Linux audio managment

[2011-07-03] On RedHat Linux, we have managed to create a set of tools that are as fully functional as TotalRecorder + Windows Media Player is on a Windows PC. Not as tightly integrated, mind you, but fully functional.

Here are the Linux tools that are working now to download audio, edit WMA or MP3 files, then create MP3 for upload. Most of them are available or work with Windows or Mac PCs, all but the Dockstar and StarTech RAID box are free:
Purpose
Tool
How Used
How Acquired
Store files from recorders and serve to web from C3HUU Soundroom
Dockstar (Pogoplug rebranded by Seagate)
with StarTech USB RAID box
"Cloud" type storage device
Purchased Dockstar for under $50 on eBay, one at church, one for testing at home. StarTech RAID was another $50, installed twin 60GB SATA drives from laptops that had been upgraded.
Convert file formats (WMA or WAV
to Ogg or MP3)
SoundConverter
Launches into
Gnome window
or command line
yum --enablerepo=* install SoundRecorder
Edit, split, merge, alter
audio files.
Audacity
Launches into
Gnome window
yum --enablerepo=* install audacity
Play audio files
either local or online
RealPlay
Launches into
Gnome window
download from real.com, port of same
player as on Windows systems
Web site to allow remote
access to audio files
dockstar.pogoplug.com
From any web browser
Free service that is usable ONLY with a Dockstar or Pogoplug device. Functional, works OK to serve up streaming audio files to browser or iTunes or Windows Media Player.
Performance is very slow on upload or download if not streaming.
Using each of these tools, in order, allows for storing the files from the service audio and sermon audio respectively acquired on the digital recorders. The Dockstar stores files from any of the Olympus, Zoom, or Tascam digital recorders automatically after restarting the digital recorders in USB mode. Then files are backed up to local mirrored hard disk running beside the Dockstar. From there, IF the sermon audio wasn't captured correctly on the sermon recorder, or isn't a good copy, it is possible to download the whole service audio. Convert the file into a usable format for the audio editor using SoundConverter, then trim away all but the sermon audio using Audacity and repost the resulting audio file saved in MP3 format to the Dockstar. The sharing is all done from dockstar.pogoplug.com which creates URLs that can be posted in regular web sites, such as in the table here on http://c3huu.org/sermons

There were some other tools used prior to above on Linux:
  • FLAC - free lossless audio coding, converter (but not from WMA)
  • lame - to create MP3 files from WAV
  • TotalRecorder - under Windows, my favorite audio editor. Audaity is a SourceForge project and hasn't taken the place of good, tightly integrated commercial Window$ programs like this one. Very reasonable license fee.
  • oggxxx - various tools for Ogg encoding and decoding. In the end, though technically superior, many PC owners do NOT have an audio player capable of playing ogg files or automatically launching the audio player.

Semi-automated audio to the web

{This is draft contents before posting on the page on the C3H Wiki: http://c3h.wikispaces.com/Digital+Audio+Futures }
One requirement of the Soundroom team is to make this process of recording and posting the sermon on the web less of a chore and more automated. This would also speed up the process of getting Sermon audio posted. Some ideas being pursued:
  • Use the Network Attached Storage (NAS) device no longer used by staff when they moved to MacBooks as a way to move recordings automatically to a secure web site for later audio post processing and then upload to the C3HUU.org server where sermon audio is accessible from this link.
  • Acquire a second Digital Recorderand use that ONLY to record the sermon. Using two inexpensive Digital Recorders has the following features:
    1. Redundancy: should one recorder fail, or the operator fail to start one, the sermon is very likely to be recorded OK
    2. Simple processing of sermon audio, in most cases the sermon audio file from a dedicated Sermon Audio Recorder could just be renamed and posted.

On Sunday 2010-11-28, a second Digital Recorder was hooked up to the Soundboard and tested, here is a summary of the results:
  • A second recorder didn't work when connected with a Y connector to the same audio output and split off to a WS-400s and the Olympus VN5200PC digital recorders. Had to remove the second recorder to get adequate volume and no distortion on the VN5200PC (drawing to be added)
  • Recording just the sermon on a second recorder does make post processing easier, BUT then there are uploads from two digital recorders.
  • The QNAP TS-109 NAS device single button copy does work to copy all audio from the VN5200PC and WS-400s digital recorders, when done one recorder at a time. The QNAP TS-109 NAS does allow for some reprogramming of the single button on the top of the unit, but reprogramming the button led to hundreds of e-mail warning messages from the NAS to the staff ITServe e-mail address, so we abandoned this way of semi-automating audio processing until that problem is fixed!
  • When post-processing using the One Touch Button on the QNAP NAS, the filenames are in the arcane Olympus format, and the copy function eliminates the date and time stamps that the digital recorder puts on the files! This has to be fixed, so using the Linux hotplug function and cron utility are preferable, but will require more programming effort, sigh. Any volunteers!

