One of Flash’s many strengths is its capability to consistently and reliably play back sound across a wide variety of computer platforms and environments. This capability may in fact be the best reason to use Flash for projects in which sound is an important component.
Flash has a comprehensive set of utilities and tools to work with audio, but there are several free, dedicated audio tools that can do a better job. For example, you can set compression settings in Flash, but I find that using a dedicated audio application is faster and yields better results.
This article reviews several free audio tools that I have used professionally and with my students to streamline audio work with Flash.
Before importing audio files into Flash, you need to get them into a format supported by Flash. The iTunes jukebox software from Apple is the perfect tool for the job (see Figure 1). Although Apple calls iTunes a music jukebox, it is far more than just a handy way to organize and play back your audio collection.
Figure 1 The Music Store component of the iTunes jukebox application
The first tool that I usually employ from the iTunes arsenal is the CD-ripper, which converts the analog audio on a music CD into a digital format that can be imported into Flash.
iTunes is available free for both the Windows and Mac OS from the iTunes page of the Apple web site.
Download the installer and follow the onscreen instructions to install the software and load the program:
- After iTunes is running on your computer, simply insert your audio CD into the CD tray of your computer.
- A list of the songs on the CD will appear in the iTunes main window; the name of the album appears under the Source column on the right.
- Select the tracks you want to digitize (also referred to as
"ripping") by leaving their check boxes selected. Click to
remove the check adjacent to those tracks you do not want to rip. In iTune
parlance, this digitization process is referred to as importing (see
Figure 2 Music CD source view of iTunes
- After pressing the Import CD button in the upper-right corner of the
interface, iTunes will import the tracks to the format specified in the iTunes
Preferences dialog box. Before pressing the button, set your preferences to tell
iTunes the desired details of the import.
To set preferences, choose Edit > Preferences > Advanced (on the Mac, choose File > Preferences > Advanced).
- First, in the General tab, take note of where iTunes will
be storing the imported file (see
Figure 3). The default location is the iTunes
folder that was created when you installed the program, but usually this is in
an inaccessible location that is also hard to remember. I create a folder in an
easy-to-find location on my computer and change this setting by pressing Change.
Figure 3 General tab of the iTunes Preferences dialog box
- Click the Importing tab and set your file type. For Flash
work, importing with the MP3 encoder is best (see
Figure 4). If you are planning
to do a lot of work on the file in an audio editor, the AIFF encoder is also a
Figure 4 Importing tab of the iTunes Preferences dialog box
- Set the quality setting. I use the lowest setting (smallest file) that provides acceptable quality using the technique I describe more fully later in this article.
- You’re now ready to go. Click OK to close the preferences dialog box.
- Click Import CD to begin the import.
- You can also use the Preferences setting just described to convert one audio
file format to another. Set your encoder type and select Advanced > Convert
Selection To from the iTunes main menu (see
Figure 5 Converting a file using the default encoder
Using this tool you can convert files to and from the AIFF, WAV, MP3, and AAC file formats.