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Voice Recording Magic with the iPod
Pages: 1, 2

Editing in QuickTime Pro

As you can see, using the iPod as a digital recorder has the advantage of seamlessly integrating with your Mac. It only takes seconds to transfer the audio from the device to the computer, then have it open in QuickTime ready for editing.

Now that they're open, I'm going to provide you with a few simple editing tricks. If you like what you see and want more in-depth information, then check out Hack #56 (p. 160), Hack #59 (p. 169), and Hack #60 (p. 172) in Digital Photography Hacks. You'll find more than enough info there to begin your journey toward becoming a QuickTime magician.

But for now, here's how you get started. Select any portion of your audio track in QTP by moving the two bottom triangles on the scrubber bar to the beginning and ending points of the audio you want to work with.

Figure 4: The gray area between the endpoints (triangle markers on the bottom of the scrubber bar) is the section of audio you have selected.

Once you've selected your audio, you can either copy it or trim it. If you choose Copy (Edit > Copy), then that section of audio is put on the clipboard and can be added to another QuickTime file or placed in its own new file. Selecting Trim enables you to lop off everything outside of the gray selected area. This is an easy way to "clean up" your audio tracks by removing unwanted goop at the beginning and the end.

Figure 5: Once you've selected your section of audio, you can either copy it or trim off the excess goop.

You can build a continuous audio track from many different recordings by copying selected sections, then using the Add command (Edit > Add) to construct your soundtrack. The reason why you use Add instead of Paste is because Paste will overwrite the existing track, while Add just inserts the new audio segment leaving the existing stuff alone.

When using either Add or Paste, the insertion happens at the point where the upper triangle on the scrubber bar is positioned. (See Figure 6.) Don't forget that! Where ever you place that upper triangle is where the audio (or a video track for that matter) will be inserted using the Add or Paste command.

Figure 6: The selection from the iPod WAV file (top figure) has been copied and will be added to the end of the existing audio in my new QuickTime file (bottom figure) because I've placed the marker (large top triangle) at the end of the file that I'm adding it to.

Once you've finished editing your audio, be sure to Save As and click on the radio button marked "Make movie self-contained." This will put all of the components you've added to your project into one container so you can save it and share with other people.

Figure 7: Be sure to check the self-contained radio button when saving your completed project.

As you can see, by using these few basic commands you have taken control of the audio that you recorded with your iPod. Keep in mind that you can add nearly an unlimited number of tracks to a single QuickTime File. And you're not limited to just audio files. If you have QuickTime video or slideshows, you can add audio to those too. See where I'm going with all of this. This goes beyond simple voice recording. Your iPod can become a valuable component in your entire digital media workflow. Let's explore this further.

Getting Creative

Indeed the iPod is handy for recording lectures and other practical applications. The audio is easy to transfer, label, and edit. But, as you know, I live to go beyond the merely practical. Here are a few creative uses to contemplate.

Related Reading

Digital Photography Hacks
100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Tools
By Derrick Story

  • Voiceover for Slideshows -- Imagine that you're taking pictures at a family wedding. You have lots of great shots of relatives and friends. You've built a cool slideshow in iPhoto and exported it to QuickTime. (You can also build your QuickTime slideshow from scratch. Either way, see Hack #54 on page 154 in Digital Photography Hacks for detailed instructions.) Don't forget to bring your iPod to this event! Capture short audio snippets of your relatives and add them as voiceover tracks to your slideshow (Hack #60 on p. 172). Simply copy the audio snippet to the clipboard, open your slideshow, and position the top marker on the scrubber bar to where the picture of that person appears. Then choose Add from the Edit menu. Now you have both their face and their voice. What a family treasure that could be. Remember to keep those audio snippets short so they don't run longer than the series of images they are associated with.

  • Ambient Sounds of Nature -- Bring your iPod when you go hiking too. You can photograph birds while capturing the sweet melody of their calls. Imagine what an excellent teaching tool this would be to have both picture and call in a short QuickTime file. (See how to make these "audio postcards" in the article Sound Is Half the Picture.) Landscape photographers can use this technique too. Audio snippets of running water, wind in the canyon, and the morning chatter of birds add a new dimension to picturesque slideshows.

  • Movie Making with Digital Cameras -- I'm a big fan of making full motion QuickTime videos with my digital still camera. The movie mode on cameras such as the Contax SL300R T* is nothing short of amazing (640 x 480 at 15 or 30 fps). And many current models by Nikon, Canon, Olympus, and Sony offer impressive movie capabilities too. The problem is that the recorded audio is often sub par with these cameras. What I like to do is record an additional audio track with my iPod, then substitute it for the sub par track that the camera captures. To easily synchronize the iPod audio with the digital camera video, all I do is start both devices, look directly into the camera and clap my hands twice. This provides me with an audio and visual marker that I can use to precisely combine the tracks later in QuickTime Pro. It works, and it's very effective. Here's a tip: you can turn off the original sub par audio track that the camera captured by using the Enabled command. Go to Edit > Enable Tracks to turn off and on the tracks in your production.

And the list goes on and on. Truly, the only limitation is your creativity.

Final Thoughts

When I demonstrate these techniques in my digital photography workshops, one question I always hear is, "Do I need an iPod to have this capability?" The answer is "No, you don't need an iPod." You can use just about any digital audio recording device, as long as you can figure out a way to get the audio tracks into your Mac and convert them to QuickTime.

But I like to use the iPod. It's easy, fast, and I already have one with me anyway. I'm a true believer that visual productions with audio are far more compelling than those without. The iPod with audio input has become an important tool in my digital media bag of tricks.

Derrick Story is the author of The Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers, The Digital Photography Companion, and Digital Photography Hacks, and coauthor of iPhoto: The Missing Manual, with David Pogue. You can follow him on Twitter or visit

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