Journalists' Toolkit


A training site for multimedia and online journalists

New screencast tutorial for Audacity

The second “how to edit audio with Audacity” video screencast tutorial is finished: Multitrack Audio Editing (Audacity Part 2). This is a 15-minute self-guided tutorial with lots of comments and a detailed table of contents.

The first video screencast tutorial for Audacity is an introduction: Audacity Basics: Getting Started in Audio Editing. At 17 minutes, it’s an ideal starting point for journalists or journalism students. I have added a detailed table of contents to this one as well.

These tutorials were built with Adobe Captivate, so once they are downloaded, you can skip back and forth without any waiting. The table of contents is clickable, so you can go straight to any segment for review. However, that means the file format of these tutorials is SWF, so for now, they will not play on iPad.

Convert WMA files with Switch

Switch Sound File Converter is a free program from NCH Software. You can download it here (Mac or Windows).

I have been using this program and recommending it widely for about two years. It’s easy to use, and it’s especially useful for converting WMA format files to WAV so that we can edit them in Audacity (which cannot open WMA files).

However — and the reason I am writing this post — Switch does something complicated and annoying on Windows systems. It didn’t always do this underhanded sneaky thing that it now does, and it has caused many journalism educators (and students) no end of headaches and extra work.

On the official download page, you can clearly see that the company touts the free version: “A free version of Switch is available for non-commercial use. The free version does not expire and includes most common audio file formats.” Call me silly, but I think “free” means free. Don’t you?

Here’s the sneaky part: After about two weeks, Windows users will get a message that they now have to pay for Switch. (I have not seen this yet on any Mac system.) Does this mean that NCH Software lied to you? Not technically. Here is how to get your free version back (instructions for Windows 7; other versions may differ):

  1. Close the Switch program completely (if it is open).
  2. Open the Windows Control Panel.
  3. Select “Uninstall a program.”
  4. A gigantic list of program will open. Scroll in the list to find “Switch Sound File Converter.” Double-click that item.
  5. In the dialog box that opens next, select “Downgrade to the free version (fewer features but free).” Yeah, I know. This is SO SLEAZY! You downloaded the so-called free version. What is this crap?
  6. Click Next.
  7. DO NOT click the button in the middle of the next sleazy screen. Just click Next (again).
  8. The dialog box closes. Wait a minute or two.

Now Switch will work properly again.

If you would like to see a step-by-step demonstration of how to use Switch to convert audio files, watch this video tutorial (don’t worry, it is actually and in fact free).

Beginner’s tutorial for Audacity

> Watch and listen to the tutorial.

It’s been a long road to making this tutorial, but finally, it’s finished. This is essentially my entire lecture and demonstration about how to use Audacity, step by step, for journalists and journalism students.

The target audience is people who have never edited audio before.

Those awesome little Olympus recorders work great with Mac OS

In honor of the brand-new Olympus VN-8100PC digital voice recorder (see it now at B&H), I made a new, very brief how-to page today:

Olympus digital audio recorders and your Mac

There are still some sadly uninformed people who claim Olympus recorders do not work with the Mac OS. They are wrong!

While I strongly recommend that you invest in the Zoom H2 recorder (see it now at B&H), if you’re on a tight budget, the newer* Olympus recorders are your next best option. I’ve been using a VN-5200PC for several years now. It’s with me pretty much all the time in my purse, and it’s none the worse for being bumped around.

* The ones that save WMA files and include a USB connection.