Monday, June 27, 2011

How to create a ring tone in iTunes

Turns out this feature used to be built into iTunes, but Apple got greedy so they took it out so most people would just buy ring tones.  While this is dumb, it's perfectly legal to create a ring tone for your iPhone using a song you've already purchased or an mp3 you already have in your library.  It uses the 'fair use' clause of copyright law.  Fair use is the same clause that allows you to use your DVR or make a mix tape all while 'copying' copyrighted content.  It's totally legal.

The first thing you need to do is modify the song in iTunes so that it starts and ends where you want it to for the ring tone.  This is pretty easy, all you have to do is right click on the song and click 'get info'.  Go to the options tab and there's a pair of checkboxes you can use to set a start and end time.  Only start time is important since your ringtone is limited to 30 seconds anyway.  Set that the way you want it; you can even preview it by listening to it in iTunes.

Next, you need to create an AAC copy of your song.  There are two things you actually do here: 1) you create a copy of the song that consists of only the 30 seconds you selected and it gets encoded into the proper format so your phone can (almost) use it.  Right click the song and click 'Create AAC version'.

Now you'll want to undo the start and stop times to the original song, essentially returning it to its original condition.

Now you need to find the new copy of your song.  If you have a 'new songs' list, it should show up there.  If not, search for it.  It will have the same name as the original song.  Make sure you locate the short (30s) version of the song.  Right click and choose 'show in Windows Explorer' (stephanie, choose 'show in finder').

You should now see the song file.  Make sure you're looking at the short version of the song; both songs are probably there in the folder.  Check the file size, one should be smaller than the other.  Right click the short song and change the ending to .m4a to .m4r.  If you can't see the .m4a, you need to show extensions.

Now double click the m4r file.  It should bring up iTunes and if you check the ringtones section, you'll see the ringtone is there.  Sync with your phone and you're ready to go, almost.

There's one last thing to clean up.  Your iTunes now knows of two versions of the short song: 1) the m4a version and 2) the m4r version.  The m4a version doesn't actually exist anymore.  If you find the record for the m4a version in iTunes, you'll probably see a grey circle with an exclamation point in it.  Double click on the song as if you were going to listen to it.  It should pop up saying something like 'I can't find that file' and you have the option to remove.  Go ahead and remove it.

There you go.  It's really too bad this feature is so convoluted in iTunes, especially since it used to exist as a native function (i.e. you could right click and choose 'Create ringtone...').  The BB does beat the iPhone in this since you can choose any song on your BB as a ringtone without even having to plug it into your computer, much less jump through these hoops.  Anyone know how to do this with Andriod?