Look out Backstreet Boys
by Alan Zisman (c)
2000. First published
in Vancouver Computes,
If you?re the parent of a child in elementary school,
attended your share of Winter Concerts?events where the school choir
band and the various classes of young ones proudly perform songs or
on a seasonal theme.
This year, I offered to record my school?s 1999
only, please?there are enough parents with camcorders. I?ve done this a
few times in the past, and have some familiarity with microphones and
mixing boards. This year, though, I tried something new to me.
Rather than connect a tape recorder to the mixing
board, I thought I?d
try plugging in my notebook computer and recording straight to my hard
drive, making a big WAV file. How big? Well, consider?an audio CD holds
about an hour?s music. In the same amount of space, a CD-ROM disk can
up to about 650 MB of data. So CD-quality stereo recording requires
10 MB for each minute recorded. . I had about a gigabyte free on the
than enough for the promised hour?s concert.
Being a conservative kind of guy, I also recorded the
a cassette tape deck. But I never even listened to that version. The
was a year-old, Pentium 300 model. Running Windows 2000, if that
Of course you need software. I used Sonic Foundary?s
Sound Forge XP
(www.soundforge.com). Sound Forge is a full-featured, US$499 program,
the US$49 XP version did all I needed, and then some.
Despite having never done any digital recording
before, it proved easy
to use?rather like a tape recorder, in fact. Set recording levels, then
click on the Record button. 600+ megs later, click on the Stop button,
and save the file. That simple.
The next day, I loaded the saved file back into Sound
Forge XP, and
located the parts that actually had performances, rather than the
of children moving on or off stage. This was easy to do, visually
the peaks and valleys of the displayed graph. It was equally easy to
the songs to the Clipboard, pasting each into a separate file, and then
saving it with the song?s name. The program?s special effects let me
into the beginning and fade out the applause at the end of each song,
a more professional sound. Other than that, I ignored the collection of
digital special effects.
Once I had my dozen individual tracks, it was only
natural to think
of what to do with them.
Since I have a CD burner, it was easy to think of
making an audio CD.
My HP deck, like many models, ships with a limited version of Adaptec?s
EZ CD-Creator software, which can be used to convert WAV-format songs
CD-Audio, and burn to disk. But I?d invested in the full version?the
EZ CD-Creator Pro. This includes a CD Spin Doctor utility that can be
for example, to remove clicks, scratches, and hiss if you?re making a
from an old record. I used it, in this case, to equalize the volume
all my songs?so the little class of Grade 1s sounded as loud as the big
Grade 7 choir.
Then, back to the main EZ CD-Creator program to burn a
test CD and create
a cover for it, using scanned student art. It sounded good enough that
the school decided to try to sell it as a fundraiser. Scanning the back
pages of this publication got the names of a couple of companies who
press CDs and print the accompanying covers and such.
At the same time, since the school has a web server,
it seemed a natural
to put the concert online. That meant converting the songs to a more
format?in this case MP3, since that format is supported by most
Windows or Mac or what-have-you. There are lots of programs that can do
that?I used NexEncode, both because it worked, and because it?s free (www.team-nexgen.com/main).
While the actual music is probably most interesting to
involved and their parents, if you want, you can find it at http://maquinna.vsb.bc.ca/xmas99.
discovery- what happens when you double-click on the songs
depends what software you?re using to play them. If your system is
to use popular programs like WinAmp, Real JukeBox, or QuickTime, you?ll
need to download the files (typically about 4 megs each), and then play
them. But combine a fast Internet connection and the latest version of
Microsoft?s MediaPlayer and they actually act like streaming
in real time.
The moral?everything worked. Simply and easily. And
with the help of
relatively standard computer hardware and relatively inexpensive
Vancouver?s Chief Maquinna Elementary School kids are now on the
and on CD, just like some pop powerhouse.