Encoding Audio for a Church Website (Part One)

I work, freelance, to develop and maintain the website of the church congregation to which I belong. It’s nothing special, but it’s getting better and I’m learning a lot of new things. Even more impressive is the progress that this site shows over sites I’ve done in the past.

Encoding Audio

Media should be a part of a growing church website.

Fortunately, the dynamic duo who sits in our media bay has been recording sermon audio for years directly through the soundboard on computers using the program Audacity. (Note: If you are unfamiliar with Audacity, simply perform a search for it. Many people use this software and use it for its extremely powerful audio editing options.) They record the audio to .wav and then convert it directly to .mp3 format. When a calendar year is completed, the duo archives all audio from that year to DVDs that are available upon request. Even better, once they’ve converted the audio to .mp3, they actually give values to the ID tags.

Media that has been recorded more recently is archived only in the .mp3-format. But audio starting in 2008 shows up in .wav format periodically. Task: put audio to a internet-usable format with a minimum of end-user work.

Formats and Browsers

Perhaps the biggest issue I faced (chalk it to inexperience) was the debate on which formats to use. There are audio plugins available so that users can grab audio using older browsers, but in the end I decided to start relying on HTML5 tags to put audio on our sites. This severely limits anyone who has an outdated browser, older operating systems (before Windows XP, certainly), or may not be tech savvy.

The website http://www.w3schools.com/tags/tag_audio.asp was superbly handy in this endeavour. Not only did this site give a clear example of how the audio tags (part of the HTML5 standard) were to be used, but explained fallbacks as well. Perhaps most useful was the table that lists browser/format compliance. What is clearly seen is that .mp3- and .ogg- (Ogg Vorbis, http://www.vorbis.com/) formats work in each of the major browsers. The Microsoft .wav-format produces audio that can be recognized in most browsers (oddly not MSIE 9.0) but that is extremely large.

Availability

I decided to make available the original-definition .mp3-files (available for download only). From there, the audio tag would let the browser choose which file (.mp3 or .ogg) to use. I’ll tackle how I made these available in the next post.

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