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Posts Tagged ‘podcast’

How to use VocaTalk as a research and learning tool

November 3, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve been using Google Notebook which is now discontinued.  If you are already signed up, you can keep using it at http://www.google.com/notebook.   Then I’ve recently discovered WebNotes, an online research and web annotation tool (http://www.webnotes.net), and it changed my life.  It allows you not only to bookmark things that you find on the web, but also highlight portions of pages, and put sticky notes on them.  You can access your bookmarks pretty much anywhere.

If you are doing online research, constantly reading things all over the net, this tool is for you.  I have realized that combining it with a text-to-speech tool like VocaTalk to listen the bookmarked web content the next day on commute creates a unique learning experience.

First, you need to subscribe to WebNotes and download the browser addon for it for the best experience.  Also, download VocaTalk if you don’t already have the latest version and request a free beta license.  For the best experience, you can also download high quality SAPI voices, rip some CDs or import mp3 music to VocaTalk.  VocaTalk will use all the installed voices and music in your library to generate a high quality mp3 and publish it locally as a podcast episode.

Once you install these two wonderful apps, you’re ready to enter a new world of self learning experience much more fun than anything you’ve ever experienced before!

As you surf the net searching for interesting news articles, books, blogposts, mark them with WebNotes tool.

Mark your research using WebNotes

Mark your research using WebNotes

Create a collection of bookmarks, highlights, stickynotes.

Manage your bookmarks with WebNotes
Manage your bookmarks with WebNotes

You’ll probably add many such bookmarks before you actually start reading them.  So it’s good to be able to manage and organize them using the browser add-on for WebNotes.

When you want to actually turn the content into mp3 speech, click on the bookmark in WebNotes to open it.  Launch VocaTalk and paste the content into VocaTalk.  Then click ‘Turn into new podcast episode’ link at the bottom of the window.

Turn content into podcast episode using VocaTalk

Turn content into podcast episode using VocaTalk

VocaTalk will present an options pane for you before creating the podcast episode.  Here you can pick music and some special audio fx like positional audio, voice modulation and binaural beats.  Then it’ll create and queue the episode under a podcast folder.  You can start generating the podcast now, or just keep creating such episodes and defer generation.

Generate musical mp3 episode using VocaTalk

Generate musical mp3 episode using VocaTalk

Once the generations are complete, you can publish them locally to iTunes/Zune or just download to your mp3 player.  I like the podcasting better because it makes it much easier to manage so many mp3 files that are listened once and thrown away.

VocaTalk episodes that are combined with nice background music sound like fancy audio documentaries that make listening much more fun and less monotonous for hours of listening experience.

Windows XP support at last!

September 2, 2010 Leave a comment

Windows XP support was one of the most expected features of VocaTalk.  And it’s just been released.  XP users can now start enjoying the most fun TTS application ever.  Download version 1.0.20, import music and create your podcast episodes to listen on your iPod/Zune.

The 1.0.20 version, also supports random pitch selector which changes the voice pitch for every paragraph creating a richer set of voices.  You can combine the random pitch selection with voice modulation which smoothly shifts the voice pitch while speaking.  These and many other affects make it much more fun to listen for hours without getting bored.

Mp3 support at last!

July 14, 2010 Leave a comment

VocaTalk now supports importing mp3 albums in addition to ripping CD music.  This will allow users to download thousands of free mp3 music on the internet to use in the background.  To give you an idea, here’s how it works:

You just click on the musical note icon to select background music (or select background music for an episode in the podcast manager).

Select background music

Then click on “Import an Album” link at the top panel.  This will display the mp3 album importer pane at the bottom of the music selection view.

Import an album

Select mp3 files as music tracks for the album, and png/jpg/gif files for album art.

Select mp3 files for music and jpg/png/gif files for album art

After you select the tracks, the album import panel will display the tracks and the album art and will also set the album name to the directory name that you selected the albums from.  You can keep adding more files by clicking on the ‘plus musical note’ icon.  You can change the album name if you wish, but you must make sure the name is not already in your library.  Otherwise, you will get an error message and will have to rename it.

Create album

Once you’re done, click on the ‘Import’ button to create the album in your library.  That’s it!  But there’s more…

From this point on, the mp3 album is in your library in mp3 file format which takes much less space than uncompressed wav files.  However, VocaTalk actually uses raw uncompressed files rather than decompressing mp3 files each time you generate an episode.  mp3 files are used for album archival, meaning it’ll take less space on your file system.  So, when an album is created it’s automatically marked as ‘archived’ and grayed.  This means, the album is archived and not active when ‘use all music’ is selected, but will still be selectable and be used if you pick the album directly.

If you want to unarchive an album and make it active as background music when ‘use all music’ is selected, you must right click and select ‘Unarchive’ in the context menu.

Unarchive an album

After an album is unarchived, it will take much more space (7-10 times) on your hard drive, but it will be used when all music is used in the background.  When you have a large album library, this will be an extremely useful feature to save space.  For example, you can just keep 20-30 albums active, archive the rest and change such active album sets as you get bored.  You could archive 5 albums today, and unarchive another 5.

Unarchiving an album

VocaTalk will soon support an automatic scheduling of such sliding active album sets.

