Digital Photography - Home Videos and Music

2016 Added section On-line Music and recording to a PC

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Personal Video recorders (PVRs) See below 

You can upload stills and videos to Google's Picasa (now being replaced). See  example HERE  or Youtube, of course.  One of mine is "Making a Gavel" at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1pY9TeL3yU

Picasa is also the easiest way to add a photographic slide show to a disk which will not only work on your PC but also on a DVD player with your TV.  I have wasted hours and many disks attempting to do with with programs such as Nero, Ashampoo and even the drag and drop facility offered by Windows.  With Picasa it never fails. But DVD Maker (free with Vista and W 7. Premium)  makes even better slide and video shows.. But Windows 10 will not run it.

I am so pleased with DVD Maker and its ability to produce impressive DVDs which will play on a PC OR on a DVD player to a TV the I have devoted a page to it HERE

Unfortunately Microsoft saw fit to exclude DVD Maker from Windows 8 onwards and I cannot recommend any alternative.  If you search for it on the net you will find many suggestions for programs that purport to do what it did.  But most will only be trials with a heft price for the one that excludes their logo all over your videos. It is one reason I continue to have a Windows 7 machine.   I have spoiled too many disks trying to create one which will be compatible with a PC AND a DVD player. Shame on Microsoft !

 There are several 'formats' for videos. They are not always compatible with your equipment or software.  You may have to convert a video from one format to another.  Most converters say they are free until you try to use them.  Then they say you can only make one without a logo plastered over it if you pay... around $30.  Beware completely free ones as you may be warned by you AV software that they may contain malware.. Unfortunately Freemake Video converter received this warning. I finally settled on one called Anyvideoconverter Professional from Anvsoft.  It will convert almost anything to any other format although you may have to look a long way down their lists for what you want e.g. Avi or WMV, which are required by Moviemaker and DVDmaker.

Here are the formats which are acceptable to those two, free, Microsoft programs.  Notice that MOV, Apple's format, is missing.  That is why you might have to use a converter.(to change the MOV files to WMV or AVI)

MovieMaker
Moviemaker file types


DVD Maker

Dvdmaker files

You might also try the reputable VLC player, which can convert certain file types

For instructions on making Videos on your PC take a look at  the site of a friend in the USA http://bestnetguru.com/moviemaking/index.html  He uses Corel-VideoStudio-X2-Pro-Ultimate  £45 from Amazon. He also covers the difficult area of making DVDs that will play on a home DVD player.  Another good place for training videos on using Windows Movie Maker can be found at http://www.atomiclearning.com/k12/moviemaker2  But also Microsoft has a number of videos on DVD Maker, Movie Maker, Photo Gallery and Media Centre.  n.b. Many of these are only available to Windows 7 and Vista Home Premium Edition users (Not Home Basic)

There is also a useful tutorial on using DVD Maker to create DVDs that will work both on your PC and on a domestic DVD Player (on your TV)  These can include stills, videos and music. See   http://www.7tutorials.com/how-burn-dvds-windows-dvd-maker

Video has been a hobby of mine for many years, starting with 8mm cine film. What a chore that was!  Each film was expensive and lasted about 4 minutes.  Once processed, if you wanted a longer, edited film you needed a splicer and glue.  So, you cut out the bad bits or arranged the whole thing in a different order and hoped the glue would keep the whole thing together.  I even had a projector which had a tape attachment and you could make a recording and somehow coordinate it with the film.

These days you can take video with sound with almost any digital camera, tablet or mobile telephone. And the Canon digital video camera I now use just sits in the palm of my hand and will take a couple of hours film, complete with sound.  The quality is excellent.  And the cost, once you have the camera, is minimal. So, now you can bore your relatives and friends with hours of baby's first steps or whatever.

I don' t regret taking those early 8mm cine films, now saved onto VCR tape or DVD.  Kids do love to see themselves when they were younger (40 years ago!)

And now we get invited to weddings for the express purpose of 'doing' the whole thing. And then there is amateur dramatics, which would be forever lost if it was not for our videos..

So, how about the techniques ?

Firstly, I have copied old cine to tape by projecting it onto a screen or white wall and just setting up the video camera on a tripod to capture it.  Slides can be copied this way, too.

Then you can edit VCR tape fairly satisfactorily providing you have two tape recorders (cheap as chips at boot sales now they are going out of fashion).  Obviously you need an output from one and an input to the other.  This is usually by a SCART plug at the output machine and either Phono or SCART plug at the input machine. Start the first machine at a point you want to record, start the second machine in record mode, making sure you can see it on the TV, and away you go.  You can do a quickie edit by pausing the input machine if you spot things you want to exclude from the original film.  You can even make it a little better by inputting music from a tape recorder, CD or whatever to the audio phono socket on the input machine.  Takes a bit of practice but it can be done !

Saving to CD or DVD As VCR tape is on its way out you may wish to save your video to DVD.  Apart from the fact that the equipment will be around for a little longer it is cheaper to send a DVD to someone by post (than the old VCR tape) bearing in mind the additional cost these days of sending anything a smidgen over 5mm thick.

The easiest way is to have a combined VCR and DVD recorder. Over £200 still but probably getting cheaper.  But it does mean that in the one machine you can play old VCR tapes, CDs of various kinds (including ones with JPG photos on) and record and play DVDs. with one of these machines. Although there are a lot of confusing buttons to play with it is possible to record from VCR to DVD or DVD to VCR.

