Serving up media (Part 2)
In Serving up media (Part 1) a couple of weeks ago I talked about playing media streamed from a Media Server. But what about formatting media to serve up?
For the purposes of this exercise, I’m going to convert the contents of three CDs (Queen’s Greatest Hits, three CD collection) to an MP3 format for use in a Media Server.
The software packages which I will use are SoundConverter for Gnome and EasyTAG.
The first thing we need is a structured file system. My technique id to create a folder for the album artist. That folder will contain folders for each album/CD. If any album is a CD boxed set (such as my Queen example) I will create a further series of folders to hold the individual CD files.
I have now created my root folder called “Queen”, and within it is a further folder – “Greatest Hits, which in turn contains three folders – Disk 1, Disk 2 and Disc 3. All that remains id to copy the contents of the three cds into the relevant folders.
As you can see, each track is names Track x.wav, where “x” is the track number.
Unfortunately, WAV files are of no use to us as we need to embed Meta information for the Media Server to catalogue the files. I will change them to MP3, as this format uses Meat information and is also compressed giving a smaller footprint on the disk.
Fire up SoundConverter. The first thing is to set preferences (found in “Edit”). I generally set the programme to place the new files in the same folder as the input, with the same name (but replacing the suffix) and delete the original. Click “Convert” and away it goes.
In SoundConverter Click on “Add Folder” and select the album folder (in my case, “Greatest Hits”) and click Select. It will then proceed to load all the files in the subfolders.
Note that SoundConverter has a lot of work to do so it will take a little time. If you were converting the entire works of Mozart it would take many hours. In my example here it took 9 minutes and 54 seconds to convert all 51 files.
W now have the original folder tree containing all our new MP3 files. The next thing is to start creating Meta Tags.
Open EasyTAG and point it to the folder “Greatest Hits”.
Note how the tracks appear in the central frame while everything else is blank.
To get started, we need to fill in any information that is common to the whole album – for example, Artist and Genre. I tend to fill in Composer and Album Artist at this time as I don’t really want to go through the hassle of finding the precise Artist for each individual track.
Firstly, I select all using the Select all button (11th from the left on the toolbar). I then enter the required information In each of the fields, and then press the wee circle button to the right of the field. The latter is important as it then applies the field to all the selected files.
Click on the Save button (9th from the left on the toolbar).
The next bit is the only really tedious bit. We have to name each track. Now I could type the name of each track by reading it off the album box, but there is a slighly less tedious method. Find the album on the Internet! Usually it will have a Wikipedia or Amazon entry and somewhere there will be a list of tracks. So all I have to do is a quick copy & paste from the web page to Title. (in my example, I found my list here) One thing we do NOT do here is use the wee circle (apply to all files) button, unless you want all tracks to have the same name!
Notice how as you modify each file, its information turns red in the centre pane. This is just an indicator that the file has had its tags modified but not saved. There is no need to save each file as you go, as at the end, we can select all and do a bulk save.
Next I select each individual Disk folder and apply the information for that disk (Album [name] and CD [optional]) and again apply it to each file in that folder. One operation which is slightly different – there is no need to enter Track #. Just press the tiny button (with the hash on it) to the left of “Track”. That will number sequentially all highlighted files but will start a new sequence for each folder, if you happen to have more than one folder open.
Once finished there is a simple test to make sure that the system is working so far. Select the album folder to load all our files and then click Tree browser (10th button from the left on the toolbar). The resulting display should show just one artist, with three CDs (and their titles) and the number of tracks in each. If it doesn’t then there is an error somewhere. The most common source of error I have found is to forget to select all before making a change to say an Album title.
The last job that needs to be done, just to add sense to it all is to rename all the actual files. They are currently still names Track 1.mp3, Track 2.mp3 etc, though their Meta information is now updated.
From the Album folder, select all files.
Now select “Scan Files” (5th button from the left on the toolbar). This will open a new small window. There are three options and we want “Rename File and Directory” There will be a text box which requires a very simple code (if the code options aren’t visible. try clicking the wee blue button with the question mark).
The code I am going to use is %n – %t which will change the existing file name to a new one consisting of the track title (%t) prefixed by the track number (%n) and a dash. I could use for example %d%n – %t which would give a four figure prefix (disk and track numbers) assuming I have entered the disk number for each disk. Whatever you chose, it will display a sample below the code input box.
you have entered the code and while all the files are selected, click on the little green button beside the dropdown box (as shown by the curser in the snapshot below)
Close the little window and click the save button. It will ask if you want to change the Meta information, but now it will also ask if you want to rename the files. Click yes and that is it!
You can actually use Banshee to import an audio CD complete with the album name and title of each song already in place. One drawback is that Banshee imports all tracks as .ogg and you still have to use SoundConverter to convert to .mp3 (I set it to convert to “Very high” quality” mp3).
Indeed you can but while that is quicker, it’s not without some niggly little problems. For example, I imported the three CDs above and ended with four folders – there was a fourth one entitled “Queen & David Bowie” containing just one track! Also while the Meta information was excellent it still had some shortcomings. For example, the Genre tag was not entered at all.
Really what I was trying above was a brief introduction to the two programmes. Even after importing through Banshee, both SoundConverter and EasyTAG will still be required.