Text and Audio vs Videos

This may be covered somewhere else.

I’ve learned for most music and gear-related learning, I greatly prefer reading manuals and guides, even internet threads, to watching and listening to videos. But it seems like video has become a default in a lot of places, and for a lot of makers, who place less emphasis on writing good documentation. (There are of course plenty of makers who still have fantastic documentation.)

Part of it is impatience, in that I can read a lot faster than most people can talk. Part of it is non-linearity, in that I don’t have to read text in order.

I am glad for the existence of audio online, so I can hear others’ music and what stuff sounds like. I feel like audio clips go well with the nonlinearity is a written document.

I will sometimes watch video,performances, but that’s to watch someone perform.

The other great thing about text is I can have it open while working with a device. One can do that with a video on a mobile device, but it’s not the same.

That’s why I’m always grateful to makers who have good documentation.

This isn’t a complaint about influencers or social media rankings, or any of that other stuff. And there are exceptions, like MakeNoise’s videos, which I often find educational or amusing. It’s just something that came up in another context recently, and I realize in a lot of online contexts, video has become a kind of default.

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This is the crux for me for both audio and video content: fixed linearity and pacing. Watching videos or listening to audio for fun isn’t an issue when the goal is to be entertained–I can stay absorbed for hours–but when trying to learn something, I’d rather have a hard copy in front of me for reference. I have a book on music theory that I flip around in a LOT. I look up a certain scale mode and then flip to the “harmony” chapter to see how it works with chords. A video on music theory is great, but I find myself trying to pause or rewind or fast forward more than I’d like and all that fiddling takes away from my ability to apply what it is I’m learning in the first place. Plus, few videos (of manageable length) are as comprehensive as a single text can be.

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I could not agree more! Text is also much better food for search engines when looking for something.

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i definitely prefer written documentation too.
All in all, video captivates the viewer while reading activates.
Video could be useful for a quick, focused tutorial on a defined subject. But it almost always fails to be efficient because everyone wants to tell it like a story instead of going straight to the point.
Also it’s not searchable. One can’t throw videos in a folder and search for all occurrences of a certain keyword like PDFs allow (probably the only point where they are superior to a paper copy btw).
The nice thing about video is you learn many variants of the english language.

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Sometimes I find pausing a video and then taking a screen shot of the helpful diagram or whatever can encourage me to do something practical later.

Good documentation does seem rarer these days. It’s saddening when you feel you could get a lot more from a complex piece of hardware or software.

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Partially a monetization issue, partially an effort issue. It’s easier to make a video than good written documentation for many, I imagine. I love reading datasheets and technical documentation. If markdown had a flavor that also allowed for audio file embeds, that would probably make this kind of thing more prevalent. Are there examples of audio synthesis / mixing / mastering technical documentation which utilize text, image and audio heavily in a nice presentable format?

edit… I found this which could work, but it’s a developer tool, not something a part of the main markdown spec…

edit 2… Bandcamp does it well in their writeups.

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I can scan text to get information much quicker than with videos. To the point that I tend to use the following code in a bookmarklet to increase the playback rate of videos, as I often find the pace too slow when viewing on a platform that doesn’t offer playback rate options

javascript:[...document.querySelectorAll('audio,video')].filter(v => v.currentTime > 0)[0].playbackRate+=.25
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Yeah, I speed up videos as well sometimes. But that only solves one issue.

There’s definitely that as well, though I wonder if someone could set up a Patreon for writing documentation. A sort of text-only Loopop.

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as someone who either listens to music or is in noisy environment (kids, dog etc) I always go with text if have a choice. Sometimes video is OK if there are closed captions but most often than not they are automatically translated and awful.
Also I can (as already mentioned) skim way faster through written text and use in built search for tools that I am already using.

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i like having written docs but mainly because of becoming a parent…also must admit that my initial grasp of an instruments power is frustratingly dependent on a/v demonstration of what it can do

if i see a brief clip that answers “what does it do?” & “what makes it different?” then i’ll eventually take time to read technical docs with more comprehensive info about the features

without that spark i often lack motivation to spend time exploring (or forget to try it out)

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What specific topics do you have in mind that you might like to see covered?

EDIT: I love this topic, by the way, and I feel much the same way.

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I wonder if this is a function the community zine could help provide as it develops?

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A text-only Loopop would probably be … well, Loopop?