If you are attempting to record a video which you took on an earlier iPad or iPhone and have a VCR/DVD recorder (as above) you may be in luck, as a cable from the iPad to the phono inputs can be bought for very little. Later iPads and iPhones use a smaller 'Lightning' plug and available cables only appear to go to HDMI inputs

Editing video on your PC. Although I had some software with my camera I find that Windows Movie Maker and DVD Maker were easier to use. These are FREE.

Windows DVD Maker is only available with Premium versions of Windows Vista and 7. It is better from the point of view of producing a Menu at the beginning of a Video DVD you make, which is usable with a DVD controller, allowing chapters and some nice transitions, plus music. It also allows recording in PAL as well as NTSC (American) format. I have written instructions on a separate page at  HERE

Windows Movie Maker.  Download the latest versions of Movie Maker  from Microsoft

Various formats.  Videos come in numerous formats, which can be confusing and sometimes are not accepted by different programs or equipment. For instance the common Windows format of WMV is not usually recognised by a domestic DVD player, although DVDs made for that sort of player can often be opened on a computer. They are built up of several file types.  The one most likely to be viewable on a PC has the ending VOB and these could be extracted to the PC and manipulated. But there are many other formats and you may wish to convert them.  There are converters for such purposes such as Anyvideoconverter, which is capable of converting from all the following : : AVI, MP4, MKV, WMV, MPG, 3GP, 3G2, SWF, FLV, TOD, MOV, DV, RM, QT, TS, MTS, and many more. Import music (MP3, AAC, WMA, WAV), and photos (JPG, BMP, PNG,GIF). It can then convert to AVI, WMV, MP4, MKV, SWF, MPG, 3GP, MP3, also iPod, iPhone, iPad, PSP, PS3 and Android equipment. 

You will also find that VLC Media Player will open most video formats and it has a converter facility.  So, if you are having difficulty editing a MOV video (commonly made by Apple hardware) then you can convert it to something like MP4.

Later versions of Windows Movie Maker includes more effects and transitions, and support for the DVR-MS file format in which Windows Media Center records television.The HD version adds support for capturing from HDV camcorders. The capture wizard will create DVR-MS type files from HDV tapes. However, the Windows Vista version of Windows Movie Maker no longer supports importing video from an analog video source such as a VCR or from a Web camera.

There is help  on Movie Maker at the Movie Maker Forum and PapaJohn'sWebsite. That really is a must and so helpful.  

The layout of Movie Maker consists of the usual 'storyboard' view and a timeline to view and organise videos imported from various sources. When in Storyboard view, the video project appears as a film strip showing each scene in clips. The storyboard/timeline consists of one 'Video'  bar, one 'Music/Audio' bar, and one 'Titles/Credits' bar. In each bar, clips can be added for editing (e. g., a .wav music file will belong on the 'Music/Audio' bar). Still images can also be imported. The Video and Music/Audio bars can be "cut" to any number of short segments, which will play together seamlessly, but the individual segments are isolated editing-wise, so that for example, the music volume can be lowered for just a few seconds while someone is speaking.

The original graphic file on the hard drive is not modified in any way. Until you save your video your current 'project' is really just a list of instructions for re-recording a final output video file from the original file. When you have saved the video and close it you are asked if you wish to save the format for future use or amendment. The file has an ending MSWMM.

Importing footage. When importing footage into the program you can either choose to Capture Video from camera, scanner or other device. The accepted formats for import are .WMV/.ASF, .MPG (MPEG-1), .AVI (DV-AVI), .WMA, .WAV, and .MP3. Additionally, the Windows Vista Home Premium and Ultimate editions of Movie Maker support importing MPEG-2 Program streams and DVR-MS formats. [5]

When importing from a DV tape, if the "Make Clips on Completion" option is selected, Windows Movie Maker automatically flags the commencement of each scene, so that the tape appears on the editing screen as a collection of short clips, rather than one long recording. That is, at each point where the "Record" button was pressed, a new "clip" is generated. However, the actual recording on the hard drive is still one continuous file. This feature is also offered after importing files already on the hard drive. In the Windows Vista version, the "Make clips on completion" option has been removed — the clips are now automatically created during the capture process.

After capture, any clip can be dragged and dropped anywhere on the timeline. Once on the timeline, clips can be duplicated or split, and any of the split sections deleted or moved to another position. Right-clicking any clip brings up the range of editing options.

Although it is possible to import digital video from cameras through the USB interface, most older cameras only support USB version 1 and the results tend to be poor — "sub VHS" — quality. Newer cameras using USB 2.0 give much better results. A FireWire interface camera will allow recording and playback of images identical in quality to the original recordings if the video is imported and subsequently saved as DV AVI files, although this consumes disk space at about 1 Gigabyte every five minutes (12GB/Hr).

Earlier versions of Windows Movie Maker did not allow the direct burning of DVDs. The project had to be first saved as an AVI file, and a separate program used to author the DVD from that. This was not a major problem, as limited but perfectly workable software for this (eg Power Producer) is often bundled with DVD burners or video cameras

Editing with Movie Maker There are over 130 effects, transitions, titles, and credits available. They are applied by using a drag and drop method from the Effects or Transitions folders. Titles and credits can be added as stand alone titles or overlaying them on the clip. Titles range from static (non-animated) titles to fly in, fading, news banner, or spinning newspaper animations.

Saving the finished item.  Movie Maker lets you save movies to your Hard Drive, or save to a CD or a DVD. With the feature of Saving to the Internet, you can publish  a very compressed version of your movie without any extra work.

