Thanks to iTunes and the iPod, music has become an integral part of the Mac life. Those two products have helped displace the stacks of CDs most of us have been amassing for the past 15 years.
The benefits are clear. Digital music files take up very little storage space on your Mac; allow you to search, categorize, and play your music in new and exciting ways; and are portable. And if you’re ready to go beyond prerecorded music, Apple’s GarageBand app puts you in the studio to make your own tunes.
To help you get the most from your music, we’ve put together a package with insights on ripping and organizing your music collection. We’ll also show you how to pump the sound all around the house, beyond the limitations of your Mac’s tinny speakers or your iPod’s headphones. And you’ll discover how to create your own songs with GarageBand.
iTunes couldn’t be much easier to operate, but there’s much more to it than click, play, and enjoy. Peer beneath the hood and you’ll find that you can customize — and even improve — the audio files that iTunes generates. Dig a bit deeper, and you’ll discover that iTunes offers a wealth of ways to organize your music collection.
Mac the Ripper Anyone who has ripped an audio CD (that is, converted and imported its contents) in iTunes knows what a simple process it can be. Insert the CD, wait for iTunes to download track information from the Internet, click on the Import button, and go about your business while iTunes does its business. What you may not know is that you have a choice when it comes to the format in which iTunes imports that CD.
iTunes and the iPod support four audio formats — AIFF, WAV, MP3, and AAC. AIFF and WAV files are uncompressed and consume about 10MB of hard- drive space for each minute of stereo audio. MP3 files are compressed (stripped of audio data considered to be less detectable to the human ear). With iTunes 4, Apple added a new audio-compression format — Dolby Laboratories’ Advanced Audio Coding (AAC).
By default, iTunes 4 rips CD audio files at 128 Kbps to about 7 percent of the original file size. But if you’re willing to trade hard-drive space for better sound quality, you may want to change iTunes’ default import settings. To do so, select Preferences from the iTunes menu and click on the Importing tab. Selecting AIFF Encoder or WAV Encoder from the Import Using pop-up menu provides you with full-quality, uncompressed music tracks — useful for purists — but these files will take up a load of space on your Mac or iPod. A better compromise is to leave AAC Encoder selected and bump up the resolution. To do this, select Custom from the Setting pop-up menu beneath AAC Encoder, and choose a higher bit rate from the Stereo Bit Rate pop-up menu.
Sound quality is subjective — some people can’t tell the difference between a 128-Kbps AAC file and the original CD, whereas others may shrink from AAC files encoded at anything less than 256 Kbps. The best way to determine which settings please you is to rip music you know well at a variety of bit rates (including one version in an uncompressed state), and then perform a blind listening test on the equipment you normally use to play music. The encoding setting that produces a file you can’t distinguish from the original (or that you can best tolerate) is the setting for you.
Alternative Encoders Although iTunes provides a wealth of encoding choices, many people think files produced by the LAME (LAME Ain’t an MP3 Encoder) and Ogg-Vorbis encoders sound better than files encoded by iTunes.
LAME generates MP3 files, but because of its improved psycho-acoustic modeling and noise shaping, many people prefer its encoding to iTunes’. Although you can play LAME-encoded files in iTunes and on your iPod, iTunes doesn’t allow you to encode LAME files without a little work. To encode your files in LAME format, you must turn to a utility such as Funkatron Production’s free LameBrain (www.funkatron.com) or Blacktree’s free iTunes-LAME Encoder (www.blacktree.com).
Ogg-Vorbis, an open-source encoder used widely in the Linux world, finds even less support than LAME in iTunes. iTunes doesn’t encode Ogg-Vorbis files. Rather, you must use a utility such as No U-Turn’s beta Ogg Drop X (www.nouturn.com), which includes a QuickTime component for playback. Or you can play them in Panic’s $30 Audion 3 (www.panic.com) or VideoLAN’s free VLC Media Player (www.videolan.org).
