Random Tip: [Royalty] Free Music from Incompetech

Incompetech logoBackground music can make a video seem more professional, especially if you don’t include voice-over narration or other audio components in the video. While some music can be distracting, choosing the right piece of music can help the audience stay engaged with the text/graphic content in the video.

I’m not a musician, which would be pretty convenient if I could not only play music but also score original pieces to add to my videos. While I own copies of music that would work well for my purposes, I don’t actually own the rights to reproduce that music. Copyright primer…purchasing or downloading a copy of a song does not give the purchaser rights to use that song for commercial purposes. While Fair Use might extend to educators/students at nonprofit institutions, YouTube and other hosting sites do not typically honor Fair Use and will remove videos that violate copyright by using music without clearly indicating copyright permission. Sorry for that legal aside, but I’m from a generation that gloried in the beauty of “file sharing” music only to have it ripped away from everyone and described as theft (with extreme consequences).

Kudos to Kevin MacLeod for coming to my rescue! I don’t have to take music lessons now because he’s willing to share his amazing background music clips on his website: http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/music.html. At first I felt a bit guilty for benefiting from his musical talents, but he explains his willingness to share as a means to help out those who don’t have budgets for music.

MacLeod's philosophy graphic

This is an excerpt from Mr. MacLeod’s website (FAQ section). Here he explains why he’s willing to share his work without requiring financial compensation, just attribution.

The website is really easy to use. I know I could get lost for hours just sampling his music, so I just randomly picked some to listen to and made my decision quickly.

Incompetech music preview screen shot

Here is a screen shot of what it looks like when looking and previewing available songs. I love his descriptions of the music…not just the instruments, but the feeling that the music should elicit.

Please respect Mr. MacLeod’s request to give him credit for his work. As someone who shares her work with others for free, I can attest to the faith artists have that their sharing won’t be abused. Giving credit is very simple since the copyright language is provided and can be copied into the credits of the video or other location in the work you’re creating. Should you prefer to not provide attribution, then you can pay for the no-attribution license. If you feel better about using an attributed version by donating to the artist, there’s that option if you have a PayPal account: Donate.

Incompetech copyright and crediting language

This excerpt is also from Mr. MacLeod’s website. Be sure to follow his suggestions for providing attribution.

You can even find him on YouTube, as seen in the clip below.

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Screencast-o-Matic…automatically a success

Type: Internet tool (download version available)
Rating: 5/5

 

Screencast-o-matic logoGetting an audience to see what you’re seeing is ideal for photographers, videographers, trainers/instructors, and technical communicators. This is especially true for a society that has a “just show me” response to learning new things, as compared to “just explain it to me.” Screen capture software can take different forms, whether it’s capturing a static screen shot or recording movements (e.g., clicking, typing) and audio being performed on a computer. Jing has been my go-to screen capture software for many years, and for static screen captures, it’s still my favorite. But, Screencast-o-Matic is my new love for video recordings of my screen. Jing, Camtasia, and Snag-It all have quality issues with recordings; the text is sometime blurry or pixelated, which is frustrating for an audience who isn’t sure what they’re supposed to be seeing. For the record, this post is not my first encounter with Screencast-o-matic. I had looked at it several years ago and found it lacking, though functional, but dismissed it for Jing/Camtasia. Screencast-o-matic’s “new” look and functionality is a great improvement.

Screecast-o-matic start screen

This is the home page, and access to the tool. Very simple.

Goal: quality screen recordings for longer than five minutes

Benefits:

  • No need to sign up or login to start recording your screen. At this point, I haven’t see the value of signing up since I won’t store my videos to their site.
  • Records the computer screen or webcam view and microphone recording; for the pay version, you can record audio from the computer speakers, which makes it a good option for recording Google Hangout sessions or other video conferencing that doesn’t include a recording option.
  • 15-minute recording length, as compared the the five-minute limit for Jing. You can record longer versions with the Pro Recorder (pay), but you’re limited to 15-minutes if you’re uploading it to their cloud.
  • Recording can be downloaded to PC, or uploaded to YouTube of Sceencast-o-Matic cloud (i.e., hosting).
  • Clear (video) screen captures, even when the screen is moving.
  • Tutorials are available, though I didn’t review any of them since you can pretty much figure out what to do for simple screen captures
  • Unless you download the software, it runs from your Internet browser, yet records to your computer. There are two benefits here. 1) You have access to the most recent version of the software without further downloads/updates. 2) Your video is not saved to a cloud unless you want to; so, there isn’t public access to the recording unless you upload it yourself to a public area.
  • A yellow circle rings the mouse pointer so that it’s easier to follow when watching the recording. (See first sample below.)
Screecast-o-matic video options

This is the pop-up screen you’ll see after finishing the recording. You can make changes to the file type, filename, where it’s stored, whether the cursor is highlighted in your final version, and whether captions should be included.

