Ebook meets audio–another one for the geeks

Another one for the ebook geeks–though it might be worth an eyebrow lift from audio geeks, too.

A conversation on Twitter between #eprdctn people turned to audio (because the new EPUB 3 has audio stuff), and the question of how to code lots of little audio files into your HTML came up. As it turned out, it’s possible to use one big MP3 file and just tell the ebook which region of it you want to hear, but interest persisted in my suggestion of pulling audio information from an Excel file and regexing that into useful code.

(Those of you who are still here–read on. The rest of you already left.)

I know Paul Heitsch from the early days of PAN, the Performing Artists Network, which is also where I met my bandmates in The Cosmic Debris. He’s managed the creation and deployment of audio files at LeapFrog, Rosetta Stone, and I forget where else. At one point, he hired me to do some music for LeapFrog toys–uh, educational devices–which is still probably the most fun I’ve ever had on a job. So when the question of how to get audio timing info into a spreadsheet came up, I emailed Paul. He asked for details, I said there aren’t any details, and he said fine and came up with this while he was supposed to be working on taking a break from a big project for the Mouse. I’m hosting it because he has no blog. It’s like he just wants to work and have a life without publicizing it or something!

I know, weird, right?

The two programs in this demonstration are Pro Tools and the donationware program EdiMarker. It’s not a complete solution to the problem because, well, there is no problem. Nobody I know has an actual project that’s in crisis until someone figures out a way to automate their region start times into DreamWeaver. And it’s not complete; whatever real-world application does arise, there will be details not addressed here.

However, I bet someone’s going to need to know this can be done–and it’s just interesting to see the ebook world meet the audio world, and maybe reduce the number of reinventions of the wheel.

So here’s the assumption:

You have an audio file, and you want an Excel file of your region start points that you can regex into something useful.

Click on the images to see them bigger.


Paul Heitsch

Oh, this is just so much more fun than rewriting music, I can’t help myself…

Here goes.

So you’ve got your audio recorded, and the files are in a Pro Tools session, along with a blank MIDI track. You place markers at the beginning of a phrase (or word, or ’graph, or…):

Pro Tools session with markers

Pro Tools session with markers

(You can place the markers by hitting ENTER on a numeric keypad during playback.) Once you’re done, and everything looks good, you export a MIDI file from Pro Tools:

Pro Tools session - export as MIDI

Pro Tools session - export as MIDI

Now drag the resulting .mid file onto your EdiMarker window:

EdiMarker ready

EdiMarker ready

and you get this:

EdiMarker done

EdiMarker done

Click Export text, and EdiMarker spits out a tab-delimited file, that you can then open in Excel. That looks like this:

The result in Excel

The result in Excel

In this test Excel rounded to one decimal point. I figured out how to preserve the three points that EdiMarker exports.

OK. On to less exciting things…

If you’ve got questions, feel free to ask them here.


Filed under Audio production, Design and production, ebook production, Production tricks

2 responses to “Ebook meets audio–another one for the geeks

  1. Daniel

    Hi, just for your information,
    the text/audio synchronization in EPUB3 is derived from a well-established open-standard for digital talking books called “DAISY”, so there are existing authoring tools which will no doubt be updated in the future to facilitate the production of EPUB3 talking books. For example, Tobi is open-source production software, Dolphin Publisher is a commercial suite. Worth noting too: you can export markers from Audacity (free open-source audio editor) and convert them into an audio book using the DAISY Pipeline (also Free). Like I said, EPUB3 support is not there yet, but development will probably pick-up the pace by the end of the year.
    Kind regards, Dan



  2. Very interesting! And finally something Audacity is good for besides adding fades when I’m too lazy to fire up Pro Tools.

    Wow, three grand for Dolphin Publisher…

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