Thursday, February 28, 2008

Locating podsafe music

For the heritage walk project I needed a short piece of music for the introduction and ending of the audio file. this resulted in many hours being spent looking for possibilities. There is lots of music available online but finding appropriate pieces of music that can used legally is a little more difficult and time consuming. A lot of the music available that could be used is directed at an audience that would probably not listen to a heritage walk.

A search on Google for Podsafe Music was the starting point.

Wikipedia contains a useful introductory article about Podsafe music.

An article that discusses the problems in locating podsafe music is by Keith Robertson How to find podsafe music. He provides a list of sites that provide Creative Commons licensed music. Robertson is looking for full tracks to play on regular podcast programs while I just require a few bars to use. One of the sites he listed was CCMixter, - "a community music site featuring remixes licensed under Creative Commons where you can listen to, sample, mash-up, or interact with music in whatever way you want" - CCMixter website. On the Samples page a number of sites are listed including Magnatune samples which contains a section of loops available for remixing. The music is arranged by genre so I looked for something jazz oriented.

Another website that contains music mp3 files available for downloading for no charge is The audio files are often sample songs to showcase a performer or group and the full album can then be purchased. Being able to download music free of charge and then reusing it are two different issues. Often from such sites material can be used for non commercial use provided due acknowledgement is given. It is necessary to check the fine print which may not necessarily provide a clear explanation.

Much of the music online made available for podcasts is provided to be played in full to promote the recordings and the artists. What I require is a loop.

Back to Google (searched for - podcasts introduction music loops) where I found a number of possible websites including Flash Kit which includes a section containing loops that can be used in multimedia projects. The loops are predominantly labelled as shareware (there may be a charge) or freeware. The information on the use of freeware loops downloaded from the Flash Kit website states - " If you download a freeware loop, you may use it in your presentations as you see fit. As a courtesy it's nice to thank the creator of the loop, and include a link to them."

In the Search Sound Loops box I typed - Jazz freeeware - and from the list randomly chose a 15 second loop entitled Cool Jazz presented by Jie Ma. Description of the piece - "A smooth jazz type loop. A simple bass line, drums and synth strings. On top of that a beautiful jazz melody played on piano". I downloaded the loop to edit into the audio files for the walk.

It took may hours of trial and error searching to locate something that I could use - discovering what was available, determining what I really needed, investigating the legal aspects and using the correct terms to locate possible items was all part of the learning curve involved with this podcasting project.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Blogs or web logs are a good way to record information as it happens - in many cases they can be described as a web diary. Because blogs are so easy to set up they are increasingly used on the Internet by people recording their views on a variety of subjects, recording information about a holiday etc.

This blog is created using Blogger - .

I am using the Information technology and local history blog to record information about a number of different IT projects. It is not a manual but the information on a variety of technology related topics posted at different times will hopefully provide help people undertaking similar projects or provide ideas for projects.

Each post (block of information or message) is given a label which helps readers of the blog locate information on a specific topic. The list of labels can be found in the panel on the left border of the page. Clicking on a label will take you to the posts that been allocated that label.

Increasingly people are using RSS readers to keep track of new postings in a blog. There are many ways of doing this. One RSS reader is Bloglines - . Log on to Bloglines and paste the url for the blog (for this blog the url to paste is ) in the blog or url feed box and then click the subscribe button. The feeds (links to new posts) from selected websites collected by Bloglines can be accessed on any computer with Internet access by logging into Bloglines.

Recent editions of the browser, Firefox, show a small square orange symbol in the right hand corner of the url search box. Clicking this symbol allows you to subscribe to a blog directly using an RSS reader such as Bloglines. Alternatively, if you regularly use the same computer you can add the link to the blog using the Live Bookmark option so it appears in a toolbar on your browser. Latest editions of Internet Explorer also have this feature.

The advantage of using an RSS reader or link to a site such as a blog is that you can be alerted whenever new information is posted in the blog without the need of having to regularly check the blog itself.

At the end of each post in this blog you will find a section where comments can be made about the information in the post. Readers will however need to be logged into Blogger to post a comment.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Creating a slide show using Flickr

Flickr is a free photo sharing website - - where any photographer can post their images.

For the heritage walk project I wanted to include a slide show of some of the sites in the walk so I wandered around the city, trying to avoid traffic and pedestrians, to take photos with a digital camera. It is amazing how many construction sites and signs there are in the city when you want to photograph a building. I am not a photographer but the images should give the viewer, especially those not going on the actual walk, a pictorial view of the walk.

