Introduction to Audacity
Audacity is another of
those great open source utilities, one that is all about audio. It's a free download
. The latest version 1.2.3 is what I'm using for this newsletter.
focus on how Audacity relates to the audio of Movie Maker and Photo Story, using WAV format files (uncompressed
audio) to bridge the applications....
can't open DV-AVI, WMV or WMA files.
My multimedia sample this week is a music file, one of those player piano
Click the note at the left to hear a one minute segment as it sounded when
heading from Movie Maker to TMPGEnc to Audacity... then click the note at the right to listen to the
'enhanced' version after it was back in Movie Maker. I used Audacity to make the sound fuller...
... before getting into it, here
are a few notes...
I received my copy of the new book Learning VirtualDub
from Packt Publishing; it's been a while, but worth waiting for. Having written the introductory chapter,
I'm now able to read the rest of the story. It's the first book published about VirtualDub, VDubMod and
AVISynth and I hadn't seen drafts of the other chapters as the book developed.
... also in the book corner, Jan Ozer sent a copy of his book about Premiere
Elements to help me with my assessment of the trial version. I'm all set for a few nights of reading
on the beach.
We (a few Microsoft MVPs) concluded a successful disaster recovery
effort this week, with the poster of the problem doing a yeoman's job of manning the controls... he was
motivated. He was capturing live video to an external USB2 hard drive via his digital camcorder, firewire
connection, and Movie Maker 2... 19 GB into the file, the USB cable was accidentally disconnected, so
the file was never completed to the extent that the header info was included... the file couldn't be
Recovery happened by doing microscopic surgery to graft the header info
from a good file onto the beginning of the incomplete one, using a hex editor... to me it strongly demonstrated
the value of newsgroups and forums combined with a team effort on the part of a number of MVPs.
The more complete story is now
at the bottom of my Problem Solving > Video Issues page.
.... on to the main topic
Here's the main working window of Audacity. Let's start with Help
on the main menu... it opens a quick reference and says there's a
complete reference manual
online. The help info is good.
This figure shows an audio file that was just opened... the two tracks are
the left and right channels of the stereo file. I had just recorded it into the Audacity project by using
the Stereo Mix option as it played in the MM2 collection... more about that later.
If the working window is empty, you open a file to start a project.... if
it already has audio tracks in it, you can add more by importing another (Project > Import from the main
menu). You're not limited to having just one audio file in a project, nor are you limited to having one
open window or project.
Similar to Movie Maker and Photo Story, you can work on an Audacity project
and save the project file (extension of .aup).
The audio file types that Audacity can import or export are:
- an industry standard uncompressed file type... that Audacity can read and write... we'll use this
format to bridge the Movie Maker and Photo Story files
- AIFF - Apple's default uncompressed files
- AU - Sun and NeXT computer format... slightly compressed
- MP3 (MPEG-1, Layer 3) - compressed audio files...
about 10 to 1 compression... this option requires an extra plug-in for Audacity
- Ogg Vorbis - a compressed type with settings you
can adjust... designed as a free alternative to MP3... the Ogg Vorbis files can't be imported into
You can save your Audacity project with an .aup extension.... and re-open
it later for continued work.
First Challenge - Getting the Audio from Movie Maker or PhotoStory
Audacity needs a WAV file, and can't open or import the audio track of a
DV-AVI or WMV video file, nor can it use a WMA file. Our first task is to record it directly into an
Audacity project or convert the file to a WAV file that can be imported. Here's a few ways:
is my preferred option. Drag and drop a DV-AVI, WMV or WMA file onto its main working window (cancel
the wizard if it opens first) and use the main menu - File > Output to File > WAVE File, and you
have a file that works great in Audacity. The audio track of a Photo Story 3 story works just as
well as a saved movie from Movie Maker.
(and VDubMod) can't extract the audio from a type I DV-AVI file, but can from a type II. Use File
> Save WAV from the VirtualDub main menu.
- The picture of the Audacity working
window shown above was taken using the recording feature to capture a DV-AVI file
that was being previewed in an MM2 collection, using the Stereo Mix option in Audacity. This is similar
to capturing a playing file with the narration feature of Movie Maker... preview/play it with Movie
Maker or the Windows Media Player as you record it with Audacity.
The audio patterns of the WAV files made by TMPGEnc and Virtual Dub looked
identical and complete. The file made by the stereo mix recording had two split-second breaks... probably
the result of the hard drive skipping a beat in the process. The test file was a 2 minute, 12 second
DV-AVI file captured from my digital camcorder.
Besides being more complete, the files from TMPGEnc and Virtual Dub showed
better wave patterns... their peaks fit more neatly into the audio tracks. I credit that to the software
automatically deciding how high a volume setting to use for the conversions.
Working the File in Audacity
When you have an audio file in Audacity... what can you do with it? Having
come from a Movie Maker project, we'll focus on things such as fixing the audio by removing noise, selectively
raising and lowering volume through the track, and making changes to add audio interest similar to adding
interest to a clip by using special effects.
.. the 'reverse' effect looked for by many in Movie Maker isn't there, but
it's in Audacity... so you can have your video playing forward and the audio backwards... :)... I don't
You can use labels (menu > Project > Add Label... ) to annotate segments
of the audio track to correlate it with the segments of your movie project. The label track position
is linked to the audio track.
