Workstations for students

If you are a student working for a UVic researcher on a project that entails computing, audio or video technologies, we may be able to provide:

Research Workstations in HCMC

The HCMC has a number of workstations available for use by faculty, research assistants or work-study students. No matter who is actually going to be using the workstation, the faculty member must make the request to the Head of Research and Development. We'll work out exactly what equipment you need, training you may need that we can provide and schedule time for you on one of our development workstations. The equipment is available between 8:30 and 4:30, Monday to Friday. You benefit from working as a colleague in a real development environment. The HCMC benefits from new ideas and perspectives you bring and by making maximum use of our specialized software and hardware. The Faculty of Humanities benefits from the improved quality of work produced collaboratively.

We have a number of Linux, Windows and Mac OS computers with a wide range of software on them: audio capture and editing, video capture and editing, scanning and image editing, specialized text editors and Integrated Development Environments and more.

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Digitizing Tapes for Use in the HCMC Labs

The teaching lab (Lab B) is computerized. All materials to be used in the labs will need to be converted to digital audio which can be served from the file server to student stations. Converting ("digitizing") audio tapes is the responsibility of individual departments, but we will do all we can to provide facilities, help and support for this process (which is EXTREMELY easy -- you don't have to be a computer wizard to do this!). Two stations in the HCMC R & D lab are primarily dedicated to digitizing; you can book access to those machines by calling us on 721 8754 or emailing mholmes@uvic.ca. The first time you come in, we will teach you all you need to know about the process. This document provides a basic introduction. Detailed instructions are below.

  • 1. Copyright permission

    Check that you have copyright permission to convert audio tapes to computer files. Contact the publisher and request an email or signed letter granting permission to convert the materials. Let the publisher know that the digitized files will be accessible only in our labs, and only to students enrolled in courses for which the materials are assigned. If you plan to use the materials in another manner, state specifically how you intend to use them and who will have access to them. A copy of the email or signed letter from the owner/publisher must be presented to the HCMC Coordinator before the work can begin.

  • 2. Decide on a suitable folder structure

    Files on the server are organized into folders in this kind of structure:

    materials
    department/language
    level/course
    textbook
    unit/chapter
    audio files

    So, for example, the English Language Centre's level 410 course book Face The Issues is organized like this:

    materials
    elc
    410
    face_the_issues
    unit01
    unit_01_interview.mp3
    unit01_looking_at_language.mp3

    If there are several sections in your course, you may want to create separate folders for each section, if the materials used by each section will be different.

  • 3. Decide how to "chunk up" the audio material

    Long passages of audio make for very large computer files, which are difficult to manage and transfer. It's best if you can divide the material not only into separate units, but also into smaller sections where these are appropriate. In the example above, the unit contains two distinct sections, one consisting of an interview, and the other with some short extracts used for a language exercise. These have been digitized into separate files for easier access by instructors and students. Before you start work, analyse the structure of the course book and tape, and decide on how you want to break down the individual units. We recommend that no digital audio file be longer than ten minutes; five minutes is a good length to aim at.

    It's also a good idea to decide on your file naming convention before you start. Name your files in a clear and useful way. Also, don't use spaces, accented characters or punctuation marks in file names; use underscores to separate words (as in the example above).

  • 4. Set up a computer for digitizing

    This means either setting up your own computer with an audio cassette deck line out connected to the line in on your sound card, or booking time on one of our computers which is already set up for digitizing. Contact Martin Holmes for more details on the process. If you work in our lab, we'll also be able to help you get the hang of the process. Contact our network administrator (Greg Newton) to book time on one of our machines.

  • 5. Instructions for digitizing on our lab machines

    Our lab machines are available if you book them, and we'll help you get started. Here are some basic instructions:

    1. Log into the computer using your netlink id.
    2. Turn on the cassette player.
    3. Start SoundForge from the icon on the desktop.
    4. Put on the headphones.
    5. Turn on the tracks for the cassette player on the mixing desk (there are usually two tracks, one for stereo left and one for right).
    6. Insert your tape, and press Play. Make sure the audio comes through the headphones. If it doesn't, you may need to get help from the staff to set up the equipment.
    7. In SoundForge, click on the Record button (or Special / Transport / Record). You should see a new file pop up, and a dialog box for recording settings.
    8. Look at the volume levels in the record window. They should be responding to the audio on the tape. If they're not, then check that you have the right Device selected (it should be M-Audio FW 410 1/2).
    9. Adjust the volume levels of the tracks on the mixing desk so that you get a good steady volume in the record dialog, WITHOUT getting the CLIP warning. If you see the CLIP warning, reduce the desk volume controls, and then click on CLIP to make it disappear, then see if it comes back. Adjust the levels until you get a steady volume that doesn't clip.
    10. Cue up the tape for the location you want to digitize.
    11. Press Play on the cassette player, and Record in the SoundForge recording window.
    12. Let the tape run until you have captured what you need for the first file.
    13. Press Stop on the cassette player, and in SoundForge.