See more notes on the development directory on the QNAP TS-109 NAS as 7tnas-ts109a:/share/HDA_DATA/Public/C3HUU/Soundroom

TS-109 hints & tips for programming (similar for other Marvel ARM based QNAP NAS devices, no longer in production):
  1. I/O hints with front panel LED & Sound
    pic_raw 75 ; for blue led off
    pic_raw 76 ; blue led blinks often
    pic_raw 77 ; blue led on
    pic_raw 78 ; blue led blinks seldom
    pic_raw 80 ; short beep
    pic_raw 81 ; long beep
    set_status_led 1 1 ; green blink
    set_status_led 1 0 ; green on
    set_status_led 2 1 ; red\green blink
  2. the /etc/hotplug/usb.agent script can be used to launch scripts for operating on USB devices attached. For the Olympus WS400s in the front USB slot (with or without a 4 port USB2 mini-hub), the status passed to the script on an ADD event is:
    $1 (vendor) = 0x7b4, $2 = 0x232 (product), $3 = 0x100 (device) which seems to be the unique USB ID for this bus
  3. an Olympus WS-400s automounts on the TS-109 as
    /dev/sdr1 as /share/external/sdr (NAS rear left USB),
    /dev/sdx1 as /share/external/sdx (NAS rear right USB)
    /dev/sdli as /share/external/sdl NAS (front USB)
  4. a Zoom H1 automounts as the same devices above

Summary: most easily distinguished if both devices are connected using cables attached to the rear, then code the rsync commands to recognize whichever is available (just run both?) Scripts are a bit finicky, and altering usb.agent isn't elegant, but works!

Still todo:
  • recognize which USB port has a device and only perform rsync on those ports (currently brute force rsync commands to ALL default port addresses, ugly)
  • log all rsync activity (option?)
  • kick off rsync of device copy to network archive
  • automate sermon audio posting to c3huu.org

More details to be posted...

Zoom Audio Recorder

ZoomH1.jpg
Zoom H1 Recorder
The Zoom series of recorders receives excellent reviews, and records directly to the editable WAV or MP3 formats. A Zoom H1 Recorder was located locally for under $100. Our C3H Technology guy has acquired one for testing in the C3H Soundroom. Features include:
  • One button record operation, there is ONLY ONE button on top to operate the recorder after it is switched on
  • Stereo operation, including built-in stereo microphones, but this requires a mono to stereo 1/8" adapter for the Soundboard (which is currently mono only)
  • About 20% taller than the Olympus, but otherwise similar size and weight to the Olympus recorder
  • Takes a single AA rechargeable battery thought it only runs about 6 hours per charge, the recorder can run off USB port power if needed
  • Low (8-50 ohm) or medium (100-1k ohm) impedance audio input, so no need to devise an impedance matching circuit when connecting to the soundboard
  • Backlit display which is always on during the whole recording session
  • Built in Volume Unit (VU) meter is always on display screen when recording or replaying, regardless of other recorder settings
  • DIrectly records MP3 or BWF (a form of WAV format that allows markers to be placed similar to the Olympus recorder)

This recorder is far more capable as a music recorder than the VN5200PC used for the past year to record audio. The performance as a digital recorder rivals the professional dual-microphone digital recorder our Music Director owns. Some ideas for how to effectively use this device and the Olympus VN5200PC to record services and get the sermon audio online more quickly with less manual effort:

Quick Recording of Services

  • Record entire service on this unit, while reserving the Olympus VN5200PC as the sermon only recorder. Proposed process:
  • Preparation for recording:
    • Mount Zoom H1 (black) and Olympus VN5200PC (dark red) recorders on a block of packing foam or other stand with wires running in the block, the top controls for both units would be readily accessible.
    • Slightly tilt each unit to turn them on before a Service, push them back into the foam or holder
      • for the Zoom H1, slide the switch down for about 1s on the lower right hand side of the recorder
      • for the Olympus VN5200PC, slide the switch on the upper left of the unit down from the "Hold" position and let it stay there
  • Recording the Service and Sermon:
    • Just before the prelude music starts, hit the front RECORD button on the Zoom H1 recorder, the recording red LED will turn on just above the display screen
    • Just before the Sermon starts, hit the RECORD button on the Olympus VN5200PC recorder, the recording LED will turn on and the display will now show VU bars at the bottom of the screen
    • just after the Sermon ends, hit the STOP button on the Olympus VN5200PC recorder, the Olympus recorder red LED will turn off and the display will stop showing the VU bars at the bottom of the display screen
    • just after singing "shalom..." ends the service, hit the RECORD button again on top of the Zoom H1 recorder, the recording LED will turn off and the display will now show total time remaining on the recorder memory card
  • Connect both recorders to the cables connected to the Network Attached Storage (NAS) device. Once connected, the audio files will automatically be transferred to the NAS hard drive and transferred to a secure site for later processing. The directions for file transfer are still a work in progress.
  • After the audio files are transferred to the NAS, PLEASE turn both recorders OFF and put them away in the marked drawer adjacent to the Soundboard. Depending upon the stand used, these directions are still under development, too.
The directions above assume that no one has changed the settings on the digital recorders and connections from the Soundboard to the digital recorders has been made using the labeled cables.

For C3H use, here are some ideas for using this professional quality digital recorder:
  1. For Services, including the Sermon as described above, as Backup unit for Sermon since extracting the Sermon audio from the whole Service audio will still require audio editing
  2. For recording audio from ANY event, since the device can easily be put on the small tripod which is in the same drawer with the recorder and setup on the lectern or on a table

We hope this device will prove useful and allow for rapid posting of the audio from the Service, as well as provide a backup device should there be any problem with the VN5200PC as a Sermon only recorder.

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