Placing Your Song On The Web (part 2)|
[ No. 4 - Feb 1997 ]
Things That Are New
RealAudio finally has released beta players for Unix machines
to play their new 3.0 files. No longer must Unix users be left
out in the cold for new RealAudio 3.0 content.
Macromedia announced that Shockwave support Marimba's Castanet
Tuners. Say What? Don't worry, it just means that if you
create Shockwave Audio content, you can now bring it to people
using another new technology.
The beta version of the new release of Apple's QuickTime can
now play back MPEG audio files!
The newest audio streaming player on the block, AudioActive,
can play back Shockwave Audio files. If you've got a lot of
money, you can also buy their live encoder packages.
Welcome back and thanks again for the comments, feedback and helpful spam.
Last time, we got a ten second soundfile onto your desktop. This month,
we're taking the next step: putting it on the World Wide Web, where
anyone and everyone can hear it.
We've used audio capture and edit utilities like SoundEdit 16 or Cool Edit
to create the soundfile. Now we're going to take that raw soundfile
and convert it into a smaller (read: manageable) file for placement on
the Web. We will create the two common forms of accessing audio on the
Web: "streaming" (or "stream-enabled") and "on-demand". To review:
Streaming audio means that the listener can play your files in
real-time with playback beginning right after the click of a mouse on a
web page. On-demand means that the listener must click, download the
entire file, and when it's completed (minutes or hours later, depending
on the file size), listen to the song.
To create a stream-enabled soundfile we'll continue to use RealAudio
because it's free, cross-platform and we've been working with it.
Shockwave, LiquidAudio and Xing StreamWorks also perform these
functions with similar methodology. Please refer to the first FezGuys
column for their URLs.
For the creation of a stream-enabled soundfile, start the RealAudio
Encoder (available from their website, like their player). Press input
and choose your soundfile. From the dialog box menu select any of the
28.8k settings. Try playing with other compression algorithms to hear
the difference in audio quality. If you'd like, save the file in a
variety of formats and play them back on your computer to see which one
you prefer. (Note: if you encode into a RealAudio 3.0 format, the
audio file will require a RealAudio 3.0 player to play it.)
You now have an encoded and compressed file on your desktop that is
called "yourfilename.ra". The ".ra" suffix is the default name for
files encoded using RealAudio.
Look at the documentation for all other fields and familiarize yourself
with this app. There are no manuals but there is an extensive help
section on their web site.
There are two discrete files for web placement of a stream-enabled
file: A metafile (yourfilename.ram) and the actual encoded soundfile
(yourfilename.ra). A metafile exists on your server and is a pointer
to that actual encoded soundfile that exists on a RealAudio server.
That is, to have a soundfile be stream-enabled it has to sit on a
stream-enabled computer (server). Your computer probably isn't
stream-enabled, but your ISP's server might be. Ask 'em. You are
going to move a copy of your .ra file to a server that supports your
sound app (in this case, RealAudio). The process of placing the audio
metafile and the actual audio file is handled by your
File Transfer Protocol (FTP) app. The process of creating the actual
file is handled by your encoding utility (in this case RealAudio). A
metafile is simply a text file which for RealAudio looks like this:
What you enter for "realaudio.server.com" and
"/path/to/yourfilename.ra" will depend on the name of the computer
which is running the RealAudio server and how it is configured to find
the file you have placed there. If your ISP is providing this service,
they can tell you what to put there; if you are doing it yourself there
is documentation included with the RealAudio server.
To create an "on-demand" MPEG audio file from a Windows WAV audio file,
use the Cool Edit MPEG plugin. Download this MPEG filter from the Cool Edit
Follow their directions for installation.
What's a plugin? Imagine a Swiss Army Knife with multiple blades and tools.
You have the knife already but want to add the magnifying glass. The knife is
the app. The magnifying glass is the analog to a plugin that increases the
number of functions that can be performed by your app.
A Mac AIF-to-MPEG audio file conversion tool can be found at
There are more efficient apps
and plugins that perform this function, but these particular programs
can be downloaded free right now. Support the author, of course, by
giving them feedback and/or an optional registration fee.