Drawbacks:

  • If you don’t catch the enable/allow Java screen quick enough, the recorder won’t launch and you’ll see the link to download the software instead. If you catch the Java accept screen, though, you can click the box to not ask for permission in the future. I think that if you have a Mac, you’ll need to download the software as the Internet version wont’ work.
  • “Screencast-o-matic” sounds like something Calvin and Hobbes would think up. Okay, not really a bad thing, but it’s difficult to sell the concept to peers and managers with a straight face.
  • When making several recordings, and exiting the recorder each time, you have to click back the the website’s Home page to find the Record Screen button again. Again, not a big deal.
  • There is a watermark on all the recordings done with the free recorder. That said, it’s not obnoxious, as I’ve seen with other free software.
  • If you upload the video to their cloud, then there will be ads on the screen. Since I can save the file and upload it to YouTube, then I don’t have an issue with this. The free hosting plan is limited to a 15-minute upload, so even if you have the Pro Recorder (pay) version of the software, you’d need to invest in their Basic hosting plan for $96/year to get 2-hour recordings uploaded to their cloud.
  • No screenshot option for the free version.
  • No video editing abilities for the free version; you would need to save the video file and use a different tool to edit the video (e.g., Camtasia, Adobe Premiere, iMovie, Movie Maker, etc.)
Java screen

This is the Java screen you’ll need to accept (or use the download version of the tool)

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PowerPoint with Audio (Tutorial)

I’ve been skirting around PowerPoint thus far on my blog so that I can explore other digital media options. Yet, most of my students prefer PowerPoint because they’re familiar with it. (A special thanks to K-12 teachers who have PowerPoint assignments so that students are familiar and fairly confident in the technology by the time they reach college/workplaces.)

This tutorial is my process for adding audio to a PowerPoint slide presentation. This is not a video version of the presentation, which is a different option in PowerPoint. Also, this set of instructions was done with PowerPoint 2016, which is similar to PowerPoint 2010 and sort of similar to PowerPoint 2007. I prefer to use Audacity to record my audio clips since it gives me more control over editing out the parts I don’t want in the final version of each audio clip. You’ll obviously need access to a microphone unless you intend to use prerecorded clips/music already saved to your computer.

The process:

  1. Create your slides in PowerPoint.
  2. (optional) Add notes below each slide to detail what you’ll say when recording the audio. (See graphic below)
  3. Save the file as .pptx. It’ll need to be this format to save the audio/video clips within the presentation.
  4. Open Audacity. (See graphic below)
  5. Record an audio clip for each slide; save each audio clip to a folder on your computer.
  6. In PowerPoint, click on the slide you want to add audio.
  7. Click the Insert tab on the top menu.
  8. Click the Audio icon (at the end of the menu, in the media category). (See graphic below)
  9. From the drop down box, select Audio on my PC…
  10. Choose the correct audio clip you that saved to your computer. A speaker icon will appear in the middle of the slide; you can click and drag the icon to different parts of the slide if you don’t want it in the middle. (See graphic below)
  11. Repeat steps 6 – 10 for each slide with audio.
  12. Save the completed presentation (as .pptx, if you skipped step 3 earlier).
  13. Save the files as .ppsx if you want the audience to only see it as a slideshow.
PowerPoint workspace with notes

This is the PowerPoint workspace. Below the slide featured, you’ll see the Notes section. If this isn’t apparent in your view, click and drag up on the gray bar below your slide; you’ll see a double-arrow when you hover over the bar that needs to be dragged up.

Audacity workspace

As you can see in the Audacity workspace, you have different editing options. I like to edit out the pauses at the beginning and ends of my clips.

