Today’s belly dancer has to be pretty savvy. Not only are we expected to dance to new music, study other dance forms, and make some bad ass costumes — there are now technological expectations. Competitions ask for edited music. Videos are expected to appear on youtube. Dancers feel the need to make websites. Too bad there’s not a class we can take that could be labeled “Random Programs/Software/Necessary Skills You’ll Find Useful Later in Life 101.”
I know I have had to teach myself a LOT of things I didn’t expect to learn as a dancer, like how to edit music, how to get a performance off a DVD, how to convert videos/songs to different formats. Just today I spent an hour googling and trying out different programs to get a recent performance off an unprotected DVD. I thought to myself, “I wish there was a site that listed the best programs to use to do this,” and then it hit me: Maybe I could pass along the strategies I’ve been using and see what others have to say and what other dancers use.
Without further adieu, I present my list of (free!) programs that most belly dancers can benefit from. Bookmark this page, I think you may find it useful.
1) Audacity — Free Music Editing Software
WHAT DOES IT DO? Audacity is very easy-to-use, free music editing software that allows you to put two or more songs together, fade in/out, and several other basic functions.
WHERE CAN I GET IT? http://audacity.sourceforge.net
PROS: Fairly easy to use
CONS: Not a lot of fancy features
— Audacity will ONLY edit MP3 files. iTunes songs are AAC protected files, so if you try to import those files and press play, all you’ll get is a really awful sounding screech. There are several easy ways to get songs into an MP3 format, however: 1) Buy the song you want to edit from Amazon or payplay.com. I usually don’t have a problem finding the songs I want, and you can buy them already in MP3 format. 2) Let’s say you can only find the song on iTunes. Burn the song to a CD. Next, go to Edit > Preferences > “General” tab > Click the button “Import Settings” in the middle of the page > select “MP3 Encoder” on the drop-down menu labeled “Import Using…”. Reimport the CD and viola! You have a Mp3. I have a rewritable CD (a CD that can be used multiple times to burn things) by my desk so I don’t have to waste tons of CDs.
— Zoom in to make more precise edits. The menu is fairly intuitive — you can highlight sections and cut them out, there is a menu for effects, etc. I use the undo button a lot, and sometimes I slow down sections (an effect in the effects menu) so I can more precisely edit.
— To save the creations you have made, you’ll need to download the LAME encoder: http://www.lame.sourceforge.net
— I usually drag songs from iTunes to my desktop so I can find it easier, and I save the finished pieces to my desktop in a folder marked “My songs.” You can look up where songs are saved on your computer if you right click a song in iTunes and click “Get Info.”
2) MPEG Streamclip — Video converter (from DVD to computer)
WHAT DOES IT DO? This program allows you to take clips from unprotected DVDs and export them in formats you can put on youtube, vimeo, or other video sites.
WHERE CAN I GET IT? http://www.squared5.com/
PROS: It doesn’t take too long to get clips off DVDs
CONS: Not super-user friendly, I had to download a special version of Quick Time as well. NOTE: I JUST downloaded this program so I’m not sure if it’s the best one out there.
— At first, I had no idea how to use this software. I had to use it and Windows Media Player together to get the right snippet of video. First, I put the DVD in my computer and opened Windows Media Player (or similar program). I noted the time my solo started and ended (you know, “Ok, I started dancing at 1:32 and ended at 3:56.”) Then I opened MPEG Streamclip and went to File > Open DVD. If the DVD has different “chapters” or a scene selection it might ask you which part of the DVD it’s in — 1 stands for first chapter, 2 for two, and so on). Then, what I do is go to Edit > Go to Time. From there, you can type in the time your portion of the video starts at (in my imaginary example I would type in 1:32,00). Once you type it in, it should take you to the point where you want your video to begin. Once you’re there, go to Edit > Select In. Go back to the Edit > Go to Time screen, and now type in where you want your video to end (Again, my imaginary example would be 3:56,00). Now go to Edit > Select Out. Last step: Edit> Trim. What you’ve done is selected where you want your video to start and begin, and trimmed the rest. Now you can go to File > Export as… and select the format you want.
3) Any Video Converter — Converts video files to different formats
WHAT IS IT? This program I use occasionally when video sites require a particular format for their files — you can convert .mov to .mp4, .avi to .mov, etc.
WHERE CAN I GET IT? http://www.any-video-converter.com/products/for_video_free/
PROS: It’s a nice little program to have when your video is just NOT wanting to upload somewhere — I usually convert it (only takes a minute or two) and try again with a different format. Also, sometimes video editing software requires that you have the file in a particular format.
CONS: It would be great if I convert to .wmv files so I can add things in Windows Movie Maker, but alas, you must pay to get that feature.
— Look on the right hand side of the menu screen, and it will show you where your video is saving to. The first couple times I used it, I waited patiently and then all of the sudden the video just disappeared, and I was confused.
I’m also looking for good software to learn how to add a credits screen to my movies, and when I find one, I’ll update this post.
I tried to use the same websites that I downloaded my software at in this post. I often start at sourceforge.net or tucows.com to look for software, since I know they’re reputable. I am confident that all the links I have provided are reputable and virus-free because I have either used them myself or have used downloads from these sites in the past.
What are your thoughts? What do YOU use? What programs do YOU feel are a must-have?