I already had a Flickr account (Click the Create Your Account button, then follow the directions, on the Flickr website to create your own account) so I loaded the images into a new album on the Flickr site.

There are many ways that images on Flickr can be used including creating slide shows of your own images or other images on Flickr. I used the slide show generator on the website Big Huge Labs
The generator provides you with a string of text to include in your website to generate the slide show.

The result for the slide show for the first part of the heritage walk is -
Link to slide show:
Slide show can be viewed at View slideshow


Button for slide show - View slideshow

One of these links will be inserted into the Podcast page on the website together with the link to the Podcast file.

Editing the heritage walk podcast

Editing the audio files for the heritage walk podcast provided additional challenges. This project commenced in September and was the first project where I used Audacity so it was initially a steep learning curve. However, once I determined that the best way to learn was actually to practise on an audio file, make mistakes, experiment with different features of the program etc I realised that editing audio files could really be fun and there is always the Undo option to use if things do not go to plan. Of course the first thing to do is to make a copy of the original file so if a disaster occurs you can always start again.

Basic editing of audio files follows the same principles as editing a word document but instead of selecting a word or a section of text you select a section of the audio file (a series of wavy lines representing sounds) and then cut, copy, paste, duplicate, delete etc. When editing you listen to the sound and watch the lines, stop the program where an edit is required, edit the program and move on. Sections of the file can be removed completely or moved to another location in the file or into a separate file. Where there is an unwanted pause between sections of the recording - usually indicated by a straight line, part or all of the pause can be removed.

For this project I wanted to add a sound to indicate the end of a section of the walk so that a person using the podcast on a walk could pause the digital player until they arrived at the next place described in the recording. We located the sound of a chime which I then duplicated with a pause between each chime and copied and pasted the chime section wherever it was required.

I also wanted some music to use as part of the introduction to the heritage walk podcast so I investigated a number of sites on the Internet where music is freely available, chose a few bars of one piece and then manipulated it in Audacity to fade in and out to use at the beginning and end of the podcast. Ideally I would like to record a few bars of an original piece to use but that may come later.

When editing the project I decided that the initial walk as planned was too long and fell into two distinct areas so divided the project into two walks. The first part just needs an introduction recorded and added and then it will be ready to go on line. The second section still requires editing.

This project has taken much longer than first anticipated but it has been a good learning experience, particularly in transferring a project from one form of media to another. For instance when the chimes were inserted to indicate a break, clear directions to reach the next site needed to be given before the chimes. As there could be considerable distance between sites, the address of the site was repeated at the beginning of the new segment. The project is still being fine tuned but will be ready to go online when the podcast page is launched on the RHSV website, later this year.

Preparing a heritage walk as a podcast

Placing the RHSV lectures online was one project. Podcasts are increasingly used to provide information about exhibitions and also for creating self-guided walks.

During 2007 volunteers at the RHSV prepared an exhibition, History begins at home, which is still currently on display at the RHSV building, 239 A'Beckett Street, Melbourne. The exhibition looked at the buildings and sites surrounding the former Army Medical Drill Hall, part of which now houses the RHSV.

John was asked to prepare a heritage walk for the area and it was decided that one form that the walk could take would be to create a podcast of the walk. Putting the audio files online would allow people to download the audio files to their computer and either listen to the files at home or add them to a portable digital player such as an ipod and listen to the description of the sites while going on the walk.

All projects require a great deal of time in planning and research. John collected information about possible buildings and sites of interest to include in the walk and then prepared a draft map for the walk. He then tested the walk and spent time revising both the walk information and the route the walk was to take before the first recording was made.

This was our first experiment with such a project so we had a number of false starts as we learned to use equipment, work out the best and quietest part of the building to make the recording, establish that one of the chairs squeaked if the person sitting on it moved etc. There were also techniques to learn when recording, especially the speed at which to speak, and the ability to sound confident when recording the text.

The recording was made using a JNC digital recorder with a lapel microphone. A later recording of part of the walk was made using a microphone connected directly to the computer using Audacity.

The first recording made, I then tested the walk. Although I knew the content I had not previously undertaken the walk so I undertook the exercise as someone who knew little or nothing about the route. It soon became obvious that we needed to revise the project and include clearer directions on how to get from point A to Point B. The project had originally been designed as a pamphlet and although directions had been included in the version for the recording, in some places they would not have been clear to a person undertaking the walk. In any project - article or book, exhibition, website etc, the author / designer can become too close to the work so it is useful to have the work reviewed by another person providing another perspective to ensure that nothing has been omitted or might be clearer if expressed in a different way.

