To start recording sound effects, you will need a microphone. You can use either a standard microphone with a 2.5mm jack that plugs into the mic socket of your sound card, or a USB microphone that is specifically designed for computers. Both will give good results, but it is best to avoid headset microphones because they tend to be optimized for recording voice rather than general sound effects.
In addition to the microphone, you will need software to sample the sound and save it to your hard drive. Most operating systems come with a basic program that can record sound, but you will likely get better results from other sound software such as Audacity (Figure 10-3), which is an open source application for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. You can download Audacity (for free) from http://audacity.sourceforge.net/.
To record sound with Audacity, click the record button (the red circle) to start recording, and then click the stop button (the yellow square) to finish. The waveform of the sound will then be displayed in the main window, which has a number of controls that you can use to examine the wave and select portions of it.
Audacity has many features that you can use to edit sound. Multiple sounds can be mixed together, and you can cut and paste between them. You can also apply various effects that can improve the quality of your sounds—or completely change them! To apply a sound with
Audacity, select a portion of audio you want to alter, then select one of the effects from the Effect menu. Here are a few of the effects you can use:
• Amplify—Makes a sound louder. Generally you should store your sounds as loud as possible, without clipping. Clipping occurs when the amplitude of a wave is greater than the range that can be stored, and tends to reduce the quality of the sound. If the top or bottom of the wave is a horizontal line, that means the sound has been clipped.
• Change Pitch—Makes the sound higher or lower. If you increase the pitch of a voice, it will sound like it is on helium, and if you lower the pitch it will sound deeper and godlike. Changing the pitch is a good way to turn one sound into another. If you were to record two metal spoons colliding and lower the pitch, it would sound something like a sword hitting armor.
• Echo—Adds an echo to the sound. Adding Echo can make your effects sound like they are in anything from an empty room to an enormous cave.
• Noise Removal—If you are not lucky enough to have access to a sound studio and professional equipment, your recordings may have a slight hissing noise, which is a result of background noise and imperfections in the microphone and sound card. The Noise Removal effect does a good job of cleaning up your sounds.
Once you have finished editing your sound effects, you can export them as a variety of other formats, including WAV and Ogg. It is a good idea to keep the original files so you can export them to a different format if you need to.
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