Music and Video Files: Modify them to your needs.

Music and Video files that you produce with your video camera, or voice recorder, are not always exactly what you want. Now, I’m not suggesting that you can change the artistic quality of the file, but that you can change the file length or size to accommodate your particular needs. With either an audio or a video file, the particular file may be too long, or it may contain sections that are not needed. So, it would be nice to be able to cut off the beginning, the end, or remove a slice somewhere in between. I’m sure there are many other ways to accomplish these tasks, but I have found that Windows Movie Maker (to modify video files) and Audacity (to modify audio or music files) are good choices, and both of these software applications are free. Windows Movie Maker is provided by Microsoft, and Audacity is provided by Sourceforge.

A multi-media presentation, or “movie” as Movie Maker (and many other commercial packages) calls it, is a collection of pictures, videos, and music, organized as a movie, used to tell a story. It may be the story of your latest vacation, your last birthday, the last big holiday, your youngest grandchild, or a pictorial history of someone, something, or some organization. If you have appropriate pictures, videos, and music, Movie Maker can easily put them together to create a movie to express your particular point of view. So, obtaining the pictures, videos and music is usually the first step in producing your movie. Pictures are probably the easiest; you just review the pictures, improve their quality if needed, and then put them is an appropriate sequence. Videos are a little more difficult because they usually need to be shortened, and possibly have inappropriate sections removed. Music, or audio, is easy if you have good recordings, but sometimes you may want to remove certain portions, like bad scratches or pops, or a long lead-in or long lead-out. Or you might only want a few words out of a lengthy oration.

Movie Maker can be used as a tool for modifying video clips. (Once the video clips are the way you want, you can then add them to your movie.)  After opening Movie Maker, click “add videos and photos”, and navigate to the video clip that you want to modify. Select the video clip and it will be added as the only item in your movie. The video clip will be imported and shown as a series of Video blocks. Now you can play your video clip using the Play and Pause buttons, and identify the pieces to be removed. Select “Edit”, under Video Tools, and you will see the “Split” tool. Move the Movie Cursor (the dark vertical bar) to the first point where you would like to split the video. If you are going to remove the beginning, move to the point where you would like the video to begin. Click the Split tool. This will create two videos, one before the split and one after the split. Right click the video piece to be removed and select “Remove”. This will delete that piece of the video. Now you can move through the video and identify pieces to remove and pieces to keep. Just move the Cursor to the locations to split the video and use the Split tool. Then Remove the unwanted pieces and save the good piece as a new video with a new name. Usually you will find pieces to keep and pieces to remove interspersed. If you want to save many pieces, you will probably have to find a piece to save and delete everything else, and then start over with the original video and isolate the next piece and delete everything else. So it may be very tedious if you want to save a lot of small pieces from one larger video, but it will surely be worth the time and effort. Once you have video pieces, you can join them by starting with a “File-New” movie and adding the video pieces using “add videos and photos”. Put them in the proper sequence and add a “transition” in between so they will flow smoothly, then save it as a new video.

Audacity is an Audio Editor and Recorder. Audacity is very comprehensive and can do many things. One of those things is that it can be used as a tool for modifying audio (sound or music) files. After opening Audacity, click File-Open and navigate to the audio clip that you want to modify. The audio clip will be imported and shown as a graph of the amplitude of the audio. (Both Left and Right channels will be displayed if the audio is in stereo). Now you can Play your clip using the Play and Pause buttons and identify the pieces to be removed. No, or very low, volume periods will be indicated by just a horizontal line with no amplitude. The Audio Cursor can be placed on the recording by Right-clicking on a point in the recording. A section of the recording can be selected by pressing the Right Mouse button while on the recording, and dragging the Mouse to the end of the area to be selected. Then using the File-Export Selection, the selected section can be saved as a new audio file with a new name. I found this tool very helpful in separating multiple cuts from an audio recording of a complete side of a vinyl recording (a record album for those of us over 40). I had converted my old vinyl recordings to .mp3 files, just before giving them away. To save time I converted the recordings a side at a time. So for each vinyl album I ended up with two .mp3 files, each about 20 to 25 minutes, and each having 12 to 16 cuts (songs) in each .mp3 file. So, the individual songs were separated by about 2 seconds of silence (no amplitude), making them easy to identify, once you have listened to the cut using Audacity.

As you can see from these basic directions for modifying a video file with Movie Maker and an audio file with Audacity, the process is very similar, even though the displays look very different and the displayed file representations look very different. The results are very similar too; it’s a modified file that will be useful in your next Movie Making project.