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Harvard Sound Directions Toolkit Available for Download

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HCL Audio Engineer David Ackerman, who helped develop the Harvard Sound Directions Toolkit, a suite of 46 software tools for audio preservationists. The Toolkit was recently made available for download.


November 14, 2008 - The Harvard Sound Directions Toolkit, a suite of nearly 50 software tools with the potential to revolutionize the work of audio preservationists by automating their most time consuming and repetitive tasks is now available for download.

Created by Loeb Music Library's Audio Preservation Services at Harvard University, the toolkit was developed as part of Sound Directions, a joint project undertaken by Harvard and Indiana University with a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Toolkit follows the publication of "Sound Directions: Best Practices for Audio Preservation," an internationally acclaimed report on audio preservation techniques.

Most of the work automated by the Toolkit "would normally be done by hand," HCL Audio Engineer David Ackerman said. "You can spend 15-20 minutes manually interleaving two channels of a large sound file into a new file. With the toolkit the function is performed in the background and you can continue to work on other things, which is great for productivity."

Ackerman developed the Toolkit with programmer Robert La Ferla. The program they produced works through a command line interface, in which users enter specific commands. The Toolkit also allows users to write scripts - essentially small programs - that string several commands together, freeing up engineers to perform other tasks.

"While the idea of automating repetitive tasks is not new, the ability to have some concise, targeted command line applications that can easily be scripted was something that seemed pretty fresh," Ackerman said, of the Toolkit. The ability to write programs that mix and match the various tools, he added, gives users the ability to configure the software in thousands of possible ways.

Ackerman uses the tools himself, and said they've had a dramatic impact on his group's work.

"I'd say it's probably doubled our throughput," he said. As an example, he pulled up an audio file which had earlier been transferred from audio tape into digital format. In total, 86 processes had been run on the tape, but just four were carried out manually. The rest were completely automated by the Toolkit.

While Harvard engineers created the Toolkit, Indiana staff produced the Field Audio Collection and Evaluation Tool, or FACET, a software package which ranks audio field collections based on preservation condition and level of deterioration.