Automating Audio 09/16/12

A few ways you can create automated audio workflows with Automator.


Automator, if you don’t know already, is an app that has come installed on every Mac since OS X 10.4 (Tiger). With its drag-and-drop interface, you can create automated workflows of repetitive tasks. It works with many programs, including Finder and the Safari browser.

This week we’ll look at 5 ways Automator can save you valuable time as you work with audio.


MON: Create a folder action that will automatically convert an .mp3 file into a .wav file

TUE: Batch rename voiceover files

WED: Drag and drop to compress and email an audio file

THU: Create a watch folder that automatically uploads files that are too big to email

FRI: Import project music into an iTunes project playlist


Create a folder action that will automatically convert an .mp3 file into a .wav file


As you probably know, the .mp3 file format is great for distributing audio but not so great for editing it. When you get music from a producer or client that is in this format, it’s best to transcode it to .wav or .aiff.

You can create a folder action that will use iTunes to automatically convert any .mp3 files placed within a folder into a .wav file.

Here’s how:

Inside of your project folder tree, create two new folders: MP3 and WAV.



Now, launch Automator.


You’ll be asked what you want to do. Choose Folder Action.



Now you’ll be asked to choose the acted upon folder. Click on the Choose folder drop down menu.



Then select the folder you made earlier called MP3.



In the Actions tab, select: Library > Music > Import Audio Files.  

Drag that action into your folder action pane.




As you can see, the default for this action is AAC Encoder. We want to turn the .mp3 into a .wav file, so let’s change that.




Now that we’ve told Automator that we want a .wav file created, we have to tell it where to move this new file.

In the Actions tab, select:  Library > Files & Folders > Move Finder Items.  



Now all we have to do is save this workflow. Hit CMND + S.

Call this from mp3 to wav



To test this new workflow you’ve created: in the Finder, save or drag an .mp3 file into your MP3 folder.



You will see a gear turning in your menu bar. It means that the folder action is working.


Now when you check your WAV folder you will find a .wav version of your .mp3 file:



Batch rename voiceover files

This is a cool workflow I first saw in an article on MacLife: 15 Automator and AppleScripts You Can’t Live Without.

It shows you how to use Automator to automagically batch rename files. We’ve written about apps that can do this like A Better Finder Rename. But, like being able to change your own oil, it’s something that could save you money and teach you a little about the inner workings of your machine.

Launch Automator and choose Workflow.



Drag the following two actions into the workflow:

  • Get Specified Finder Items
  • Rename Finder Items


When the action Rename Finder Items is dragged over, it will display Add Date or Time as the default.

Change it to Make Sequential and add the other settings below:



The naming convention I am using is:



To run this workflow, click the Add button in the “Get Specified Finder Items” action.



Click RUN.



If everything has been entered correctly, you’ll get a success message.



Go back in the Finder and you’ll see that the files have been renamed.



 Drag and drop to compress and email an audio file


I stumbled across another cool Automator workflow on the Macworld site. With this workflow by Chris Breen, you can create an Automator app that will compress and email a file that’s dragged on top of it.

This could be helpful if you need to quickly send sound files to a producer, client, or post-audio person for feedback.


First, launch Automator and select Application. Click Choose.



Drag the following two actions into the workflow:

  • Files & Folders > Create Archive
  • Mail > New Mail Message




You can pre-populate the To: field if you are routinely sending compressed files to the same person.



Now drag in the last action needed for this workflow:

  • Mail > Add Attachments to Front Message



Save this workflow to the desktop and give it a name you’ll remember.



You’ll see your workflow appear on the desktop.

To invoke this workflow you’ve just created, all you have to do is drag the audio file you want to send on top of the icon. In this case, we want to send the latest voiceover take of an Acme project to our producer, so we just drag it on to Squash and Send.



This will open up your Mail app. The email will be composed with the audio file compressed and attached.





Create a watch folder that automatically uploads files that are too big to email

The last step was a down and dirty method for automating the emailing of sound files. But for files bigger than 10 MB, this obviously won’t work.

Luckily, you can use Automator and your FTP app of choice to create your own watch folder.


Inside of your project folder tree, create a folder called FTP Upload.



Launch Automator. You’ll be asked what you want to do. Select Folder Action.



At the top of the workflow window, choose the FTP UPLOAD folder that you just created.




Select Internet in the actions list.

Click and drag Upload into the workflow area.



(As you can see, since I use the FTP client Transmit, I’m shown their logo.)

Enter your connection information and then save this workflow. Call it something that you’ll remember later.





Now, when you drag a file into this watch folder you’ve created, it will upload to your FTP site.



  Import project music into an iTunes project playlist

There are a lot of specialized apps like Soundminer that will organize your project sound files. But if you don’t have the need (or the budget) for these heavy duty apps, iTunes works well as an organization tool.

For ongoing projects, like episodic videos or a lengthy documentary, it’s a good idea to create a playlist for it in iTunes. You can then use the Services feature to automatically import the song into iTunes and onto the project playlist.

Here’s how it works:


Launch Automator. Select Service.


In the menus at the top of the workflow, select:

Service receives selected audio files in Finder



Drag the following action into the workflow:

  • Library > Music > Add Songs to Playlist

In the action settings, select New Playlist and then name the playlist using your project naming convention
Save this service and call it something you will remember.
Now whenever you bring audio into your system you can route it to iTunes where it will be sent to your project playlist.

This concludes our week of Automator hacks!

Check back on Monday as we continue our month of audio hacks, with a hack a week, a step a day.




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