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Propaganda - Track Mixing for Podcasters

written by: Jeremy Rule•edited by: sysadm•updated: 9/24/2008
4

Propaganda is audio-mixing software for DJs and podcasters who want to beat match or beat mix their productions.

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    Introduction

    Propaganda, based on the popular MixMeister software, helps you construct a show by mixing songs and recordings together, and then publishing the podcast. It's no surprise that Propaganda's audio mixing features perform well, given its pedigree.
      
    If your show has a more "live" feel with guests, interviews, sound effects, and callers, Propaganda will not be appropriate, but if you want a well-produced music show, Propaganda hits the mark.
     
    Propaganda supports both beat mixing and crossfade mixing. Beat mixing is what you might hear a DJ do at a club--altering the speed of two songs so the beats line up and there is a smooth transition. Crossfade mixing is what you hear on the radio--one song slowly fading into the background, overlapped with an incoming song.
      
    Propaganda looks at the volume profile of a song to determine the intro and outro and smartly figures out the beats per minute on a track. Using that information, you can mix two songs automatically without having to edit a track.
     
    Propaganda reveals itself as a version-1 product, however. Adding a song from the Playlist to the Library, and then deleting it with the Delete key usually caused a crash. Another sign of the product's version-1-ness: a search of the Propaganda website indicated Vista support was better in 1.3 and that version 1.4 was not even available (though the website displays version 1.4 as the most current edition). In my software's Help menu, I did not find 1.4 and I could not find a download link for 1.4. I sent in a support ticket, which indicated a 24-hour turnaround time. Roughly 24 hours later, I received a private download link but it installed version 1.2.4 as well. Another 24-hour turnaround confirmed that 1.2.4 was actually the most current version.
     
    Despite its version-1 status, Propaganda builds on the MixMeister technology, and it impresses.
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    Price to Value

    Rating AverageWhat's Hot: 
    At $50, Propaganda is an excellent value for anyone looking to create or enhance a music show.

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    Installation & Setup

    Rating AverageWhat's Hot: 
    When you first run Propagada, you are presented with a tutorial that walks you through each portion of the screen. I found this helpful in getting acclimated with the basics of the user interface.



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    User Interface

    Rating AverageWhat's Hot: 
    Propaganda is certainly a handsome program. The interface is clean and takes advantage of even the largest monitor. The controls are easy to work with and I was able to do things like zoom in and out of the timeline using familiar keys.



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    Product Features

    Rating AverageWhat's Hot: 
    I was able to do more than a simple relative volume adjustment for my tracks; with Propaganda I'm able to adjust the treble, bass, and speed of each track. This ability to fine-tune tracks to fit into your overall show is a vital feature in mixing software.
     
    The "Snap to Beat" feature lets you ensure that everything from your sound effects to your segments lines up on the beat. If you've used graphics programs, you may be familiar with snap-to-grid features. Snap to Beat is the same idea but for sound, and you end up with a clean, professional mix.

    Once you are ready to publish a podcast, click "Publish in Propaganda" and a wizard will walk you through the steps. Propaganda comes with a free 90-day trial of podcast hosting, or you can choose custom web settings. With custom settings, you need to be able to FTP to your server. Propaganda asks for the show information and then generates a final audio file and the web page material.



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    Performance

    Rating AverageWhat's Not: 
    When I encoded my final mix, I was disappointed to see only one of my CPU cores pegged. I hope as CPUs move towards more and more cores, audio/video applications will do a better job of using them in parallel.

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    Help & Support

    Rating AverageWhat's Hot: 
    The online help gives tips on more than just using the software; it offers advice on what makes a good podcast. The help also walks you through the workflow of creating a podcast, and covers beat  mixing and many advanced topics.
     
    Where the help files leave off, you can head to beatmixing.com and learn from other Propaganda and MixMeister users. On the beatmixing.com front page, you can even pick from five live radio streams to hear other users' mixes. This is an excellent way to listen to what's possible with the software.

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    Beatmixing

    Rating AverageWhat's Hot: 
    You can really show off with beatmixing. There are some tricks to doing it well, though. Pick tracks that have similar beats per minute (BPM). Going from 105 to 110 BPM could give your mix energy, while dropping from 110 to 90 will really "slow the party down."
     
    I like to look for songs with a good intro and outro to work with so I have time to line up the beats comfortably. If I am dropping a significant amount of BPM, I may opt for a sound effect or some DJ voice to separate the tracks rather than slowing down the music.

    When you create your own beatmix, Propaganda inserts some BPM marks that you can move up or down with your mouse to change the transition or just to change the speed of the song.

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    Podcasting Uses

    Rating AverageWhat's Hot: 
    One of the neat things you can do with Propaganda is use it for general beat matching or for targeted podcasts. Your podcast doesn't have to be a show hosted on the Internet for any and all to hear. I've used podcasts to socialize messages at a company. I've seen church leaders use them to record weekly sermons.
     
    Just recently, I created some podcasts for my wife and I to use while we run on the treadmill. The treadmill programs have a five-minute warm-up, a 20-minute run, and a five-minute cool down. I timed the music to have higher beats per minute and fewer distracting voices during the 20-minute run and a slower-paced warm-up and cool down. My wife had complained that just listening to the MP3 player left dead air between songs and sometimes a slow song was in the shuffle. Building a custom podcast for running with Propaganda helped make the treadmill more exciting.

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    Images

    Beatmixing.jpgError.jpgMain Screen.jpgPublish.jpgSnap To Beat.jpgTutorial.jpg
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    Suggested Features

    More transitions and sound effects would be great additions. It would also be nice if Propaganda took some steps towards the live-studio scenario.
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    Conclusion

    Propaganda clearly aims for the musical podcast, and it hits its target. I had more stability problems with the software than I am comfortable with, so I had to frequently save my work. I suspect once I have the latest version, with any Vista issues addressed, the software will have greater stability. Overall, this is an impressive piece of software and the mixing is just plain fun.