Technician isn't so much a job description as a mindset. Or a lifestyle.

A lifestyle composed mainly of:
  • Slowly figuring out how to do things quickly
  • Clumsily figuring out how to do things elegantly, and
  • Painfully figuring out how to do things easily

FAWM is coming up, and I'd like to have a crack at it - assuming life doesn't get in the way and mess things up. I'd got some synths, some synthy drums, a recording setup, some plugins for production, and even a vaguely witty title for the collection. Don't have any songs yet but...well, that's part of the point.

Now, I like to put snippets of dialogue from film and TV into music, but as FAWM is all about doing things quickly - 14 songs in 28 days - I'll take all the samples from one half hour TV show. Like, for instance, a classic episode of The Twilight Zone.

Download the episode...no problem, even though I'm not supposed to be able to. Extract the audio...hmmm.

The easy way to do it is to play the episode in one program, while recording the output sound in another. Easy, but not very elegant, and there's a marginal loss in sound quality.

But wait, I've got a little program designed specifically to extract the audio from FLV files. And it does it. Except this particular soundtrack isn't in MP3 or RA - it's in AAC, a format which, had it been invented a decade earlier, would have made sure no one would now have heard of MP3s. No one except people like me, anyway.

But I can't work with AACs directly, so I've got to find a program to convert them to WAV. I'll ask Mr Google. Mr Google knows everything - even more than Mr Wikipedia.

Mr Google gives me lots of lists of free programs that'll do it. Unfortunately
  • Actually they won't
  • Actually they're not free
  • A lot of them don't exist anymore but are still listed

Welcome to the world of websites that use badly written automatic software to create lists of other software and list the lists on Mr Google.

Oh-kay. I used a program called Goldwave years ago, and from what I hear it's got really good in the meantime - able to read and convert every audio format you can think of. And there's a free demo version from the site.

Find, download, install, run...and yes it looks really impressive. And yes it can import lots of formats. But not AAC. Huh.

Oh I know what to do! Dariusoft make some very highly regarded conversion software, and I read somewhere they do a free AAC converter. Great, problem solved - go to their website and get the proggy.

Which seems not to be free anymore. But there is a demo version, so I get that, and install it on my virtual machine like I do with all new or transient software, just for security and easy removability. Install and run...and it's missing a DLL file.

Sigh. Go to dll-files.com to get the file, copy it over to the virtual machine, put it in the installation folder, and run the program. Ah, it's also missing another DLL file. Get that, run the program and ask it to convert my ACC files.

This is the point it chooses to inform me that, this only being the demo version, it'll only convert the first minute. Great, thanks for letting me know.

And so I...play the ACC files in one program while recording the sound in another.

So there I have it. Half an hour of eminently sampleable and recontextualisable speech to make my songs just a little bit more interesting.

And that, my friends, is the technician lifestyle.

EDIT: Yes, afterwards I did find a program I downloaded months ago and forgot about, that does exactly the right job. And yes, it was while looking for something else.


  1. Wasn't it all easier in the days of the 4-track Fostex? You know, the one that used cassettes, and had a mixing desk built in...

    OK, maybe you don't, Herr Krapitano. But I do, and it seems a whole lot easier than what you've just put yourself through!

    PS: how much is a used Fostex worth these days?

  2. @The TEFL Tradesman:

    In the 80s I had a 4-track Tascam, with cassette port and mixing desk. In 1988 it cost me GBP400.

    It was second hand and after a decade finally gave up. I found a Fostex (1/4 the size) in a second hand shop, going for GBP90 to replace it. In those days I actually had some money.

    I recorded a dozen or so ambient/experimental albums on that Tascam 244 - with only a second hand drum machine, a non-MIDI sampler, and a second-hand reel-to-reel tape machine.

    Still got some of the recordings somewhere.

    So I don't know much a Fostex would be worth now - on the one hand there's a big market for old analog equipment, on the other, we're in recession.

  3. Ha! I just checked on Ebay - it's ten quid for an old Fostex (non-working)!

    But there's a couple of 16-track digital/CD versions available on there, second hand I guess, for a few hundred quid or so. Amazing, eh?

    You know I just had a devilish idea. Perhaps I should buy one of those 16-trackers and re-record some of my ancient ramblings from the 1980s. And then force you to listen to them!! Wouldn't that be SO cruel, Herr Krapitano!?

  4. It would be crueler if I enjoyed them.

    Though not to me.

  5. There is a program called Audacity; though you may well have heard of that and I cannot vouch for it being able to deal with AAC format audio files.

    There is also a program called i-Opener which was intended to circumvent the DRM for iTunes-purchased files. It no longer works for that, but it can convert AAC to MP3 and from that you may be able to work from something.

  6. @Paul:
    There is a program called Audacity

    Yes, I've occasionally used it - it has quite a following, though I still prefer Audition.

    There is also a program called i-Opener

    I haven't come across i-Opener before - I'll check it out, thanks.

    Does this mean you have a virtual presence again? Can't remember the last time we met.