How Do Audio Visualizers Work?


Whether you have music you want to upload to youtube or a podcast audio clip you would rather have on Instagram, you need to convert an audio file into a video. And while slapping some artwork over the audio file to produce a video file can work technically, it isn't the best choice for platforms where the audience is supposed to be engaged visually. That's where audio visualizers come into play.

Audio visualizers work by drawing audio frequency data and producing visual variations that align with it. There's a mathematical formula in each visualizer that makes graphics like bars and waves react to the audio content. The simplest forms rely on the speaker's sound volume variation.

In this article, you will learn more about audio visualizer usage and the pros and cons of this tool. Among other things, you will find out how music visualizers work and how to podcast visualizers work. Towards the end, you will find the 7 best practices for making audio visualizers work for you. But first, let's differentiate two types of audio visualizers.


Music Visualizers Vs. Podcast Visualizers

All audio visualizers have the same working principle, whether the audio frequency data is fed to an algorithm that makes graphics react to that data. The alignment between aspects of audio and the visual content makes it seem like the visualizer is reacting to the audio content, which it is in a way.

But the specific formulae vary depending on the type of visualizer used. For instance, electronic dance music visualizers are tuned into the bass frequency and react the most to the highs and lows in the bass. This makes the visualizer peak when the bass drops, which is the most interesting part of an EDM song.

Most music visualizers are tuned into different frequencies and have different waves or visual elements reacting to any changes in them. This can produce interesting and complex video footage to go with the audio.

In contrast, podcast or dialogue visualizers simply react to the volume of your audio. Since good speakers vary their volume level throughout a conversation, the overall visual data has enough variation to be interesting. Ultimately, both types of visualizers produce a range of varying motions that are in sync with the audio. This can be a hit or miss, though.


Audio Visualizers: When To Use Them And When Not To

Audio visualizers are a great visual aid for video content, where audio is the most important aspect. They can help keep the mind occupied so that multitasking tendencies don't lead people to click elsewhere or scroll away from a specific video.

Audio Visualizers are popular in podcast marketing, music content, and the audiobook market. It is best to use audio visualizers within these contexts and for short spans only.

The worst use cases for visualizers include movies and anything with a significant visual component. Our work at ContentFries is to optimize our services, templates, and features to improve content creators' engagement. For this, we researched the average attention retention of visualizers.

Among the top 100 visualizer clips sampled on Youtube, over 80% had a serious viewer drop-off after 45 seconds, independent of the type of visualizer. This leads us to believe that an audio visualizer clip should be no longer than 30 to 40 seconds.

To better understand audio visualizers and the best instances for their use, you have to know their pros and cons. In the sections below, you will discover the individual benefits and drawbacks of audio visualizers.


The Pros Of Audio Visualizers

The main advantages of audio visualizers have to do with their ability to service the distracted mind. Here are the five key advantages of using audio visualizers in your content.

They Are Better Than A Stationary Image File

The first advantage sums up the best use for audio visualizers. These tools should never replace actual video but should be an upgrade to stationary image files over video content. Let's suppose you upload your podcast to Youtube.

If your podcast is also recorded on camera, like The Joe Rogan Experience, then you should never strip the audio and add a visualizer clip over it. But if you have no video and your podcast is just audio like the early days of the Monday Morning Podcast, then you can add a visualizer to make the overall content slightly more interesting.

They Can Reduce The Click-Off Rate

Since audio visualizers make content slightly more interesting, they are slightly better at reducing the click-off rate on videos. There's an emphasis on slightly because the drop-off after 40 seconds is hopelessly steep. If you carry on reading, you'll find out the best method to minimize drop-off on long-form audio.

Within a 30-second to 40-second timeframe, audio visualizers are pretty good at minimizing drop-off. To that extent, they are a plus compared to still artwork.

They Can Make Audio Uploads Possible On Video-Sharing Platforms

It is worth noting that sometimes, the point of an audio visualizer isn't to grab attention but to be a placeholder just to enable an upload. You cannot upload audio to Youtube without converting it to video. Converting video to audio is easy because you strip away an element (the visual one).

On the flip side, converting audio to video is hard because you have to add something. That's where a still image or a visualizer is added. While an audio visualizer isn't the only thing that makes it possible to upload video on audio platforms, it is definitely one of the things that do so.

They Can Help You Detect Mistakes In Your Recording Setup

A less common use of audio visualizers is to detect audio-level issues. This isn't a feature most people think of when they add a visualizer to their audio. Audio engineers and podcast producers can't help but analyze visualizers to form their opinions about audio quality.

They Can Help Some People Concentrate Better

Finally, an even more niched advantage of audio visualizers is that they can help people with ADHD concentrate on the audio content. By occupying their sight, a visualizer can help neurodivergent people from getting distracted when listening to a packed audio clip. Given that around 5% of people suffer from ADHD, this advantage isn't very significant.


