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Review Ambient Recordings with Audacity

using audacity to review ambient surround recordings

Using Audacity to review ambient recordings is a way to better use my time and skip over much of the un-necessary recording.  Otherwise, you spend 20 minutes to review a 20 minute recording.  I wanted to find a better way.

using audacity to review ambient surround recordings

Take a look at the above screen capture from an active session of Audacity with a surround recording loaded.

When you begin recording "surrounding sounds" (or activate the "room bug" as many like to call it), you are not able to hear what is going on at that time — so you don't know if the target is sleeping, watching tv, or playing games — until you review the recordings.

If you choose to review the recordings using a regular, non-visual, audio playback program like QuickTime, Videolan, Windows Media Player, etc., you are unable to see the "dead spots" on the audio.

What does that mean?  What are "dead spots"?  It means that you must spend 20 minutes of your time to review 20 minutes of recorded audio because you can't skip ahead as you are afraid that you will miss something that you might find important.  The "dead spots" are sections of the audio file that contain no valuable audio (a television or radio playing to an empty room; or the sound of a fan, for example).

If you choose to use Audacity, a visual audio playback program, you will be able to visually see where the dead spots are and allow you to skip them … effectively reducing the amount of time you spend reviewing audio recordings.


using audacity to review ambient surround recordings

Look at the screen capture again.  Notice the RED arrow.  It is pointing to an area that is basically a "flat line" of audio.  In this case, it is the sound of a fan in an empty room.  If you couldn't see this on a visual representation, you would not know how much of the audio you could skip.

Now look at the BLUE arrows.  They indicate an increased volume of a noise; that noise could be voice or any other sound that is louder than the fan in the background.  In the first instance of the blue arrow, the lines represented a short, one sentence exclamation from the person playing video games.

The second BLUE arrow represented other miscellaneous noises, such as a chair that squeaked, or a door that closed.

With Audacity, you can move the cursor to the exact point where you want to hear.  Once you realize how the audio-line is presented, you can skip through the room-bugging audio files very quickly.

In the example shown in this post, I was able to spend no more than 5 minutes with this 20+ minute audio file.

Audacity is free by the way!

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