There are a number of free music download sites that you can already access today and download free mp3 music.  My favorite is Jamendo.  I’ll make a list of such music download sites and provide it on VocaTalk’s home page.  If you have any recommendations, please leave me a comment.

How to turn a large ebook into a series of musical podcast episodes or audiobooks

June 29, 2010 Leave a comment

There’s a lot more online reading material today than ever, and that’s only going to grow.  We can use them in many other ways than just read.   For example, we can do interesting transformations like text-to-speech.  For large text content, probably the best usage of text-to-speech is to create a recording and listen on-to-go.  In this tutorial, we’ll use VocaTalk to turn an ebook into a musical audiobook or podcast.

I’m going to use a public domain book (H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds) from Project Gutenberg.  You could also use any other html, pdf, word or text content, or anything that can be represented in one of these formats.  We’ll even put background music and some sound effects that make listening easier.

To do this, you need to download an install VocaTalk Personal Podcast.

1. Download VocaTalk Personal Podcast.

2. Request free beta license.

3. Launch VocaTalk and activate the beta license using ‘License’ button on the activities pane and then ‘Enter New Activation Key’.  If you don’t activate the app, you can still use the demo version which has some limitations.

Now let’s generate the podcast episodes, or audiobooks (mp3 files).

1. Launch VocaTalk.

2. Copy and paste the contents of the full novel into the document editor of VocaTalk.

3. Click ‘Create new podcast episode‘ link at the bottom of the document editor.

VocaTalk Document Editor, Podcast Episode Creator

4. VocaTalk will automatically select a name for the episode(s) based on the contents.  You can change it here.

5. By default VocaTalk will use all the music in your library as background music, but you can select albums you want by clicking on the musical note icon.

VocaTalk background music selector

6. By default VocaTalk will use a default album art for the target podcast folder, but you can select an image from your library or form internet.

VocaTalk Album Art Selector

7. Optionally you can select some interesting audio effects in the podcast episode creator.

8. Select the target podcast in the podcast episode creator.  In this example I use ‘My Sci-fi books’ podcast that I created earlier.  But you can just create a new podcast by clicking on ‘Let me create a new podcast first’ link.  After you create a podcast, you can come back to this screen by selecting ‘Edit Document’.

9. Click ‘Create‘ button in the podcast episode creator.

10. If the document is large, VocaTalk will suggest splitting it into multiple episodes.

VocaTalk podcast episode splitter

11. VocaTalk will create episodes and open the ‘Podcast Manager’.  You can click ‘Not Generated’ link to generate an episode.  VocaTalk will use all the available voices installed on your system in the same recording.  Each paragraph is read by a different speaker to make the listening less monotonous.  The voice modulation effect makes it even more fun.

VocaTalk Podcast Manager

Once the generation is done for an episode, you can just click on the ‘Play’ button on the episode to play it right away.  Or you can click on the ‘Open podcast folder’ to access the generated .mp3 files to copy to your mp3 player.

To subscribe to this podcast and open in iTunes, click on ‘Open podcast in iTunes’ link at the top of the podcast folder.

VocaTalk podcast in iTunes

Of course most of the steps above are optional.  The quickest way to do the same thing is to just paste some content, click ‘Create new podcast episode’, and then click ‘Create’ button.  VocaTalk will use the default settings and all available music in your library and queue the episode(s) in the podcast folder.  Then you can generate the episodes and download to iTunes whenever you want.  The more music in your library the better the experience.  You can rip your CD music, save to your library and use it in the background of VocaTalk episodes.

iTunes will make sure only the unlistened episodes are on your iPod.  So using podcasts is much more comfortable than managing mp3 files manually.

You can generate an endless stream of podcast episodes from any content and listen anywhere.  You don’t even have to spare time for reading anymore.  Just grab your iPod and do whatever you want!

Here’s an mp3 episode of ‘The War of the Worlds” generated by VocaTalk.

What I did today while assembling my Ikea furniture at home

June 24, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m on vacation and decided to stay home this time.  Well, not all vacations are created for rushing to get some rest.  The only thing that woke me up was the new Ikea furniture I had to assemble.  But wait, I’ve got stuff to read and have some fun personal time listening music.  How about getting some sun bath by the pool?  Apparently, I have to do the assembly today and my wife says in fact, I have to do it now!

But wait, I have my iPod.  And not only iPod, I have VocaTalk Personal Podcast!  So I just turned the stuff that I was going to read into a podcast episode with some music in the background.  That way, I could work, listen music, and listen to the text at the same time.  It was so fun, I don’t even know how much time it took to assemble the whole thing.  It was a quite big one with lots of pieces to put together.  So I had to take some rest and drink my beer while our little cute kitten ‘Cumin’ was jumping around to get some attention.  While going through all that, I finished my reading and switched to another podcast that I had generated previously.  It was a public domain novel.  The atmospheric background music made me feel like I’m in a movie theater.

When the assembly finished, I was still listening to my podcast.  Well I have an infinite number of them.  Because I can generate them myself, based on any content I like; articles, blogs, ebooks, pdf files, word documents, or any other text.  VocaTalk generates the speech, puts music in the background and some other sound effects that make listening even more fun. It’s like no other text-to-speech app.  It’s so fun to listen to these podcasts, I can’t stop listening the whole day!

Maybe tomorrow, I can get back to my lazy mode and go to the pool while still listening to my podcats… I mean podcasts…