Understanding music copyrights

on Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Music can easily be imported into your computer for use in your movies. The tricky part is obtaining the rights to use that music legally. Realistically, if you’re making a video of your daughter’s birthday party, and you only plan to share that video with a grandparent or two, Kool and the Gang probably don’t care if you use the song “Celebration” as a musical soundtrack. But if you start distributing that movie all over the Internet — or (even worse) start selling it — you could have a problem that involves the band, the record company, and lots and lots of lawyers.
The key to using music legally is licensing. You can license the right to use just about any music you want, but it can get expensive. Licensing “Celebration” for your movie project (for example) could cost hundreds of dollars or more. Fortunately, more affordable alternatives exist.
Numerous companies offer CDs and online libraries of stock audio and music, which you can license for as little as $30 or $40. You can find these resources by searching the Web for “royalty free music,” or visit a site such as www.royaltyfree.com or www.royalty freemusic.com. You usually must pay a fee to download or purchase the music initially, but after you have purchased it, you can use the music however you’d like. If you use audio from such a resource, make sure you read the licensing agreement carefully. Even though the music is called “royalty free,” you still may be restricted on how many copies you may distribute, how much money you can charge, or what formats you may offer.
Another — more affordable — alternative may be to use the stock audio that comes with some moviemaking software. Pinnacle Studio, for example, comes with a tool called SmartSound which automatically generates music in a variety of styles and moods. Although you should always carefully review the software license agreements to be sure, normally the audio that comes with moviemaking software can be used in your movie projects free of royalties.

How to Import CD audio in Pinnacle Studio?


Pinnacle Studio provides an audio toolbox to help you work with CD audio and other formats. To open the audio toolbox in Studio, place an audio CD in your CD-ROM drive and choose Toolbox➪Add CD Music. You may be asked to enter a title for the CD. The exact title doesn’t matter, so long as it’s something you will be able to identify and remember later. The audio toolbox allows you to perform a variety of actions:
  • Choose audio tracks from the CD using the Track menu.
  • Use playback controls in the audio toolbox to preview audio tracks.
  • Add only a portion of the audio clip to your movie by adjusting the in point and out point markers.
  • Add a track to the movie as a clip in the background music track at the bottom of the timeline by clicking the Add to Movie.
The clip is at the current position of the play head. After you add a CD audio track to your movie project, play the project to preview your addition. The first time you preview the movie with the CD audio track added, Studio captures the required audio from the CD. If the disc isn’t in the CD-ROM drive the first time you try to play the project, Studio asks you to insert the disc before the process can continue.

How to Import CD audio in iMovie?


If you’re using Apple iMovie, you can take audio directly from your iTunes library or import audio from an audio CD. Here’s the basic drill:
  1. Put an audio CD in your CD-ROM drive, and then click the Audio button above the timeline on the right side of the iMovie screen. The audio pane appears.
  2. If iMovie Sound Effects are currently shown, open the pull-down menu at the top of the audio pane and choose Audio CD. A list of audio tracks appears.
  3. Select a track and click Play in the audio pane to preview the song.
  4. Click Place at Playhead in the Audio panel to place the song in the timeline, beginning at the current position of the play head.

Recording voice-over tracks in Pinnacle Studio


Recording audio in Windows is pretty easy. Most video-editing programs —including Pinnacle Studio and Windows Movie Maker — give you the capability to record audio directly in the software. Before you can record audio, however, your computer must have a sound card and a microphone. (If your computer has speakers, it has a sound card.) The sound card should have a connector for a microphone as well. Check the documentation for your computer if you can’t find the microphone connector.
After your hardware is set up correctly, you’re ready to record audio in Pinnacle Studio or most any other movie making program. To record audio in Studio, follow these steps:
  1. Open the movie project for which you want to record audio, and switch to the timeline view if you aren’t there already.
  2. If you’re working with a current movie project, move the play head to the spot where you want to begin recording.
  3. Choose Toolbox➪Record Voice-over. The voice-over recording studio appears.
  4. Say a few words to test the audio levels. As your microphone picks up sound, the audio meter in Studio should indicate the recording level. If the meter doesn’t move at all, your microphone probably isn’t working. You’ll notice that as sound levels rise, the meter changes from green to yellow and finally red. For best results, try to keep the sound levels in or near the yellow part of the meter. You can fine-tune the levels by adjusting the Recording Volume slider.
  5. Click Record. A visible three-second countdown appears in the recording-studio window, giving you a couple of seconds to get ready.
  6. When recording begins and your movie project starts to play, recite your narration.
  7. When you’re done, click Stop.
An audio clip of your narration appears in the timeline,

How to do recording in iMovie?

on Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Once you’ve decided which microphone to use and you’ve configured it as described in the previous section, you’re ready to record audio using iMovie.

As with most tasks in iMovie, recording is pretty easy:
  1. Open the project for which you want to record narration or other sounds, and switch to the timeline view if you’re not there already.
  2. If you’re working with a current movie project, move the play head to the spot where you want to begin recording.
  3. Click the Audio button above the timeline to open the audio pane.
  4. Say a few words to test the audio levels. As your microphone picks up sound, the audio meter in iMovie should indicate the recording level. If the meter doesn’t move at all, your microphone probably isn’t working. You’ll notice that as sound levels rise, the meter changes from green to yellow and finally red. For best results, try to keep the sound levels close to the yellow part of the meter. If the audio levels are too low, the recording may have a lot of unwanted noise relative to the recorded voice or sound. If levels are too high, the audio recording could pop and sound distorted. Unfortunately, iMovie doesn’t offer an audio level adjustment for audio you record, so you’ll have to fine-tune levels the old fashioned way, by changing the distance between the microphone and your subject.
  5. Click Record and begin your narration. The movie project plays as you recite your narration.
  6. When you’re done, click Stop.

