Thunderstruck's blog

Understanding Sound & Formats for Best Quality

Demystifying Sound

Professional CDs are recorded uncompressed at a sampling rate of 44.1 kHz at 16 bit (64kbps/channel) and are digital recordings. They are recorded in Pulse Code Modulation (PCM) and stored on Windows computers as WAV files and as AIFF files on Macs. A WAV or AIFF file “ripped” from a CD in one of these formats will playback with the same audio information whether it is on CD or an electronic file. In both instances, hardware is required to convert the digital information to an analog signal. At Thunderstruck Canada, we use a high-end digital-to-audio converter (DAC) and audio interface to process music from both our computer and CD decks out to the theatre's speaker system so you are guaranteed to get the best possible playback.

Sound Quality Explained

The quality of the sound you get from your music begins with the source. You can not take an M4A or MP3 file (most common file formats found online and used for playback devices like iPods) and use software like audacity to convert it to a WAV or AIFF and expect it sound like a professionally recorded track. Both M4A and MP3 use what is called a lossy compression. This is great to pack as many songs onto our iPod and have them sound pretty good but trying to play this across a professional system there will be a big disparity. For instance, a 4:30 minute track in its original WAV format would be about 50MB in size. That same file compressed to MP3 would be a 5MB. In converting that 5MB file back to WAV too much information is lost (why it is called lossy compression) to restore it back to its original form.

To ensure that have the best sounding music for your routines, you need to start with uncompressed WAV or AIFF files that have been sampled at 44.1 kHz at 16 bit (64kbps/channel) or higher. When your source music is edited and/or cut to your specifications, you need to ensure that it is sampled at these levels and saved appropriately. At this point, all we need it that file provided to us and we would prefer an audio file versus receiving it on CD.

Why Do We Prefer Audio Files vs CDs

There is really no need to burn CDs for competition anymore. We can play the same file that you burn to CD via a computer and you will get the same quality playback. The quality of that file whether CD or audio file is solely up to you.

Audio files are easier to manage for both you and Thunderstruck Canada. CDs need to be burned – which takes time and money, labeled correctly, and then turned into our staff who then need to organize the CDs against all the other studios. Playing CDs requires a process of loading and unloading and CDs are also prone to skipping and sometimes not working at all. There is also an entire process of getting CDs sorted at the end of the competition and returned to the studio. Using the same audio, you upload or turn them in on USB. They are easy to label, queued in a playlist, and we don't have to worry about them skipping...and if you are competing at Top Studio Challenge – we already have your music.

File Formats & Codecs

Please visit the bottom of our blog: History of Sound – Analog vs Digital for more information on file formats and codecs.

History of Sound – Analog vs Digital

When CDs were first introduced in the early 1980s, their single purpose in life was to hold music in a digital format. In order to understand how a CD works, you need to first understand how digital recording and playback works and the difference between analog and digital technologies.

The First Recording & Playing of Sound

In 1877 Thomas Edison created the phonograph, using tin and vibrations to record and playback sounds. In 1887, Emil Berliner created the gramophone which used flat records with spinal groove over instead of tin and made reproducing records easy. This is an analog recording of sounds and over time it evolved so that recordings were made electronically rather then scratched on tin foil and drastically improved the fidelity of the recording. These recordings are in the form of an analog wave.

Digital Data (CD or other digital recording)

The goal for digital recordings is to create a very high fidelity (very high similarity between the original signal and the reproduced signal) and perfect reproduction.Over time, an LP will wear and the playback becomes degraded over time. With a CD it will play the same the hundredth time as it did the first. This is accomplished by converting the analog wave to a digital recording (a series of numbers). This is done via an analog-to-digital converter (ADC). To play the music, these numbers are converted back to an analog wave using a digital-to-analog (DAC). The analog wave that it produces is amplified and sent to the speakers to produce the sound.

Digital Quality

When you take an analog wave and convert it with an analog-to-digital converter, you have control over two variables: the sampling rate (how many samples are taken per second); and, the sampling resolution more commonly referred to as the bit rate (accuracy of each measurement taken of a waveform) Typically, the sampling rate for a CD is 44,100 samples per second (44.1 kHz) with a bit rate of 65,536 (16 bit or 64kbps/channel). This output level matches the original analog waveform close enough that the sound is essentially perfect to the human ear.