Another free video editing program is DVD Flick

PERSONAL VIDEO RECORDERS (PVRs)  These are boxes which contain large hard disks to temporarily store off air video. They attach to any TV via the SCART plug and also contain a Freeview facility, though these sometimes require a new outdoor aerial

Why get a PVR? One of the biggest selling points of these digital recorders is their user-friendliness; all of them have an in-built freeview programme guide, and you can just browse it and select things to record. Then go away and forget about it, and before you know it you'll have a backlog of shows to catch up on.
The ability to pause live programmes is useful too; no longer will you have to wait with a raging thirst for the ad break before you get a drink, nor deny calls of nature. Used properly, a PVR'll make your tv viewing fit around you, rather than vice-versa; you may find that you never watch shows when they're actually aired anymore.  How much ?  These days you can get a reconditioned model that will record around 35 hours of video for around £45.  For about £85 you can get one that will record around 160 hours.

MUSIC (downloading and recording)

Updated 2016.  Please note that I am no expert in on line music and the following suggestion are just that.

Free Music.  There are several ways you can Subscribe to sites and legitimately download music.  But despite various attempts by the industry to limit this there ARE ways in which you can find free music on line

You may pay $10/month for the premium versions of Apple Music, Google Play, or Spotify, to name some of the best-reviewed streaming music services. Pandora’s $5/month or $55/year is about as low as you can go and still get a great library of songs with a decent set of playback features..  However...

http://pandora.com offers a huge selection of radio stations; that’s it, no libraries in which to store your own music files, no on-demand titles. But Pandora has done a very good job of organizing its stable of radio stations by genre, and its apps quickly learn your musical tastes by the likes and skips that you make.
Pandora's Music Genome technology analyzes the melody, harmony, rhythm, instrumentation, lyrics and vocal styles of songs. This enables Pandora to suggest a playlist of artists and songs that you'll probably enjoy, even if you've never heard them before. I've discovered some music I really like this way. If you want to click on button and hear a lot of your favorite tunes all day without much more effort, Pandora is for you. (Note: Pandora acquired Rdio in November, 2015, absorbing Rdio’s music assets.)

Http://slacker.com, like Pandora, is all-radio. You pick an artist, song, or genre, and it will play a sequence of songs that are related. With the free version, you're not guaranteed to hear the specific song or artist you selected, but usually it rolls around before long. You also can’t skip commercials, and song skips are limited in the free version. There’s no saving of playlists or your own tunes for offline listening. Upgrade to Slacker Radio Plus ($4/month) and you get unlimited song skips, no ads, song lyrics and the ability to download songs on mobile for offline listening. Slacker is renowned for the crisp, hi-fidelity sound it delivers. One of its three main categories is Talk Radio.

Spotify supports streaming a wide variety of music on desktop, Web, and tablet apps. You can create playlists of your favorite songs, but on a phone you can only listen to your playlists in “shuffle mode;” songs from the list are played in random order, and the number of times you can skip an undesired song is limited. The idea is to annoy you into paying for premium service that eliminates these nuisances. Also, free phone users cannot download and listen to tunes offline, so if your phone’s Internet service is spotty, Spotify may be the wrong choice for free music.

Http://iheartRadio.com  includes a library of 15 million on-demand songs, as well as live streams from over 1,500 radio stations. You can create “custom stations” based on songs and artists; essentially, these are playlists of songs streamed from the library. Custom stations are ad-free. The downside of iHeartRadio is rudimentary control; no pausing, skipping, or rewind.

Google Play Music   Http://music.google.com debuted in June 2015, with an interesting mix of features in the free version (ad-supported, of course). You can listen to Google-curated radio stations; create a custom station based on a song, artist, or album; or listen to music you own. Google Play Music lets you upload up to 50,000 songs that you have purchased anywhere else, and roll your own playlists from them.

Apple Music tunes downloaded for offline listening won’t play on iPod Shuffle or Nano because Apple can’t remotely erase stored tunes if the user’s Apple Music subscription lapses. The erasable iPod Touch will work with Apple Music.

Spotify, with 10 million subscribers appears to have a business model that works See http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/27517506

From June 2014 the law of copyright changed to make it legal for you to make backup copies of CDs and DVDs for your own use. This brings the law belatedly in line what everyone has been doing for ages. If you sell or give away your disk you are supposed to destroy your copies whether they are on disk or your computer or even "The Cloud". Another example of unenforceable law.

Samsung have launched a free music streaming service called Milk Music for their smartphone users.  So far, just in the USA. Others in this field are Spotify, Pandora and Apple's iTunes Radio.