PowerPoint Insert Audio view

You can see the insert audio clip graphic to the far right of the menu options

PowerPoint Audio clip icon

Towards the top right corner of the slide, you can see the speaker icon, which indicates to the audience there is audio available. I moved the icon out of the middle of the slide, which is the default placement.

Insider View: Keep in mind the file size will increase with the addition of audio clips. Also, this is not a video file, so it can’t be uploaded to YouTube or the like. You can distribute the file as you would any other PowerPoint file (e.g., email, cloud storage, assignment submission through online classroom) as long as there aren’t file size restrictions. The file I created for my class was 144MB, which exceeded the 25MB restrictions for Hotmail and Gmail.

Advanced Insider View: Don’t read this if you’re fine with the .pptx file or the .ppsx file formats. You can create a Flash (.swf) version of your presentation by using iSpring Free 7. I haven’t done a review on this software yet because I haven’t figured out how to get the .swf posted to my blog as an example. iSpring wants me to upgrade to the pay version in order to save the file in a video format that’s easy to distribute. That said, the .swf file created with iSpring maintains the audio clips and transitions of the presentation.

Final Thoughts: There are other recording options built into PowerPoint, but this one was easy and produced the type of presentation that I had in mind. All my previous videos have been created using PowerPoint, but I save the slides as .jpg files, and then use Camtasia or Movie Maker (or the like) to add the transitions and audio, which is all saved as a video file that can be uploaded. I will stick with this process for all my videos, but students may not prefer the extra steps and software needed for the video creation.

Audacity….forcing me to hear my own voice

Cost: Free
Type: Software (download)
Rating: 5/5

 

audacity_logoThis is an oldie, but goodie. I’ve been using Audacity since the very beginning of my digital media adventures (about 10+ years ago). Beyond just a free tool to record audio narratives, this software has had a more significant impact on my life. Ultimately, after creating and editing hundreds of audio files, this software helped me accept my nasally, mid-western voice as it is. Sometimes I sound like a smoker (which I’m not). Sometimes I sound sick (which I’m generally not). Most times, as students have noted, I sound like a documentary narrator…soothing, but not generally sleep-provoking (which I suspect is not entirely true based on my in-person lecture experiences). The software is easy to use, so I had no choice but to continue to create audio narrations to my videos without excuse. Its’ free, but it looks like software you might pay to use.

Goal: find stand alone software to record audio narration for my slide presentations (…this goal was set when PowerPoint was quirky with recording audio in presentation mode)

Benefits:

  • Totally free!
  • Easy to use….just have a mic and start recording. You may want to double-check sound levels at some point since I often record too low.
  • There is a wiki help website, though I have not needed to use it.
  • It’s easy to chop parts out of the recording, such as the beginning (when you’re taking a deep breath) or the end (when you’re saying something like, “Finally! I got through this without the dog barking.”). Just highlight the section to remove and press the Delete key on your keyboard.
Audacity workspace view

This is the workspace, where you can see a recorded file. I don’t know what many of the buttons do because once I set up my mic and volume, I didn’t have to fiddle with anything. Editing as I go is very easy so that I can quickly remove flubs, rerecord that section, and paste the revised version with the first version.

Drawbacks:

  • It glitches and crashes sometimes without saving the recording, thus you can start all over again recording that clip. The most recent version of the software has addressed over 50 bugs, so perhaps the glitch has been fixed. (Recent use has not resulted in crashes.)
  • It probably doesn’t have the audio fine-tuning and editing options as other software. So, if you are planning on submitting your vocal recording audition to America’s Got Talent, then you may need more specific software (and a recording studio).
  • Exporting to MP3 is a total pain the first time, since you need to download more software (plugin) from an external site, and that site often has misleading links, though the author has recently provided insights on navigating the site. Once you install the plugin, you shouldn’t need to do it again unless you move the file.
  • There is one extra screen that I don’t feel is relevant when I’m saving a file…I just dislike having to click more than I have to.

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Voki….voicing a sad looking pink bunny

Name: Voki
Cost: Free
Type: Internet tool
Rating: 4/5

voki logo I’m not really an avatar type of person, which might be more personal information about me than you care about. But, this insight is relevant to the digital media tool I’m reviewing–Voki. With Voki, I can create an avatar to speak for me or with my own voice. Granted, we aren’t talking about super model quality avatars, though there are a few “realistic” options to choose from. Since I’m not an avatar type of person, I didn’t think I’d like this tool, but I quickly took to the humor that could be created through these characters. Voki kind of reminds me of Fotobabble, where it’s one image with audio, except that Voki’s images pretend to talk (kind of like Mr. Ed sort of mouth moving) and the graphics are already provided in Voki.

