Audio-Video Quality and the Need for Vibration Control

February 03, 2015

Whether you are talking about consumer level or commercial products in the field of audio visual, there is a serious need for vibration control to achieve the best quality in either. Excessive vibration in either sound or video can cause serious problems. If you are working hard to create a professional looking movie or audio file, you do not want to let errant vibration take your efforts down to the level of the typical home movie. The more money you are spending on your project, the more that you want to have it come out looking or sounding like it was well worth it.

Excessive Vibration and Audio Quality

Vibration control as it relates to audio is kind of tricky for a very interesting reason. All sound is actually created by vibration. That means that no matter what kind of vibration control system that you put in place, you cannot eliminate all vibration nor would you want to do so. As sound travels, it creates waves in the air, which then cause vibrations inside of the human ear. The speed, the frequency and other factors influencing that vibration is what makes the sound and how you hear it.

Sound travels through the ear canal where little variations in the ear drum and the little bones inside of the ear can also play a role in how you hear a sound. That is why a virtuoso performer can listen to a piece once and then recreate it, note for note with all of the intricate subtleties while a layperson just hears a pretty song but not the many layers of sound that go into creating that particular melody. Vibration is necessary for the creation of sound, but it has to be the right vibration and all other must be controlled or isolated.

As an example of vibration and audio quality, put a glass of water on the top of your favorite home speakers and then turn up the volume as well as the bass. The thumping of the bass will not only make the water in the glass bounce but may also generate enough vibration to make the glass move along the speaker’s surface as well.

The Need for Vibration Control in Video Applications

When you make a video, there is going to be some movement. That movement may translate into excessive vibration, which in turn can make the finished video look jerky, stilted or unprofessional. Small movements may become exaggerated and look strange. Those little imperfections caused by vibration can happen at the worst moments and can destroy the total effect of the video.

One way to minimize some of the movement is to mount the camera on a tripod and then to control vibration that way, but there will still be residual motions and transferred vibrations. For instance, on a hard floored surface, the action of the actors can travel as vibration through the floor and up into the camera via the tripod. Finding a way to isolate the camera and tripod is key to keeping these imperfections from playing a role in the video’s final appearance.
The more action that is involved in the video or the closer the camera is to that action, the more problems that vibration and extra movements can cause.

Sorbothane and the Concept of Vibration Control

Sorbothane is a special material called a visco-elastic polymer that has properties of both a liquid and a solid at the same time. Those two properties allow the best elements to be employed in the application. For instance, it can be poured and molded to any shape that is needed for the project at hand.

Unlike a more solid type of material, Sorbothane can be used in more delicate applications, as it can be made thinner and unobtrusive. It will be able to reduce some vibrations without affecting the sound or video quality in the process. In an audio application, Sorbothane can slow the frequency of certain vibrations while still allowing others to continue to travel unfettered at their normal speeds. Ideally speaking, lower frequency sounds are meant to travel slower and higher frequency sounds are meant to travel faster. Lower sounds may cause additional vibrations to build up as well. (Remember the example with the water glass on the speaker).

In most speaker systems, a vibration control system is employed to make sure that only the right sounds are allowed to be heard. That system typically starts with a very thin piece of material that is placed in the front of the speaker, filtering sound through. With some materials, though, there is a problem with excessive vibration, which can eventually destroy the material itself affecting the quality of the sound. Some materials get brittle eventually and can break apart.

Sorbothane can be used as vibration control in a video setting with something as simple as a floor mat to absorb the shock from nearby movements and action and keep the camera from picking up too many extraneous movements.

With a handheld camera, there are applications that can also be used. A small pad created from Sorbothane can be used not only to cushion the camera and the camera operator but can also be used to keep small movements in the operator's hands from vibrating the camera. This is a perfect solution to a problem, especially for lengthy shoots that might cause exhaustion to become a factor as well.

Sorbothane can be purchased as either a standard product and application or custom made, which means that regardless of the audio or visual project you are working on, you can find the right vibration control solution for you. 

Want to learn more about Sorbothane's solutions? Download our complimentary Standard Products Guide.