AUDACITY IN-CLASS ASSIGNMENT

1) Download & copy the following file to your external drive:

 IN-CLASS ASSIGNMENT FOR AUDACITY (Click here to download)

2) Un-zip and open audio files (vo & music) in Audacity.

3) Create a 30 second commercial based on the audio techniques

   you have learned in class and through the tutorials provided.

4) Upload your finished spot into SoundCloud and then embed into a

   blog post titled “Audio Editing In-Class Assignment.”

5) This assignment must be completed and posted by the end of

   class today to receive full credit.

Does Bitrate Really Make a Difference In My Music?

What Is Bitrate?

You’ve probably heard the term “bitrate” before, and you probably have a general idea of what it means, but just as a refresher, it’s probably a good idea to get acquainted with its official definition so you know how all this stuff works. Bitrate refers to the number of bits—or the amount of data—that are processed over a certain amount of time. In audio, this usually means kilobits per second. For example, the music you buy on iTunes is 256 kilobits per second, meaning there are 256 kilobits of data stored in every second of a song.

Does Bitrate Really Make a Difference In My Music?

The higher the bitrate of a track, the more space it will take up on your computer. Generally, an audio CD will actually take up quite a bit of space, which is why it’s become common practice to compress those files down so you can fit more on your hard drive (or iPod, or Dropbox, or whatever). It is here where the argument over “lossless” and “lossy” audio comes in.

Lossless and Lossy Formats

When we say “lossless”, we mean that we haven’t really altered the original file. That is, we’ve ripped a track from a CD to our hard drive, but haven’t compressed it to the point where we’ve lost any data. It is, for all intents and purposes, the same as the original CD track.

More often than not, however, you probably rip your music as “lossy”. That is, you’ve taken a CD, ripped it to your hard drive, and compressed the tracks down so they don’t take up as much space. A typical MP3 or AAC album probably takes up 100MB or so. That same album in lossless format, though—such as FLAC or ALAC (also known as Apple Lossless) would take up closer to 300MB, so it’s become common practice to use lossy formats for faster downloading and more hard drive savings.

The problem is that when you compress a file to save space, you’re deleting chunks of data. Just like when you take a PNG screenshot of your computer screen, and compress it to a JPEG, your computer is taking the original data and “cheating” on certain parts of the image, making it mostly the same but with some loss of clarity and quality. Take these two images as an example: the one on the right has clearly been compressed, and it’s quality has diminished as a result. (You’ll probably have to click the image for a closer look to see the differences).

Remember, of course, that you’re still reaping the benefits of hard drive space with lossy music (which can make a big difference on a 32 GB iPhone), it’s just the tradeoff you make. There are different levels of lossiness, as well: 128kbps, for example, takes up very little space, but will also be lower quality than a larger 320kbps file, which is lower quality than an even larger 1,411 kbps file (which is considered lossless). However, there’s a lot of argument as to whether most people can even hear the difference between different bitrates.

Does It Really Matter?

Since storage has become so cheap, listening to higher-bitrate audio is starting to become a more popular (and practical) practice. But is it worth the time, effort, and space? I always hate answering questions this way, but unfortunately the answer is: it depends.

Does Bitrate Really Make a Difference In My Music?

Part of the equation is the gear you use. If you’re using a quality pair of headphones or speakers, you’re privy to a large range of sound. As such, you’re more likely to notice certain imperfections that come with compressing music into lower bitrate files. You may notice that a certain level of detail is missing in low-quality MP3s; subtle background tracks might be more difficult to hear, the highs and lows won’t be as dynamic, or you might just plain hear a bit of distortion. In these cases, you might want to get a higher bitrate track.

If you’re listening to your music with a pair of crappy earbuds on your iPod, however, you probably aren’t going to notice a difference between a 128 kbps file and a 320 kbps file, let alone a 320 kbps file and a 1,411 kbps file.

The other part of the equation, of course, is your own ears. Some people may just not care enough, or may just not have the more attuned listening skills to tell the difference between two different bitrates. This is something you can develop over time, of course, but if you haven’t yet, then it doesn’t particularly matter what bitrate you use, does it? As with all things, go with what works best for you.

So how high of a bitrate should you use? Is 320kbps okay, or do you need to go lossless? The fact of the matter is that it’s very difficult to hear the difference between a lossless file and a 320kbps MP3. You’d need some serious high-end gear, a very trained ear, and a certain type of music (like classical or jazz) to hear the difference. For the vast majority of people, 320kbps is more than adequate for listening. You don’t need to pain yourself with finding lossless copies of all your favorite songs.