Interesting article by Steve Stoute, CEO Translation .:  "Two of the biggest names in music shocked their fans with bold moves through digital media: Long-time digital music holdouts Led Zeppelin announced that they would finally release their catalogue to the masses via Spotify, while Beyoncé, without warning, unleashed her 14-song, 17-video self-titled album on iTunes. One of these events represents the future of music as a business, while the other retreads an already-broken model. The Spotify/Led Zeppelin deal, unfortunately, represents the latter. Spotify, like Pandora, is still attempting to substantiate a business model that gives music away for free to a vast majority of its listeners. While each service has some small percentage of paid subscribers, their entire business model has so far relied on advertisers to underwrite a majority of their costs. Telling every Spotify user in the world that they will now be able to access the entire catalogue of one of the most popular music acts in history for free is only reinforcing this discredited model; once you train consumers that your product is free, it is very hard, if not impossible, to convert them to a paid model"

Artists are getting frustrated that the free option is not optimizing the enormous popularity of music and has jeopardized the royalty base that they count on to live and to create. Beyoncé and iTunes, fortunately, may have found exactly the model to move the music industry as a whole back into the black, as their revolutionary album release illustrates how to work the ever-changing landscape of the record business to create different pricing and distribution models, capturing sales. What Beyoncé did, in short, was what every other artist and label should be doing: find new ways to surprise and delight the consumer, offer value, and they will pay. This is the future. She created an album on which a music video, replete with footage from old home movies, accompanies each song, appealing to the fan who wants more than just a hit song — they want an album experience. In an age of fungible, singles-driven sales — Beyonce’s business approach was also an artistic statement harkening back to time when artists made and consumers’ appreciated, full album projects.

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I have had a number of enquiries about how to go about things, like putting a Vinyl record collection onto CD.  So, here goes.  Beware of some free programs.  I found they can contain Trojans.  Check each one with your AV program. And watch out for sites which suggest you download copyright material, without paying. This area is still fraught with problems and the USA courts are taking a very severe view of any copyright infringements. One webmaster is being extradited from the UK to stand trial in the USA because his site linked to music downloading sites which contain copyright music. There are protests about this draconian action as it would not be considered illegal in the UK.

If you landed on this page hoping to find free copyright music, I apologise. You are out of luck.  However, Spotify seems to have got round some of the problems.

Itunes. (click on it) This is the ubiquitous program produced by Apple to enable YOU to organise your music and THEM to sell you even more !  It can be downloaded free to Apple or PCs and, in fact is an essential for iPad/iPod users as a way of synchronising what you have at home with what you would like to carry around with you.
Itunes can also be used on a PC to burn compilations of music to a CD. These can be used in a CD player at home or in the car, providing you know how.  There are two main formats for audio (music) files : Audio CD and MP3/Data CD. The type you buy at a shop are mainly Audio CD.  On a PC you can make MP3 disks, which are fine for playing on a PC and some newer CD  or DVD players but may not play on some Car players.
To make an Audio CD collection of music, run Itunes on your PC; Go to File and select New Playlist and type a name for it. It is easier to make playlists if you have the iTunes program AND your own music files on the same screen. So, drag the itunes window to the left.  Now open your music folder (Start, Music) If it takes over the whole screen press F11 to reduce it to a window and drag it to the right.If it is still too large to see both windows you can adjust the size by hovering the cursor over the right hand edge and dragging it to the left. You are now able to drag music files from you own computer to the Playlist you have created, where they will show in the list.  Bear in mind that an empty CD is limited to 70 minutes play time, which might be around 80 tunes, so watch the cumulative amount of time at the bottom of the playlist. Incidentally you can change the order of the tunes by dragging them up or down the playlist. You can delete any tune by clicking on it and pressing delete on the keyboard.  This does not delete the file from your computer.  Playlists are merely lists which refer to the tunes on your hard disk.
When you are ready to burn the disk insert a blank in your CD writer drive and click OK to write the disk. Make sure you select the correct drive. Also select a speed to write the disk.  Slower speeds tend to be more accurate. Next choose the disk format e.g. Audio CD and choose Gap between Songs. Use Sound Check if you want all the songs to be played at the same volume and CD Text if you wish. Now click the Burn button.  It is possible to make further copies after it has finished.  If there are too many songs to fit you can spread them over two disks or return to the playlist and delete some of them.  
To print a CD sleeve go to CD, Devices then File, Print and tick CD Jewel Case and choose Text or a design which is offered

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http://www.spotify.com/uk/  Free listening with adverts.  Without ads = £4.99 a month.  Premium, with downloading £9.99 a month (try it free for 30 days)

http://wa.bearshare.com/install/thankyou.php?appid=102&type=new  Bearshare seems to soldier on

If you wish to make an MP3 from a Youtube video which contains music try http://www.listentoyoutube.com/

To download BBC stuff take a look at http://iplayerhelp.external.bbc.co.uk/help/downloading/

Moving your vinyl records, audio tapes, CDs to your PC? You could finish up with a studio full of various bits of equipment some music centres will do all this in one unit.    And there are turntables that connect to a PC via the USB socket and can record vinyl to MP3 disks. Search on www.maplin.co.uk

Converting vinyl records to CD and DVD.  Good article at http://askbobrankin.com/converting_vinyl_records_to_cd.html
 On this subject, a skilled (older, of course!) contact has sent me a very full explanation about getting the best copy of your vinyl records. He indicates that the main weakness in transcription is the turntable and cartridge itself and that, if you wish to obtain good results, you should get the best one you can. Cheaper ones are unlikely to give you the best results but it might not be worth it for well played records on a old cheap record player as the records will already be damaged and then a cheaper USB turntable will probably suffice Also, that very high sampling rates (above 192 Kbit/sec) will just make the resultant MP3 bigger with little improvement in quality, especially if you are not going to be playing back on hi-fi equipment. He suggests experimenting with lower rates to see if they satisfy you. Also, recording in mono will enable you to create smaller versions, should you wish to cram more onto a CD. Moreover, he feels that, for those who want the best experience they should pay for quality speakers. p.s. what amazes me is that the sound coming from my 6mm thick iPad is far easier for my cloth ears to understand than from any of our other gadgets. He explains that this is likely to be because the iPad tends to use higher frequencies, which are better for cochlear implant users (but not for older people who are hard of hearing).