Audiophiles prefer the sound quality of LAME and Ogg-Vorbis files, which use different methods of choosing how to compress sound data than most common encoders, including iTunes. Both formats also use variable-bit-rate (VBR) encoding, which allows them to vary compression based on the complexity of various passages. Even if you use iTunes’ MP3 encoder, you can take advantage of VBR encoding to improve sound quality. From iTunes’ Importing preference pane, select MP3 Encode from the Import Using pull-down menu; then choose Custom from the Setting pull-down menu and select Use Variable Bit Rate Encoding (VBR).
The trade-off for the improved sound quality these encoders offer is longer encoding times. For example, encoding a 4-minute, 40.8MB AIFF file as an MP3 file within iTunes took 20 seconds on a 1.25GHz PowerBook G4. Encoding the same file with Ogg Drop’s Best Quality VBR setting took 54 seconds. LameBrain’s standard VBR setting eventually trotted in at 1 minute and 30 seconds.
Better Bits For better sound quality, increase the resolution of your audio files.
You know that you can sort your iTunes music collections into playlists. But is flinging an album’s worth of songs into a playlist the most efficient way to organize your music? Perhaps not. The following strategies may help your iTunes Music Library make sense.
All Sorts of Sorting By default, iTunes’ main window includes the Song Name, Time, Artist, Album, Genre, My Rating, Play Count, and Last Played column headings — click on a heading to sort your songs by that criterion. Suppose you want to identify a bunch of uncompressed songs that are eating up valuable space on your iPod, or quickly locate songs you just dragged into your iTunes Library? These headings won’t help, but iTunes’ View Options will.
When you choose View Options (Command-J) from iTunes’ Edit menu, you have the opportunity to add many useful column headings to iTunes (see “Nice View”) or to remove those you don’t use. For example, by adding a Kind heading, you can quickly differentiate uncompressed AIFF and WAV files from uncompressed MP3 and AAC files, as well as purchased iTunes Music Store songs from home-encoded AAC files. Enabling the Date Added option and clicking on the heading will show you recent additions to your iTunes Library.
Maintain Multiple Libraries OS X was designed so that many people could share a single computer and still maintain individual work environments. The fly in the ointment is that two users of the same computer may want to listen to a single collection of tunes, but because of OS X’s permissions scheme, each person is locked out of the Music folders of other users. To work around this limitation, you simply need to relocate the iTunes Music Folder in an area accessible to all users. Here’s how it works.
Each person who wants to share his or her iTunes Music Library moves the iTunes Music folder that’s inside his or her Music folder to the Public folder. Launch iTunes, select Preferences from the iTunes menu, and click on the Advanced tab. Click on the Change button, select the new location of the iTunes Music folder (the Public folder), and click on OK to dismiss the Preferences window.
To enjoy another user’s music, launch iTunes, select Preferences from the iTunes menu, click on the Advanced tab, disable the Copy Files To iTunes Music Folder When Adding To Library option, and click on OK to dismiss the window. Now choose Add To Library from iTunes’ File menu and, in the Add To Library dialog box, navigate to another user’s Public folder. Select the iTunes Music folder within that folder and click on Open. This adds the music from the Public folder to your iTunes Music Library.
You can perform the same trick with mounted network volumes. Should you unmount such a volume and then attempt to play a song stored on it, you’ll be prompted to log in to that volume.
If you’d like to maintain multiple music libraries on your Mac — one on your internal drive and another on a removable drive, for example — Doug Adams provides the means, with his $5 iTunes Library Manager (www.malcolmadams.com/itunes/itinfo/ituneslibrarymanager.php). This AppleScript applet creates backup copies of your iTunes 4 Library database file, so you can save and load different music libraries. This can also be helpful if you notice iTunes slowing down when you’re dealing with a very large library.
Automated Organization Speaking of Doug Adams, he offers a horde of other helpful iTunes and iPod AppleScripts on his Web site, Doug’s AppleScripts for iTunes (www.malcolmadams.com/itunes). In addition to the aforementioned iTunes Library Manager, you’ll find scripts for corralling duplicate files in your iTunes Music Library, converting files from one audio format to another, and locating album art on the Web that you can then paste into iTunes. Many of these scripts are free, and nearly all of them are worth downloading. — christopher breen
Nice View iTunes’ View Options allows you to sort your music in a multitude of ways.
