Working with Drupal Audio in Flash (part 1)

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Within the past five years, there has been a major change in the type of content found on the World Wide Web. In just a few short years, content has evolved from being primarily text and images, into a multimedia experience! Drupal contributors have put much effort in making this integration with multimedia as easy as possible. However, one issue still remains: in order to present multimedia to your users, you cannot rely on Drupal alone. You must have another application layer to present that media. This is most typically a Flash application that allows the user to listen or watch that media from within their web browser. This article explores how to use Drupal to manage a list of audio nodes and also builds a Flash application to play that music. When it comes to multimedia, Flash is the portal of choice for playing audio on a web sites.

Integrating audio in Drupal is surprisingly easy, thanks to the contribution of the Audio module. This module allows you to upload audio tracks to your Drupal website (typically in MP3 format), by creating an Audio node. It also comes with a very basic audio player that will play those audio tracks in the node that was created. To start, let’s download and enable the Audio module along with the Token, Views, and getID3 modules, which are required for the Audio module. The modules that you will need to download and install are as follows:

At the time of writing this article, the Audio module was still considered “unstable”. Because of this, I would recommend downloading the development version until a stable release has been made. It is also recommended to use the development or “unstable” versions for testing purposes only.

Once we have downloaded these modules and placed them in our site’s modules folder, we can enable the Audio module by first navigating to the Administer | Modules section, and then enabling the checkboxes in the Audio group as follows:

Flash with Drupal

After you have enabled these modules, you will probably notice an error at the top of the Administrator section that says the following:

Flash with Drupal

This error is shown because we have not yet installed the necessary PHP library to extract the ID3 information from our audio files. The ID3 information is the track information that is embedded within each audio file, and can save us a lot of time from having to manually provide that information when attaching each audio file to our Audio nodes. So, our next step will be to install the getID3 library so that we can utilize this great feature.

Installing the getID3 library

The getID3 library is a very useful PHP library that will automatically extract audio information (called ID3) from any given audio track. We can install this useful utility by going to http://sourceforge.net/project/showfiles.php?group_id=55859, which is the getID3 library URL at SourceForge.net. Once we have done this, we should see the following:

Flash with Drupal

We can download this library by clicking on the Download link on the first row, which is the main release. This will then take us to a new page, where we can download the ZIP package for the latest release. We can download this package by clicking on the latest ZIP link, which at the time of writing this article was getid3-1.7.9.zip

Once this package has finished downloading, we then need to make sure that we place the extracted library on the server where the getID3 module can use it. The default location for the getID3 module, for this library, is within our site’s modules/getid3 directory. Within this directory, we will need to create another directory called getid3, and then place the getid3 directory from the downloaded package into this directory. To verify that we have installed the library correctly, we should have the getid3.php at the following location:

Flash with Drupal

Our next task is to remove the demos folder from within the getid3 library, so that we do not present any unnecessary security holes in our system.

Once this library is in the correct spot, and the demos folder has been removed, we can refresh our Drupal Administrator section and see that the error has disappeared. If it hasn’t, then verify that your getID3 library is in the correct location and try again. Now that we have the getID3 library installed, we are ready to set up the Audio content type.

Setting up the Audio content type

When we installed the Audio module, it automatically created an Audio content type that we can now use to add audio to our Drupal web site. But before we add any audio to our web site, let’s take a few minutes to set up the Audio content type to the way we want it. We will do so by navigating to Administer | Content Types, and then clicking on the edit link, next to the Audio content type.

Our goal here is to set up the Audio content type so that the default fields make sense to the Audio content type. Drupal adds the Body field to all new content types, which doesn’t make much sense when creating an Audio content. We can easily change this by simply expanding the Submission form settings. We can then replace the Body label with Description, since it is easily understood when adding new Audio tracks to our system.

Flash with Drupal

We will save this content type by clicking on the Save content type button at the bottom of the page. Now, we are ready to start adding audio content to our Drupal web site.

Creating an Audio node

We will add audio content by going to Create Content, and then clicking on Audio, where we should then see the following on the page:

Flash with Drupal

You will probably notice that the Title of this form has already been filled out with some strange looking text (as shown in the previous screenshot). This text is a series of tags, which are used to represent track information that is extracted using the getID3 module that we installed earlier. Once this ID3 information is extracted, these tags will be replaced with the Title and Artist of that track, and then combined to form the title of this node. This will save a lot of time because we do not have to manually provide this information when submitting a new audio track to our site. We can now upload any audio track by clicking on the Browse button next to the Add a new audio file field. After it adds the file to the field, we can submit this audio track to Drupal by clicking on the Save button at the bottom of the page, which will then show you something like the following screenshot:

Flash with Drupal

After this node has been added, you will notice that there is a player already provided to play the audio track. Although this player is really cool, there are some key differences between the player provided by the Audio module and the player that we will create later in this article.

How our player will be different (and better)

The main difference between the player that is provided by the Audio module and the player that we are getting ready to build is how it determines which file to play. In the default player, it uses flash variables passed to the player to determine which file to play. This type of player-web site interaction places the burden on Drupal to provide the file that needs to be played. In a way, the default player is passive, where it does nothing unless someone tells it to do something.

The player that we will be building is different because instead of Drupal telling our player what to play, we will take an active approach and query Drupal for the file we wish to play. This has several benefits, such as that the file path does not have to be exposed to the public in order for it to be played. So, let’s create our custom player!

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