Audacity Effects – Data Bending

Reverse NarbaliciousnessThis image was modified using Audacity and a technique known as Data Bendingº. The Audacity effect used to create this image was Reverse. In this post, I’ll walk through how to import your images to Audacity, apply an effect and then export as an image. I’m using a Mac running OS Yosemite 10.10 and Audacity 1.3.13 – your setup may differ but the information and outcome should be similar.

Before opening Audacity, convert your image to .bmp if it is beenot already in that format. I use GIMP – you can use whatever tool you have at hand. Once you’ve got a .bmp of your image, open Audacity.

Audacity Import Raw Data Menu

Audacity Import Raw Data Menu


Once Audacity is up and running, select Import > Raw Data from the File menu. Choose your .bmp and then import your image with the settings below.

Import Settings - U Law and Big-endian

Import Settings – U Law and Big-endian

When importing, these are the settings that you should begin with. You can also use A-Law for Encoding but remember to export using A-Law if you do. Byte order should be Big-endian – leave others settings as they are. You may choose to experiment with other settings later, of course.

Once you’ve imported the image you wish to play with, I recommend immediately exporting it so as to ensure that you’ve got your settings tweaked properly so you don’t get further into the playing with your image and not having an image at the end. To do that, select Export from the File menu and then use the settings as below.

Audacity Uncompressed Export Set Up

Audacity Uncompressed Export Set Up

Header should be RAW (header-less) and Encoding U-Law (or A-Law, if that is the setting you imported with) then select Save and Ok on the next screen. I save as .RAW and then change the extension after as that seems to work for me – your system and setup may vary. The resulting output should look very much like what you imported though there can be small differences if you look closely, at least that has been my experience with my setup.

Audacity Narbalcious Imported View

Audacity Narbalcious Imported View

Once you’ve saved your image and had a look at it, go back to Audacity and have a look at your file in that software. The bottom of your image is the left of the screen and the top of your image the right – that’s handy to know because you now need to select most of that image – I select from six seconds to the end, though it has been suggested five seconds works as well. On each of the images in this exercise, you should be able to see a wee strip at the very bottom of the image that hasn’t been altered. Perhaps that is the one second I didn’t select? Once you’ve made your selection, select one of the effects from the Effect menu. Then do the export thing – be sure to rename your file so you don’t overwrite other images.

Once you’ve done that, go back to Audacity, undo the effect, add another effect and repeat until you’re happy with what you’ve got at the end. You can, of course, select only portions of the input and apply various effects to whichever bits you choose. This mostly monochromatic databent image was made using the Wahwah effect – another that results in mostly monochromatic is BassBoost. Many of the effects have very subtle effects (eg Amplify, Click Removal, Noise Removal) though there are quite a few that have more interesting immediate results.

This one, for example, is the Invert effect. This, like many other effects, gives the output that sounds like what it says – Wahwah and Phaser and Echo are others that give you a visual that is rather what you’d expect with the way it sounds. Kinda neat, that.

Once I’ve added another effect to the input – or a portion of the input – I tend to export again just to make sure I don’t go too far down the playing path and not have something at the end. Have a play – and if you do have a play, please let me know – I’d be keen to see what you come up with.

Echo NarbaliciousnessI’ll close with this image, the result of the Echo effect – a beautiful example of an effect that results in output as it is named. Grand.

The slideshow below is of the nineteen images that a single Audacity effect was applied to. The title of each image begins with the name of the effect.

º With many thanks to Antonio Roberts for his post on Databending. If you’re on Flickr and keen on more databending images using a variety of techniques, I recommend the Databending group – full of goodness.

And for the Flickr’ish views:

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