Select the portion of
the track to work on... the standard Control-A keys select the whole file... so does clicking on the
'label' area to the left of the track you want to select. Dragging your mouse cursor across a segment
selects that portion. Use Edit > Select to opt for 'Start to Cursor' or 'Cursor to End'.
Once a portion of the file is selected, the list of effects
becomes active. Those that are not self-explanatory, or warrant a comment, are:
Compressor - loud parts become softer without effecting the other parts
Echo - select the time delay and a decay factor... I thought it worked pretty
neat in fleshing out the sound from one of the player piano roll midi files, using a delay of 0.15 seconds
with the default decay factor of 0.5.
Equalization - pick from a dozen preset curves or draw you own... the presets
include such things as RCA Victor 1947, Columbia LP and RIAA
Fade In and Fade Out - fades the entire selection linearly
Invert - flips the waveform vertically, reversing its phase
Noise Removal - select a small segment that should be 'silent' and then
tell it to remove all the noise similar to it. It works best when the good audio is much louder than
the noise being removed
Normalize - if you're going to mix some audio together, it's good to normalize
each part first
Nyquist Prompt - gives you a blank entry field for you to type in... for
advanced users only... if you don't know what it does, than you probably don't want to use it
Phaser - combines phase-shifted signals with the original
Reverse - yes, plays it backwards
Wahwah - kind of sounds like the word reads
.... the 9 additional effects below the line are added plug-ins, and you
can add more. The help file cautions that a poorly written plug-in can crash the app, and suggests saving
your work first.
Control Toolbar - Editing Tools
I'll point out two of the 6 editing tools, the ones that change the volume
of selected parts of the audio file.
Use the Envelope Tool (the currently selected tool icon
in the image at the right.... to change the volume of selected sections...
The draw tool (the icon that looks like a pencil) to the
right of it is used to change the volume of a specific sample... you have to zoom into the audio track
a lot before you see individual sample points. The app will tell you to zoom in more if you haven't drilled
Generate silence or selected
To mute a segment, bleep a phrase with a tone, or generate white noise that
sounds a bit like a waterfall... use the Generate option from the pull down menu.
Select a segment of the track first and then generate the noise to fill
it... experiment and preview it with any settings.
- render an audio file from the project
WAV, MP3 and Ogg Vorbis
are the choices of file types. We'll go with WAV, the one that works best in Movie Maker and Photo Story.
In addition to some MM2 users having problems with MP3 files, that option
in Audacity needs an add-on LAME MP3 encoder.
Ogg Vorbis files are not accepted as source files by Movie Maker or Photo
Conclusions and Closing
Audacity works and works well... I didn't run into any issues as I exercised
it to prepare this newsletter.
To recap a little... from the Movie Maker environment, you make a WAV file
with whatever tools you have, edit it in Audacity, and export a new WAV file to take back to Movie Maker.
Use the same process when working with the audio/music for a Photo Story 3 project.
Audacity has other features that have no relationship to Movie Maker, such
- an optional plug-in to export files to .MP3
- a neat looking keyboard display to help the music student study a midi
file, with no functionality in terms of using it. it can't play the file or convert it to other formats.
Here's part of Jingle Bells, with the display rotated 90 degrees from
how it appears in Audacity.
I look forward to comments and discussion about this and other newsletters on the forums at:
Windows Movie Makers.net
Have a great weekend...
Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story 3 -
Photo Story 2 - www.photostory.papajohn.org
Products and Services
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Movie Maker 2 - Do Amazing Things (with its online companion on
by Microsoft Press
Movie Maker 2 - Zero to Hero - with support on the publisher's forum -
Friends of Ed
MaximumPC's winter 2005 quarterly special... had a 7 page tutorial 'Make a Killer Home Movie with
Maker 2'. The special edition of the video made for it is now
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Learning VirtualDub - published by
Publishing, the first book about VirtualDub software. I wrote the first chapter about downloading and
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Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story 3 - www.papajohn.org
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PhotoStory 3, and helping you solve Movie Maker 2 problems.
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Topics for upcoming newsletters (always subject to change):
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#65 - August 6 - Titles and Text Clips in Photo Story 3
#66 - August 13 - open
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Add-On Transitions and Effects
Maker 2 (TM2) is a utility for the ultimate in making your own personal and custom
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Version 2 was released a week ago and I'm still working on updating the online tutorial.
routinely beta test the Pixelan
packages and think very highly of their people and products.
ProDAD's Adorage package for Movie Maker 2 provides an additional source of professionally
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About John 'PapaJohn' Buechler from Microsoft.com
||John "PapaJohn" Buechler, of Kalamazoo, Mich., goes by PapaJohn online.
An avid user of Movie Maker since its first release, and a regular supporter
of the community of Movie Maker users, John received a 2003 MVP award
from Microsoft for that support. In March 2003, he started a comprehensive
website about Movie Maker 2 at
He maintains the website, writes books and articles, teaches, and provides
support services - all for the community of Movie Maker 2 users. An engineer
by formal education, John is a computer database and multimedia expert
by business and personal experience. He co-authored the first book about
Movie Maker 2 and is actively working on a second one. You can find his
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