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 Post subject: Creating the ultimate S&S collection...advice?
PostPosted: Thu May 03, 2007 6:36 pm 
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Hello all,

I've recently decided to create a CD collection of ZBS's Stars & Stuff. I know, there already is such a collection in existence. However, my cassette version of S&S (which has a black-and-white cover resembling a classic sci-fi comic book, with a spaceman kneeling beside a scantily clad woman) contains a lot of material that the CD collection does not, such as The Ah-Hah Phenomena, The Old Gezzard's Tale, the Life Carrier PSA, the Jiffy John ad, numerous music segments and the UNEDITED version of Tired of the Green Menace?. There are also a few audio glitches in the CD version that I hope to repair.

Therefore, I've been compiling a complete S&S collection, arranging the tracks in the same order that they were on cassette, and inserting the tracks unique to ZBS's collection wherever appropriate (e. g., putting Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots after Space Scoundrels and Boogie Woogie, etc., Part 2).

I’ve been encountering a few problems so far. The biggest is the length issue. Even the longest CD-Rs don’t hold as many minutes as the longest cassettes, and three of the five S&S tapes go over the standard 80-minute limit. Not only that, but I’ve been hearing that the 90-99 minute CD-Rs are of questionable quality and aren’t writable or compatible with some computers. Though the “extended” collection covers 7 CDs with the added material, if I can't use 99-minute CDs, I may have to stretch it out to 9. :(

Another problem I’m having is with the cassette ripping. I’m using PlusDeck 2C to convert audio tracks unique to the cassette collection to MP3s. These files always start out loud and scratchy, but they can be edited. Unfortunately, even after lowering the volume to match that of the MP3s I’ve ripped from ZBS’s CD collection and applying a noise filter, the quality of the audio is still considerably different. The cassette audio sounds much sharper and harsher compared to the CD audio, which sounds softer, as if the sound were “sanded down” slightly.

This was especially obvious when I tried splicing in the song “Oh Those China Nights” into the gap between parts 1 and 2 of “The Flatback dragon” (since the song fades out, then in again at the end and beginning of each, repectively). I fit the song segment in all right, but the sound of the vocals changes noticeably when the druid starts talking over them. It makes me wonder whether I should scrap the CD MP3 and record the cassette version instead. I still don't know what can be done to make the rest of the cassette audio sound more like the audio from the CDs.

I don’t know if anyone here is experienced in sound editing or CD burning, but if anyone is, I’d appreciate any tips or advice you could give me regarding these matters.


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PostPosted: Thu May 03, 2007 6:54 pm 
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I don't know how much (if any) help I can be, but I will say that I use a program called Audacity for my cassette-to-mp3 projects. It's free, open-source software and yet outperforms some audio editing programs I've used myself. Might wanna give it a looksee. Can't hurt, can it? http://audacity.sourceforge.net/

It might be better, if audio consistency is your priority, to do them all from one source: the cassettes. I don't know, I can't tell what you're going for or what you're really working with, not having heard the qualitative difference between your two media.

Wanna shoot some samples our way?

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PostPosted: Thu May 03, 2007 9:26 pm 
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Okay...I use Audacity for some of my audio editing, but I use Goldwave more, since I'm more familiar with it.

I'll try to make my goal clearer: I'm trying to make a Stars & Stuff collection that includes all the material from both the old cassette collection produced by ZBS and the newer CD collection. The CD collection doesn't include the unedited TOTGM? or Ah-Hah, as well as numerous other audio, but it does include a few tracks that weren't in the cassette collection.

Since my tapes aren't going to last forever and there's no way to replace them since ZBS has discontinued the cassette version, I thought it would be a nice idea to create a collection that had material from both the tapes and the CD version, with the tracks arranged in the same order that they were in on the tapes. It would make it easier the next time I want to listen to The Old Gezzard's Tale and Tomorrow There Will be Apricots in the same sitting, but don't want to juggle cassettes and CDs.

As for samples to compare quality, I've uploaded a tiny clip of Dave Herman introducing The Thing That Ate Aunt Sophie:
This is the cassette version.
This is the CD version (the first word is clipped in my collection).
As you can see, there is no noise in the cassette version and it is about the same volume as the CD version, yet the sound is just the tiniest bit different. Doing another noise reduction edit to the cassette version doesn't "soften" the sound either.


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PostPosted: Thu May 03, 2007 10:07 pm 
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Sounds like you've got a lot more high-end response in the tape version, as opposed to the CD, which has something of a "rounder", more mellow sound to it. Maybe try applying an equalizer to the tape version to "round off" the treble a bit, and make it a closer match to the CD?

You may be able to get it close to the CD version, but you may never be able to get a perfect match. A few years ago, I tried and tried to clean up some tracks from Warren Zevon's The Envoy and Stand in the Fire albums, which I had managed to borrow on LP (the only format in which they were available), and use those tracks to fill in the gaps in "recompiled" versions of the two, along with the remastered versions that were released here and there on other CDs. I never did get a close enough match to make it sound like anything more than a half-hearted "mix tape" attempt (this was partly due to an aging turntable drive belt, which would cause a periodic flutter in the playback speed, but there was a difference in timbre as well, which I never fully ironed out). Fortunately, they've recently released both albums on CD, so I no longer need to grit my teeth at the jump in sound quality between the tracks.