How to set up an external microphone in Macintosh?


Some microphones can connect to the USB port on your Mac. A USB microphone will be easier to use because your Mac will automatically recognize it and select the USB mic as your primary recording source. If your external microphone connects to the regular analog microphone jack — and your Mac already has a built-in mic — you may find that iMovie doesn’t recognize your external microphone. To correct this problem, you must adjust your system’s Sound settings:
  1. Open the System Preferences window by choosing Apple➪System Preferences.
  2. Double-click the Sound icon to open the Sound preferences dialog box.
  3. Click the Input tab to bring it to the front.
  4. Open the Microphone pull-down menu and choose External Microphone/Line In.
  5. Press Ô+Q to close the Sound dialog box and System Preferences.

Your external microphone should now be configured for use in iMovie

How to connect a tape player to your computer?


If you recorded audio onto an audio tape, you can connect the tape player directly to your computer and record from it just as if you were recording from a microphone. Buy a patch cable (available at almost any electronics store) with two male mini-jacks (standard small audio connectors used by most current headphones, microphones, and computer speakers). Connect one end of the patch cable to the headphone jack on the tape player and connect the other end to your computer’s microphone jack. The key, of course, is to have the right kind of cable. You can even buy cables that allow you to connect an old record player to your computer and record audio from your old LPs.
Once connected, you can record audio from the tape using the same steps described in the sections in this chapter on microphone recording. You’ll have to coordinate your fingers so that you press Play on the tape player and click Record in the recording software at about the same time. If the recording levels are too high or too low, adjust the volume control on the tape player.

Audio Recording Basic Tips


At some point, you’ll probably want to record some narration or other sound to go along with your movie project. Recording great-quality audio is no simple matter. Professional recording studios spend thousands or even millions of dollars to set up acoustically superior sound rooms. I’m guessing you don’t have that kind of budgetary firepower handy, but if you’re recording your own sound, you can get nearly pro-sounding results if you follow these basic tips:
  • Use an external microphone whenever possible. The built-in microphones in modern camcorders have improved greatly in recent years, but they still present problems. They often record undesired ambient sound near the camcorder (such as audience members) or even mechanical sound from the camcorder’s tape drive. If possible, connect an external microphone to the camcorder’s mic input.
  • Eliminate unwanted noise sources. If you must use the camcorder’s built-in mic, be aware of your movements and other things that can cause loud, distracting noises on tape. Problem items can include a loose lens cap banging around, your finger rubbing against the mic, wind blowing across the mic, and the swish-swish of those nylon workout pants you wore this morning.
  • Control ambient noise. True silence is a very rare thing in modern life. Before you start recording audio, carefully observe various sources of noise. These could include your neighbor’s lawn mower, someone watching TV in another room, extra computers, and even the heating duct from your furnace or air conditioner. Noise from any (or all) of these things can reduce the quality of your recording.
  • Try to minimize sound reflection. Audio waves reflect off any hard surface, which can cause echoing in a recording. Cover the walls, floor, and other hard surfaces with blankets to reduce sound reflection.
  • Obtain and use a high-quality microphone. A good mic isn’t cheap, but it can make a huge difference in recording quality.
  • Watch for trip hazards! In your haste to record great sound, don’t forget that your microphone cables can become a hazard on-scene. Not only is this a safety hazard to anyone walking by, but if someone snags a cable, your equipment could be damaged as well. If necessary, bring along some duct tape to temporarily cover cables that run across the floor.
The easiest way to record audio is with a microphone connected to your computer, although some computers can make a lot of noise with their whirring hard disks, spinning fans, and buzzing monitors. The following sections show you how to record audio using a microphone connected to the microphone jack on your computer.

Delving into bit depth


Another term you’ll hear bandied about in audio editing is bit depth. The quality of a digital audio recording is affected by the number of samples per second, as well as by how much information each sample contains. The amount of information that can be recorded per sample is the bit depth. More bits per sample mean more information — and generally richer sound. Many digital recorders and camcorders offer a choice between 12-bit and 16-bit audio; choose the 16-bit setting whenever possible. For some reason, many digital camcorders come from the factory set to record 12-bit audio. There is no advantage to using the lower setting, so always check your camcorder’s documentation and adjust the audio-recording bit depth up to 16-bit if it isn’t there already.

Understanding sampling rates


For over a century, humans have been using analog devices (ranging from wax cylinders to magnetic tapes) to record sound waves. As with video, digital audio recordings are all the rage today. Because a digital recording can only contain specific values, it can only approximate a continuous wave of sound; a digital recording device must “sample” a sound many times per second; the more samples per second, the more closely the recording can approximate the live sound (although a digital approximation of a “wave” actually looks more like the stairs on an Aztec pyramid). The number of samples per second is called the sampling rate. As you might expect, a higher sampling rate provides better recording quality. CD audio typically has a sampling rate of 44.1 kHz — that’s 44,100 samples per second — and most digital camcorders can record at a sampling rate of 48kHz. You will work with sampling rate when you adjust the settings on your camcorder, import audio into your computer, and export movie projects when they’re done.