The text for the walk was revised and rerecorded and retested a number of times with input from a number of people. I was then ready to edit the audio files to use as a podcast.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Editing the audio files

I was not able to attend the actual talk being recorded but from all accounts there were no problems with the actual recording. The speaker arrived early so it was possible to pre-test that everything was working. Fortunately the microphones that we had left set up at the dress rehearsal on the Friday were at the right height for the speaker and therefore did not need adjusting - so luck was on our side there. We were also very fortunate to have a speaker who was aware that this was an experiment and did not mind being confronted with recording equipment. He was also an experienced speaker.

Both the recordings made provided clear audio files. The recording made using the digital recorder and the lapel microphone, as well as recording the voice of the speaker clearly, also picked up the voices of the people introducing and thanking the speaker reasonably clearly. The voices of people asking questions during question time were also audible even though some of these people were sitting near the back of the room. The recording made via the microphone connected directly to the computer clearly picked up voices speaking directly into it. No attempt was made to record question time using this set up.

At the RHSV I did a quick spot check of both audio files and then transferred the audio files to a USB flash drive to transfer to my computer at home.

The recording of the lecture recorded directly to the computer using the Audacity program had been saved as Audacity Project Files. This creates two sets of files both containing the name under which the project was saved - a data folder containing the audio file broken down into segments and the full .aup file. When transferring the Audacity files from one computer to another, both sets of files need to be transferred. I had transferred only the folder with the segments so I could only work with 12 second segments of the tape. As an experiment I imported a number of these files into Audacity and combined them into one file but was not prepared to do that for a 48 minute recording. Still I proved to myself it could be done and in future I will remember to save both the files when transferring Audacity files. When next at the RHSV I collected the other file and was then able to work with the complete file.

The recording of the lecture recorded on the digital recorder was saved as a MP3 file. When I tried to import this file into Audacity on my lap top at home I was not able to open the file as it was 67MB. I used the program, MP3Tweak -, to compress the file and was then able to open it in Audacity.

Originally we had not intended to include questions but as they had recorded so clearly I decided to use them as a separate file. Although the voices of the questioners were reasonably clear I was able to enhance the voice of each speaker to make it louder.

I did not edit the actual lecture as the recording was clear and the aim of the exercise was to reproduce a recording of a talk given on a particular night. If there had been large pauses or problems during the talk I could have removed them quite easily. I did however edit the introduction to the talk - only using the sections relating directly to the speaker and the topic.

After going through both recordings of the talk I was able to produce two files. The first contained a short introduction followed by the talk - 48 minutes. The second file contained question time and the vote of thanks to the speaker - 20 minutes.

The recording of the lecture itself used was the audio files made via the microphone directly to the computer but the recording made from the digital recorder via the lapel microphone could also have been used. The latter method provided the audio files for the questions.

Each audio file was exported from Audacity as an MP3 file and then compressed using MP3Tweak. The first file was 11.2MB and the second file 5.2MB.

A number of sites on the Internet provide information about using Audacity. Audacity Tutorial is a good place to start and there is also Audacity Wiki which provides information about the software.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Recording the talk

February 12 was the date of the first 'live podcast'. As the Tuesday lectures are held on days when I work for another organisation we had a dress rehearsal on the Friday.

The first step was to set up the new microphone on its stand and position it close to the podium. With the amplified microphone there as well it looked a little like the set up for a press conference. The adaptor was connected to the end of the microphone cable and plugged into the microphone port (with a microphone emblem) on the front of a lap top computer positioned on a table at the front of the room.

The audio files were to be recorded on the computer using the program, Audacity, a free audio editing and recording program - - available from SourceForge.

It was time to experiment. We had already checked with the speaker that he would not be using Power Point so we would be able to use the microphone at the podium to record the talk.

Recording in Audacity is not difficult. Open Audacity on the computer. In the Audacity toolbar there are six (6) circle buttons which control recording functions. The third button with the red dot is the Record button. Press the button to start recording. The button next to it with two blue parallel lines is the Pause button used to pause and then restart the recording and the next button with the yellow square is the Stop button used to end the recording. When recording starts a series of lines - peaks and troughs appears on the screen.

Making sure that the microphone was on and everything was connected time was spent experimenting with positioning the microphone so that a clear recording could be made. We were also concerned to avoid any feedback or interference from the micro used for amplification.