There is a video about legitimate music at http://www.youtube.com/user/ProMusicUK#p/u/0/XY17g-oLUy0.  They also mention visiting www.pro-music.org

Under UK Copyright law it is still illegal to copy music off a CD that you have bought.  The law needs to be changed. However, it is good to hear that Spotify provide unlimited listening based on advertising revenue. Recently the British Phonographic Industry organisation has conceded that they are unlikely to prosecute anyone if it is for their own personal use

What if you have a new PC.  Can you copy the legitimately purchased music from your old PC to the new one ? The answer is quite complex.  Take a look at http://reviews.cnet.com/4520-10165_7-5798512-1.html

Real.com the makers of Real Player have brought out RealPlayerPlus. Apart from being a useful player for all kinds of media (a wider range of file types than Windows Media Player) it also enables you to download videos from places like Youtube.

Following court action music sharing site Kazaa has been closed down. Other sites allowing the download of copyright material e.g. Limewire are being fined and shut down.

www.classical.com allow completely free and legitimate downloading of some music

 A free program for compressing MP3 to smaller files.  Get 250 on a CD ! www.mp3audiomill.com (recommended by Computer Active)

Burn a compilation to disk with CDburnerXP (also works with Vista) from www.cdburnerxp.se (also recommended by Computer Active) Works on later Windows, too.

Buying tickets for gigs on line.  How not to get stung. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7574563.stm

Downloading videos.  A contact wished to download some videos with music which he had found on www.youtube.com, so I investigated. Although Youtube says it is not possible to download their videos you may be able to do this if you find a suitable program. However, I have experienced serious problems finding a free one.  Avast gave a warning about the program YTD and Freemake Downloade resulted in serious disruption to my Browser.  I would not recommend either

 On the whole I prefer the safer VLC Media Player for conversion.  To use this open VLC and click Media, Convert, Click Add and find the files you wish to convert. Decide where you want the result to be save and what it will be called.  An example is a Jibjab video which can be between 16 and 70Mb MPG file.  They play best with Windows Media Player full screen. You can burn files to disk with WMP but I was unable to find a converter.  VLC allows to to save them in files of various qualities and for very many machines including ipos, Android, PSP MP3 WMV DivX etc Mostly they are converted to the commonplace Mp4 format (which what most mobile phones use. A 16mb MPG n Mp4 came out at 3.4mb. (update Dec 2013)

To include them in things like Movie Maker or DVD maker they are best turned to AVI. As I was unable to use VLC to convert to AVI I used a program called Pezara, which did the job in a similar way and the result was about the same smaller size but still played at a reasonable quality full screen with Windows Media Player

 BEWARE : I have found that a number of the free converter programs are later considered to be spyware by my anti virus/anti spyware programs.

Universal Music are making thousands of tracks available in MP3 format that are free of DRM protection.  EMI is also selling DRM-free music on iTunes and through other online music stores

Radio. You can tune into radio programs from your PC from http://www.accuradio.com  (You can select your own kind of music) Also check out http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio  Thanks, Jack, for that contribution

Apple iTunes online music store are selling music that can be played on any player.. i.e. not just for iPods.  What is more the 15,000 tracks in EMI's catalogue will no longer be copyright protected. However the tracks will cost 20p more, so will be around the £1 mark. People who downloaded DRM protected music will be able to upgrade them on payment of the additional 20p.  The newly available tracks will be encoded at twice the quality of the old ones.  EMI is also hoping to be able to supply Beatles songs for the first time.

You can convert videos to iPod usable format with a free converter from  http://www.videora.com/en-us/Converter/iPod/ 

Microsoft's free Windows Media Player (10) allows for the ripping and recording of MP3 files.

There are a couple of booklets available at http://www.convertfromvhs.com  on getting your records and video tapes onto CD

Another site devoted to LP to CD recording is at http://www.delback.co.uk/lp-cdr.htm  **

Downloading Music from the net

n.b. Keeping music on a hard disk can be risky due to hard disk failure or inadvertently deleting the tracks. Fewer than half of the insurance companies provide cover for music and other digital downloads in their general computer policies. So back up your music to CD or DVD or upload what you have to a site such as Diino (but they are now charging for this service)

Tip :  If you have downloaded MP3s on your machine and they haven't got the full details (referred to as ID3 tags) then go to www.mediamonkey.com and this will add the missing data from the Amazon website

Downloading music has become very popular, particularly with people who have Broadband, as music files of any kind tend to be rather large and, so, take a long time to download.  With an 56k dialup modem you may manage to get them at the rate of one megabyte a minute, so with each tune occupying at least 2 mb space  (and WAV format versions being ten times that) you can see that downloading an album would take quite a while.  This would be cut to a 10th with a slower Broadband connection and to a 20th or less by one of the faster ones.
Since 1999 there has been a great deal of illegal track downloading by people (and swapping of music between PC owners) who paid nothing for the tracks despite them being copyright.  Eventually the music industry got fed up with this and successfully took music sites and individuals to court, so that illegal downloading is now much reduced.  The original illegal site, Napster www.napster.co.uk, has now become legitimate and charges a monthly subscription.  This gives access to 2,000,000 tracks. But if you wish to put the music onto a CD or portable player you will have to pay an additional 99p per track. HMV have a similar arrangement (monthly fee + pay per tune if you want to put hem on CD/DVD. Tracks on all sites (apart from Apple) are coded as WMA (Windows Media Audio) or MP3 and can be played with Windows Media Player. Apple uses an AAC format that is only playable on iPods or with iPod software on a PC. To convert Itunes tracks to MP3 format see http://www.askbobrankin.com/convert_itunes_to_mp3_format.html Also have a look at http://askbobrankin.com/download_with_bittorrent.html for downloading with Bittorrent software.

