A week of winter

I’ve just spent the last week in Orange setting up a studio as part of a CBF Small Equipment Grant to restore the John Garnsey memorial studio. Along the way a PC power supply blew up along with two PC monitors and that really kept me on my toes. Audio Bleeding and unnecessary buzzing also crept their way into my path. I’m pretty happy with how the project has panned out with a few things still to be finalised but the bulk of the work sorted. My thanks to Cody & James for their assistance in the physical aspects of this project.

Technorama 2015

It’s been a busy few weeks and I haven’t been blogging as I wanted to really give some more detail in posts about this time. This year I attended Technorama for the first time held in my old stomping ground of Chatswood, Sydney and the city has changed remarkably in 11 years.

On the Friday evening, the start of Technorama I had a tour of the new 2MBS station and explored what they had done with their facility. A few things surprised me, fluro lights, system boxes in studios, separate room for IT equipment. It was interesting to discover where they felt they went wrong in their project and the subsequent lessons learned. That was pretty much the theme of Technorama itself I felt, stories of experience and how to make the most of your projects. I’m not much of a social butterfly but met quite a few people on the Friday and struck up some really interesting conversations.

Guest Speaker Van Richards-Smith gave us great insights into his experience managing many sites for TAB radio. From grounding transmission sites, to air conditioning and layout of studio designs.

Paul from 3RPP is in the process of reviewing playout systems across the sector and I spent some time with him going over Simian.

The AMRAP team have been working on radio website services, which I’m not sure how that fits under their area but I was interested in their player widget.

Lining up your station was something I had not heard before but now I understand the topic I would like to know how to do this correctly.

Probably the most interesting session was from Tim Borgas outlining some of the great tech devices available. I could spend quite a lot of time speaking to Tim but unfortunately Tim lost his voice over the weekend.

Some of Tim’s findings are here:

Video projector Epson EB-1761W – split screen, lightweight, wifi options, around $1,000

http://www.officeworks.com.au/shop/officeworks/p/epson-eb-1761w-wireless-wxga-projector-white-epeb1761?cm_vc=cross-sell

Auria Multi-track recording and editing software for iPad. Record 24 tracks simultaneously and playback 48 tracks.

http://www.wavemachinelabs.com/Products/auria

Requires external audio interfaces – we use a Presonus 1818VSL and a Behringer ADA8000 to give us 18 channels of in/out.

Online RF Propogation Software (monthly subscription. Interfaces to Google Earth):

http://cloudrf.com

Bandscanner GPS (modulation monitor and field strength survey device – to check your predictions from above)

http://www.deva-fm-monitoring.com/products/band-scanner-gps

RF Explorer spectrum analyser (cheap handheld unit that can be connected to a PC)

http://rfexplorer.com

SARK 110 Vector Network Analyser (versatile unit to measure VSWR, Return Loss, Impedance. It can also measure cable loss and find faults in cable and tell you how far away the fault is)

http://www.sark110.com

Seeed Studio sells the SARK110 and quite a few other interesting things:

https://www.seeedstudio.com/depot/sark110-antenna-analyzer-p-1270.html

Basic RDS Encoder (gets you on the air with RDS at a minimum cost):

http://www.deva-rds.com/products/smartgen-micro

IP Audio Encoder with SPDIF (which can talk to AES/EBU digital signals):

http://www.deva-ip-audio.com/products/db90-tx

IP Audio Decoder (matching unit for the above):

http://www.deva-ip-audio.com/products/db90-rx

Quick and simple OB links using iPhones and FaceTime Audio (not FaceTime, but FaceTime audio, as the audio quality is better)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FaceTime

Lot of little things that plug into iPhones and other smart phones

http://www.ikmultimedia.com

Small mics for iPhones & smartphones

http://www.rode.com/microphones/mobile

Thermal imaging cameras (really useful for checking heat dissipation – as a general rule, things get hot before they fail)

http://www.flir.com.au

Cable testers (very handy with built in very basic audio signal generator):

http://www.behringer.com/EN/Products/CT100.aspx

Handy virtual machine for running all your Windows XP software on a mac:

http://www.parallels.com/au/products/desktop/

Things I didn’t have time to show you on the day, but worth a look

Antenna modelling software (allows you to build a simulation model of your antenna, mast and hut to see what sort of radiation pattern you should expect)

http://www.eznec.com

Drones for inspecting your mast without climbing it (only for “no wind” conditions):

http://www.parrot.com/au/

We’re working (very slowly) on trying to mount a receiver on the drone so that we can fly a GPS controlled pattern around an antenna to get an accurate 3D field strength measurement.

CD Players for various uses. Numark make a good range and appear to use the Sony style mechanism that’s proven to be very robust. They also appear to be very similar to the old American Audio CD players that were good performers. The audio quality is not as good as say the Denon’s, but they will read just about any disk you throw at them.

Numark MP103USB is a single drawer unit that has XLR, RCA and SPDIF outputs and can read audio from USB sticks too. No remote start, but can be modified with some technical skill. Handy to have in the tech rack as a backup audio feed if you only have one studio at your station.

The CDN77USB is a dual deck unit with remote start, but no XLR outputs. It also accepts USB sticks.

http://www.numark.com/product_category/players

The Gala Dinner and Quiz went rather quickly with no chance of me being able to answer many of the questions. I was able to see a bit of Vivid while staying with my host Pete in Artarmon.

I have much more respect for those that work in the RF side of the chain, but more than anything it was great to network with people from other stations.

I see opportunities for stations to bulk buy items, share music libraries and support advice if we can work closer as a sector team. Very grateful to those that presented or attended, I’m really looking forward to the next conference and hopefully it will be hosted in Queensland.

