Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Audio time shrinking

I listen to a fair few podcasts on the train, and most of them are either Escape Pod or PodCastle stories (which are awesome, by the way - you should definitely listen to them if you like science fiction or fantasy). Recently, a lot of the PodCastle episodes have been about an hour long, which is just a tiny bit too long for my train trip. I do have a few options open to me for this situation: I can listen to a bit one day and a bit the next, or listen during lunchtime and finish on the way home. That's awkward, though, because Google Play Music doesn't remember where you left off in a long file if you pause and leave the app. Usually what I do is load the file in another app called XSpeedPlayer that lets me tempo-shift without changing the pitch. I can then get through an hour of podcast in 48 minutes (125% normal speed), which is just right.

The problem is that the app isn't quite perfect, or my phone is not powerful enough. Either way, the poor thing heats up in my jacket pocket and, usually, gets so stressed and hungry for battery power that my phone becomes unresponsive. It can also sometimes change my phone wallpaper for some reason. And every now and then while playing, it does this weird thing where it swaps 2 consecutive seconds of audio. It's pretty disorienting.

So now I'm trying something new. I'm using Audacity on my PC to pre-shorten the files to 45 minutes exactly, and copy that to my phone instead. As far as the phone knows, then, I have an ordinary MP3 podcast that's exactly 45 minutes long, and I can use the normal, built-in audio player to listen to it. All the compressing hard work has been done already, so the phone doesn't get stressed at all.

It works pretty well, but with very long podcasts and readers with accents, they can get too difficult to understand. There's a limit to how quickly my brain can process audio, and accented English or too much time compression can push past that limit. That's the one advantage XSpeedPlayer has over pre-shrinking on the computer: you can change speed while the file is playing, if it turns out to be too fast.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - But usually, when it's too fast, I can abandon it and just read.
PPS - My mobile entertainment options have never been so plentiful.

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