File Formats and Codecs

An audio file format is essentially a container for storing audio information in digital format. The many formats of audio file formats and codecs can be divided in three basic groups: uncompressed audio file formats, lossless compression audio formats and lossy compression audio file formats.

  • Uncompressed: The most used and known uncompressed audio file format is Pulse Code Modulation (PCM), which is usually stored as a .wav on Windows or as .aiff on Mac. WAV and AIFF are a flexible file formats that can store any combination of sampling rates or bit rates. This is the file format used on Cds.
  • Lossless Compression: Lossless compressed formats require more processing for the same time recorded, but are more efficient in terms of disk space used. The most common lossless compressed format is Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC). FLAC file is an audio format similar to MP3, but lossless, meaning that the audio information is compressed in FLAC file without any loss in its audio quality. Similar to how Zip works, but you will get much better compression rate because FLAC it is designed specifically for audio files.
  • Lossless Compression: Lossy compression audio file formats are the most used audio formats on the Internet, computers and other multimedia equipment. The most popular is the MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3 (MP3). MP3 uses a form of lossy data compression.

"From Ballerinas to Showgirls" - Dance Moms - Episode 9

From Ballerinas to Showgirls

For those of you in Canada who missed the show last night on the Slice Network and want to see what the buzz is about, we have decided to provide a link to the full episode featuring Thunderstruck as well as take a moment to clarify a few of things:

1. The episode features the Thunderstruck International Finals, not the Las Vegas Regional Dance Competition.

2. The studio registered themselves as "Collins Avenue" and not "Abbey Lee Miller", if you are looking for the overalls on our Results page.

3. We do NOT endorse the content of this show.

4. We stand behind our Judges who did an exceptional job despite comments to the contrary.

5. As a result of the deceitful business tactics used to gain special permission to attend Finals coupled with several misrepresentations of the event, Collins Avenue will not be permitted to film any future Thunderstruck Dance Competition. See LifeTime's Dance Mom's Banned from Thunderstruck.

The full episode of "From Ballerinas to Showgirls" Episode 9, Season 1 of LifeTime's Dance Moms.

Lifetime's "Dance Moms" Banned from Thunderstuck

Lifetime's Dance Moms Banned from Thunderstuck

For those of you who attended or watched the live stream of our International Finals in Las Vegas this past summer it was no mystery that a film crew was present at the event. It was indeed, Lifetime's "Dance Moms" (currently being aired in Canada on the Slice network). Their participation was granted in good faith to help promote the positive impact of dance for our youth. Unfortunately, we were deceived by the production company. The show Dance Moms does not portray an accurate picture of the competitive experience we provide or the atmosphere we promote.

About a month ago, an official statement was released from Thunderstruck in Las Vegas and circulated by email. As a result of continued confusion, we have decided to post copy of this statement, clearly outlining the deception by the production company - Collins Avenue. It also contradicts statements that company President, Jeff Collins made recently to TMZ wherein "Collins also insists the show has not had any problems with any of the other competitions featured on Dance Moms ... claiming the show has been welcomed back for Season 2 by every organization except StarQuest."

We do not carry any ill will towards Abbey Lee, her studio, dancers or parents (Moms), however, Collins Avenue are not welcome at any future Thunderstruck Regional Dance Competition or our International Finals.

Here is a copy of the statement issued by Jeremy Fullam, International Director:

Whether you love or hate Lifetime's "Dance Mom's", you can be assured of one thing, they will NOT be allowed to film at any Thunderstruck Dance Competition this season.

This decision was based on their misinformation to us last year when booking with us. We were told by them that this was going to be a television show following around a dancer (like a documentary) and was called "Just Dance". The entries sent to us for our Finals were from a studio called "Collins Avenue" and NOT "Abby Lee Dance Company". I feel as if we were lied to.

That is not nice!

International Finals Live Stream

Internationals Dance Down is now Streaming Live Check it Out!!!

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