Newsletter #153 - June 9, 2007
the Quest to Edit an Audio Track...


As the audio editing features in Movie Maker and Photo Story are minimal to none, wouldn't it be great if, after saving and listening to your completed video, you could...
Does that seem more of a wild dream than a reasonable quest? I'm looking at half a dozen audio utilities and using that scenario to check them. If they can't do all of that, what can they?
So far Sony's Sound Forge is my benchmark app. I can get all the way through the quest when it comes to a movie in WMV format... I don't need to go back to Movie Maker as Sound Forge re-renders the movie with the new audio track in it. For a story, it can render it to a video WMV file, but not a story WMV file, but if I really want a story file rendered with the image codec, I need to take the new audio file back to the PS3 project and re-render it from there.
Sound Forge is the high-end app in the group, priced at $299.96... if it's beyond your budget, use the free trial like I'm doing for a fun experience and a taste of what's possible. 

I started off making a test one minute movie project, and a one minute story, each using the same set of still pictures and audio file for background music. The video was terrible, and the audio had lots of pops and cracks, the kind you either discard or edit.
I got 3/4 of the way there, but ran into an old issue. The movie project was first, and finished fine, saving it to a DV-AVI file. Then I used TMPGEnc to rip its audio to a .wav file for the story project. I figured by doing it that way, I'd have the same audio in both projects.
But Photo Story reminded me of one of its restraints, and jogged me back to thinking about on old Movie Maker issue about the audio sample rate... as this newsletter is about audio, it's worth the flashback.
PS3 Error Message
Newsletter #113 was about the actual sample rate of the audio track a DV-AVI file versus what was being reported by Movie Maker. Was it 32 kHz in the file and resampled to 48 by Movie Maker, or was Movie Maker off-base in it's reporting of the file property?
I had finished that newsletter with an 11th hour flash from Microsoft about the reporting by Movie Maker probably being in error, and there's really no up-sampling going on.
As Sony's Sound Forge is the benchmark app for this week, I'll use it as another check.
SampleRate Issue
Ripping OptionsI used Source Forge to open the 48 kHz wav file that PS3 rejected. Then saved it as a new wav file, selecting one that would work in Photo Story 3... the highlighted one at 44.1 kHz.

Photo Story accepted the new file... I then had the sample movie and story to use for the rest of the newsletter. With different sample rates, they weren't exactly the same audio tracks, but close enough. Here are the links...
Sample Movie - with ugly audio
Sample Story - with ugly audio
Here's an amusing side note.... the profile I first used to render the sample story had settings of 48 kHz, 16 bit, stereo... WMA 9.2. So it can dish out 48 kHz of wma audio, but can't accept it from a wav file.
I made a custom story profile to keep it at the 44.1 kHz rate, to align with the processed wav file coming back later. I don't want to re-sample it any more than needed.
Before taking the ugly audio into Sound Forge for some fixing, here are...
... a few notes...

The properties of the Kenny Rogers video special I mentioned last week says it's 'Protected', which makes it not free to use even though it was zero in cost...
From the iTunes Help file: "The iTunes Store also offers songs without DRM protection, from participating record labels. These DRM-free songs, called "iTunes Plus," have no usage restrictions and feature higher-quality encoding." Their description typically includes "Non-commercial projects use our music for free", which makes them open for our personal non-commercial usage.
Vista Corner
I find myself not using my Vista system for anything except testing... and my XP systems work well for my production needs. But my HP laptop ran into a new issue in the battery not connecting with the computer, so it's on AC power or nothing. That has me thinking of a new low-end 'backup' laptop to use in case the HP needs to go to a repair shop. And my preference would be that the new one have Vista.
.... back to the main topic...

Sound Forge
Sony says it's the industry standard for professional audio editing, processing, and mastering on the PC platform. I downloaded the free trial version to take a closer look for this newsletter.

The install went well... it said at one point it needed the Microsoft MSVC80 Runtime Redist, and before I could figure out what that meant, it took care of installing it. I also opted for a Noise Reduction Plug-In.
It won't let you use the trial without registration, so I finished with that.

