Posts Tagged ‘iTunes’

The On-Screen Scientist (Finally) Speaks Again

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Back in May, over seven months ago, I posted an audio version of a blog post (Dangerous Experiments, audio here), thinking it might be a move towards podcasting. Well, that didn’t happen for various reasons, partly my dissatisfaction with the way I sounded and partly the trouble it took to record with decent sound. I’m afraid my voice and diction are pretty much the same as they were before, but I have found a technical solution that makes it easier to record. If you’re only interested in the results, you can jump to the end.

For those interested in technical stuff, here are minimal details of how I recorded this latest version of an early post called Don’t Gamble, Hire a Physicist. A big improvement was getting a Blue Microphones Snowflake USB Microphone (for around $50). I had a good microphone before, but it was overkill for this task and required too much setup, enough to keep me from playing around with it. The Snowflake just plugs into my MacBook Pro directly, and no external power source is needed. The sound is fine for this application.

I recorded using GarageBand, which comes free with any new Mac. One thing that is not intuitively obvious is that you have to set the input device for GarageBand directly through its preferences. It does not default to what you have set using the Sound System Preference. This caused me some puzzlement and soundless delay until I realized I had to choose the Blue Snowflake in GarageBand.

Once you get the hang of it, GarageBand is great for recording something like a podcast, though I did not use the explicit podcast mode, since I just wanted to end up with mp3 and m4a files I could upload. It was easy to go in and replace flubbed sentences with corrected readings, using visually intuitive editing of the soundtrack.

The only way I could figure out to get what I wanted as a final product (mp3 and m4a files) was to use GarageBand’s Share->Send Song to iTunes menu item to do what its name implies (even if you don’t have a “song”). Once you have your recording in iTunes, you can save it in various formats.

That makes it sound simpler and more intuitive than it is. Through a klunky, kludgy method worthy of Microsoft, this Apple-branded software requires one to do the following to create an mp3 file. First, set the format iTune uses when importing from a CD to be mp3. This is done by setting an iTune’s preference. Note that the outdated Apple Help for iTunes gives incorrect instructions on where those import settings are to be found. In the latest iTunes, there is a button that takes you to import settings on the general settings panel of the Preferences (instead of these settings being among the Advanced settings). Confusing? Yes, it is.

Once you’re set up to import to mp3, you will magically find an item called “Create mp3 version” under the “Advanced” menu of iTunes. This enables you to make your mp3 file, which you can then locate and upload if you want to. Now, if you want to make another version for m4a, you have to go back to reset the import preference. No, it’s not called m4a; it’s called AAC. If you actually want to import a CD, and have a different format preference for importing, you’ll have to go back and change the preference again. Of course, you’ll probably forget to. As an aside, this is some of the worst software design I’ve ever seen on something blessed by Apple. If anyone from Apple is interested, I can tell you how to fix this confusing situation in about two sentences.

Click one of the following links to hear me reading Don’t Gamble, Hire a Physicist: mp3 version or m4a version.