Picasa is a digital photo organizer and editor, and when you add to it the Picasa Web Albums service, you have a terrific all-in-one set of tools to make managing your digital photo collection very easy. It is available for Windows, Mac (Intel Macs only) and Linux computers, and it can easily replace, or at least complement the native imaging programs that come with Windows machines (Windows Photo Gallery) and Macintosh’s (iPhoto). And while Flickr is probably a bit more mature in the online photo sharing service market, Picasa Web Albums is at least competitive. There is even an uploader program that is stand-alone or works as an iPhoto plugin, which makes it a breeze to get your images shared on the web. You also have the option of making images private to only certain individuals that you designate via email. Picasa continuously scans your hard drive for new images that you add to your computer, and it also works as an importer for most digital cameras. It provides many of the basic features for editing images such as resizing, eliminating red-eye, and even straightening and cropping images.
If you would like to integrate Picasa and Flickr you can install a button to do a one-click upload to your Flickr account. You need to download the Flickr Uploader program from the tools page. Then you will need to install the picasa2flickr plugin. The installation (instructions are here) copies a file with a .pbz extension so you need to install Picasa and the Flickr uploader first. Picasa has quickly become a favorite program in the New Media Center. We think it should be part of your toolkit.
*We’ll get the footnote out of the way. The Mac that you buy is not free, but once you have it, GarageBand is a part of the iLife suite that comes with every Apple Macintosh purchase. The other software that will allow us to record a Skype call to GarageBand is free.
GarageBand on the Mac is a great program that allows you to produce some very professional podcasts. That includes enhanced podcasts, which essentially are slides timed with the audio and are displayed on the iPod that you’re listening to the podcast on. Setting up a recording of multiple people is a matter of using an audio mixer and giving everyone their own microphone and recording it in GarageBand. However, if you can’t get the people all into one space, how do you record them? One way is to use the free voice-over-Internet (VOIP) service called Skype. Skype allows anyone with an Internet connection and a microphone to talk to anyone else on the Internet. You can talk to multiple people at a time.
There are two ways that a group of people can record a podcast using Skype. One is to have everyone involved use their own copy of GarageBand (or other recording software), and then edit all of the audio files (after emailing or uploading to a common space) together as one. There are many advantages to this method. Generally the recording quality will be better as you won’t have to rely on the quality of the Internet connection, which in turn affects the Skype call quality. You also have more editing control over each individual. The disadvantages are the editing after the fact. You need to receive all of the individual audio files and assemble them in GarageBand and make sure the conversation is synchronized. A very detailed overview of this method is written up at the Hivelogic website.
The other way to record a Skype conversation is the method we outline on our Digital Media Cookbook site. Essentially one person does the recording of all of the participants. One person serves as the recorder and editor. The other people just have to worry about getting connected to the Internet and be heard by the person responsible for doing the recording. Each participant will only need the Skype software. The editor will need GarageBand to do the recording, along with the Skype software. In addition, two other free programs are used to re-route and pass through system audio to GarageBand. Soundflower simply allows software to pass sound on to other applications. LineIn allows sound input devices (microphones or other line-in devices) to be passed through to recording software. The combination of GarageBand, Soundflower and LineIn allow the mixing of system sounds and live microphone input to easily be recorded without complicated hardware setups.
The recipe called Recording a Skype Call Using GarageBand, SoundFlower, and LineIn outlines the setup. This procedure was inspired by a post by Ahmad Humeid’s. Go to the recipe page to see the programs and links to get the software, as well as the screencast showing how to set the preferences for each program. Below we’ll quickly outline the settings.
System Preferences Input and Output
GarageBand Audio Settings
Skype Audio Settings
LineIn Audio Settings
Note the the “Pass Thru” button is enabled.
Burn is a free, Macintosh program that allows you to burn data files to CDs and DVDs. It has similar capabilities to the commercial programs Roxio (Roxio Toast is available for the Mac) or Nero, you can also create audio CDs, create and burn ISO images (an ISO image would be a multiple file disc saved as a single file), and create bootable discs. There is an equivalent free Windows program is called CDBurner XP.
Official Burn website
HandBrake is a free, open-source program that will take files from an unencrypted DVD, as well as other high quality video sources, and convert them into mpeg4 videos. This includes the “h.264″ version of mpeg4 which is of very high quality and at lower bit-rates. In other words, you can start with a DVD movie that is 4GB in size and convert it to a file that looks as good in terms of quality and is only 1.5GB in size. These smaller files can then be played back from a computer using QuickTime, or in one of our favorite programs VLC Player. They could also be played in a web page with the new Flash player which supports h.264 in addition to flash video (flv). This program is available for both the Mac and the PC.
Official handBrake website
This post finds me answering the question of what have I been up to lately. Well, I’m trying to find easy ways to edit and produce video for as close to zero expense as possible. So I find myself on the Mac and on the PC side of this MacBook Pro working with Windows Movie Maker for Vista and iMovie’08 for Mac. Now I’m going to jump straight to the ending and say that I don’t recommend you use either one of them, at least not for start to finish video editing projects.
What I will recommend that you do is go download the previous version of the editors and use them instead. So However, if you use a Mac, go download iMovie HD iMovie HD is no longer available. The latest version of iMovie is at least slightly improved over the awful iMovie '08. If you are using Windows XP, you’re OK, but make sure you have at least version 2.1. If you have Windows Vista Home Premium or Ultimate, go download Movie Maker 2.6 for Vista. If you have Vista Home Basic, or Vista Enterprise/Business, it looks like you’re out of luck because version 2.6 seems to require that you have the original Vista Movie Maker program. Home Basic and Enterprise versions don’t come with Movie Maker so it looks like a non-starter.
Another caveat, the download page for Movie Maker 2.6 for Vista says to test if you can run the original version of Movie Maker. They say “If Movie Maker launches, you should not download version 2.6”. I have not discovered any incompatibilities with having both versions on my computer. As a matter of fact, I’m seeing that the original version of Movie Maker runs better once you install the old version. By better I mean that the original version has big problems with frame accuracy, in other words finding the exact point where one scene ends and the other begins. Still, Movie Maker 2.6 is more frame accurate.
Also, when you import video into the original Vista Movie maker, it does not detect scenes correctly. However, here is a truly weird situation. If I open a movie in 2.6 it does the scene detection correctly, and then if I open up the original Movie Maker with the same video all the scenes are now there as if it detected those scenes all along. Here’s a screencast of the phenomenon:
Expect more from me soon, regarding Windows Movie Maker and iMovie. Here’s a teaser for a large project I’m working on.
Audacity is a free audio editor that can be used on Windows, Macintosh, and Linux operating systems. By itself, Audacity can record, edit and save uncompressed audio files, as well as add special effects. You can also convert sound files to MP3 format for use on web pages, to create podcasts, or to play on an MP3 player such as an iPod. You will need to download an additional file to perform the MP3 export, but it is easily installed on your computer. You can find further information about using Audacity on their wiki page (support site).
You can view a screencast (about 7 1/2 minutes) that will show you how to install and set up Audacity and install the MP3 export feature. You can also view a PDF document on how to install Audacity (PC and Mac) and how to record and save an audio file to MP3 format.
For more information, visit our Digital Audio overview site that will give you background information on audio players, audio recording, editing and more.