The Cons Of Audio Visualizers

While audio visualizers are a step up in certain types of content, they can be a step down in some instances. Here are the main drawbacks of audio visualizers.

They Aren't Effective For Long-Form Content

This is one of the most significant drawbacks of audio visualizers. The primary purpose of an audio visualizer is to hold the visual attention of the consumer. And that's precisely what they fail to do after a while.

For people who use audio visualizers in the wrong places, this can be a drawback. For us, it just seems like a limitation. Every tool has its limits. You cannot use a blanket to record audio or a microphone to cover your body, and you cannot use a visualizer to replace the long-form video.

They Are A Worse Alternative To Actual Video Content

As mentioned earlier, a visualizer might be a step up from using a still image as a visual aid, but it is a step down from actual video content. Again, this is a drawback that can be seen as just a limit.

They Can Get Repetitive, Monotonous, And Boring

Audio visualizers can get boring because there is a limit to the variations in the sound bars. This can cause people to tune out after a specific duration. As per our estimates, this happens after the 40-second mark. So this drawback applies to audio content with little pitch variation and long duration.

As addressed at the beginning of this post, audio visualizers work from audio frequency data. You can beat the monotony by simply having music in the audio and speaking with variation in pitch and delivery.

It Takes Money To Produce Them

The final disadvantage of audio visualizers is that they are complicated to produce. And because of that, you have to spend money to get a decently visualized clip. Video editors can charge $15 to $55 to produce a simple visualizer, while dedicated drag-and-drop visualizers can cost $9 to $18 per month. This isn't as big of a disadvantage if you produce visualizer-enhanced clips on a regular basis. But if you want to get one clip produced, this can be a high price to pay.

ContentFries has recently added a visualizer feature to its content multiplier service set. It is cheaper in that you don't pay $9 for a simple audio visualizer. With your subscription, you get a powerful auto-captioning, reel-making, content repurposing, and graphic-producing tool that can help you dominate the content game on multiple social media platforms.


Should You Use An Audio Visualizer?

With the pros and cons of this visual aid covered, we can discuss whether it is a net negative or net positive. As long as the creator using the audio visualizer understands the limitations of this tool and uses it optimally, it can be a great tool for retaining engagement, improving audience attention, and driving up the creator's profile in the algorithm. But when used in the wrong context, it can have no effect.

At best, an audio visualizer is an engagement-improving tool, and at worst, it is a waste of money. So, the visualizer is a net positive. To make sure that you get the most benefit out of using an audio visualizer, we have compiled a list of 7 best practices that make audio visualizers work for you.


Best Practices For Using An Audio Visualizer

In this section, we explore the best use cases for an audio visualizer and how you can get the most out of this tool in each instance. Let's get started.

Get The Right Visualizer Tool

First and foremost, avoid subscribing to paid visualizer tools that do not offer anything except visualizers. Why? Because you might find that visualizers aren't enough and you need something else.

Many video content editors like Adobe Premiere Pro can be used for visualizers, though they are slightly complicated. For a simpler visualizer-making platform that can also help with other content editing aspects, check out ContentFries.

Use It For 40-Second Clips (Podcasts/Interviews/Monologues)

As mentioned earlier, audio visualizers stop being effective for spoken word content if they are any longer than 40 seconds. Avoid using a visualizer as your only video element for an entire podcast.

Add Lyrics To Improve Engagement (Music)

If you use a visualizer for your music, add lyrics to avoid monotony. Fresh lyrics can hook people to the video as they wait for new words to pop up on the screen as the song progresses. With a visualizer alone, they know that the bars will keep moving. After a while, the novelty wears off.

Add Captions For Long-Form Audio (Dialogue And Monologue)

If you upload your entire podcast to youtube, don't make the visualizer the only visual element. In case you cannot have audio for it, simply add transcription/captions to reel the viewer into the actual video content.

Don't Sacrifice The Audio For The Visuals

Some content editors can compress the video and audio to produce a smaller file. If your audio is crisp and clear without the visualizer, but the visualizer-maker roughs it up, stick to the audio only. Nothing is worth running your audio. Fortunately, the ContentFries audio visualizer doesn't compromise the quality of your audio.

Try Enhancing The Clip With Stock Videos (Dialogue/Monologue)

Remember that after 30 to 40 seconds of observing a visualizer, the brain can predict the pattern of its movement, which makes the viewer bored. Since the novelty wears out, and you cannot use lyrics to keep the content consumer engaged, you might want to use a series of relevant stock videos.

Experiment To Find What's Optimal

Finally, remember that while different things work for most people, they might not work for you. Trying your hand at different types of visualizers and visual aids will help you arrive at the best blend to turn your audio content into video. Fortunately, ContentFries is one of the few platforms that actually allows you to use a range of other visual aids like auto-generated captions.


Final Thoughts

Audio visualizers work by making graphics react to the digitized audio frequency data. They can be tuned into the bass frequency or the overall variation in the mids and highs (vocal content). Ultimately, they are a visual tool for retaining consumer attention.