Royalty Free Podcast Promo Soundpack

I’m always looking for more audio sound effects – especially free ones. Beatsuite.com has a collection of Royalty Free and free as in no cost audio samples designed specifically for podcasters. Terms of use are simply that you need to credit Beatsuite.com for providing them. As far as I can tell, the collection is available only on Apple’s download site and the files are listed as requiring Mac OS X, but fear not, the WAV files in the download will work just as easily for Linux and Windows users too.

Fixing Haze in Digital Photos

After recently grumbling about the smoggy haze in some of my photos from Beijing, Gary B. sent me a tip from Luminous Landscape about how to tweak contrast to make subtle details pop. The original article was geared to making subtle highlights like shadows standout for printed photos, but it seems to work for improving the look of images taken on a couple hazy mornings in China. The trick involves using some kind of Unsharp Mask filter, which as defined by the Photoshop Elements help file is a technique for giving the illusion of greater detail in an image (sharpness) by increasing the contrast between the light and dark areas of the image. Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and Paint Shop Pro all have an Unsharp Mask built in. I haven’t found a good freeware plugin solution for this particular technique if you happen to use some other tool.

The small image doesn’t really do the subtle improvements justice, so I’ve posted larger versions online for a better comparison of details.

How to Make a Rotoscoped Movie

Whether you like Philip K. Dick or not, A Scanner Darkly looks amazing. The rotoscoping technique used by Richard Linklater was perfected in his previous film Waking Life and applied in a beautifully disturbing way in A Scanner Darkly. If you want to make something similar yourself, all you need is a video, Photoshop and a whole ton of patience. A guy named Jared at barnt.org walks through how to start with a video clip, export it as individual images using QuickTime Pro and then edit the resulting image files in Photoshop using specific filters before ultimately re-importing the files back into a video editing app to publish your finished file. While this isn’t exactly rotoscoping, the visual appearance of the footage looks very similar and you get a striking result.

How to Rip the Perfect MP3

Exact Audio Copy is one of the most reliable tools for ripping CDs. If you’ve ever ripped a disk only to play it back with strange skips and pops in some tracks, you know the frustration of dealing with a bad audio copy. Exact Audio Copy (EAC) solves this by building in smart error correction to handle the issues associated with ripping tracks to your hard drive. Digital Media Thoughts recently posted a tutorial on how to use EAC to rip your music directly to MP3.

How to Make a Camera Dolly

Using a dolly for motion camera shots is likely a little out of the norm for home movies. For tracking motion or creating perspective motion in a video shot, it’s an absolute must because you can’t get a smooth sequence without a dolly. In most cases a camera dolly consists of a platform with a tripod mounted camera and seat for a camera operator elevated on a track to obtain smooth precise motion along the path of a planned shot in a video sequence. While doing some online research for a little video project I want to create, I ran across several inventive solutions for do-it-yourself dolly rigs from common parts available at the local hardware store (or possibly the local skate shop).

Word HTML Cleaner

If you have a Microsoft Word document you want to format for the Web, do not post it online until you have use the Textism Word HTML Cleaner. Word is notorious for adding a ton of funky text formatting to .DOC files. Converting those files in Word by saving them as HTML only makes matters worse. All this extra formatting can make your text display badly and it’s guaranteed to greatly increase the size of your page, ultimately slowing down page load times and creating a lousy experience for many users. I use Microsoft Word and I’ve almost never used the feature of Word that re-formats text to HTML because it’s simply to awful. Word HTML Cleaner fixes this problem for free. Simply save your current Word document as Web Page using the Save As dialog in Microsoft Word, find the new Web Page document on your hard drive in the Word HTML cleaner dialog box, hit process and you’ll have a kinder, gentler version of your file ready for posting to the Web minus all the messy formatting. Your readers will thank you. It’s Web-based so it works with both Mac and Windows.

Sonicfire Pro

Sometime back I received a review copy of Smartsound’s Sonicfire Pro software. The software is designed for adding soundtracks to movie projects, by taking stock audio and manipulating a number of variations of the track to get a sound that fits the mood of your video. The mood concept is extremely interesting and works better than I can put into words, which is why I’ve been wrestling with how to write a review of the software. At its core, Sonicfire Pro is good at a number of elements in combining audio and video or adapting a piece of music to fit a specific time target. In fact, this is my favorite use for the software, browsing the library of available audio, choosing a mood and then setting the audio length to exactly the amount of time I need to fill. Each of the tracks is automatically customizable and includes 10 different variations on the music theme. If you only need a specific piece of a track, you can grab a loop from any segment of that audio and integrate it into your audio or video project. If there’s an instrument in the audio track you don’t like, you can remove the instrument from the track, which makes the audio infinitely customizable to actually fit the sound you’re looking for from the audio. Of course, what I love about the software is that using a few quick options gives you a feel for what the sound might be; it’s often great and better than good enough to keep as the soundtrack for the final product. I won’t go so far as to say you could fire a composer from a professional project, because there’s no replacement for human creativity, but it certainly makes it easy to build out great sounding audio in places where you might never have thought of using a soundtrack. The only thing that’s a little scary for home users and DIY creative types is the price. A base package with some core audio sounds and the actual program starts at $199, putting Sonicfire Pro out of the price range of many users. At the same time, if you ever purchase royalty free tracks, the price of individual packages adds up quickly to the point where buying Sonicfire Pro will save you money and deliver a better sounding product over the long haul. I guarantee the trial version will have you hooked. [Windows XP | Mac OS X | Various Prices]