The best part of the solution is that the software to do it is solid, well known, free and you probably already have it.
Welcome back one and all.
Many of you have probably been in this situation: Something just simply won't work in a computer program you use that you spent a helluva lot of money on. It's even worse when the options you thought you had are disabled and grayed out. Adding to this, well, drama, is that user forums and friends you ask about a solution aren't forthcoming. Then, the final straw: even the software developer publicly states that even they do not have an answer.
This is one of many roadblocks I have met that led to this article about what should be a simple and easy function in a world-class software developer such as Adobe Systems. Retrieved on the day of this post at the following URL: https://forums.adobe.com/message/4717871#4717871
This is exactly the case with a professional audio mastering and editing program from Adobe called Audition. I have written about it earlier this year. It's a truly master class program, with a pretty good learning curve but a fairly easy to use interface, especially if you are graduating from a smaller, similar program or even Apple's own Garageband. One of the best features of any audio software should be the ability to mix quickly and burn to a compact disc something you have created, even if simply for review. Believe it or not, this is not the case, which, on the surface, looks like an epic fail on behalf of Adobe Systems.
As you can see in this image, the option to burn your multitrack session isn't available.
Guess what folks? It looks like an epic fail because it is an epic fail. There are many times during a project where you just need something right now, quick and easy, and not the full project with all of the encoding necessary to master a compact disc professionally. Much of this involves a series of steps, which, while important, are time consuming, and not really necessary at this stage of the game. Often, I will play them in the car or on my stereo at home to gauge overall sound in real environments where listeners will experience the show.
Additionally, there are a great many people, like myself, who use Audition to sequence broadcast programs. Some of us use it for podcasting (MP3 format at 128 variable bit rate is what I use for the show to keep file sizes down) and much of the remainder for FM broadcasts. Neither of these delivery systems are flawless by any means. In fact, an MP3 file is called a "lossy" format, and for good reason. Radio broadcasts depend on the airwaves to be reached, and isn't as good as some might think they are in comparison to other forms of digital audio media.
A chart detailing types of media from poor to best, left to right. Notice that MP3 is at the farthest left. Courtesy of Phoros.com
The First Possible Solution Failure
Yes, there are lengthy and often involved tutorials on how to create CD's using markers, checking your output, etc and so on. For those of us doing radio programs or podcasting, we typically have a much shorter window of time to work with and need a quick and easy solution that was available at one time but is not longer functioning. After banging my head about this, I tried the following:
- Instead of the usual MP3 format I mix my show to, I made an AIFF file, which is a comparable standard for digital media vs. compact discs. File>Export>Multitrack Mixdown>Entire Session and a new dialog box should appear. (For the record, compact discs use the PCM format, which is not available in Audition, but the sampling and bitrates are the almost identical.)
- Change the File Format to AIFF and then click the OK button at the hand corner bottom right of the dialog box.
- And viola! An AIFF file has now been created. Another file, called a PKF, will also be generated.
(And before you ask, the PKF file is a rather large waveform file that Adobe Audition uses for faster loading. For this exercise, you can just delete them. For future reference, if you don't want them generated, you can change that in Preferences>Media and Disk Cache (a new dialog box will appear) and deselect the Save Peak Files option in the middle of the dialog box; to save your changes, hit the OK button in the lower right corner.)
From here, we should be able to just drop it into a simple burning program and presto! But that wasn't the case, either. For reasons no one can explain, the actual file that sat in the burner sounded great. But then it added something I wasn't expecting: over six minutes of data. (It also oddly gave the finished disc the name Paris House Mix by Nora Smith with one long track simply entitled "This".)
As you can see in this image, a mysterious 6 minutes had been added out of literally nowhere to my disc, making it unlistenable.
Why? More than likely it was because the workspace I was viewing the project in Audition, the additional six minutes was there. I did not change the size of the window I was using in Audition to accurately reflect what I was wanted to burn. This has to be one of the single most annoying things about this otherwise excellent software. You can make these changes easily in several different places and even add something incredibly important called Markers that you will want to use later when doing the actual CD mastering, but they won't be necessary for this demo.
One of the many places you can set the length of the session without using markers is in the lower right-hand corner of the standard main display.
However, it may not have been that at all. It may have been some file directory information that the burner generates so that the data on it can easily be formatted and found. All I know is that it didn't work. And that is never a good thing, especially when you have to explain to a client or your boss what went wrong. This is what the end result sounded like when placed in a CD player:
The Second Possible Solution Success
So now you're thinking, "Great. All that mixdown work and waiting for it to process is down the drain." Not so fast. After you have created the AIFF file, you are going to open up iTunes next. Yes, that free software you use to sort out your music and audiobook files. Open or drag your AIFF file into iTunes, and it will automatically load it in your library for you.
Adding new sound files is easy with iTunes drag-and-drop feature.
From there, select the track from your Recently Added section in iTunes and click on the blue circle with the three dots on the right. A new dialog box appears, and click Add To Playlist. A second, smaller dialog box appears. Click on New Playlist. And just like that, a new Playlist has been automatically created for you.
You can easily and quickly add Playlists in iTunes with just two mouse clicks.
Then, in the upper iTunes navigation at the top of your screen, fo to File and Burn Playlist to Disc.
A function many have never realized existed is the ability to burn custom playlists in a variety of formats to a variety of media in iTunes.
A dialog box will appear. Change speed setting if needed, and then hit the Burn button in the lower left hand corner. In just a few minutes, something that sounds like the following be the result:
OF NOTE: If the results don't sound great or are slightly tinny/muddy but they don't drag like in the first example, more than likely you will need to change the import setting on your iTunes program. Here's how:
- Go to iTunes>Preferences. A dialog box will appear.
- Click on the button that states Import Settings. Another dialog box will appear.
- Under the Setting section, which is the second pull down menu from the top, choose Custom. And yet another dialog box will appear.
- The AAC Encoder dialog box is where you can change things. iTunes default for the Stereo Bit Rate is set at 256, which, as you can recall from the cart earlier in this post, is "Pretty Good". You can increase it if you wish by clicking on the pull down menu, and probably should for your review discs.
- When you have made you change, press the OK button in the lower right hand corner.
What This Is And Isn't
This will not solve all of your problems or assist you with the finished file settings management in Adobe Audition, nor is it supposed to. This is meant for those of us, and it seems that there are many based upon feedback on user forums, that needed something free, easy and quick. Because let's be honest: Not everyone reading this works for Wired or went to ITT Tech, but we like to feel empowered by doing our own techie stuff once in a while and not having our projects, time and stress level negatively impacted due to what really amount to small issues with a software program.
Love to you all.
Ben "Bear" Brown Jr., owner
This article samples the track "Vogue", written and produced by Shep Pettibone and Madonna; performed by Madonna. It was used for the the display of test results and as a happy early birthday to the performer, who turns 60 this week. Released on Warner Brothers Records, published by Alfred Publishing, 1990.