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Please Help! Recording live church services

Okay, here is what we have now and what we currently do.

We presently record our services with both a tape cassette recorder for cassettes and a CD-RW recorder for CD's. The problem is that we have to have a storage are for all these master CD's and tapes.

Our sound booth at the church has a up to date computer system and our sound mixer is Mackie not sure specifics off hand.

Here is what I want to do if it is possible!

I want to digitally record the services and store the files on the computer hard drive, and when someone wants to purchase a service on tape or CD, I would need to record the saved file from the computer hard drive to either the tape or CD which ever they prefer. I know it is probably not easy to do this with cassettes, but there are still the older generation people that dont have a CD player that purchase these service recordings.

What equipment would I need and what method do I use to record these?



Boswell Fri, 12/29/2006 - 12:01

For recording to PC, you will need a decent sound card for your computer and a program that captures the digitised sound and stores it to the computer hard disk. Your computer may already have a sound card installed, but it is unlikely to be of the type that can handle the output of the Mackie mixer. Something like an M-Audio Audiophile192 would do the job, assuming your computer has a PCI bus slot available. For software, the freely downloadable Audacity has all the features you need.

However, consider what happens after you have recorded the services on your PC.

Firstly, disk storage space. A 74minute CD uses about 0.65GB of storage in uncompressed form, so a 40GB partition on your hard drive could hold around 60 CDs. Factor this by the lengths of your services. You would have to work out what to do when your drive gets full. You could, for example, choose to compress to MP3 services that are (say) more than a few months old. That would save storage space at the expense of quality.

Secondly, cassette copying. You could use the sound card and Audacity to play a complete service and record it (via an attenuator) on to a cassette deck, but it takes real time to do it. I think on balance, for as long as you know that cassette copies are going to be needed of every service, that you should continue to record the services to cassette in parallel with recording to computer and (continue to?) make duplicates of the master cassette using a dual deck with high-speed dubbing.

Kapt.Krunch Sat, 12/30/2006 - 06:24

Boswell is correct in his assessments, but I'll add more.

Actually, CDs can now record about 80 minutes of stereo 16/44.1, or 700 Megabytes (I know, the numbers don't match...but that's the specs). That's an hour and 20 minutes. How long are the services? If they are usually longer, then you may need to make a split somewhere, and issue them on more than one CD, unless you do some editing to eliminate any unecessary lulls, if there are any. Or, you can put a clock on the pulpit that counts down 80 minutes! The younger folks might appreciate THAT :shock: Just kidding.

You do have several options about backup and storage.

You could install a very large hard drive to use as recording/backup. Since you are probably only doing, perhaps, a stereo don't need a LOT of working room for recording. A stereo file uses about 10 megs/minute. You could determine how long your services usually are and leave some working room. So, let's say they are usually about an hour. 10 megs x 60 minutes= about 600 megs. That's just a little more than 1/2 a Gigabyte. If you were to partition a huge drive with the working partition much smaller than the backup partition, then MOST of the drive would be for backup, while creating a small partition for stress-free recording. Once you record the service, you could move that file to the backup, and free up the recording partition.

Although stereo recording is a relatively easy task for nearly any computer, it's still important to give it as much chance of being error-free as possible. When a file is being recorded on a partition with nothing else on it, it doesn't have to sort through everything else on that partition and find an empty space to write, and it doesn't have to sort through things to read. This makes the hard drive's work less stressful, and the bonus is that it may extend it's longevity. Yes, I know that's it's a small matter concerning stereo audio files, but if you get a LOT of them on there, it is causing more stress. Since it doesn't have to find spaces to write between other stuff, it may make for a less error-prone, extremely long, continuous file recording.

At the very least, if you have more than one recording on that partition, you should always defrag the drive immediately before recording.

So, if you record that one service on it's own partition, you should probably be good to just leave it until you get your CD orders filled before next week's service, when you can simply copy it to the backup partition, and delete it from the working partition, so you can do next week's service on clean drive. After you delete it, you should probably do another defrag. It shouldn't take long at all, and you're ready to roll again.

You'll want breathing room. This next part may be debatable, but I would consider a 10G partition for the working partition, and the rest as backup.
If you put a 300G drive in there, you'll have about 290G for backup. 290G/.10G=29000 minutes=+/- 483 stereo track hours (29000/60).

That's a lot of room. If you eventually took, say, a year's woth and compressed them into, perhaps, 192KB MP3s, you'll be in the thousands of track hours. (Even MORE if you compress them to the minimum recommended 128KB.)

