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An audio newbie looking for some advice

I know there are a lot of developers out there who are into audio creation. Hopefully, some of them read and post on JOS.

I need to record my voice to an audio file. I plan on having a friend help me integrate this audio file with a video movie that was created with a camcorder. The camcorder movie has already been transferred to a PC and converted into an AVI file and an MPEG1 file.

I am a complete audio newbie. I currently don't have a clue how to properly record my voice to an audio file and edit the audio file if needed.

Questions I have:

* What audio recording/editing software do you recommend a newbie should use?

* I only own a cheap microphone that plugs into my PC. Is this going to be a problem?

* Not sure what file format I should save the audio file as. Any good audio related web sites for newbies? How about books?

TIA for any help given.

Audio Newbie
Sunday, March 7, 2004

Very very basic setup.

Sound Recorder - Comes with Windows.
AVI Editor - Comes with Visual Studio. (It sure was in 6.0, anyway)



Inidan Developer in India
Sunday, March 7, 2004

* What audio recording/editing software do you recommend a newbie should use?

From my website:

ProTools Free
Well, if you're running Windows 9x or OS9, then ProTools makes a free version of it's software. The only drawback is it only supports 8 tracks. At this price it may be worth it to dust off that Windows 98 disc. Another plus of this software is that anyone can install it. Your friend doesn't have to buy a copy in order to share your sessions. So you can take your USB based sound card over to you friend's house and continue working.

On January 15, 2003, David Lemire sent to me:

In regard to DAW software, here are some inexpensive and/or free candidates I've come across in my searches that I didn't see on your page.  I've not personally tried any of these other than a coupla minutes playing with n-Track.

    * FASoft n-track
      shareware program, try-before-you-buy option, seems to have a really good rep on AM4T.
    * Quartz AudioMaster Freeware
      limited freeware version of their commercial products.  "Quartz AudioMaster Freeware will allow you to record, edit, mix, share and deliver your productions driving a fully integrated 4 tracks digital mixer, recorder, sound and time line editor in perfect synch with a 16 tracks MIDI sequencer."
    * Audacity
      Open source audio editor.  "Version 1.0.0 is the final, stable version of the original Audacity. It is a good, simple audio editor suitable for recording, mixing, and editing ordinary tracks of CD-quality audio, on many platforms  including Windows, Mac OS, and Linux."
    * PowerTracks Pro
      From the web site:  "PowerTracks Pro Audio is a professional, fully featured digital audio and MIDI workstation, packed with features for musicians, students and songwriters. With seamlessly integrated digital audio / MIDI recording, and built-in music notation, PowerTracks turns a typical soundcard equipped Windows PC into a music production powerhouse!" (From the same folks who sell "Band In A Box").  This was discussed a little bit recently on, and I've seen positive things about it in other newsgroups.

Windows comes with a sound recorder program (or used to, I haven't had the occasion to use it in a while) that should be "good enough" for simple use.


* I only own a cheap microphone that plugs into my PC. Is this going to be a problem?

No, as long as you don't mind cheep microphone sound.

If you want a super-simple hardware set up that's a step up from yours check:

You can also get an idea of what your sound card might sound like from his mp3.


* Not sure what file format I should save the audio file as. Any good audio related web sites for newbies? How about books?

On the PC, WAV files, on the Mac I believe it's AIFF. These are the uncompressed formats. You could use a proram like CDex to conver the WAV files to mp3 later on.

I have a whole series of articles on this kind of thing, but aimed a little higher than where you're aiming.
Sunday, March 7, 2004

> on the Mac I believe it's AIFF

Or maybe SD2 (Sound Designer 2)... on a Mac you probably don't have to think about it...
Sunday, March 7, 2004

Audacity is probably exactly what you need.

Since you already have a mic, download audacity and record a bit with it. If it sucks.. which is likely.. you need a better mic and preamp. Perhaps you can borrow/rent it?

Eric Debois
Sunday, March 7, 2004

In the audio field there is the saying "crap in, crap out". So you should try to use the best equipment you can get your hands on.

- The microphone is the most crucial part. No need to go expensive but maybe a friend has a Sure SM-58 he can borrow you? When you really want to buy a mic for yourself go to a music shop and get the cheapest SM-58 lookalike. Don't buy a microphone at a computer store.

- The second most important part is the A/D converter. In most cases you will use your soundcard but if you can get something external, use it (cheap is OK). You won't get a good signal when the converter is in the same box as the hard drive and the graphics card. If possible buy this at a music store and not at a computer store. (Computer people are very immusical, they make loud machines.)

No matter what equipment you use the following applies to all:

- When recording don't hold the mic in your hand. Try to get a stand for it.

- Turn the input level of your A/D converter (your soundcard) as high as possible without distorting your voice. Speak louder than normal (this might be weird at first but don't be shy).

- Don't expect to get it right on the first take but have your recording software running in case you might nail it immediately. Musicians always run at least a DAT recorder just in case.

- After you recorded your voice normalize the sound file so it will be as loud as possible. Every audio software can do this, the command is called "Normalize".

- Don't get fancy with compression (audio compression, not MP3 compression). You can make things very bad if you don't know what you do. It's best to just leave your voice the way it is because the human ear is very aware of changes made to the human voice.

- If you have too much background noise experiment with the noise gate. Again, every audio software can do this, the command is called "Noise Gate". This way you can't get rid of the noise but you can silence the recording during the pauses. Make the decay rather long, it will sound unnaturally with a short decay. Don't overdo this effect!

- If the background noise really disturbs you, you should record again and speak louder. If that doesn't help you have to get your hands on better equipment.

Well, that's almost all you can do. You should always keep in mind how you will use the sound and if you really need an expensive microphone or not. And don't overdo the processing afterwards, normalizing should be enough.

Please excuse my english grammar. :-)

Sunday, March 7, 2004

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