    You should now see a wave form in SoundForge. This represents the audio you have just captured. Before you do anything else, save your file:

    1. Click on File / Save As.
    2. Find or create a folder in the appropriate structure, as explained above.
    3. Choose a good descriptive filename for this segment (see above).
    4. Save it as a WAV file.

    The next thing you may want to do is to trim off any excess space or unwanted audio from each end of the wave form. To do this, select the appropriate bit of the wave form, and press Edit / Delete (Clear) (or press the delete key on the keyboard). When the wave form is as you would like it, you're ready to set the volume.

  • 6. Removing noise from sound files

    Sound files created from audio tapes often have severe background noise resulting from the original recording or copying and from tape hiss. This can be very effectively and easily eliminated using software tools such as SoundForge. There are two stages in removing noise:

    1. Define what noise is.
    2. Remove it from the audio file.

    To define what noise is, you need to find a section of the file where there's no other sound, just the background noise -- no-one is speaking, and nothing important is heard. Then do this:

    1. Select that "empty" section of sound with your mouse (make sure you don't select anything important like speech or music -- just empty space -- and make sure you have as long a section as possible).
    2. Click on DX Favorites / Sony / Noise Reduction.
    3. Check on "Capture noiseprint", then press the Preview button. This uses the selected part of the file to "profile" the noise, so that it knows what to remove from the file. You'll hear it playing the selection to analyse the noise. Let it do that a for a little while.
    4. Press Stop. You have captured the noise profile.
    5. Now that you have established a profile, you can use it to remove noise from the whole file. Right-click at the bottom left of the dialog box, and choose Select All Data.
    6. Click on Preview. Now you'll hear the whole file playing, with the noise reduction in effect.
    7. While the audio is playing, experiment with the Noise Reduction and Noise Bias sliders, until you're happy with the result. You want to get rid of as much noise as possible, but you don't want to change the sound of voices. Listen especially to /s/ sounds; they can be removed if you apply too much noise reduction.
    8. When you're happy with the sound, press OK. The noise should be removed from your file.
    9. Save the file.
  • 7. Setting volume/amplitude correctly

    It's important that you make sure the volume of the digitized file is loud enough. Often, when the original tape was not very loud, the digitized file ends up too quiet. In SoundForge, you should aim to have the loudest parts of the sound file waveform come close to the lines above and below the waveform display -- this means your file will be loud, but not "clipped" or distorted.

    If you look at the waveform in SoundForge, and it seems too quiet (the peaks do not come close to the lines above and below the waveform), you'll need to increase the amplitude. Here's how to do it:

    1. Click on Process / Normalize.
    2. Make sure that "Peak level" is selected at the top left, and the slider on the left is set to its top setting (0.00dB).
    3. Click on OK to change the amplitude.
    4. If you're not happy with the results, click on Edit / Undo. You might try again with different settings, or perhaps you might leave the file as it is.
    5. Save your file.
  • 8. Saving files in compressed formats

    So far, we've been saving .WAV (wave) files. Wave files are very large, because they're not compressed in any way. To make file transfers in the lab quicker, you can use a compressed file format. We recommend MP3 for use in the lab. This is how to create an MP3 file:

    1. With your audio file open in SoundForge, choose File / Save As.
    2. In the drop-down file-type list at the bottom of the Save dialog box, choose the format you want (MP3 Audio in this case).
    3. Check the setting at the bottom of the Save dialog box. It should show Audio: 256 Kbps, 44,100 Hz, 16 Bit, Stereo. If it doesn't, select another template until you see the right settings.
    4. Press Save to save your file.
  • 9. When you've finished one file...

    When you have finished working on one sound file, and saved it in the formats you need, close it using File / Close. You can then start work on a new file by choosing File / New. If you've finished work for the day, close down SoundForge using File / Exit.

  • 10. Storing files on the server

    When you have created your files, we will handle uploading them to the server for you, so that they can be accessed in the labs. If you create files outside our lab, contact us for information about how you can upload them to our FTP server. We'll then move the files from the FTP server to the main file server. Our digitizing machines have CD burners, so you can also burn backup CDs of your files if you need to.

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