Each service at Lansdowne, we record the following:
- The audio of the message on cassette tape x 2 (for disaster recovery)
- The message on CD via an audio CD recorder
- The whole service video (and audio) on DVD via a DVD recorder
- The whole service video (and audio) on Super VHS tape (for disaster recovery)
We used to rip the CD as the main audio source, and if you’re interested in producing just an audio podcast this would be a simple way to get your audio into an MP3 or WAV file on your computer. An aside: I’m a PC user, so all the details here relate to Windows applications. If you’d rather use an Apple Mac, then you’ll probably already know of an alternative application for your system.
The best tool I’ve found for ripping CDs is AudioGrabber, a free download. To encode to MP3 format you will also need to download the Lame DLL which is further down the ‘download’ page.
We have two podcasts at Lansdowne: one audio and one video; so as we need to prepare the video for web use anyway, I have recently started to take my audio from the DVDs. I will explain the process I use for ripping the DVD and encoding it for web use, extracting the audio, enhancing it slightly and then encoding that to MP3. If it sounds quite a lot, it’s not really, once you’re used to it.
Ripping the DVD
I use Nero Recode to select the start/end point of the sermon and rip the DVD to a 220MB MP4 file (we use Vimeo.com to host our videos for free). Nero Recode is not free software, but neither is it very expensive. At the time of writing, the complete Nero suite of software is only £49.99. I have tried other, open source or free, programs but have found that a) they’re very slow, b) the MP4 file is not good enough quality, c) you can’t select a start/end point before you rip.
If anyone reading this knows of an open source program that has these features, I’m all ears – let me know in the comments below please.
Extracting the audio
Next, I use a tool called “Free Audio Converter” from www.x2xsoft.com which converts the MP4 into WAV format. I could go directly to MP3, but I want to increase the volume a little first.
Enhancing the audio
Using another free tool (Audacity) I read the WAV file, select all of it, and then use the Amplify effect to increase the volume to a higher level. Audio from the DVD always seems to be a little too quiet. Accepting the default values of the amplify effect seems to be just right. I save the WAV file (Export to WAV) rather than save as MP3, because I prefer to use AudioGrabber for making MP3s.
Creating the MP3
Lastly, using AudioGrabber, I convert the WAV into MP3 format (File menu, Convert to MP3). The settings I use are 64bit, mono, normal – these work perfectly for the spoken voice with almost no compression artifacts and usually produces a file around 16MB in size, which is easy on web storage and takes almost no time to download for your listeners.
That’s enough for now. If anyone knows of a simpler workflow with less software, I’d love to hear from you in the comments. I’ll cover preparing the RSS feed, uploading the MP3 files and making your feed live in the next article.