Master the iTunes Music Store
There’s more to the iTunes Music Store than just clicking and downloading. Try these tips to make your shopping experience more productive and enjoyable.
Feed Me To keep up-to-date on additions to the Store without opening iTunes, consider adding Apple’s RSS (Rich Site Summary) feed to your RSS newsreader. With a reader such as Ranchero Software’s free NetNewsWire Lite or its more robust $40 NetNewsWire (www.ranchero.com), you’ll know within seconds when Apple adds new tunes and audiobooks to the iTunes Music Store. To personalize an RSS feed, visit the iTunes Music Store RSS Feed Generator (http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZSearch.woa/wa/MRSS/rssGenerator).
Full Preview If you have a slow Internet connection, the Music Store’s song previews may stutter or stop. To obtain smooth, uninterrupted playback of your previews, choose Preferences from the iTunes menu, click on the Store button in the resulting window, and enable the Load Complete Preview Before Playing option. This tells iTunes to download the entire preview before playing it back.
The Funny Stuff Before the Music Store began selling Audible audiobooks, it classified comedy recordings in the Spoken Word genre. That genre has vanished, but the recordings haven’t. If you’d like to browse the rib-tickling area of the Store, select Power Search from within the Search Music Store box, or go to the Music Store’s home page and click on the Power Search link. In the resulting Power Search window, choose Comedy from the Genre pop-up menu and then click on the Search button next to the Composer box.
The Hunt for HonorÃÂ© When browsing a category within the Store’s Audiobooks section — classics, for example — you’ll discover that it sorts the list of authors by first name. This isn’t a terrible burden if you’re dealing with modern authors whose first and last names are well known, but pity the high-school student who is unaware that Monsieur Balzac, the 19th-century French journalist and writer, had the first name of HonorÃÂ©. If you get flummoxed in such situations, use iTunes’ Search field.
Smart Shopping If you find it difficult to reign in your spending at the Store, these two tips may help.
Use the Shopping Cart rather than the Command-Click shopping. It’s easy to lose track of how much you’re spending when you buy songs and albums as you tour the Store. When you pile all your audible goods into the Shopping Cart and view the possibly shocking total, you may be willing to forgo some of your more impulsive purchases. To switch from Command-Click to Shopping Cart, select Preferences from the iTunes menu, click on the Store tab, and enable the Buy Using A Shopping Cart option. (If you’re really concerned about impulse buying, consider filling your cart and waiting a day to finalize your purchases.)
Still shocked when you receive your credit card statement? Another way to save money is to budget yourself. Create a second Apple ID, and use it to issue an iTunes Allowance to your original ID. Each Apple ID is linked to a unique e-mail address, not to a credit card number or home address. To perform this trick, you’ll need a second e-mail address (for example, another mailbox from your ISP, or a free Yahoo or Hotmail account). Once you’ve exhausted the allowance, you know you’re done for the month. — cb
Stay in Control Adjusting your iTunes Music Store purchase methode (top) and creating a custom RSS feed for news releases (bottom) are just two ways to make the Store fit your lifestyle.
Alternative Music Formats
MP3, AAC, and OGG files are great because they are small, but they use lossy compression. AIFF and WAV files are prized for their CD-quality sound, but they take up a lot of room on a hard drive. If you’re looking for a middle ground, take a gander at some other audio codecs gaining popularity: SHN (Shorten), FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec), and APE (Monkey’s Audio).
These file formats all utilize lossless compression, which means that they don’t throw out musical data in order to achieve smaller sizes — they’re just like StuffIt or Zip archives, but they’re designed specifically for music. The files are bigger than most of what you’ll find in your iTunes Library — about half the size of AIFF files, or around 5MB per minute — but are musically indistinguishable from standard audio-CD files.
For that reason, SHN and FLAC are being used extensively for online music trading of live concerts from bands, such as moe and the Grateful Dead, that allow fans to tape their shows. Thousands of such recordings are available as free downloads from the nonprofit Internet Archive (www.archive.org).
