Monday, October 4, 2004
Posted by Ed Hansberry in "ARTICLE" @ 07:00 AM
When Windows Media Player on your desktop, as well as most ripping programs, rips the CD, it creates a separate WMA, or MP3, file for each song. On your desktop, this isn't a problem as WMP supports gap-less playback. You won't be able to tell when it moves from one track to the next. Your Pocket PC is a different matter. There is a light pause between songs, something that you can't tell 99% of the time since each song on most CDs stands on its own. When playing back these continuous CDs though, the gap is unnerving to say the least and can totally ruin the CD for you.
So I am going to show you how to create a gapless WMA file using software included on every Windows XP machine sold. For my example, I will be using Windows XP, Windows Media Player 9 (also works with the newer WMP10) and Windows Movie Maker 2. The latter two are available as free upgrades for Windows XP from Microsoft's Windows Update site in the "Windows XP" section, right below the "Critical Updates" section. I understand that there may be third party alternatives for doing this and I recommend you investigate those if you will do a lot of this. I currently have two CDs I am interested in doing this for and installing extra software for something I will hopefully only do once for each of these two CDs seems like overkill.
First, rip your CD. I recommend re-ripping it for this even if you already have it on your hard drive, but turn up the copying bitrate to the new "Windows Media Audio Lossless" format, which will require up to 500MB per CD. Some of you may already be using a lossless format for your PC audio needs. If so, you can start with files already on your hard drive.
Figure 1: Rip your music at the highest bitrate possible. This is in the Tools|Options dialog box in Windows Media Player.
The reason you need to do this is your music will get downsized at least one more time before it makes it to your Pocket PC, maybe twice, so the higher you start with, the better. Also note I have disabled the "Copy protect music" box, also known as "Check me and you'll hate it because sometime down the road the music you rip will be unplayable" box. If this is copy protected with a DRM license file, you may not be able to continue. Finally, pay attention to the folder this is going to be stored in. You'll need to know that in a few minutes. Windows Media Player generally records it in the folder listed in Figure 1, then in a subfolder with the artist's name, then the CD name, then the tracks below that. I am going to do this with David & Diane Arkenstone's "Echos of Egypt" CD, so my music will ultimately be in E:\My Music\Diane & David Arkenstone\Echoes of Egypt.
Now that you have ripped this music, you are ready to concatenate it, or make it one long track. Start Windows Movie Maker 2. Select the "Import audio or music" link, as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2: Import your newly ripped music into Windows Movie Maker.
Next, navigate to the folder your CD was ripped to and select all of the songs then press the "Import" button.
Figure 3: Selecting the songs to import.
Once they are imported, you should be looking at a window similar to Figure 4. It shouldn't take but a few seconds to import an hour's worth of music. This CD only has 5 tracks total, each 10-15 minutes long. You may have more.
Figure 4: Your music files in Windows Movie Maker 2.
Now, click and drag all of the music down to the timeline in Windows Movie Maker to the Audio/Music row. You may need to click the "Show Timeline" button mid-way down the screen if the Storyboard is being shown.
Figure 5: Joining your files
You can drag them around in the timeline to make sure they are in the right order. Now you are ready to create your single WMA file. Be very careful that they don't overlap at all in the timeline or you'll get an ad hoc crossfade. Select File|Save Movie File in Windows Movie Maker 2, select My Computer and click Next. Name the file and select the folder you want to save it in. I just leave it in the My Videos folder. I am going to delete it later anyway.
Figure 6: Saving the "movie" file - it will really be a WMA audio file.
Select the "Best Fit To File Size" option. WMM2 will automatically pick the biggest file size it is capable of generating. Selecting any other choices will cause the file to be smaller, which may not be desirable. When Windows Movie Maker is done making the file, check the "Play movie when I click finish" box and press the "Finish" button. You will now be able to listen to the long single file in Windows Media Player.
Now you are ready to transfer the CD to your Pocket PC. If you are ok with the larger file and your ears are more discerning, you can manually copy the file over to your Pocket PC at this point. If you need to save some space or if you are like me and ok with 64kb-128kb bitrates, you can dock your Pocket PC and let Windows Media Player shrink the file for you. Select Tools|Options to get the Options dialog box shown in figure 6 below.
Figure 7: Configuring Windows Media Player to transcode your file to a smaller format for your Pocket PC.
Now simply let Windows Media Player transfer the file to your Pocket PC. It will first go through a transcoding process and then will do the actual file transfer. Be patient as it is a huge file and will take even the fastest PC a few minutes to convert.
That's all there is to it! Hopefully in the future Microsoft will allow for true gapless playback in the Pocket PC version of Windows Media Player which will eliminate the need for these steps. One benefit to this though is the playlist is simple - one file. There is no need to worry about getting the songs in the wrong order. :)