LAME Ain’t no MCAD Excuse

Yesterday, Ralph Grabowski wrote in upFront.eZine (#488, I think…the current one isn't on the website as I write this) about the fidelity of CAD files produced by the TTF technology coming in Acrobat 3D.

That got me to thinking about whether or not CAD file fidelity makes any difference…which in turn got me to thinking about MP3.

Audiophiles routinely despise MP3, accusing it of introducing "digital artifacts" to the music along with other nasty impacts on the "purity" of the music. But MP3 has achieved through ubiquity an astonishing expansion of the uses of music. From portable digital players to podcasting, MP3 as a universal format has never been about exact fidelity. Instead it's about collaboration. And I mean a very broadly defined definition of collaboration in which people can apply their "tasks" to the music with both ease and easy compatibility.

As to the fidelity question itself, I defy anyone to tell the difference on anything less than a monster system between the original bits and a LAME-encoded VBR MP3 at, say, a maximum bitrate of 320kpbs. LAME (actually, "LAME ain't an MP3 Encoder") is an open-source, very high quality MP3 encoder. Truth be told, even a store-bought, record-company-manufactured "original" 44kHz CD was probably downsampled in mastering from the 48kHz digital encoding used in professional studios.

In MCAD, nobody is suggesting that the plane would be built from the Acrobat 3D-imported or -translated files. Instead, like MP3, that data becomes a basis for collaboration: developing service procedures, showing the airline how it can equip the cabin or sharing data with the supply chain.

For me, it's an almost perfect solution: ultra-high-fidelity CAD data for engineering and manufacturing, and super-high-fidelity (in an easy to use and digest form) for the rest of us.

The classic "file format" debate that rages and ebbs in the CAD world, that looks like it's about to flare up again, is really beside the point. In fact, it's just plain LAME. 

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