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Yes -- and no.
You can certainly use downloaded music in your projects. (Although WAV files work most efficiently.)
The challenge is that iTunes used to have very strict rights management embedded in their music files, and if you tried to copy them or use them in a video project, you'd get an error message. (They've relaxed their rights management somewhat recently.)
Other download sites (like Amazon.com) use a less strict rights management, and you can use music downloaded from these sites as is. (Though, again, WAVs work more efficiently than MP3s or other formats.)
There are workarounds to hack through the iTunes rights software. The easiest is to burn a disc with your iTunes music and then rip it back to your computer as MP3s or WAV files. But, as I say, Apple has relaxed their rights management in the past year, so you may be able to use it as is.
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One other potential problem is that MP3's can contain more than just the music, like album art. Those "other things" can cause issues with Adobe products. If one encounters MP3's, that do not work well, an audio editor, like the free, Audacity, can rip the audio stream, and I would then do a Save_As PCM/WAV 48KHz 16-bit file. It will be larger, it will NOT recover the data lost with the MP3 compression, but will already be in the correct form for use in Adobe products for video production.
PS - with Audacity, read ALL instructions, as with just one add-on (available from the site), one has very good VST support. Many VST plug-ins are available on the Web, and a lot of those are free, and very powerful.
Thank you for the info. When you say it will not recover the data lost with the MP3 compression do you mean I would just lose the album artwork and info? Because that is not a problem for me. Can't I just burn a another disc from iTunes and change the format and the original version would still be in iTunes?
I use my iTunes songs in my projects and they work very well. In iTunes, I will burn the song(s) I need as an audio CD, ignoring the MP3 option. I then use Windows Media Player to get the songs back onto my computer and then into my project. I use a rewriteable CD so it can be reused for my next project.
Your original iTunes songs will always remain in iTunes. Only rarely do I burn other music CD's so I've never run into the situation where I can not burn a song to CD because I've used up the digital rights management number of copies allowed. If you have used the number of DRM copies allowed, you will have to another copy of the song from iTunes first.
When you say it will not recover the data lost with the MP3 compression do you mean I would just lose the album artwork and info?
No. Those are two different things.
As background, when Audio is digitized, it is usually originally done in a format, like PCM WAV, which is uncompressed. The files are very large, and require a fairly powerful I/O sub-system to play them smoothly. This works fine with large, fast HDD's (Hard Disk Drives), but for personal music devices, like the iPod, are not that useful, though they offer the full range of the music. One could only get a few songs onto HDD in the iPod, or the flash memory in other similar devices. Also, the data-rate of those WAV files is higher than the hardware in a personal music device can effectively handle.
For those reasons, formats, like AC3 and MP3 are being used. They are variations on MPEG compression, and are pretty good. However, as they are lossey compression schemes, some data is lost and the bit-rate is reduced a bit. The idea is that one cannot really detect that data loss. I can hear it, if I am familiar with the music, or play from my iPod dock to my home theater systems. However, with the earbuds, one would be hard pressed to tell. It is that compression that I was referring to. Nothing, other than going back to the source files will ever recover that.
PrE will need to convert the MP3 material (our case here) to 32-bit floating point at 48KHz (44.1 KHz is the standard for CD Audio), for accurate editing. This takes place upon Import, and is what Conforming is all about. This ARTICLE will give a bit more background on Conforming and PEK file generation.
As for the other data, besides the music, that is what can get in the way with programs, like PrE. There can be album art, and other data inside the files. That is why many songs will display artwork on the iPod. Often, this will cause a failure on Import, or can when editing, even if the file Imported fine.
Because of the above, I always convert any MP3 music to PCM/WAV 48KHz 16-bit before Importing and editing. The exception is with tiny SFX files in MP3 format. Those do not have any extra data, are tiny, and seldom give me a problem. Also, the Conforming and PEK file generation is instantaneous. I never even see the progress bar.
Others use MP3's with few issues - until they hit one that does not work. Then, converting that problem file, in a program, like the free Audacity, usually fixes the problems.
Sorry that I was not more clear.
PS - as Steve (?) mentioned above, if I am using any MP3, iPod music, I just go with the old way - burn a Playlist to CD (converts to CDA at 44.1KHz 16-bit), and then rip that CD. It was only recently that someone on this forum mentioned that Apple had relaxed the Digital Rights Management levels.
Thank you all so much for the info. At least now I know how to get around iTunes issues. Great to have such great people out there to help those of us have questions find the right solution.
You are most welcome and happy editing.