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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Making an Audio-CD from downloaded sound effect files

We sometimes get people writing in and asking us whether it’s possible to get our sound effects on a CD. It may be that they need to put together an Audio CD to use for playing sound effects during a theatre, recital, a magic show or similar. What the customer typically needs is a CD that will work in a regular music CD player, with one sound effect on each track, so that they can play a track from the CD to get one sound effect, and then play the next track for the next sound effect, etc.

We at 1SoundFX.com do not produce CD’s, and we will not create a CD and send that CD to you in the post. However, in case you weren’t already aware, it’s now very easy for anybody to create a CD using their own computer, and sound files downloaded from our site. And in this article, we’ll teach you how to do that with a Windows PC and the free program Windows Media Player.

You will need:

  • A computer that is equipped with a CD-recorder or DVD-recorder. The CD/DVD-recorder is sometimes also referred to as a “CD-burner” or “DVD-burner”. Nearly all computers have them! I’d say that most computers sold after since 1998 are already equipped with a CD/DVD-recorder as standard.

  • One or more blank CD-Recordable discs (also called CD-R discs). These are CD discs without any content on them – quite literally they are “blank”, empty CD’s which are ready for you to write (“burn”) your own audio content to them.

  • One or more WAV sound files that you have purchased and downloaded from our sound effects library.

  • A free software program that can create an Audio-CD from WAV sound files. The two most commonly used programs for this is Windows Media Player and iTunes.

Step 1: Obtain the actual sound files

This step involves using our website’s extensive sound library of well over 100,000 different sound recordings from all over the world, finding what you need, and then downloading those sound files to your computer. Start by Searching or Browsing for sounds on our site. Buy some Credits and use those Credits to buy the sounds.

Once you have bought one or more sounds, those sounds are immediately made available for you to download from the “My Downloads” page within your personal 1SoundFX.com user account area. From there, click to download the sound file(s) and take a note of where on your computer you store them.

In the illustration below you can see that I’ve saved 5 different sound files to a directory on my computer. In my example, I’ve saved them to G:\temp\sounds\ but you can save them to a different directory, such as “My downloads” or “My documents” etc.

In my example, I would like to make a 5-track Audio CD containing the 5 sounds you can see above. One sound on each CD track. “Amb Tokyo Japan Street Festival”, “Ambience Jungle Insects Birds Distant Apes”, “Vampire Bat, Close calls from a single animal”, “Avro Shackleton exterior” (A sound of two bomber planes passing over head), “Aberdeen Tram exterior Run at Speed”.

Step 2: Insert blank CD-R disc into your CD/DVD-recorder.

A blank CD-recordable can be purchased from just about any computer store, or these days even at supermarkets. You typically get them in packs of 5 for maybe 5 dollars, so they are not expensive.

Please note that while you are browsing for blank CD-Recordables, you may come across some described as CD-R and some described as CD-RW. The difference between these two types of discs is that the CD-R can only be written to once. Once you have put your audio onto it, that disc stays like that forever. You cannot later change the content, or use the same disc to create a new, different Audio-CD later.

The CD-RW disc can actually be re-used. You can create a working CD on a CD-RW disc and when you’re finished with it, you can use the same CD-RW disc to write a new Audio-CD or data disc. You simply “blank it out” again and start over, using the same disc. Take care however, because many Audio-CD players cannot play the CD-RW disc format! Some can, others can’t. If in doubt, use only regular CD-R – not CD-RW discs.

Unwrap a blank CD-R disc and put it in your computer’s CD/DVD drive, like so:

Step 3: Create a playlist in Windows Media Player

Now it’s time to start up the program Windows Media Player, which comes free with Windows. If you haven’t got the latest version of this program, you can download the latest version free from Microsoft, at this link.

Once you’ve started the Windows Media Player program, look near the top right-hand corner of the program where you can see a little blue arrow pointing toward the left. This is the Show list pane button – we’ve circled it below:

Click this button to open up an area on the right-hand side of the program, which should look something like this:

It’s now time to create a “Playlist” using the sound files that you’ve downloaded from our site. To do this, do as Windows Media Player suggests: “Drag items here”. So while you’re looking at this view in Windows Media Player, make sure you are also viewing – elsewhere on screen – the directory where you stored your downloaded files. Now select all the files (or those you want to add to the playlist), click and HOLD your left mouse button on them, and – while still holding the mouse button – Drag your mouse over the “Drag items here” text in Windows Media Player, and then let go of the left mouse button.

You will now have a “Playlist” that’s ready to be written (“burned”) to CD. You can re-arrange and decide the order in which you want the sounds to play (remember, it will be one sound per CD-track) by simply clicking on the different sounds in the playlist view and dragging the sound up/down.

My playlist now looks like this:

In my example, Track 1 on the CD will be “Ambience jungle”. Track 2 will be “Vampire bat”. Track 3 will be “Avro Shackleton”, Track 4 will be “Aberdeen Tram” and Track 5 will be “Ambience Tokyo Japan”.

Step 4: Creating the actual CD

Now we will copy this playlist onto the CD-R disc, which is also commonly known as “burning a CD”. It’s really quite straightforward. Look at the top bar of Windows Media Player, you’ll see a large-ish button with “Burn” on it. Mouse-over this button and you’ll see a smaller line with a tiny arrow on it, just on the bottom edge of this button. This is for opening the “Burn options”. Click to have a look at it.

Firstly, in our example, you want to make sure that you are set to burn “Audio-CD”, not “Data CD”. We are making a CD that we want to play in a regular music CD player, and in order to get that, we need to burn it the CD in “Audio-CD” format – not in Data CD / CDROM format.

Secondly, you may want to look at “More Options” here and take a look at the “burn speed”:

Most CD-writers today are capable of burning an Audio-CD at very high burn speed. Doing this will finish the burn process in a couple of minutes or even less- but you should be aware that burning Audio-CD’s at very high burn speed may give you more error-prone discs! You may find that some fidgety CD-players are unable to play a disc that’s burned at very high burn speed, or that you get audio skipping, cd tracking problems (“jumpy sound”) or other problems caused by burning at high speeds. Personally I always write at Slow speed. I’m not in that much of a hurry that I can’t wait 10 minutes instead of 5 minutes for the disc to be burned! And burning at slower speed gives me discs that I find are more reliable, less error prone, and just tend to work better, for longer.

You only have to set this option once – not every time you want to create a new CD.

Once this is done, click OK and then you’re back to the main Windows Media Player window. Now click that big “Burn” button near the top of the program, and Windows Media Player will start writing the Audio-data to your blank CD-Recordable. It will take maybe 2 minutes if you have only a couple of short sounds on it – up to maybe 15 minutes if you have a whole CD full of sound.

Maximum 70 minutes. Maximum 99 tracks.

For the record, a normal CD-R disc can typically take about 70 minutes of sound in total. Also, the Audio-CD format is limited to 99 tracks. You cannot have more than 99 tracks on an Audio-CD, regardless of the length of your sounds, or the total length of all the audio you’re trying to write to the disc.

Once it’s done, the disc should pop out of your computer and it should be ready to play in your music CD player. Enjoy!

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