Saturday, September 6, 2008

Audio Software In The TWIAR Studios

Back in time, during the early days of TWIAR, all was analog. Segments from the single announcer would arrive on cassette tape. All of the needed segments were assembled onto a master open reel tape, producing the final program. Later on, we started to embrace digital as a few news anchors would send in low bit rate audio on our dial up connection. These were then
assembled with the analog cassette segments on our Revox open reel deck for local air, and for telephone line playout on the satellite. The program went completely digital around 2000.

Some folks have been asking what hardware and software we for audio production, and for final mastering of This Week in Amateur Radio International, and our two amateur news services, This Week in Amateur Radio, and This Week in Amateur Radio Headline News.

Here is a quick list of software we currently use:

Adobe Audition - This is our workhorse program. All final cuts and mastering is done on this program. Although we have versions 3.0, 2.0 and 1.5, most of the staff likes the older 1.5 version the best. You can't beat it for multi-tracking, and it runs on old computers.

Sony SoundForge 9.0 - This program is used for phase checking our broadcast program. After the rough cut is done, the final mix is pulled into SoundForge. This program features a phase meter which is useful when producing stereo programs that will air on mono radio stations. Phase cancellation is to be avoided at all costs.

We also have in-house, Steinbergs Wave-Lab (has some really cool metering), Pro Tools, Audacity, CuBase, and a couple of other editors.

All of these programs are run on various vintage PC's in the studio. The studio has four external Western Digital USB drives on the network which hold all production audio, such as production music beds, sound effects libraries, and our music library. (Our music library, which is mostly top 40 oldies, is now over 100 gig) All computers are fed into a virtual KVM system. We use Dell flat panel monitors, and nVidia, and ATI video cards. All audio D/A and A/D is done "outside the box" on M Audio Quattro 24 bit interfaces. All networked together (including our office PC) using Linksys routers. That is, when the machines feel like talking to each other.

International is produced on an old, dumpster rescued, HP LPR Netserver. Dual 450 Intels. We had to re-build this box. It has an Nvidia 6200, and USB 2.0 cards. Running XP Pro on 356 meg of memory. Yeah its a little slow. It also has an external CD/DVD Burner. The only problem with this machine is it uses all proprietary memory, and uses HP SCSI drives. We have no back up for these, plus their small, on the order of 9 gig. It has two drives.

TWIAR's ham services are produced on a box we built up a few years ago. It's on an ASUS motherboard, AMD 1.2gig processor, 526 meg of RAM, XP Pro. Nvidia video card and it uses the second M-Audio box.

Both of these audio workstations can be patched into the analog studio equipment. More on that in a future post.

On hot stand-by in the studio is another box we built up about four years ago, it too uses an ASUS mother board with an Intel 1.2 processor and about 526 ram. This system fills in when one of the systems above is sick.

Playout of the TWIAR ham service here in the Albany market is done using an old Dell 500 mhz box with an internal Creative sound blaster,and an external Creative USB audio interface. Exactly how we play out here locally will take another posting coming up in the future.

Personally, if I have to record something for the either service (I usually do the special event stations and sometimes the propagation forecast on the ham service) I use...are you ready...Cool Edit 96.'s old, but that's habit for you.

Although you can do almost any special effect in software, we still have racks of audio gear here at the studio. More on this in a future post.

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