All that said, lossless file types do have their place. Lossless files are more futureproof, in the sense that you can always compress music down to a lossier format, but you can’t take lossy files back to lossless unless you re-rip the CD entirely. This is, again, one of the fundamental issues with online music stores: if you’ve built up a huge library of iTunes music and one day decide that you’d like it in a higher bitrate, you’ll have to buy it again, this time in CD form. You can’t just put data back where it’s been deleted. When possible, I always buy or rip in lossless just for backup purposes, but I’m a little overly OCD—MP3 is a great standard, and it isn’t likely to change anytime soon, so unless you plan on converting your music at a later date, you’re probably fine just ripping or buying in MP3 format.

Whitson Gordon – Ask Lifehacker

Professional Announcing & Vocal Development

Here are the PowerPoints from the last two lectures:

Professional Announcing

Vocal Development

We will have a brief quiz during our next class (or possibly the class after), along with a demonstration of Audacity and the audio recorder.

As we move onto the audio portion of the class, please take time to go through the links below to better prepare yourself.

Download Audacity

Download LAME mp3 encoder

Audacity Manual

Audacity Tutorial

Video Tutorials (You Tube)

Audacity Quick Start

SoundCloud

Tascam DR-07 manual

8 Voiceover Tips for Beginners

This is part of an article written by Brett Slater.  Obviously, all of these points were covered in class:

1)  Be yourself.  You’re not an announcer, and it’s totally OK if you don’t have “that voice.”  You WANT to sound like you.  Authenticity is key in people believing your message.  It’s even OK to work with your engineer/director/producer to rewrite parts of your script on the fly, to make it fit better with the way you naturally speak.

2)  If possible, stand to read.   If not, at least sit up tall.  And hold your script at eye level, so you don’t have to look down to read it.  This will pinch your airway, and affect how you sound.

3)  Position yourself with your mouth about one fist’s width away from the microphone, and speak across the mic – with your head slightly off center — rather than directly into it.  This’ll eliminate popping P’s and B’s, and improve overall quality of the recording.

4)  Smile as you read.  People CAN hear smiles. (If your spot is a happy one, of course)

5)  Over-emote.  Now OVER-over-emote.  If you’d like to convey a mood of happiness, then read as if you’re crazy-happy.  If it’s a sad, or sincere piece, then furrow your brow, and really ooze that sincerity.  No matter how far over the top you may feel like you’re going, it never sounds as overboard on the air.

6)  Envision yourself talking TO someone.  Imagine your ideal customer, or potential customer, and speak to him or her.  And imagine ony ONE person.  While your message may be heard by many, the best impact is made when each person listening feels like you’re speaking only to him or her.

7)  Practice.  Most of the time, you’ll have your script in advance of the session, so practice it.   Try different deliveries, different inflections, and so on.  This will help you with pace, and timing, as well as help you feel less self-conscious about “performing” at the session.

8)  Relax, and have fun!  This is your chance to “play radio” for awhile, and break out of your comfort zone, so enjoy it!  I’m here to do one thing: Help you be clear in conveying your message, and we’ll stay until you’re happy with the result.

Audio Production

Highlighter

This week we will be moving towards the audio portion of the class.  There will be two lectures, with a demonstration on the use of the audio recorder.  You will be quizzed on the lectures.

Please read over the assignment on Audio Projects and download Audacity if you have not yet done so.

What is Royalty Free Music?

There are a lot of inaccurate ideas circulating about Royalty Free Music This article will attempt to explain exactly what Royalty Free Music is and dismiss some of the most common misinterpretations.

In a nutshell Royalty Free Music refers to a type of music licensing that allows the purchaser to pay for the music license only once and to use the music for as long as desired.

For example you purchase a Royalty Free Music license for a video on your website. You pay one single price whether you have 100 visitors or 10,000 visitors, and whether you use the music for 1 month or 10 years. Or you purchase a TV advertising license for your new restaurant. You pay once and the commercial can play once a week or 50 times a week, for 3 months or for 5 years. You pay once and you use it for as long as you want.

The term “Royalty Free” is confusing for more reasons than one. In fact it simply means “Free of Royalty”. The term is in opposition to “rights managed” licensing where the purchaser pays fees (royalties) according to the number of times it will be used as well as the size of the territory. With Rights Managed licensing or “Needle Drop” licensing you would need to pay a fee every time the music is used or as the old term expressed every time the “needle is dropped” on the record.