Mentors & Mates

So I wanted to take some time to acknowledge the people who have helped me get to where I am today. I see it as such an important aspect of a persons development to have someone offering them guidance and advice from their own experience. When I was living in Orange I had at least three business people who inspired me to achieve and grow, without these people I don’t think I would have had the opportunities that I have had the pleasure of experiencing. Mentors & mates help you to be passionate about what you do as they foster support. Even today I get a few phone calls every month discussing what’s going on! In the last couple of days I’ve been asked about where to source news services and voiceovers. For news I know of syndication of AirNews, National Radio News and from Macquarie, but make sure you can get it delivered correctly. Do you have access to costly satellite infrastructure or can you get away with FTP? And if you are after an American voiceover try Radiodaddy.com

Feedback it can help

So I recorded some imaging for a Northern NSW station and got to chatting to the fellow who requested it. He asked for my feedback on improving a voiceover he had done and was quite thankful. I’m not the best with feedback as in a support environment it’s very much find the fault and move on. Finding the positives first and relaying that is a huge challenge for myself. Below is the imaging I did and I’m going to start placing these into Soundcloud.

Touching Moments

Occasionally I have the opportunity to participate in something special and the latest was lending my voice to a trivia night fundraiser community service announcement for a young boy with a serious medical condition. It’s a shame that these shorts of events have to be organised to cover treatment but I guess it does indicate the true hearts of a community coming together. It is these sorts of encounters that remind me of why I’m so passionate about community media and the support in strengthening community involvement. When thinking about where you spend your business promotional budget, remember what community media can do and where your money goes.

Keeping things Fresh

So I passed on yesterdays recording to a production guy and he recommended I get a vocal booth, but throwing a doona over myself will do for now! I use an Avid Fast Track Duo with Pro Tools Express and Audacity for mastering. I need some help in learning the mastering side of things. I’ve been using Pro Tools Express for a bit over a year now but before that it had been over 20 years since I’d touched it. I’m eager to know how often other stations update their identifications, promos and client material.

New Mic Sounds Awesome

One of the ways I keep in touch with the radio industry is Facebook, there are three groups I participate in, “Australian Radio Industry”, “Australian Community Radio Family” and most recently “Voiceshare Australia”. This evening I recorded a voiceover request in the last group and gave my new Rode NT1-A a whirl, the outcome was fantastic and you can listen by clicking below.

Team Effort

I had to fill a few hours on-air today with content as I was alerted to a volunteer presenter being unwell. The playout system I work with is Simian, which is used by a number of stations in Australia including a major commercial network and accompanied by the Natural Software suite of log creation products.

Being involved with a general community broadcaster it’s important to have a system that allows for multiple formats and has an extensive library of music available. At present I have compiled over 8000 songs which I like to this is pretty impressive as I manually prepare these for the system and I started from nothing. To determine what to source, I monitor major station playlists and also make use of some of the great chart books available from here. I’m hoping to get the volunteers to help compile from the most wanted list.

Merging

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I’ve volunteered since I was teenager and I can’t imagine not doing it, feels good to give back to the community while also gaining experience or exposure. I wish more younger people would give it a go!

So my volunteer work is in community media, primarily for my hometown station as remote support. A lot of people don’t seem to understand that through the technology we have today we can play a part on a global stage and this means you don’t have to be physically within reach although that does have its obvious advantages such as the best communication method.

In the abscence of a music director, I do the new additions on the weekend based of the Aircheck National Radio Play Chart, Itunes Chart and Country Tracks Chart. I would add from a rock chart too if I could locate one and I’m not a fan of AMRAP. I have access to PlayMPE & DMDS digital download sites, but lately I’ve noticed a lot of the chart toppers aren’t available through them. I’m also the primary contributor to the station Facebook page at this stage and my studies are proving to be very helpful in increasing engagement.

Most Community Media provides airtime to not-for-profit groups at no charge and commonly through community service announcements (CSA). I’ve watched quite a few community stations decline in the training of live reads. For this reason I’m more of a fan of pre-recording these announcements to give the best result. The days of the CSA physical folder really are quite over in my opinion. I pro-actively approach organisations in the National Health Calendar, school newsletter public notices and various licence area events pages. I email these organisations to see if they would like their organisation or event promoted free of charge. I’m also really quite fond of the RADD campaign that uses celebrity voices to promote against drink driving which generally sends updates through on a Monday.

I think for the general public and even quite a lot of community media volunteers don’t realise how much work goes into creating a combined traffic, music and switching event log. There are many software separation rules to help get a good format and there is ongoing fine tuning.

While there was an outside broadcast yesterday, I came across a reverb issue when disconnects occur with the Tieline Bridge-IT codecs and today found the solution to fix this after a few minutes of reading the manual.

Welcome

My name is Steve and I’m currently studying a Bachelor of IT at Queensland University of Technology, specialising in digital environments. I have been involved with IT and radio since around 1993. This has been through amateur and professional experience with a large proportion of my efforts in the support environment. I’m very geared towards the problem resolution processes of finding business work-arounds, restoring functionality through to resolution and preventative measures. I’m a proactive person in most regards and always looking to raise the bar.

I’ve decided to create this blog to bring together my social media avenues and bond better with those that share my interests and passion. Inspired by Anthony Eden of Media Realm and the very media active Artie Stevens.

I hope to share with you my experiences, opinions, thoughts and to show my passions. This will always be a work in progress and hopefully it will bring reward with it. I look forward to your interaction through the comments you leave.