08 April 2007

Exploring Digital Audio Recording at My Church

I've had the good fortune of having both an old computer that was gathering dust in our choir loft and ready access to "open source" audio recording and editing software at my congregation.

I've been experimenting with adding digital audio recording at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana. This is yet another way to allow members, friends, and potential members to participate in congregational life and learn more about Unitarian Universalism. It's also something that our minister wants to start doing.

Digital recording allows our members who want a recording of the worship service to have it on audio CD. Audio CDs are useful for members who want a worship recording but don't have a cassette player in the car. The digital recording will also let us put digital audio files on the congregation's web site.

The old computer that I've plugged into our sanctuary sound board is a generic Windows PC-compatible clone that was formerly used by our office administrator until June 2006. It had an AMD Athlon 1200 MHz CPU, 768 megabytes RAM, 40 gigabyte hard drive, and a CD/RW drive. This older computer was purchased at least 4 to 5 years ago and had been upgraded from Windows ME to Windows XP Professional during its time as the office administrator's computer.

Since we don't have wired internet access in our sanctuary, I've installed a D-Link WDA-1320 PCI 802.11 b/g wireless LAN card on this computer. This allows me to access the internet using our church's wireless router (e.g. installing the latest software patches and security updates, uploading files to our congregation's web site, etc without having to drag the computer to a 10/100-Base-T internet connection in the church office). The reason for choosing this type of wireless LAN card is past experience using this card with Ubuntu Linux. It works "out of the box" without any special trick for the "Dapper Drake" and "Edgy Eft" releases).

To get the best performance out of this older computer, I installed Ubuntu 6.06 "Dapper Drake" on this computer instead of the Windows XP operating system. After installing the basic "Dapper" install and the latest security updates, I used the "Unofficial Ubuntu 6.06 (Dapper Drake) Starter Guide" to assist me in finishing the setup. The starter guide provides step-by-step instructions for installing "Automatrix2" on our computer. Automatrix2 automates most of the multi-media setup required for setting a computer that can read and write mp3 podcast files.

Ubuntu records the audio files in the "ogg" open-standard format. To edit these files (e.g. cutting out dead air time) and to convert the digital audio file into mp3 format used by nearly every portable audio player, I installed "Audacity," an open-source audio editor for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux.

Now that I've confirmed that all the hardware and software works during today's worship, I need to create some user documentation for the volunteers who run our worship audio system so they know how to record digital audio, edit for length if needed, and burn the digital audio to CD.

I will need to find some time to do that between the Our Whole Lives trainings I'm co-leading between now and June 2007.

There will be more to follow on this documentation in a future blog article.


boyinthebands said...

We're less than two weeks from the 7.04 Ubuntu "Feisty Fawn" release, which I plan to install on my home machine.

It promises to make media codecs (compresser-decompressers) easier to install.

Ben said...

We also use Ubuntu, but not for the direct recording. We have an iRiver T30 1gb Mp3 player/recorder. It plugs into the PA system, and has an external mic too (PA/mic for the minister, other mic for the choir). I then take it home and edit the audio with my Ubuntu rig. More info here: About Our Podcast