Just as importantly here is what Royalty Free Music does NOT mean…

Royalty Free Music is NOT free!
It is “Free of Royalty” not cost free. Just like a fat free cookie is “free of fat” not free of cost. Or a “tax free” product is not free, it is just free of taxes. And yes some people may be offering their music for free – whether it is also Royalty Free or not! For example a composer may be offering you his music for free for your College film in exchange for listing his work in the credits.

Royalty Free Music is NOT Stock Music
Although most Royalty Free Music comes from Stock Music Library such as Premiumbeat.com they are not synonymous. A Stock Music Library is a music library that offers music already in stock – already made and ready to license and use. Although some people consider Stock Music negatively as cheap “canned music” it is not the case at all. You have the full range of music quality in stock music from very amateurish poorly mixed music to highly professional music tracks. Stock music is understood in opposition to “custom made” music that is created for a specific product – a film, a commercial, a TV show… Many stock music libraries offer their music on a Royalty Free basis, but other libraries prefer to offer their music with a Rights Managed model or “per usage” based on the frequency of use as well as the size of the territory.

Royalty Free Music is NOT Copyright Free music
I am not sure there is such a thing as “Copyright free” music since anyone who creates a piece of music automatically owns the Copyright for that music. The creator may not care and say that anyone can use his music for any purpose. In this case the Copyright owner is giving you the “right to copy” his music for any purpose. So it may be free to use but that does not make it free of Copyright. And this does not mean that the composer has given up his Performing Rights if his music ends up a background music on television for example. The composer as the Copyright owner may want to receive his composers royalties for the public performance of his music. Even the recordings of Public Domain music are not Copyright Free. The composition may be Copyright Free but not the actual sound recording (also called the Master). You can read an excellent text about Copyright and Public Domain music at PDInfo.com.

Royalty Free Music is NOT a specific type of music
It can be music in any genre from Classical to Heavy Metal to Country music. Instead it is a type of “Music Licensing” for commercial use. Commercial use here means using the music for more than your private usage (your home, your car, your iPod). Private usage is the right you get when you purchase a music CD or pay and download your music from iTunes for example. That does not provide you with any broader rights (your website, your videos, your slideshows, TV shows, etc.).

Royalty Free Music is NOT poor quality music
Any music can be licensed as Royalty Free music. The good the bad and the ugly. This choice for music licensing has strictly nothing to do with the quality of the music itself. The quality will vary enormously from one library to the other. The quality of library music has more to do with management policies, whether the music is hand-picked or not, whether composers are screened or not, etc.

Royalty Free Music is NOT cheap music
Royalty free music can licensed at any price. It is not a price structure, it is simply a licensing model. You can find Royalty Free music for $30 and you can find it for $600. It has nothing to do with pricing, it has to do with the licensing model of not charging royalties each time the music is used. This being said most of the time music licensed with a Royalty Free model is inexpensive and affordable for most people.

Royalty Free Music is NOT Royalty Free!! Say what?
Usually Royalty Free Music licensing does not include “public performance” royalties. Those are royalties paid to composers when their music is performed publicly – on television for example. But these royalties are not being paid by you (the music purchaser) they are being paid by the network that is broadcasting the show where the music is performed either as a featured piece or more commonly on television as background music. Performing Rights Organizations (PRO) like ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, SOCAN, PRS, etc. are being paid by the networks and are in charge of distributing the performing royalties to the music composers. So for the person purchasing the music license it is entirely Royalty Free but if fact some royalties may be paid to the composers by the PROs. Wikipedia mentions this as well on its Royalty Free Music page.

Why is it so confusing? Is there not a better term to describe Royalty Free Music?
The truth is that although I have yet to meet a single person in the industry who actually likes the term “Royalty Free Music”, it is the term that appears to be “sticking” at this time. Chances are in fact that you are reading this because you Googled these words.

Other expressions have been proposed by several people in the industry to describe Licensing from Music Libraries like Premiumbeat.com. These terms are better in many ways. But none of them are sticking for now. Here are few expressions that have been proposed to replace the confusing “Royalty Free Music”:

  • Pre-Licensed Stock Music
  • Pre-Licensed Production Music
  • Pre-Licensed Music Library
  • One-Stop Stock Music library
  • One-Stop Music Shop
  • Single Fee Stock Music
  • Single Fee Music Licensing
  • Single Fee Production Music
  • Pre-Paid Production Music

So should we call it One-Stop Pre-Paid Production Music Shop Licensing Library?

I guess for now we’ll stay with Royalty Free Music.

Gilles Arbour
www.premiumbeat.com