Try cutting out some treble with the equalizer, and see how that works for you. If you can get the audio "close but not quite", I'd say go with the format with the most unique material as your master, and patch in clips from the other one as smoothly as you can. In the case you mentioned before, with the dialog over music, maybe a long crossfade (several seconds) would ease the transition, if you can match the speeds closely enough that you don't get an echo.

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PostPosted: Fri May 04, 2007 2:52 pm 
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All right...thanks for the tip, Seamus. Audacity's equilizer is a bit more flexible than Goldwave's (and it produces better results), but there doesn't seem to be a way to save the settings once I've created a curve that effectively cuts out the treble. Is there any particular audio editing program you'd recommend for this?


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PostPosted: Thu May 10, 2007 11:02 pm 
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Erm...hello? (Sorry to be impatient!)


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PostPosted: Thu May 10, 2007 11:17 pm 
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Oops! Sorry.

Umm... Not offhand, really. It's been a while since I've done a whole lot of audio work, and even then, I was using mainly GoldWave for it. Although I do currently work in broadcasting, I'm mainly just a button-pusher on the technical end, and don't really have anything to do with production anymore.

Sorry I can't be of very much help so far as software recommendations.

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PostPosted: Thu May 10, 2007 11:44 pm 
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I can't help at all on the technical aspect, but it sounds like a great project. So I give you hearty cheers!

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PostPosted: Sun May 13, 2007 10:16 pm 
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Okay...I guess I owe the folks here a progress report.

Things are coming along fairly well. I've had to rerecord some of the cassette material several times over, which is a pain and takes lots of time, but I'm striving to create the best quality recordings that I can. After the unedited TOTGM? turned out to be too hissy, I decided to take the edited version and splice in the cut segments from the unedited one. There is a slight variance in the added audio, but overall, the result seems pretty good.

The cassette version of The Flatback Dragon (which doesn't have the gradual fadein/fadeout during the song "Oh Those China Nights") turned out surprisingly well, without much of the hissy quality of some of my earlier efforts.

I'm also going to put together a list of the differences between the cassette version and the CD version of S&S, since there are many.


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PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2007 11:01 am 
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Yay! I hope it goes well, and I hope that it's something that comes together for you. Sounds like you're doing great.

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PostPosted: Mon May 28, 2007 7:43 pm 
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Well, things aren't going as well as I expected. I've only recently realized how hissy some of the dialogue in my recordings is, even after noise removal. Lowering the treble doesn't make any difference, and the people at the Plusdeck forums haven't responded to my week-old request for help. A friend at another forum is willing to try reducing the sound in one of the shorter clips, but if he can't do anything, it looks like a lot of desperate searching for a possible solution to this problem, since I don't know any other place to ask for advice.


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 Post subject: Re: Creating the ultimate S&S collection...advice?
PostPosted: Thu Nov 07, 2013 9:52 am 
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I know this topic may be completely moribund, but who can tell...

Anyway, I managed to snag a copy of the cassette tapes of S&S stuff from a local public library that was weeding it out. I'm going to start digitizing it myself and I'll update this thread with how I get on.

Regarding the mismatches between the cassette and CD versions of S&S, I had some dialog with Tom Lopez on the subject and he had the following to say:

Tom Lopez wrote:
I am shocked that the Old Geezard's Tales weren't including. If I recall correctly, the original version, at least for broadcast, did not have it. It was probably added for the cassettes. Over the years, different combinations come out for various reasons - broadcast has time limitations, cassettes had length limitations, 30 or 45 mins on a side, CDs had 70 min limitations, and sometimes things don't fit, or sometimes we'd toss in something because there's extra space to fill. So when we go back to the original masters, they may be slightly different from the later ones where things were added. And finally, fans alas have better memories than we do.


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 Post subject: Re: Creating the ultimate S&S collection...advice?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 12:17 pm 
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Got all my tapes ripped this weekend. I've not listened to them all yet, but a couple of things I noticed is that one of the PJ Orte sections states the "Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots" is included, but it doesn't appear on any of my tapes.

Couple of other things:

The original poster on this thread said that they tried to join Flatback Dragon, but the second part has Shorty speaking over the song. I noticed that the split occurs at different places on the CD version (7:42 in, versus 17:56 in on the tape version), so it should be possible to make a seamless repair.

All other stories are available as single tracks, with the exception of Tired of the Green Menace?, which I understand is a different version on the tape. The two tracks on the tape add up to 54:44, but the four tracks on the CD come to a total of 56:23. Can anyone point out the significant differences? It appears that the tape version is shorter.

To recap, tracks on the tape not on the S&S CD are: Theme For Incredible Adventures, Brief Interlude, Life Carriers, Jiffy John, The Ah-Ha! Phenomena (available separately), Boogie Woogie Bugle Droid (Android Sisters), The First Voyage to Andromeda (this is 24:47, so it may be a longer version of Andromeda on the CD, which is 11:17), Tired of the Green Menace? (see above), The Old Gezzard's Tale, The Marsh Wizard Returns, and Cosmic Bubbles.

On CD but not on tape are: Motorcyclists from Mars, Andromeda (see above), Tomorrow There will be Apricots, Noko The Snake, Untitled Space, and Big Bird (this is listed on the tape box).

I've not listed all the smaller music cuts, or the intros and credits, but given Tom's comments quoted in my previous post, there are likely a lot of snips and fills going on.

Watch this space for more...


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 Post subject: Re: Creating the ultimate S&S collection...advice?
PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2014 1:54 am 
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Another interesting note is that Boogie Woogie to the Stars was never actually finished.

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