A new popular P2P (Person to person downloader for music is called Frostwire. Legitimate download for illegitimate music ?

Limewire was closed by a judgement in the USA. It was a file sharing program which ran up against the copyright rules

Music is also available from www.Tiscali.co.uk/music/musicclub, www.MSN.co.uk/musicclub, www.Wanadoo.co.uk/music (ISP's) plus www.mycokemusic.com and www.wippit.co.uk (from 29p per track), although Computer Active ( No166) considered Napster the easiest to use. Wippit also provides movies from 99p.  There is quite a lot of free music being supplied by groups wanting to make a name for themselves. See www.myspace.com. See http://askbobrankin.com/add_music_to_myspace.html.  
If you want to make sure a site is legal go to the British Phonographic Institute site at www.pro-music.org.  Parents should bear in mind that they would be legally responsible for the downloading habits of their children and could be fined.

So, how come you can't just download and save the stuff anyway ?  New software called a DRM license has enabled the sites to lock the tracks until you pay.  This license follows the track onto your machine and without it the tune won't play.

Unfortunately, not all music is available from these sites, due to copyright restrictions and you won't find any Beatles or Elton John there

In America, Wal-mart are now allowing the compilation of various artists on one disk.  After an initial charge of $4 each additional song costs 88 cents

Vinyl to CD/DVD

If you have many vinyl disks you need to put onto disk (or the computer) be aware that there is such a thing as a USB turntable. Just plug it into a USB port and record with the supplied Audacity software : www.firebox.com but it is £8.95  They also do a USB Cassette Deck from Ion at £99.95.  Creative do a Sound Blaster Connect box for £35.  The software with this will convert output from a tape player or turntable to MP3, so you can burn them to CD.

Otherwise : To copy your tracks from vinyl to CD You will need    (and see article above ** )
A record player with amplifier and Line Out, Aux or headphone socket
A suitable cable from this to the Line In socket on your sound card.  You CAN use a microphone but may get extraneous noises off.
A CD or DVD writer, blank CDs and software such as Ahead Nero or Roxio EasyCD
Some form of cleanup software if you wish to clean up pops, hisses and crackles e.g. Nero Soundtrax
To edit  and convert sound files you may wish to download other software.  See suggestions below

When it comes to computers there are a number of file formats for sounds.  A file format is determined by its ending.  Thus music files might have any of the following endings : WAV, MP3, MID, RM, WMA, CDA. In order to hear these one must have a suitable 'Player'.  You might have an MP3 player or you might have some software on your computer such as Sndrec32.exe which enables any PC to record and play back Music or speech in WAV format; a program such as Windows Media Player, which is capable of playing speech, music and Videos in all the formats mentioned but cannot record them. There are other free sound playing programs such as RealPlayer and Winamp.

MID files are rather unusual in that they use programs which are burnt in to the sound card in your PC and these interpret the MID file into the various instruments in a band or orchestra.  Because the instruments are 'built in' to your sound card the MID file can be remarkably small e.g. The file which is playing now (if you have sound on) is a mere 4k in length.  But creating these is another story.

What we want to end up with is a CD which can be played on any CD Player (CDA format) and/or a CD which will play on an MP3 player (MP3 format)

So, how does one start to record from your old turntable and get the music into a format that can be heard on your PC or on your car's CD player, MP3 player or even your DVD player ?

It would be a good idea to establish whether your equipment will play MP3's because, as they are highly compressed, it will allow you to get more music on a disk.   Many, but not all, CD and DVD players will play MP3s  But the CDA format is how the standard music disk is made so you may prefer to keep them that way.

First you must have some way to output the music from your turntable.  The best way would be from a Line-out or Aux socket on the record player's amplifier.  Some record players do not have one so you might have to use a the earphone socket or, as a last resort, a microphone next to the speaker.  This  last is not as satisfactory.  

Connect a cable from your record player amplifier's output socket (or a microphone) to the Input or Mic socket on your PC's sound card. The simplest sound recording software comes with Windows and is called the Sound Recorder.  It is called Sndrec32 these days and can be found in Programs,  Accessories, Entertainment.  However this is only capable of recording in the very large WAV format and is also limited to the length of recording.  So, you will be well advised to download more sophisticated software. The best program for recording is the free Audacity.  It also has the facility to edit the recording to take out any blank space at the beginning and end. While Audacity will normally record in the standard Wav format, it is also capable of saving the file as an MP3 which is much more compressed.  To do this you need a plug-in called Lame_enc.dll, which is downloaded from the Lame site. The first time you try to record as an MP3 Audacity will ask you to find the Lame_enc.dll file.  So, remember where you put it.

Quintessential player is a free download

Windows Media Player is an excellent program for playing and cataloging various music formats but it didn't used to include the facility for recording MP3's but the latest version does all that. It is a whopping 13.3Mb download from Microsoft.  However, there are various plug-ins which will help with that. In Version 11 click on Tools, Options, the Copy Music tab and click on 'Learn more about MP3 formats'. Computer Active suggests that you go to www.computeractive.co.uk/downloads/ and type in MP3. They recommend CDex as a suitable additional program.  

