Monday, September 19, 2016

Palacios Historic Home Tour - Part 1

I volunteer as a docent at the local historical museum.  It's a great way to learn about Palacios, Texas and meet interesting people from the area, as well as visitors from other lands.

A few years ago, the museum produced an Historic Homes Tour audio CD and I have been looking at how that might be used on the web and (safely) with mobile devices.

Currently, people come by the museum and "rent" the CD for a small donation ($5), take the tour and then drop the CD back off in the museum's door slot.

The CD consists of 51 audio tracks containing driving directions, home descriptions and a few bonus music tracks.

Ideally, we would like to make it available to more people, raise awareness about the museum and solicit support in the way of donations.  Having the content on the web reduces production costs and makes it easier to make additions (for example, a building was recently restored and could be added to the tour).

I plan to write a series of posts of how we go about breathing new life into this fun museum digital asset.

So how do we best accomplish our goals?

One approach might be to use a service like CD Baby or TuneCore, but I'd prefer to do this using open source tools and with minimal costs.

So our first approach will be to use the Internet Archive and build a playlist or feed that can be easily used by most people. For now, donations will be accomplished by simply linking to the museum's donation page where appropriate.

The next step is to rip the CD into mp3 files.  Use your favorite tool for this. You can even use Windows Media Maker or iTunes if you have those.  I converted the files using the a 192Kbs VBR bit rate setting.

The original CD tracks have very little metadata (just track numbers, no titles, subtitles, album, etc) and so we will want to add that.

As we will see, a whole lot of issues can be addressed using simple shell tools and scripts. Having a comma separate file of the metadata can help automate repetitive tasks for each track and so I created one.

You can use a tool like mid3v2 to set mp3 metadata. The track names on the CD were of the form "01 Track 1" and so I wrote a simple shell script to read the csv, find the mp2 track based on the track number and rewrite the metadata using the track title.

You can see the benefit of having the added metadata in the snapshot of the folder with the audio tracks. Note the titles, album, etc.

Now we can upload everything to the Internet Archive.  We'll do that in the next post using the "ia" command line tool.

In later posts, we will create some slide images from the metadata and use that with historic photos and the audio tracks to generate some MPEG 4 videos suitable for uploading to the Internet Archive or YouTube.

Then we will look at how to turn these into mobile (responsive) players and we'll even generate some of those cool audio signal graphs like this:

Lots of fun stuff and all can be done with a few simple command line tools such as mid3v2, ia, ffmpeg, sox, convert and gnuplot.

More soon ...


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