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Last VSCode update leverages ffmpg for Jupyter notebooks. I live using it with Julia and sometimes wonder what it would take to create a supercollider kernel…

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I picked Loopop because I think he is a pretty good teacher and does other thins like get to the point and chapters his videos. His book of techniques is quite good but it’s not the same stuff as in his videos.

My favourite manuals at the moment are Madrona Labs’. Lots of good detail, patching suggestions, etc.

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Ok so optimal documentation would be text website with embedded audio examples? and a video summary at the top of the page that you can skip if you don’t want to watch it?

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i don’t think there is such a thing as perfect because we all have different preferences (mine have even changed over time!)

the maps video summaries are probably as close to perfect for my style as i’ll ever find…the vids are fantastic but i hesitate to dive in unless i have 2hr block

these focus on key parts, are searchable, with snippets of code and hyperlinks to help guide someone through the concepts

so maybe you were close…timestamped vid with text summary might be ideal

also wanna say even though it’s time consuming if there are any devs trying to improve their videos: not everything has to be pretty or mimic Knobs reviews BUT i do think something can be gained from what makes Knobs appealing

the music sounds good :slight_smile:

sure that’s subjective territory but i think you have at least one short vid that avoids the complexity of explaining and just shows how you use the thing even if you only show one style or method for approaching the tool

another vid (or series of em) can serve as tutorial or deep dive feature demo

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i will be the contrarian here and say i am incredibly appreciative of the trend towards video content.

obviously, written documentation is important and shouldn’t be skipped. (i sometimes have to use adobe premiere for work and it drives me absolutely insane that they don’t have a PDF explaining how it works—EVERY other video software has one…)

but for me, text is mostly useful as a quick reference while i’m in the middle of something.

otherwise due to the way my brain is wired—neurodivergently, as the kids say—i find it incredibly difficult to translate abstract concepts on the page to useful (and memorable) information. i can remember trying to learn computer music stuff in college before youtube covered every conceivable topic, and it was just endless pages of sentences like

Audio that sounds like this is changed like this when you move these knobs this way, but if you move the knobs this way, that audio is actually going to take a different sound quality. NOTE: This only applies to audio with these specific subjective qualities. Audio with different subjective qualities, when processed the same way, will sound more like this.

i can learn this way, but it personally takes me 10x as long as it would if i could just watch someone mess around with the interface for 25 minutes.


i bought an elektron analog rytm and i knew from their reputation that i was going to have to fully read the manual. i’ve read like 2/3rds of it, and it has filled in a couple of gaps i missed learning via youtube. but i don’t seem to retain much of what i’ve read. sometimes i try things that i’ve read and they don’t work, and i don’t know if it’s because i’ve misread the steps to accomplish the thing or misread what the steps i’m following are actually supposed to do, or both, or if the manual is out of date, or…

the main thing keeping me invested in the process is a little game i play with myself trying to identify the most convoluted sentences in the book.

this is the funniest section so far in that regard. the mental image of someone reading this and having an incredible idea for a song is so funny to me. (runner up: “note trigs trig notes”).


i don’t think it has to be a zero sum thing (good videos or good text) either. i’ve been doing this hobby for a long enough time now that i can sort of sus out whether a thing i want to know is a “video” search or a “user manual” search. but then, a lot of the times when i go looking for something that should be in the manual, i don’t actually see it there. in cases like these i wonder if, were technical writers able to assume a slightly higher level of familiarity with the program, they might be able to give more precise information in the manual? how a knob works, not what it does.

if there are two tools which seem to accomplish similar goals, why are they both in the program? what is going on internally that makes them different, and what situations do the differences matter in?

(izotope are some of the worst for this—spectral denoiser “can be useful for tape hiss, HVAC systems, outdoor environments, line noise, ground loops, camera motors, fans, wind, and complex buzz with many harmonics” while vocal denoiser “works well for almost any recording of dialogue and spoken word”…which one am i supposed to use?)

one last example: the other day when i was making a patch in ableton’s wavetable device, i wanted to know how the NOTE modulator in the midi matrix scales in the mod matrix. the ableton documentation is good, so i was expecting a table or something.

that’s cool, but i’m not doing filter tracking, so…what now?

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i need this skill!

actually i’m waffling because i’d really like to just meet the instrument and play with neither video or text involved then hunt down an answer when i hit a wall

i love tools that are intuitive enough to allow that for basic operation at least

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Wish there was a laugh reaction instead of just a heart - I get you!

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