Here is my (very) basic instruction for copying music to an MP3 Player

Put the CD in the disk drive. Windows Media Play will start and list all the music on the CD. Untick all the music that you don't wish to 'rip' (transfer to your computer) Now click on Tools at the top of the screen, then Options, then Rip. Make sure that you change Format from Wav to MP3, otherwise the files will be ten times as big and you wont get many on your MP3 player. click Start Rip. The music you have selected is now on your PC in the Music folder somewhere. They will be in the folder Music (or, if XP, My Music) with a sub folder with the name of the artist, then a subfolder with name of the actual disk. You can now copy the file or files to your MP3 player. Most MP3 players will be recognised by your computer when they are connected to a USB socket. So, connect it. There are various ways to copy files (of any type) You need to SELECT the MP3s that are in your Music folder. As with any group of files you can click the first, hold down Shift and click the last. The files will then show as a different colour. Using the right hand button on the mouse click on the group and left click on the word Copy on the drop down menu.Now find your MP3 player, which should show up in the list of 'drives' when you click My Computer on the desktop. Right click on THAT and click Paste in the drop down Menu.You should see the copied files appear and you are finished.  There are facilities that allow you to synchronise the hard disk with the MP3 player but we will leave that for now.

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To ensure that your computer is accepting sound via the input socket of your choice you should go to Programs, Accessories, Entertainment, Volume Control or, if you have a Speaker icon on the taskbar (bottom right) just click on it.  Make sure that Line in is not muted and that the volume is up towards the top, though you may have to adjust this later if distortion occurs.

Method 1. Recording to the computer first

Run the program Sndrec32 (which has a very limited recording length) or, better still get another Audio program, such as Audacity.

 If you are using a microphone I suggest a couple of practice sessions by speaking into it. In Sndrec32 click the red dot when you are ready.  Click the black square to finish recording.  Go File, Save and name the file and make a note where it is saving.  The file will automatically be saved as a WAV file.  You will find that WAV files are uncompressed and will be large (megabyte) files. Now start a record and go through the same procedure. You can now play the file with Sndrec32 or Media Player or Real Player or a number of other players.  However, to convert it into CDA format for playing on most CD playing equipment you now  have to burn that file into a CD-R.  CD burning software such as Nero or Roxio Easy CD will offer the opportunity to turn the files in CDA format and will accept either WAV or MP3 files.  So, if you have an audi recording program that will Save your recording as an MP3 you should save it that way because of the benefit of MP3 compression (compared with the WAV format)

 When you have converted a file to the format you require and sure it runs satisfactorily you can delete the Wav version from the hard disk.  When you have a collection (WAV or MP3) they can be burnt to CD as CDA files.  

Method 2. Recording Directly to CD

If you have software such as Nero Burning it is possible to record directly from your vinyl to your CD.  Proceed as before but start Nero, Nero 6, Soundtrax.  Go to the Tools Menu and select Wizards.  Choose LP to CD Wizard.   Choose the correct input (Audio Input Line, Line In. Start playing a record. and adjust the recording volume slider until the level meters are showing that the incoming audio peaks mostly in the yellow area. It should not peak too high or you will get distortion.  Now click on the Red button to start recording and the Stop button when you have finished.  I suggest that you do a trail run of a single track   Then click Next to proceed to the next stage.   Nero can automatically split up the recordings into individual tracks but may need some preparation. You need to set the maximum noise level for pauses between tracks by adjusting the Silence Threshold.  0.52DB is suggested.  To make sure that deliberate gaps in music are ignored you can set the Minimum Duration of a Pause (say 20 seconds) and a Minimum Duration of a Track (say 20 seconds or more) Click Detect. Click Next.   At this point the software allows you to make the settings and you can use sliders to set the Denoiser, Declicker and Decrackler levels. There is a Preview facility to check what improvements it has made.  Click Next.

You have now  (hopefully) recorded to the computer, split and cleaned up the tracks so click Burn Project Immediately.  Click Finish and click the Burn button to write to the CD

Article by a very experienced Music CD 'Ripper'

I have summarised his article.  He says  " There are  also various CODECs available for encoding MP3s. One of the best CODECs is Fraunhofer IIS MPEG Layer-3 Codec (advanced) Some others are Ogg Vorbis, Lame and Xing. But what makes more difference in the quality of the MP3 is the sampling rate. The rate can be as low as 8 Kbps and up to 320 Kbps. At 128 Kbps the music sounds like AM radio. At 160 Kbps the quality improves. 160 is good, 192 is better, and 224 is almost indistinguishable from the original. 256 is considered Studio quality and 320 Kbps rate, the music from the CD is ripped at Lab quality. The down side to this is that the higher the bit rate, the larger the MP3 file size will be. The file size is also affected by whether you are using "Fixed" or "Variable Bit Rate" Encoding. A CD-R burned with MP3s, even at 320 Kbps, can hold around 80 songs. Audio Books are available in MP3.

Also recommended is the MusicMatch Jukebox software (http://www.musicmatch.com) which is available in a free version and a Plus version for $20.00. Both excellent. The free version is ad and spyware free. It is just stripped down and slower than the Plus version. With MMJB you can rip your music CD collection and also burn your MP3s to CD-Rs. Another excellent feature of MMJB is its database function. And Nero 6 Ultra will burn CD-R/RWs and DVDs with out a hiccup. It also will rip, make Video CDs/DVDs, edit audio and much more.

n.b. The quality of the blank CD, the software used to burn and the drive used to burn are the key."