And bands including Phish (www.livephish.com), Steve Kimock Band (www.digitalsoundboard.net), Primus (www.primuslive.com), and Metallica (www.livemetallica.com) are selling downloadable soundboard recordings of many of their concerts, in both MP3 and FLAC (the latter format costs a few dollars more, mostly because the file sizes are larger and download times are greater). Eight-string jazz guitar artist Charlie Hunter (www.charliehunter.com), whose live performances are freely traded, is also selling three of his studio albums as MP3 or FLAC digital downloads.
If you’re interested in encoding or decoding any of these formats, download Scott Brown’s xACT (X Audio Compression Toolkit) 1.3, a free GUI for the Shorten, FLAC, and APE command-line tools (available at http://etree.org). Neither iTunes nor the iPod can play any of these formats, but Slim Devices’ Squeezebox can stream FLAC, along with many other formats. The now defunct Subband Software is giving away its shareware music player MacAmp Lite X (find.macworld.com/0004). Download the 1.5b version (which includes plug-ins for playing SHN and FLAC files), and enter the registration codes listed on the site. The free
MPlayer OS X ( ; Mac Gems, February 2004; http://mplayerosx.sourceforge.net) and VLC Media Player 0.7.1a ( ; ”
More Mac Software Bargains,” May 2003; www.videolan.org) can also play FLAC files. And of course, using xACT, you can decode any of the mentioned lossless formats to AIFF or WAV, to burn to a CD or compress with iTunes. — jonathan seff
Beyond MP3 Several bands, including Phish, sell their concerts as MP3 or FLAC files (top), and with xACT, you can connect them to AIFF files for burning, or compress your own tunes (bottom).
iTunes includes most of the features people need for encoding, organizing, and playing music. But anyone who has run a search on iTunes at VersionTracker.com knows there are a host of utilities and add-ons that extend the iTunes experience. Here are some of our favorites:
Wincent Colaiuta’s $5 Synergy 1.0a8 ( ; ”
More Mac Software Bargains,” May 2003; http://synergy.wincent.com) places iTunes playback controls in the menu bar; provides systemwide hot keys; and adds a fading, translucent display for track information.
Infinity-to-the-Power-of-Infinity’s free (donations accepted) iChatStatus 1.2.1 (www.ittpoi.com) dynamically changes your iChat status to reflect whatever you’re currently playing in iTunes — a type of musical voyeurism.
Jay Tuley’s free iEatBrainz 1.0b5 (http://homepage.mac.com/jbtule/software.html) accesses the MusicBrainz Web site (http://musicbrainz.org) to fix poorly tagged MP3 and AAC files in your iTunes Library, using acoustic matching.
Yoel Inbar’s free (donations accepted) Fetch Art for iTunes 1.1 (http://staff.washington.edu/yoel/fetchart/) uses Amazon.com’s vast library of album covers to download and add cover art to your iTunes songs.
Sprote Rsrch.’s free Clutter 1.0d14 (www.sprote.com) creates draggable desktop CD covers for your iTunes albums. Double-click on one, and that album begins to play.
Visualizer plug-ins such as SoundSpectrum’s WhiteCap 4.5.8 and G-Force 2.5.3 (http://soundspectrum.com), Volcano Kit iTunes Visualizer 1.0.2 (www.volcanokit.com), MacZoop’s LED Spectrum Analyzer for iTunes 2.0.3, and ArKaos Visualizer 1.5.4 (www.arkaos.net) are free ways to add visual spice to your iTunes experience — especially when you’re sick of the visualizer Apple includes. If you don’t have installers, just open your user folder, go to Library: iTunes: iTunes Plug-ins, and then drop them in that folder.
Chaotic Software’s $25 MP3 Rage 5.8.1 ( ;
Mac Gems, April 2003) is an ideal tool for people with large MP3 collections. It helps you look up and fix improper ID3 tag data, rename files based on that data, look up lyrics and album covers, find duplicates, create a catalog file (to use with a database program), move and reorganize files, and more.