Goal: Try something different….create an avatar

Voki workspace 1

This is the workspace (with sad bunny already selected from the character list). Play around with the “Customize Your Character” options….pink bunny doesn’t have many variations, but other avatars can be modified.

Benefits:

  • There are multiple ways to create audio for the avatar, and not all require a microphone. You can phone in the audio recording or type text that is read by a “computer” voice (….think Speak-and-Spell if you’re as old as I am). If you type up text, you can change the language, though I have no idea if it’s accurate since I tortured the Spanish language enough in college that I’m banned from speaking it ever again.
  • I think it might be addictive to match up goofy characters with oddball voices or effects. My students may not think I’m funny, but I will.
  • You can adjust the avatar; not just hair, color, and accessories, but also body proportions and location on the screen can be adjusted.
  • There is a blog and help section for those who need insights on using the tool. Also included are classroom guides for teachers.
  • While I didn’t try it out, supposedly you can embed Voki in a PowerPoint. After finishing a project, there is an embed code provided (which is what I used at the end of this post).
  • I didn’t keep track of all the avatar options, but there seems to be a variety to try and represent different people, cultures, and situations. That said, there is a pay version that provides more options, but I opted for the goofy avatars to bypass any question of whether I’m represented by the graphic. (Note: sometimes I think of myself as a unicorn, but in fact, I’m not.)

Drawbacks:

  • There are some ads on the site, so you have to be careful where you click. The sidebars are generally ads that will take you to a different site.
  • The title of the Voki you create is limited to 20 characters.
  • Not all the voice options for typed text work. For example, Dave seems to play, but I don’t hear anything. Perhaps, though, Dave is speaking in a voice audible to dogs or the like.
  • Unless you have a paid subscription account, the audio recording limit is 60 seconds (and 600 character limit for text to voice).
  • Playing the recorded Voki relies on Shockwave Flash, which can be quirky at times.

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Fotobabble….for 60 seconds of babbling

Name: Fotobabble
Cost: Free
Type: Internet Tool (or iOS app)
Rating: 3/5

Fotobabble logoI have an addiction, which I torture my students with. I like to make supplemental video content for my online courses. Students have access to text versions of instructions and rubrics, but I like to make videos that detail the requirements. As with any addictive substance, the problem is that I overdo it. What should take 5 minutes to explain, I will continue to layer on information until I run out of things to say 10 minutes later. I don’t even willingly sit through 10 – 15 minute YouTube videos, so I’m pushing my luck expecting my students to have more time/patience/interest. Thus, my desire to find a tool that compels me to keep it simple, yet engaging.

Fotobable is one option I’ve explored. It’s a single graphic with audio narration. With only one graphic, I know that I need to be brief since there isn’t extensive visual interest to keep the audience from straying to Facebook or the like. Personally, I like to use this opportunity to show off my amateur photos, which may not be relevant to the topic, but I think they’re interesting to look at for a few seconds. As noted in the Drawbacks below, I only use this tool for non-vital information so that I don’t get dozens of emails when the site goes down for maintenance at night.

Goal: Add audio to single graphic and embed the graphic in my classroom

Benefits:

Fotobabble workspace 1

This is the initial screen as you begin the process. You need to first upload a photo.

  • Very easy to click to record after uploading graphic
  • Embed codes available, either with or without Flash.
  • FREE, online tool that allows you to upload your own photos and record or upload audio.
  • Free themes are provided, which essentially serve as frames for your photo.
  • Pretty extensive collection of tutorials and guides to help get you started.

Drawbacks:

  • The site seems to go down nightly, so students accessing the graphic at night receive an error message.
  • There is a 5MB limit on the photos you can use, which is reasonable, but it’s not unlimited.
  • I’m pretty sure the “view” counter is off, since I highly doubt I’ve had over 3000 views since the post is marked Private and I haven’t had even 100 students to view the photo I recorded.
  • There is a 60 second time limit on audio recordings.

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