Audacity Team visits the UK for AU14

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It's always great to attend a first of it's kind conference, and even better to attend one outside of the obvious cities. AU14 was the first Audacity unconference that took place in Preston, UK over the 11th and 12th July. An amazing group of programmers, geeks and writers from across the globe landed in Lancashire to share new updates in the pipeline, best practices and a ranges of uses for the open source audio editing programme. An a massive surprise and honour to meet the co-founder of Audacity, Roger Dannenberg (pictured left with Liz).

With my background in broadcasting I frequently used audio editing packages to a high level working on quick turnarounds. Now being able to pass on this knowledge through our training courses, we try as much as possible to use open source programmes such as Audacity, so participants can take the skills they've learnt away and download a copy of the programme to carry on using at home/work.

The day started off with introductions from Martyn, and as any unconference does with the opportunity to pitch your talks on a wall. For this conference it was also great to have the added bonus of being able to request talk topics to be run by the Audacity Team. There were a mix of educators and geeks at the Friday event, and a range of usage levels. I was after an advanced user look at the programme and the exciting things that could be found under the bonnet of the FOSS programme, I wasn't disappointed.

The first talk from by Steve on the Nyquist Plugin with the language LISP.

Steve's claim to Audacity fame is writing the Split channel function, and to see an addition to the programme where you can add your own coding inside the GUI is a fantastic step forward for those more advanced users, or even those that are interested in learning coding in a familiar environment.

The second talk was from the inspiring Audacity co-founder and Nyquist writer Roger B. Dannenberg

This was a further look at Nyquist, this time coding in SAL, which has been supported since version 2.0.
This talk focussed on RMS (Root mean square) which is basically the overall volume the audio sounds like - in the waveforms that's referenced in light blue. We looked at Tap Finder and Tap Drummer plugins as well as Timed Sequence, which enables markings of audio at peak points, along with taking scores (lists of events) and converting them into digitised sounds.

More information on the Nyquist facility in Audacity can be found http://audacity.sourceforge.net/help/nyquist
There's also a separate coding programme available called Nyquist IDE which enable you to write and save more complex code to use in Audacity.

The third talk was from Vaughan at the Audacity Team, a some show and tell around some fabulous new prototypes.

Vaughan is currently working with the Ixonos team at Intel to develop a new version of Audacity to work on Windows 8 tablets. Currently in prototype mode the models are intuitive to use, and a great step forward to responding to the need for a mobile of Audacity.
The next hope is that there will be an Apple and Android version roll-out soon after if the technology has been produced and the bugs squished.
The tablet interface looks brilliant, the simple basic style makes it a great usable tool for on-the-go recording and editing, with the functionality still complete, but hidden away behind menus and a toggle button to take you back to the regular version. I'm really looking forward to seeing this roll out!

The fourth session was a top tips round table with the Team.

The version I've been using for a while now is 1.3 beta, and it's worked fine, so I never got round to updating. The 2.0.5 is now installed and it's impressive to compare the two. The latest version has lots more useful tools and functions to it.
* Spectrograms views can be found via Analyse>Plot Spectrum
* Remember backup and good file tree organisation
* Make your own keyboard shortcuts via Edit>Preferences>Keyboard
* Check out a mixer fader view via View>Mixer board
* Use chains to save specific chains of settings to repeat a regular series of settings via File>Apply/Edit chains...
* Reduce the large gaps of silence in tracks via Effect>Truncate Silence
* Go back a few steps via View>\History window
* Move a series of audio clips into sequential order via Tracks>alight end to end
* Check out the existing keyboard and scroll wheel shortcuts
* Show track name in the waveform display for easier reference via Edit>Preferences>Interface

The fifth talk was from Leyland from the Team, about the Audacity api.

The project he is working on at the moment is real time processing and playback of effects onto the audio, focussing to start with on VST plugins.
Leyland showed us that using Nyquist is still by far the quickest option for quick processing, but to have real time processing of audio effects, would put Audacity is a whole different ball game. There are lots of professional audio and music programmes out there that use this type of processing, and when this function is rolled out in version 4, this could widen the scope of the programme's audience massively. Within this new version you'll be able to open more than one effect at once, and have a favourite effects window to easily get to your most used tools.
Plugin version 4 is currently in testing stage, and I'm looking forward to seeing how much of a difference it makes to the landscape for audio editing and the interest in the FOSS community.
Further info on the day and the talks can be found on the wiki at http://au14.audacityteam.org/index.php/Audacity_Unconference_2014

It was a great day to focus purely on using Audacity and talking to fellow users and the Team. I feel very inspired to have a go at the Nyquist programming, and I'll be fingers crossed, attending the AU15 next year.