A partition of 10G for the working portion would give you more than enough room for a single file. But, it will allow you room to record more than one track, if the need arises (perhaps you didn't have time to transfer, etc.). It will also give working room if you do edits, etc., because each edit leaves more info on the disk, in case you decide to undo. It's more than you'll probably need, but it's small enough to constrict the movement of the hard drives heads to that area, resulting in less head swing, faster writing, faster retrieval, and ultimately, less mechanical wear.

This shouldn't be your only backup, though. You could go with a USB or FireWire external hard drive, or a CD, or a DVD.

The external hard drive will allow the most room, followed by the DVD, and then the CD. Factor in the cost of what you already have, and the cost of the media. If you don't already have a DVD writer in the computer, figure about $100, then the DVD's themselves. Figure out how many DVD's you'll need compared to the costs of how many CD's, and all that with the cost of an external hard drive, which is it's own media. If you don't have a DVD writer already, it may be more cost-effective to just buy a large external hard drive.

If you REALLY want to have security, you'd eventually do both.

So, now you have all the services backed up to an internal drive. You would back up at the same time to either an external drive, or a DVD, or both. If your internal drive goes down, you have it handy on your external drive, and in a pinch, could probably just route the recording software to record to that drive. If THAT drive goes bad before you install a new internal drive that has gone bad, at least you'll have it all backed up to DVDs for later retrieval. In a real pinch, you could always just try to route the recording software to the OS drive, given that it has enough room to record a long file...and hope that it records glitch-free. Before recording to any of these, it's a good idea to defrag.

Eventually, you'll be able to install new drives, and get back to normal, and you'll have everything backed up three times. The safest backup is probably CD or DVD, because of mechanical issues, and an accidental exposure to electro-magnetic field won't wipe things out. It is never a question of IF a hard drive will fail, it's a question of WHEN.

If it is REALLY important to capture the services on your computer, then you may even consider obtaining another OS drive, and cloning it from the current one. If the OS drive goes bad, you can always just remove it, and pop in the new one to get on with it.

Of course, if the mainboard or power supply or something goes south, then nothing is going to happen until you fix it. Hopefully, it doesn't take out one of the drives, but if it's backed up!

As Boswell indicated, you may as well record things to cassette in parallel anyway, so all is not lost. When the computer is repaired, simply run the cassette into the computer, and record it. May not be the same quality, but it will be there. If hiss is a problem, you could always run a light hiss-removal program on it. (Just be prepared to go mow the lawn or something on an hour long file).

Actually, that would be your fourth backup. If all this were done, there is no reason to lose a recording of any service.

One other thing. If your CD writing software allows, you may want to consider putting track markers in just in case people want to hear the sermon and skip forward past the choir, or vice-versa. If they want to listen to the entire thing, they just let it play. But, this will give them a choice. Perhaps someone wants to study, and replay, a certain portion of the sermon. They will now have that option. You may already do this, but it's just something I thought I'd mention.

As always, I will humbly accept any critiques of my writing or ideas (or math) :?


Kapt.Krunch Sat, 12/30/2006 - 07:06

One OTHER thing. IF you install another drive, and partition it as described above, you may want to consider how you want to format it. (If you already have a large second drive, you may want to consider backing up everything already on it, and doing the partition and what's next anyway).

Since these are obviously just going to be long stereo (or even mono) files, you may want to consider forcing the formatting of all partitions on the work drive, and all backup drives, with larger clusters, if they don't default to larger ones:

Since this is all linear recording creating huge files, there will be little wasted space, because all of the clusters will be (theoretically) filled (for the file) except what's at the end of the file, which will waste only a portion of that one's space.

This should also reduce the number of times the heads have to skitter around to read and write, which may also cause less stress to the hard drive, and gaining a bit more longevity. The more, smaller clusters that has to be read and written, the more the heads have to jump. This may also make the entire recording process a bit more reliable.

Smaller clusters are desireable for small files, larger is desireable for larger a point, and depending on what you are doing.

Am I correct in my thinking on this?

May be worth consideration.


anonymous Thu, 01/04/2007 - 11:57

Here's what I use for recording our services. WaveLab and [[url=http://[/URL]="…"]Firebox[/]="…"]Firebox[/]
With this set-up you will not need a soundcard, but you will need a firewire port. Your PC should have firewire if not the cards are less than $15. Partition your hard drive as the guys noted above and you'll be good to go. Wavelab will allow you monitor, edit, create CD markers, insert intro/outro for your services and burn your CDs from the same screen called "audio montage". Plug your mix output into the firebox and set Wavelab to catpure from the device. Easy as pie.

Oh yeah. Wavelab gives you every format option available so you will want to record in MP3 format for messages.