BOOT CAMP ARCHIVE 2002

  

 

BOOT CAMP 254 (03/12/02)

 

MAKING YOUR OWN CDS & DVDS, part 4

 

After backing up data files on a PC the next most popular application for a CD writer has to be making your own music CDs. Most people are content to use their CD writer to copy or ‘clone’ CDs or create compilation albums of their favourite tracks from several discs but with some extra software and a simple connecting lead you can make CD copies or compilations from vinyl records and tape cassettes. You can even commit your own musical efforts to disc or copy material from other recording devices. The only restriction is disc capacity, which on a standard CD-R/RW blank is 650 or 700Mb or between 74 and 80 minutes recording time.

 

Initially the only option was to create audio CDs using the standard CD-A or ‘Red Book’ file format but now there’s MP3 as well. This is an audio data compression format, originally used on the short-lived Video CD (VCD) format but nowadays mostly used to send music files ‘ripped’ from audio CDs over the Internet. With MP3 compression it is possible to squeeze more than ten hours worth of music or several albums onto one recordable CD. The level of compression – indicated by the recording/playback data rate in kilobits per second (kbs) – can be varied. At the highest compression/lowest data rate  (between 50 to 120kbs) the quality is not that great and music can sound a bit thin and flat but it’s fine for providing endless background music at parties or playback on a personal player through earphones. At lower compression/higher data rates (120 to 200kbs) it becomes increasingly difficult to tell the difference between an MP3 track and a CD original.

 

MP3 is a proprietary format so discs cannot be played on most current audio CD equipment but a growing number of new audio CD decks, personal players and DVD players -- which can double up as audio CD players -- have an MP3 replay feature. In any event the incompatibility with standard CD players is easily overcome by converting MP3 files into CD-A format before being copied to recordable CD. Inevitably thought, the quality suffers in the compression and conversion processes and you’ll be back to the 74/80-minute time limit imposed by the CD-A format.

 

Copying an entire audio CD or making a compilation album is normally very straightforward using the software supplied with your CD writer (usually Easy CD Creator or Nero Burning). In most cases all you have to do is load the disc you want to copy or take tracks from and start your CD writer program, select ‘Audio Recording’ mode, choose the tracks from a Windows Explorer type display and follow the step-by-step instructions. It helps if your PC has a second CD-ROM drive (in addition to the CD-writer) otherwise the tracks have to be copied to the hard disc drive so the finished CD can be recorded in one session.

 

If you want to do anything more adventurous, such as compile an audio CD from vinyl LPs, tape cassettes or make your own original recordings you will need some extra software and it helps to a little about audio file formats. At the very least you will need an audio recorder/editor program. This is used to store the music or sounds from a record player, tape deck or microphone, coming into your PC, via the ‘line input’ or ‘mic’ sockets on the back panel. An editing utility may also be needed to split a continuous recording from an LP into separate tracks. You might also need a file converter, to turn the recorded files into audio CD or MP3 files, before the CD writer records them.

 

There are lots of audio file formats but the only other ones you need to be aware of, apart from CD-A, and MP3 are Wave (file extension *.wav) and possibly Midi (*.mid). Wave is the standard Windows audio file format, data is not compressed so there are no significant quality issues; in other words what goes in comes out. Wave files are created by recording programs or when compiling a CD album; tracks from the original disc are converted into .wav format then converted back into CD-A files during the recording process. Midi (musical instrument digital interface) is a file format used more or less exclusively for recording electronically generated sounds, by a PC or a synthesiser.

 

There are plenty of sound recorder programs and file converters to choose from, many of them freeware and shareware, but for beginners it’s usually better to opt for a program that combines several functions, i.e. recording, file conversion, track compilation and CD burning.  A good place to start for basic recorder, converter and CD Ripper software is the Tucows website:

www.tucows.com/mmedia.html

 

also have a look at:

www.goldwave.com/

www.syntrillium.com/

 

If you want to transfer your treasured vinyl record collection to CD then RIP Vinyl, 1st Sound recorder and Wave Corrector are worth investigating, more information from:

www.ripvinyl.com,

www.1st-sound-recorder.com/index.htm

www.wavecor.co.uk/

 

There’s also a useful tutorial on the subject of LP to CD-R recording at:

www.delback.co.uk/lp-cdr.htm

 

MP3 Recorder is an easy to use, low cost program for converting audio files and burning audio CD files, you find a demo at:

www.acoustica.com/

 

Next week – pictures on disc

 

JARGON FILTER

 

MP3

Motion Picture Experts Group audio layer 3 -- digital audio compression system commonly used to send files containing audio and music over the Internet

 

RED BOOK

The official standard for audio CD, established by Philips and Sony in 1982. The Yellow Book describes CD-ROM, Video CD is covered by White Book, the CD-R/RW spec is detailed in the Orange Book, and so on.

 

RIPPING

Extracting tracks from an audio CD, so they can be re-recorded or converted to other audio formats, like MP3

 

TOP TIP

As with most things to do with PCs the process of making your own data or music CDs is riddled with impenetrable jargon. It’s tempting to believe that a lot of it is made up to make it appear more difficult than it really is. That may well be true and you can join in the fun with the BuzzPhraser generator at: http://www.buzzphraser.com/. Simply define the language (Technolatin or Collabolatin) select the number of nouns, suffixes, adnouns, adjectives, adverbs and prefixes and click the button for a prime specimen of gibberish. Hours of mindless fun, or maybe you could drop in a few choice phrases in conversation or a report, to impress the boss…

 

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