BOOT CAMP ARCHIVE 2005

  

 

BOOT CAMP 362 (02/02/05)

SOUND ADVICE

 

My guess is that something like ninety five percent of PCs boot up and shut down with the same boring Windows jingles. Customising the sounds your PC makes is really easy so why not spend a few minutes pepping up your PC’s musical repertoire and play a few bars of your favourite tunes when it switches on and shuts down?

 

The inspiration for this article is a freeware utility called Audacity 123. It’s a sophisticated audio editing and recording program that lets you manipulate sound files in a much the same way as a word processor handles text. Portions of a sound file can be cut and pasted, you can add effects like echo and reverberation it can alter the speed, tempo, pitch and even change the direction of play, and it is really easy to use.

 

The best way to get to know a program is to actually use it, so this week we’ll show you how to create your own opening and closing sounds so the first thing to do is download and install Audacity on your PC. It can be found at: http://audacity.sourceforge.net/; in addition to the Windows program there are also versions for the Mac OS and Linux.

 

Next, choose your music. Audacity can use .wav or MP3 files stored on your PC and it can record from a variety of inputs. If you can play audio CDs on your PC you can ‘rip’ a track or record from a cassette or disc player connected to your PC’s ‘line’ input. It can also record from a microphone or a record player deck (connected to the PC’s high impedance microphone input). 

 

To record from a CD on your PC, just pop in a disc, open Audacity and select ‘CD Player’ from the drop-down menu next to the microphone icon. Set the disc to play and click the red Record button. When the track or portion you want to record has finished press Stop and Save the file on your PC. Use the same basic procedure if you are recording from an external input or a microphone.

 

The next step is to extract a section of the recording that you want to use and as a general rule try to keep it less than five seconds if you are going to use it for an opening or closing sound. Load the sound file into Audacity from Open on the File menu and it will be displayed as a waveform on a ‘timeline’ or track display; a moving line on the display shows the part that is playing. Initially the whole file is displayed but it can be expanded using the magnifying glass icons to show shorter sections of the file in greater detail; this is handy for precisely identifying the start and end points of your selected passage.

 

Using the Play and Stop controls locate the end of the segment that you want to use. By the way, when Audacity is in Stop mode you can go quickly to any point of the recording and click into the timeline for more accurate positioning. Once you have found the end of the section left click the mouse and drag the pointer to the end of the track then remove the highlighted section by pressing the Delete key. Now repeat the process to delete the portion ahead of the start point and you will be left with your chosen segment. For an even faster shortcut method see Tip of the Week. Don’t worry if you make a mistake, you can always ‘undo’ the last change from curved arrow icon on the toolbar.

 

At this point you can add effects to all or part of your recording by highlighting it with the mouse and making a selection from the Effects menu. It’s tempting to go overboard and end up with a nasty sounding mess so if this is your first attempt at audio editing my advice is to keep thing simple, just highlight the last half second or so of your segment and select Fade Out, so that it doesn’t end too abruptly.

 

After each change Play the sound and when you are happy with it select ‘Export as WAV’ on the file menu, give it a name and save it in the Media folder in C:\windows. 

 

To assign your newly created tune to a Windows ‘event’ go to Start > Control Panel and select the Sounds icon (and the Sounds tab in Windows XP). Scroll down the list to highlight ‘Start Windows’, click the Browse button to locate your file, which should be in the C:\windows\media folder. Select the file, click OK, then OK to close the Window. Follow the same procedure for Exit Windows and why not create something interesting for the ‘New Mail Notification’ sound?

 

That is just a small sample of what Audacity can do-- see also Tip of the week. If you are feeling adventurous try the cut and paste options to create your own compositions by opening multiple timelines and stitch together short ‘samples’ from different tracks. You can also use it to produce sound effects for home movies or stage productions or try your hand at editing recordings; the possibilities are endless.

 

Next week –  Malware Menace

 

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 and for storing musical files in personal audio players

 

RIP

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

 

TIMELINE

Graphical display used in editing applications to display parts of a video or audio recording in relation to time

 

TIP OF THE WEEK

To quickly isolate a section of a recording highlight it on the timeline display using the mouse then click the ‘Trim Outside Selection’ icon on the toolbar and the sounds either side of the selected segment will be deleted. Selected parts of a recording can be deleted just as easily using the ‘cut’ button, and you can mute sections of a track using the ‘Silence Selection’ tool. Other facilities worth investigating are the Time Shift and Multi-mode tools, which let you change the position of sounds on a timeline and alter the amplitude of selected passages.

 

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