A cross between iEatBrainz and Fetch Art for iTunes, LairWare’s $20 MPFreaker 1.0b5 (www.lairware.com) helps find artwork and missing tag information from around the Net. It works with MP3 and AAC files, and it can read iTunes playlists directly.
Octiv’s $20 Volume Logic plug-in digitally remasters your iTunes music in real time, improving the sound quality and evening out the volume between songs. Just turn off Sound Check and turn iTunes’ volume up to maximum; then let Volume Logic handle all of iTunes’ musical output. — js
RELEASE THE SOUNDS
You’ve ripped your CDs to MP3 and AAC files. You’ve purchased songs from the iTunes Music Store. Your iPod is overflowing with tunes. It’s probably safe to say that you’re captivated by the allure of digital music. So you’ll be thrilled to discover that inside your Mac rages the heart of a bass-thumping, teeth-rattling sound system. Your iPod can share its sweet sounds beyond your ears. With the right speakers and enhancements, you can integrate your Mac or iPod into your sound system — or just as easily send your stereo to the consumer-electronics graveyard.
You’ve got tons of music on your Mac. If it’s truly at the center of your digital hub, it’s time to put your Mac to good sonic use — either as a stereo component or as a musical powerhouse unto itself.
The Speaker Connection Macs have either one built-in speaker or two, depending on the model — but those speakers can make Jimi Hendrix sound as though he were playing a ukulele. Any Mac laptop or desktop can easily connect to external speakers via the line-out jack on your Mac. Unlike the speakers attached to your home stereo, which draw their power from the amplifier, computer speakers are powered — they run off a power plug or batteries, and they include their own amplification.
Since most of the music you’re likely to play consists of standard stereo (two-channel) files, you can avoid costlier surround-sound setups and look for a 2.1 system — that is, a left and a right speaker, along with a subwoofer (the .1 part) that handles the low frequencies, or bass. Klipsch’s $150 ProMedia GMX A-2.1 (www.klipsch.com) and Harman Kardon’s $200 SoundSticks II (www.harman-multimedia.com) are some examples.
You may decide to purchase a multichannel speaker system — because you also watch DVDs on your Mac and would like to enjoy the surround-sound capabilities built into Panther’s DVD Player app, for example. Klipsch sells several other ProMedia configurations, including the $250 ProMedia GMX D-5.1 and $400 ProMedia Ultra 5.1; JBL (www.harman-multimedia.com) sells the $180 Invader 4.1 channel system; and there are more. (Keep in mind that no Mac games currently support multichannel audio.)
If you want to get rid of the ties that bind — the wires that connect your speakers to your computer — check out cordless systems such as RCA’s $150 WSP150 (www.rca.com), Acoustic Research’s $180 AW871 (www.bestbuy.com or other online retailers), or Sony’s single-speaker $180 SRS-RF90RK (www.sonystyle.com). All use 900MHz radio frequencies to send music from a base (connected to your Mac via line out) to wireless speakers, with ranges varying from 125 to 300 feet.
Since speaker quality can be very subjective, it’s best to go to a store where you can listen to potential purchases — preferably with the types of music you typically listen to, and in a quiet, representative environment — before you buy.
The ProSpeaker Option Owners of G4 iMacs and some Power Mac G4 models probably know about the ProSpeaker port next to the headphone jack, which allows you to hook up the Apple Pro Speakers ($59; included with the iMac). What you may not have known is that you can use that port to attach that extra pair of speakers you have gathering dust in a closet somewhere. With Griffin Technology’s $25 ProSpeaker Breakout Cable (www.griffintechnology.com), you can connect your regular, unpowered speakers to your Mac with standard speaker wire.
Extra Power As mentioned previously, all Macs can send two channels of music out via the line-out jack. Most models support 16-bit audio (used for CD, MP3, and AAC files). The Power Mac G5, iMac G4, and 15- and 17-inch PowerBooks support 24-bit audio, which can produce better depth and create a rich, full sound when pumped through a great pair of speakers.