Main Working Window
Working WindowOpening files...
I'll open Sound Forge and try to drag and drop the sample movie and story, using my Total Commander file management utility.
Having Sound Forge accept the two files without me having to rip the audio from them would have been good. But it went beyond that...
It provided a timeline viewer for the video track in addition to the wave pattern view of the audio.
As you listen to the sound track, the thumbnails for the video track actually play... as small but full video animations, not just static thumbnails.
You can see in the image at the right that you can have multiple videos open in different windows.

Fixing Audio
It was fun just watching them play... but it's time to move on to check audio editing features.
My interest is two-fold..
Tools MenuI browsed the main and sub-menus... eyeing one option for click and crackle removal. I almost had the technical term right.
I ran that a couple times, along with the noise reduction option. Then I tweaked settings in the Process > EQ > Graphic... the traditional graphic equalizer.

My adjustments were experiential, not planned... tweak a setting and preview what it did.
The app is great for providing a preview button at each step of the way, and the preview starts instantly. Clicking OK after a preview folds the changes into the project file.
As usual with working projects, do a 'Save as' to start one, and save it as needed... it'll be a small .frg file.
Look at these options in the Click and Crackle Removal dialog window... things like 'remove lots of crackle'... I think I can relate to this technology if I study it a bit more, maybe because I'm old enough to remember what 78 RPM records were and how they sounded.
Click and Crackle Removal Options
When the 'fixing' is done, it's time to consider 'enhancing'.

Enhancing Audio
Reverb OptionsI tried the Effects > Reverb window. Here's the working window for this feature, with its list of reverberation modes.
I went with the warm ambiance option. The OK button applies it to the project file.

Saving the New File
When ready to save it the project to a new file, here's the list of file types offered... which includes the .wmv video type.
Save As Choices
Pick the WMV choice and it then offers a list of built-in templates... going a bit deeper, you can select anything from low quality 28.8 Kbps video suitable for low quality dial up phone connections to 1080 high definition with 5.1 surround sound. That's quite a range. 
WMV Choices
The rendering went fine for the movie... the fixed file online was rendered with Sound Forge, not Movie Maker. 
For the story, ErrorI tried setting up a new profile that used the same image codec as Photo Story 3.
I felt good about getting this error message... it isn't perfect!!... it had already exceeded my expectations as an audio editing app. Rendering a story would have been too much. I'm guessing the error is due to my telling it to use the image codec.
To continue for the story, I did what I expected to up front, saving the new audio track as a wav file and using it to replace the one currently in the story project.

Replacing the Story Audio...
In this case it was a simple matter of opening the story project, deleting the existing background music file, and adding the new wav file.
A more complex case would be to replace an audio track of a story that also includes computer generated music and narrations... a bit more complex but easily done unless you've added narrations to most of the pictures in a story with hundreds of them.

The links to the staring files are in the newsletter opening. Here are the links to the finished sample clips. The audio in them is much less ugly... not near as good as it could be if I were to do more work on them, but hopefully enough for you to notice the big differences.
Note that the fixing/enhancing of the movie and story files were done in different sessions... to exercise the process a couple times. It was pretty easy but I'm sure it won't pass the ears of discerning audiophiles.
As mentioned above, the movie was re-rendered by Sound Forge, not Movie Maker. Of course Sound Forge didn't support my changing the title text. I'd need to return to Movie Maker to do it.
And the revised story was re-rendered with Photo Story 3.
Fixed Movie
Fixed Story

Conclusion and Closing... and What's Next?
The reason for using Sound Forge for this exercise was to help me calibrate myself... is my quest reasonable or a wild dream that should be filed for some time in the future. With the positive results, I'm holding onto the quest.
From downloading through installation and testing, I had no issues with Sound Forge. It's a great product. Unfortunately the trial will expire in a couple weeks.
I'm involved with a couple Internet-based startup ventures that are not live yet... one in the tech support space and the other in software reviews. Something I'm currently thinking about is how to rate software... I have 2 main criteria so far... (1) how well does it do what its own marketing claims it will? I don't think it's fair to compare one app against others unless they both claim to do the same things, and (2) does it adhere to commonly accepted user interface expectations? I have a number of expectations that I'm making a list of... things like dragging and dropping files into the app.
Have a great week and enjoy your video work...