Download, install and open the app.
For Windows users running Cool Edit, choose your soundfile and "save as"
(or "export"). For Mac users running the MPEG Audio Coder (MPEGAud)
open the app and choose File->Encode.
Note: MPEGAud will not run on a Powerbook unless it has an FPU (floating point
math co-processor) installed.
From the various options we'll choose the layer, bitrate-per-channel and mode.
Again, familiarize yourself with the apps' different options. For our purposes
Layer: II (as opposed to I)
Bitrate-per-channel: 96kbps (kilobits per second)
Mode: stereo (as opposed to quadraphonic!)
The higher the bitrate the larger the file. Note: Layer II at 96kbps is
and the lowest Layer II supports is 32kbps. It is
common to place several copies of the same song using various compression
methods covering a broad spectrum of playback technologies.
Experiment. (Note: 24kbps is the compression threshold for streaming
audio over the Internet to a 28.8k modem user. This is an on-demand
MPEG soundfile, so file size is not as much of a concern as it is when
a soundfile is stream-enabled. You might as well make it sound as good
Save. Then wait. These apps tend to be slow. For example, a
ten second clip encoded with the above parameters will take several
minutes to process. Have some soup. It's winter and you've been
When you return to your computer with your steaming mug of soup an
on-demand soundfile will be on your desktop with the suffix ".mp2." Be
sure to test your soundfile. You'll need an MPEG player like we listed
in our first column. Test locally, play globally!
In order to place your web-ready soundfile file on the Web you must
first have somewhere to put it. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP)
should, as part of your account, provide you with some disk space on
their server. 2MB is common and is plenty for our needs.
You are going to transfer your file from your computer (the client) to
your ISP's computer (the server) using a technology called File Transfer
Protocol (FTP). You'd think that a degree in rocket science is necessary to
manipulate the language of the Internet but no, it isn't.
Windows comes with an FTP client already installed. Mac users should
get Fetch, the most common Mac FTP client utility. Download
and follow installation instructions.
Use your FTP client app to upload your soundfile. Look on the net for
resources regarding this process. Your ISP tech support may also be
kind enough to help.
To recap: Manipulate the soundfile on your desktop into a web-ready
soundfile. Place the file on your server using your FTP client.
Access the file using your server account, your browser (we've been
using Netscape 3.0) and audio player (we've been using RealAudio 3.0
and MPEG Layer II). If everything is working correctly, you have a
soundfile on the World Wide Web for anyone and everyone to hear. Now
link it into your web page, test it once more, then try it with a
If, when you click to hear your song, you get a window full of garbage
instead of the soothing strains of your song, don't worry! It's not
your fault. Should this occur, contact your friendly neighborhood Web
Server Administrator and have them add the correct MIME types (those
pesky things that tell your browser what kind of file you are
downloading) for your soundfile (RealAudio or MPEG for our examples).
What good is having your music on the Net if no one knows about it?
The Secret Knowledge behind the success (as defined, in this case, by
how many people listen to it) of your soundfiles on the web is
Promotion. Put the URL for your music everywhere. On stickers,
tshirts, letterhead, cassette jcard, CD insert, tattoo, bus kiosks,
billboards, you name it. In short, the old rules apply. Just because
you build it doesn't mean that they will come. It all comes back to
the arcane alchemical metaphysics of Marketing and Promotion. Evil?
Maybe. It's not the tool, it's how you use it. Useful? No question.
Let's Go To Another Letter
Dear FezGuys: In your last column you mentioned a "normalizing"
filter. What is that? - dg
Dear dg: A normalizing filter is a rudimentary compression algorithm
that squashes your soundfiles' audio content into a reasonably flat
dynamic range. This enhances aural clarity in the playback stage.
Alright: see you next month when we review LiquidAudio. We really,
really, really swear we're gonna do it this time.
* Near CD quality: a euphemism for: "I can make out the lyrics!"
We welcome your comments.
May the Fez be with you!
Please check out the FezGuys website... all columns and info are there.
We welcome your comments.