What is a broadcast wave file?

In our audio restoration work, we are often asked by archivists to supply a broadcast wave file (bwf) as the preservation master.  It’s a good thing to ask for because there are some advantages compared to a “regular” wave file. But then there can be confusion!

When we’re talking about the difference between a regular wave file and broadcast wave, the only real technical difference is that bwf files are able to embed more metadata in the header of the file.  There is no difference in the file extension – they all use the .wav extension. Technical specifications such as sampling and bitrate are equal to both bwf and wav files.

So, how do we get this metatdata in the right place? Many audio editing programs allow you to save a wave file to the bwf standards, but sometimes there still needs to be some tweaking.  There’s a nice utility called BWF MetaEdit (download) you can install that allows you to edit the metadata information contained in a bwf file and export it either as a xml, xmp or csv file.

The utility will even show you where there is incomplete or improper information – in this example, you can see there are missing required fields highlighted in red.

BWF MetaEdit Screenshot 2Once corrected, the fields appear green

BWF MetaEdit Screenshot 3

So, there you have it, now you can be confident your wave files are complying with the correct braodcast wave standards for archival usage.