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The "And More" of Automation
ENCO's DAD system has an option known as Encore that enables content providers to develop webcasting formats. Encore supports distribution of text information (such as title/artist) to a target IP address (where it would be utilized by other Web page creation tools) and its XML tools give you a means by which a station can link to artist and e-commerce websites. Multiple XML stream transmissions can be accommodated, but require addition of XML repeater software.
Podcasting was one of the early applications of the Web that made a lot of sense for radio. Now it's on-demand aspect seems more important than ever, since so many TV shows and movies are available in that fashion. It's a commonplace trait of the new media. OMT's iMediaLogger has some neat features that accommodate podcasting. iMediaLogger allows recording and adding title information to recordings in a variety of lengths and formats suited for Podcasting; then the recordings are automatically uploading through an FTP configuration in iMediaLogger. Links to the specific podcasts are posted on the appropriate website by the radio station personnel.
Still more choices
Rivendell is a software automation system that gives the end user the ability to acquire, manage, schedule, and playout audio content. It has the many common features: support for PCM16 and MPEG-2 audio encoding/playback (using AudioScience or the Jack audio connection kit (see Jackaudio.org))and full voice-tracking and log customization. Rivendell is available under the GNU Public License. (The GNU General Public License is a widely used free software license, which guarantees end users (individuals, organizations, companies) the freedoms to use, study, share (copy), and modify the software.) Rivendell uses the GNU/Linux Operating system; AudioScience HPI Driver architecture; and, the MySQL database engine. All configuration in Rivendell is done via point-and-click interfaces, and up to three logs can run simultaneously from one computer. Oh - and did I mention that it's completely free and open, without software keys, dongles, or unlock-codes? 24/7 commercial support for the system is also available from Paravel Systems.
Dalet's Radio Suite is a production, playout and distribution system that affords the end-user centralized management of program content and metadata that includes a multi-station, multi-user scheduling engine and store-and-forward distribution platform; advanced recording and editing tools; remote voice-tracking capability; and, automated media distribution of associated metadata for multiple formats and multi-platform delivery systems, including podcasting, streaming, HD radio, DAB/DAB+ radio, and DRM radio.
Netia offers a system called Radio-Assist. Like all of the other automation systems we've covered, it affords the end-user capabilities for ingest, editing, scheduling, broadcast, multicast, archiving, data security and administration, all via a single user-interface. The Radio-Assist GUI allows the user to simultaneously access multiple production modules such as voice-tracking, recording/editing, scheduling, or management of metadata. Radio-Assist allows for multiple content streams to run in parallel -- such as those for broadcast, streaming, and mobile services. Naturally, broadcasts can be done in automated or "live-assist" fashion.
Choosing an automation system for a radio station (or group) is likely one of the most difficult decisions a broadcast engineer is going to make. It's the one system that effects by nearly every department at the radio station, and it's the heart-and-soul of the entire operation. It's a very large capital purchase expected to run every minute of every day for years on end; it's not something you just toss if it doesn't work right. For those reasons the selection process should be comprehensive and thorough -- in other words, study all the relevant features, from system to system, and see how they compare. Of course you'll consider your own prior experience with the various makes, and it makes sense to talk to trusted colleagues about their experiences with systems as well.
Irwin is RF engineer/project manager for Clear Channel Los Angeles. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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