If you’ve got 24-bit envy or want more than just stereo output, you have options. M-Audio’s $120 Revolution 7.1 PCI card (www.m-audio.com) offers 24-bit support, and it can output to as many as seven speakers and a subwoofer. This arrangement is known as Dolby Digital EX, the next generation of Dolby digital sound; it includes two speakers more than a 5.Command-Channel setup. People with iMacs, PowerBooks, or iBooks (Macs without PCI slots) can get similar benefits from USB devices such as M-Audio’s $120 bus-powered Sonica Theater. Both products can produce virtual surround sound from standard stereo music.
Wired to Stereo While your Mac can function as the center of a great sound system, it can also integrate into your existing home theater or stereo system, giving you a component with great versatility.
You can send any sound on your Mac to the stereo simply by connecting a Y-cable (the kind with a stereo minijack on one end and two RCA plugs on the other) from your Mac to a spare input on your stereo receiver (as long as it’s not phono, which has extra amplification and can’t handle the full range of frequencies that modern music will try to cram through). A wide range of Y-cables is available, from Monster’s $30 iCable for iPod (www.monstercable.com) to a $3 version available at electronics stores such as Radio Shack.
You can also use a PCI, USB, or FireWire interface for sound output. These tend to provide better sound, since they are dedicated to audio and usually have higher-quality parts.
The Power Mac G5 is the first Mac to include built-in digital-audio input and output. If you have a stereo receiver with an S/PDIF (Sony/Philips Digital Interface) optical input (also known as Toslink), you can connect an optical cable from your Mac to the receiver, and your sound stays digital all the way.
A Smarter Way Although you can simply connect your Mac directly to a stereo, you still have to access and control the music from the Mac, which is not exactly convenient, to say the least.
One of the coolest ways to integrate your Mac with your stereo is via networked music-playing hardware such as Slim Device’s Squeezebox (mmmm; April 2004; wired, $249; wireless, $299; www.slimdevices.com). The Squeezebox attaches to your Ethernet or 802.11 wireless network and lets you stream various music formats, as well as MP3 Internet radio, to your stereo with analog or digital cables. With the server software running on your Mac, the Squeezebox lets you control your music with a remote. Two versions of the Roku Soundbridge ($250 and $500; www.rokulabs.com) — similar to the Squeezebox, but without wireless capabilities — should be shipping by the time you read this.
Remember, if all you want to do is share your music on your home network, you don’t need to buy additional hardware (see “Mini Music Server”).
The iPod is one of the best things to happen to digital music — but let’s face it, using it can be rather antisocial. Sticking tiny earphones in your ears is a solitary endeavor; you can’t exactly share the sounds in your head with the rest of the party. But you can set the music free.
Direct to Speakers The headphone port on the iPod and the line-out port on iPod docks act just like those on your Mac — accordingly, any speakers that you can attach to a Mac with a minijack connector, you can use with the iPod. With a dedicated set of powered speakers, you can easily carry thousands of songs to any room of the house — so there’s no need to buy a second stereo.
If you’re looking for speakers made just for the iPod, check out Alec Lansing’s $150
; April 2004). Plop your newer iPod into the docking station between the two speakers, or connect your first-generation iPod via the auxiliary input jack, and you’re in business for a small space — such as the kitchen, where you can listen as you make breakfast.
The Stereo Hookup As with speakers, you can use a Y-cable to connect your iPod to a stereo receiver anywhere you have one. If you want to integrate the iPod with your home stereo even further, take a look at TEN Technology’s $50 naviPod (www.tentechnology.com) for third-generation iPods. Plug your iPod into the naviPod, connect it to your stereo, and place it somewhere visible. Then sit back on the couch and use the included five-key infrared remote for playback, volume, and track control.
To escape wire tethers, just beam the music from your iPod to your stereo. Lots of people already use radio transmitters such as Griffin Technology’s $35 iTrip in the car when cassette adapters are not a viable option. But why should transmitters be limited to the road? These RF (Radio Frequency) gadgets connect to the iPod and broadcast to a specified station of your radio, so if you’ve got an FM radio at home, there’s no reason not to use your transmitter inside, too. — michael gowan
Mini Music Server
If you’re running iTunes 4.01 or later, you’ve already got powerful music-sharing software installed. iTunes lets computers on the same network make their libraries available to everyone else — even Windows iTunes computers. This feature is easy to use: just click on the Sharing tab in iTunes’ preferences and select the Share My Music option to spread the joy of music around your networked home. This works with your everyday Mac, or you can store your music on an older computer you have sitting around (even a PC) and use it as a server.
