Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Producing an MP3 of Grasshopper -- Part 3

Once the recording was done, I needed to edit it to take out the glaring goof-ups I made. I downloaded the file from the recorder to my computer at home. I needed a music-editing program, so, back to Best Buy. I found MP3 Maker Deluxe 2005 by Magix for $40. I didn't know anything about it other than it was the cheapest thing they had that looked, from the info on the box, that it would edit music (audio) files and could convert them into a number of formats.

Once I got the program on my computer, I loaded the Wave file that I had recorded. I didn't read the manual (very minimal info). I didn't run the video tutorial (still haven't; it might be pretty useful). I just started playing. After several false starts that the tutorial may have saved me from, I got to the editing screen that showed the wave-form (squiggly lines that you've probably seen in some cop or forensics show) of the entire file. That wasn't very useful as I couldn't see enough detail to allow me to edit properly. So I played with the buttons on the screen until I could see about 4 seconds of playing time on the screen. This stretched things out so that I could easily find the long silences (a straight line) that marked my screw-ups.

Then I hit the play button. There is a marker (in this case a vertical line) that moves across the wave-form on the screen as the file plays telling you precisely where you are. I listened until I got to a place I had made a mistake. I stopped the playback, "rewound" to the beginning of the paragraph, highlighted (same way you highlight to delete in Word) from there through the silent spot to where I had started that paragraph over, then hit the delete key. Presto change-o, the offending section was gone. I proceeded in that manner to the end of the recording saving frequently. I had all of the mistakes removed. The resulting recording still sounded a little blarey, and that whining server fan was a little too audible.

The program comes with several filters you can use to take that stuff out: denoisers, dehissers, room filters, dynamic filters, and other things. I didn't know what they did or how they did it, so I saved a copy of the edited Wave file, and started applying them at random. When I found a filter that did something I liked, I saved that copy of the file and tried another filter. By working that way, I wound up with a recording I liked. It's not professional, but it's pretty good.

The file was still in Wave format, so I used the program to convert it to MP3. There are several levels of quality for MP3s (music is usually 128 kbps, speech usually 48 kbps). I chose the 48 for maximum compression. After several bad conversions that resulted in partial files or artifacts like whistles, squeaks and beeps, I found the best way to convert was directly from the editor. I now had a usable MP3 file that anybody could download and play on their computer or MP3 player. The 14-minute recording resulted in a 4.7 MB MP3 file. I knew Dave needed the file to be as small as possible, but I couldn't compress it any more without considerably degrading the quality. So I converted it to a WMA (Windows Media) file that came in at 3.4 MB. That's the one I sent to Dave.

If you want to make a recording of one of your stories, for whatever reason, but don't want the brain damage of doing it yourself, try this. Go to the Drama Department of your local college or university (Yeah, Gerald, that means you!). See if you can talk one of the professors into making this a class project using the college recording studio. Everybody who wants to gets to do a dramatic reading of your story that is recorded. You supply the tapes or CDs and each student gets a copy for his very own to use as a demo. Of course you will have to have some kind of paperwork that allows you to use the recording you like best in whatever way you see fit, but that shouldn't be a problem. That agreement should also state that should you receive some compensation for this recording, the talent gets (or doesn't get) X percentage of that. Just a simple agreement, lawyers not needed.

This is not rocket science, folks. Anyone can do it. So get out there, have fun, and make a new market.


At 6:09 AM, Blogger Gerald So said...

Drama department, brilliant!

Unfortunately, I'm not as connected with the college where I used to teach. I do have a songwriter friend who does a lot of his own audio production. Sounds like a plan. If it gets off the ground, I'll be blogging about it.

Maybe Dave Z. would accept a recording of my C.J. Stone story, "A Twist of Kate" which was published in print form in the Summer 2003 issue of Hardluck.

At 10:34 PM, Blogger Bob said...

You don't have to be connected to a college or university to do this. Most young actors will kill to build up their demo portfolios and their drama teachers encourage it. So even if you aren't connected, give it a try.

At 6:43 AM, Blogger Gerald So said...

I've approached my songwriter friend, who's willing to help me record. I'm practicing on "A Twist of Kate", but I may end up recording something else.

At 7:54 AM, Blogger Bob said...

That's terrific, Gerald. If we can get a few more people to join us on this, we might be able to present Audible with a ready-made audio book for them to sell.

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