Once the recording is made it needs to be saved. As we were later going to do some editing we saved the audio file as an Audacity Project File. The file could have been exported as a WAV file or a MP3 file (another file (LAME MP3 encoder) needs to be downloaded from the SourceForge site to do this -

We also experimented with the digital recorder. Once the battery was in the recorder we were asked to select a folder in which the file would be stored. When the lead to the lapel microphone was plugged into the microphone port we needed to confirm that it was to be used. The buttons on the side of player are similar to the buttons on the Audacity program. The Record button was used to start recording (this also functions as the Pause button) and there is a Stop button to end of the recording. We experimented with the lapel microphone in different positions and also had people in different parts of the room to hear if their voices would be picked up by the microphone. The audio file on the digital recorder is saved as a MP3 file.

At the weekend I prepared basic notes on recording using Audacity and emailed them to Ged. Ged copied relevant pages from the manual for the digital recorder in case they were needed. It was then fingers crossed that all would work well on the night.

Podcasting Adventure commences

The Royal Historical Society of Victoria received a grant to provide access to podcasts of RHSV lectures and other events via the RHSV website.

After initial research to locate information as to how other organisations were doing this and the equipment used it was time to purchase some equipment and experiment. I own a JNC digital recorder and had used it for recording interviews. I had also downloaded the program, Audacity, which I was learning to use to edit audio files so I had a small amount of experience.

For this project I wanted equipment that would provide a range of options for recording in varying circumstances.

The lectures are normally held in the former Officers' Mess - a wood panelled room with large windows looking across William Street to the Flagstaff Gardens. From time to time the noise of passing traffic can be quite loud but fortunately the majority of meetings are held in the evening when there is less traffic. The potential noise of traffic however has to be a consideration.

The meeting room seats up to 80 people so I wanted a system that would capture the voice of the speaker but not necessarily the range of other noises associated with a room full of people.

There is a podium where speakers can rest their notes and are encouraged to speak into the microphone fixed to the podium so that everyone in the room can hear them. The microphone is linked to an amplification system - not sure how old it is but it was installed many years ago.

Speakers however do not necessarily stay in one place so there is also a microphone connected to the amplification system that can be worn around the speaker's neck, if the speaker wants to use a Power Point presentation or other aid, instead of using the fixed microphone.

Any equipment purchased had to be easy to use, especially as different people might be setting it up depending when the equipment was required.

Talks and other functions are sometimes held in other parts of the former Drill Hall downstairs so we wanted a system that could be used elsewhere in the building. We also wanted a system that could be used to record talks etc at other locations, if required.

Fortunately the first speaker for the year, Andrew Lemon, was prepared to be the 'guinea pig' for recording our first 'live' audio files and didn't mind that we were still experimenting with equipment.

It was decided to trial two systems for capturing the audio files.

The first option was to be able to record a speaker from a portable recorder.
A Sony IC recorder was purchased (ICDUX70). We needed a unit that would record mp3 files and would connect directly to the computer via USB. This recorder uses one AAA battery and will use a rechargeable battery which is recharged via the computer. We also wanted a unit where the controls are easy to use. Although the unit has a built in microphone and comes with headphones we purchased a separate lapel microphone to connect to the recorder.

The second option was to record a speaker using a fixed microphone connected directly to a computer.
A trip to Allans Music Store in Bourke Street introduced me to a range of microphones. I explained to the salesman what I wanted to do and he suggested a microphone - a Shure PG48 - that could be connected to a computer provided that I also purchased the appropriate adaptor. I also purchased a stand for the microphone.

A third option was to to record a speaker using the amplified microphone via a cable from the amplifier to the computer.
As the amplifier at the RHSV is an older model we could not locate a suitable output port to do this.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


The Royal Historical Society of Victoria received a grant to enable the society to add podcasts to the RHSV website. The first entries in this blog will record experiences and experiments to achieve this aim.

The ability to include audio files in websites has been a feature of the Internet for many years - the RHSV included such a link in the section on the Victorian Folklore Fund several years ago.

With the increasing popularity of portable digital players, particularly ipods, organisations are increasingly making available audio files of talks and other recorded information. Podcasting has become the term for this and includes adding a rss feed, where audio files are regularly added to a site, to enable users to add the feed to their rss reader and have access to the material added to the site.

The next postings in this blog will follow the path taken to select the equipment used to record a lecture, editing the digital recording using Audacity software and making the audio file available online.