Producing audio

Plan

Create a script. Write a song. Go somewhere to record the sounds of nature. Since purpose is at the core of content creation, come to the table with a plan of what you want to produce.

Produce

imageIn the same way that production for video creation is when the camera is rolling, the production period for audio is when audio is happening and actively being recorded, whether in a professional recording studio or using an iPhone in the field to record the world around you.

What technology can you use to create audio files? Your iPhone is a fantastic portable device to record your own thoughts, interviews, etc. There are innumerable applications available to record audio on your iPhone, including the resident Voice Memos app on every iPhone.

Here's how Voice Memos works:

imageTap the red record button at the bottom left of the window, and start talking. Make sure to keep the level meter needle out of the red section to prevent distortion. Tap the pause button (the record button turns into it, two vertical red stripes, when you’re recording) to pause, or the black stop button to finish. You can switch to other apps while recording voice memos; just press the Home button and launch another app. You can therefore record comments on e-mails, articles you read on the Web, and more.
After you’ve finished, tap the button at the bottom right of the app, with three horizontal lines. This takes you to the Voice Memos section of the iPod or iPhone, which displays the voice memos you’ve recorded with date, time, and length. You can play them back, delete them, and even trim them. You can also e-mail a voice memo (or send it via MMS if you’re using an iPhone), if the file’s not too large, by tapping the blue circle to the right of a voice memo then tapping Share.

Import

Once you've created an audio file, you need to do something with it. Voice Memos is very easy in that it automatically imports to iTunes when your iPhone is plugged into your MacBook Pro. These items will show up in a Voice Memos playlist in the iTunes sidebar, and will be marked with a date and time (MacWorld, 2010).

Those memos are in the m4a format. You can see this by right clicking on a memo and selecting "Show in Finder," which will direct you to the Finder folder containing that memo in its raw form. If you would like that memo in another format, such as AAC, AIFF, Apple Lossless, MP3 or WAV, click the iTunes menu at the top left navigation, select "Preferences," and under "General Preferences" click "Import Settings" where you can decide what encoder to use. I would recommend the AAC encoder with the iTunes Plus settings.

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Right click on the file in iTunes again and choose the option "Create AAC Version." That will make a clone of the memo in that new format.

Edit

Once you have identified where the audio files are that you produced, open GarageBand, our available audio editing application through iLife, and begin a new project of whatever type your work is. Simply drag your audio files into separate tracks in your GarageBand project and apply whatever effects you like, or you can use the media browser (circled below) to find your files to drag into a track. Use the buttons at the bottom (in the rectangle) to switch between your media, loops, and effects.

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You might be frustrated by the keyboard shortcuts if you're used to Final Cut Pro X or Adobe Photoshop. Two convenient shortcuts are ⌘T to split an audio clip into two and ⌘J to join two separate clips together. If you would like to be more familiar with the application, here is a glossary of terms for GarageBand, which you can simply read or learn through flashcards.

Export

Share - Send podcast to iTunes - Find in iTunes when done

If you want to locate the file within your computer, use the right click in iTunes and "Show in Finder."

Note about compression: After editing a podcast, podcasters Chris Stemp and Jon Rojas of the Smart People Podcast export it as an 128kbps mp3, which tends to make the file size between 30 and 45MB. If an episode of their show is really long and approaches 100MB, they might reduce the quality to 112kbps, but that's as low as they would go.

A quick rule of thumb for sound quality:

64kbps = AM radio
96kbps = FM Radio
128kbps = CD quality ...This is the sweet spot. If the files are hosted properly, it usually takes about 30 seconds to download a 30 minute episode over a broadband connection.

Distribute

imageYou've made audio, and now you need to share that audio with all your potential listeners! Which venue will you choose? There are innumerable locations, but probably the most useful for our purposes is THINK Spot.

Have you noticed Spot's podcast feature? This content type implies a series of episodes and might be better suited to your spoken audio files.

Another way to distribute on THINK Spot is simply as a file.

Embedding your audio files within blog posts or pages is a great idea, and it opens up possibilities of strengthening your message in multiple languages of communication.

Other applications with which you should gain competencies for recording and distributing audio: VoiceThread and SoundCloud. Do you know any others?