recipe for unintelligible noise.

2. PJ - May 26, 2008

Connor – Great post, a lot of good information here. The audio is fantastic on these videos, as well as the performance and last but not least the camera work! Excellent job all around.

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