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Importing Sounds

Flash has great support for audio but no internal way to record or create sounds. You'll need to find an existing sound, have one provided for you, or use sound software to record or create your own. This simply means that, in Flash, you can import sounds but you just can't create them.

Two basic steps are involved in getting audio into your Flash movie. First, you need to import the sound. Then, you need to decide where and how to use it. This is similar to importing raster graphics (like you did in Hour 3, "Importing Graphics into Flash"). When you import a sound, it's stored in the Library like an imported bitmap. But a sound is not quite a symbol. Rather, the item in the Library contains all the individual properties of the particular sound (just like bitmap properties).

NOTE

There are many sources for existing audio, such as clip media CDs and even Flash's Sounds Common Library (from the Window, Common Libraries, Sounds menu). You may find, however, that rather than searching existing sources, it's often easier to hire a professional musician or narrator who can provide exactly what you need. This is also true for customized graphics or photographs versus clip art. Although in the short term this may mean a much bigger investment, sometimes it's worth it. Consider that you're likely to get the perfect match for your message compared to something you find that's just "close enough" (but not quite right either). Also, you have direct contact with the artist, so you can resolve copyright issues at the start. Finally, by customizing your audio or graphics (and purchasing exclusive rights to its use), you won't risk another company using your art. Several potential problems arise when multiple parties use the same image or sound. Some other company's product or message could reflect poorly on yours, its Web site could be more popular than yours (making you look like a follower), or an image could become overused, making everyone's use look unoriginal and cliché.

Supported Formats

Flash can import digital audio in the following file formats:

  • MP3

  • WAV

  • AIF (also called AIFF)

  • AU

The only catch is that unless you have QuickTime 4 or 5 installed, when running Windows you can't import AIF or AU, and on the Macintosh you can't import WAV. Just download and install the free QuickTime software from http://www.apple.com and you'll be able to import audio in any of these four formats.

People often want to know which format is best. In general, it doesn't matter. You should simply start with the best quality sound possible. Between AIF and WAV there's no inherent quality difference. A high-quality AIF file is the same as a high-quality WAV file. The AU format is nearly always compressed at a low quality, so you can all but forget this format. In the case of MP3 files, they always have some compression, so ultimately these files are not best. However, when MP3s are compressed very little, their quality remains high. There are two valid reasons to use MP3s:

  • Your only source is an MP3 file.

  • The MP3 file you have has already been compressed (as far as you know) optimally.

MP3s won't get any worse after you bring them into Flash, but they certainly can't get any better. What's more, some MP3s aren't very good to begin with. I recommend avoiding MP3s as source files unless they're all you have or you're totally satisfied with their current quality.

You'll learn more about digital audio later this hour in the section titled "Digital Audio Fundamentals." For now, it's enough to know that just four sound formats can be imported into Flash. What about songs on audio CDs? CD audio tracks aren't in WAV, AIF, AU, or MP3 format, so you can't use them directly. Luckily, most sound-editing software provides the ability to extract music from a CD and save it in WAV or AIF format. Of course, you should realize that significant copyright concerns arise when using audio from a published CD.

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