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To Summarise the LP to CD process

1. Connect the turntable to the amplifier if it is separate.

2. Connect the amplifier TAPE OUT /LINE OUR/AUX socket to the sound card LINE-IN.

3. Make sure your PC volume control software (found in All programs Accessories, Entertainment, volume control) has the RECORDING controls set with Line In checked, and the slider up towards the top.

4. Start up some suitable sound recording software. The one that comes with Windows is called Sndrec32.exe and can be found in All programs Accessories, Entertainment

5. Put the record on, hit the record button (red spot?) on your recording software when the music starts. When the record is over, hit stop on the software (black square?). Delete any silence from the beginning and the end using suitable audio recording software, hit File, Export or File, Save and save it as a .wav or .mp3 file. Sndrec32 will only save as Wav file and these are massive, so you would need some Wav to MP3 conversion software. Be sure to convert to a quality (bit rate) that you require.

6. Use crackle removing software if you have some.

7. If it is an LP, you may want to save as separate tracks - you can do this with your some sound recording software, such as RIP VINYL.

8. Your CD burner will have come with software such as Easy CD or Nero, although Windows XP has a basic CD burning facility. Now you can use this to select which tracks you want to burn to audio CD.

Apart from the fact that WMP can be set to play almost any music (and video) format it is now capable of copying (ripping) music from music CDs and turning them into WMA (Windows Media Audio) or MP3 file types.  These can be compressed to various degrees and can be played on CD or DVD players, say in a car or on a portable CD player, or can be played on various portable devices such as MP3 players.  Although the MP3 players may be the size of a memory stick  (the size of a cigarette lighter) they have various capacities and can certainly hold  upwards of 80 recordings.

Simply copy music from a CD onto your PC and save them as MP3 or WMA type. Plug the player into a USB port. XP or Vista will instantly recognised it as an additional hard disk and you can copy the music to the player - or delete them - in the normal way.  It is a good idea to rename the files appropriately (rather than leave them called Track 01, Track 02 etc) A program can usually be found to enable earlier Windows versions (e.g. 98 and Millennium) to recognise the player.

Alternative music software (News from the Cnet download site)

The following site also deals with the subject http://www.jakeludington.com/convert-vinyl/

Recording from and Internet Radio Station

Although it is possible to use Windows Media Player to access radio stations it does not have facilities to record the programs or music. For this purpose it is recommended that you get an additional program such as Replay Radio from Applian.  You can download this form www.replay-radio.com to test it out before buying.  There is a setting up procedure, which includes selecting a radio station.

Converting Video Tapes to DVD  See http://askbobrankin.com/convert_vhs_to_dvd.html

There are stories that VCR tape recorders are on their way out and companies such as Dixons no longer sell them.  In this case you may wish to consider putting your favourite tapes (Weddings etc) onto DVD. Of course, to do this you will need some equipment that records DVD's.  This might be a DVD recorder sitting next to (or integral with) your VCR.  However, this section concentrates on recording to a DVD recorder in your PC.  If you haven't got one you will find that the prices have come down substantially and the can be added to your PC quite easily either in addition to your CD drive or instead of it.  However, I would not recommend attempting this process without a very modern PC with USB2 ports, a chip speed of 1.5Ghz or more and many Gigabytes of free hard disk space.

Some machines already have internal video capturing cards and have suitable software to go with them. Otherwise it will be necessary to purchase an external device e.g. the Dazzle DVC90 from www.pinnaclesys.com, which comes with video capture software.  This device plugs into the USB port and XP will automatically detect and install a suitable driver. You need to connect the VCR (or camera) to the Dazzle with a suitable cable.  If the camera has an S-Video socket this is the preferable connection.  Otherwise you need a triple phono to phono cable (£10 from the High Street or £1 from a cheap store). Or you may find that you can use a Scart to phono cable from your VCR (similar prices). If you use Pinnacle Studio software you will find that the recording can be made in MPEG2 format and you can choose between Low quality Video CD and Medium and High Quality DVD. There is also the option to record in AVI format but these are very large and not recommended for this job. You may need to download an MPEG 2 Codec from Pinnacle at this time. Have a go at recording a couple of minutes then check the result.  If it says there are a lot of 'dropped frames' you may need to reduce the resolution from the standard 720 x 576 in order to get a better result.  Next record a longer piece of video and note where it is saved on the PC hard disk. It is suggested that you break up the files into more than one, naming them different things. Next, to burn the video to disk you will require some additional software such as Nerovision Express.  A trial version can be downloaded from Nero..  Load the program and click on Make DVD and select DVD-Video.  Select Add Video Files and then go to the folder where you have recorded them and select all of the files you created. You will be given the opportunity to Create Chapters.  If you do this the viewer will be able to jump from one chapter to another using their video player - otherwise they will only be able to go though the video from beginning to end though they could Fast Forward. Click the green button to start recording and click Add Chapter where you wish to make a Chapter break.  If you prefer you can experiment with the Auto Chaptering facility whereby chapters are inserted at set intervals.  With the Pinnacle software you are offered Templates for titles, which can be amended with text such as " Our Holiday 2005".  Click on Next and Burn.  It is possible to amend the speed of recording at this stage.

Other useful software I have found is DVD Fab, the AVS4You suite, Any Video Converter and Windows Movie Maker

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