To share music outside your network — to listen to your home iTunes songs at work, for example — there’s another option. Download and install Slim Devices’ free SlimServer 5 software (www.slimdevices.com), the same app that powers the Squeezebox. The server software uses iTunes’ XML data to create a Web page with song information and playlists, from which you choose what to listen to. Set it up, and then use any application that supports streaming (such as iTunes and QuickTime, to name a few) to enjoy your music from anywhere. For more information, visit find.macworld.com/0005. — mg
Stream Away You choose your playlists and control Slim Server via its Web interface; then you can stream the resulting audio through iTunes.
Build to Order
Even if you’ve never picked up an instrument or don’t know middle C from a hole in the ground, GarageBand’s built-in loops make the application both fun and useful for making music. For example, GarageBand is a fine tool for creating iMovie soundtracks. One problem you’re sure to run into, though, is that the app doesn’t include a way to cut your piece to the exact length of your video. Sure, you could fade out the soundtrack, but wouldn’t you prefer to have it stop at exactly the moment your clip fades to black? With the help of Apple’s $30 QuickTime Pro (included with many of Apple’s pro apps), you can make your soundtrack do just that.
1. Create Your Movie Once you’ve edited your movie, note its length, which appears in iMovie’s title bar.
2. Export Your Movie Save your work as a QuickTime movie, using iMovie 4’s Share command.
3. Run the Numbers To make your music fit, you need to know how many measures it takes to fill the time of your movie. By default, GarageBand creates files with a time signature of 4/4 (meaning that each measure of music contains four beats) and 120 beats per minute (bpm). To determine the number of measures per minute in a 4/4 piece, simply divide the bpm by four — 120 divided by 4 equals 30 measures per minute, or 2 beats per second.
To give your soundtrack a natural feel, you shouldn’t cut off the soundtrack in the middle of a musical phrase — which in GarageBand is usually four measures long. Therefore, your soundtrack should finish at a measure that is a multiple of four — at the end of measure 28, 32, or 36, for example.
If you want to be terribly exacting about this, you could alter the bpm setting so that GarageBand generates measures that are a multiple of four every minute. To do so, take the number of measures you want and multiply it by four to determine the bpm. For example, 24 measures multiplied by 4 beats per measure equals a bpm setting of 96. For our purposes, however, simply create a piece that ends within a few seconds of the length of the movie.
4. Create and Export Your Soundtrack Assemble your musical masterpiece and select Export To iTunes from GarageBand’s File menu.
5. Launch iTunes and Locate the Soundtrack Select your exported GarageBand soundtrack in the iTunes Library and choose Show Song File from the File menu (or control-click on the file name to bring up a contextual menu with the same option). In the resulting window, drag the file to the Desktop.
6. Put It All Together Piece the movie and sound files together in QuickTime Player Pro. Launch QuickTime Pro and open both your movie and your soundtrack files. Select the soundtrack and press Command-A to select its contents. Now press Command-C to copy it.
Click on the movie you made in iMovie and choose Add Scaled from the Edit menu. This pastes the soundtrack into the movie and stretches or shrinks it to fit the video’s length. This will change the soundtrack’s pitch, but if the video and soundtrack are close in length, you shouldn’t hear a noticeable difference.
7. Mix the Volume If the soundtrack’s audio is too loud, you can adjust its volume. Select the movie, press Command-J to bring up the movie’s Properties window, and choose Sound Track 2 from the window’s first pop-up menu and Volume from the second one. Move the Volume slider up or down.
8. Save Your Movie Choose Save As from QuickTime’s File menu. In the resulting Save dialog box, enable the Make Movie Self-Contained option and click on Save. — cb
Sound Advice Mix your movie’s audio tracks within QuickTime Player Pro.