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Managing Audio Assets
How to improve the workflow around your studio
With audio files being placed on a file server, common computer storage backup practices can be used to create a robust archive of the audio assets. As always, this effort is only as effective as the steps taken to maintain it. Backups must be made on a regular basis, and they should be stored off-site for maximum benefit.
Some automation systems run mirrored servers or systems, which provide an automatic backup system. If the on-air machine fails, the production machine has an exact copy of everything. This practice has saved many stations from total catastrophe.
Another approach to create an off-site backup is to use a station's existing LAN or data link. Links to a transmitter site, another studio site or station cluster or a corporate office can be used to transfer a data backup to these other locations. Some stations create such backups during overnight hours when network usage is low. If necessary, a lower-than-optimal file transfer speed can be used to accommodate for a data path's capacity. And if it's overnight and takes six hours instead of one it's probably not a big deal.
An off-site backup at the transmitter also has the advantage of providing all audio resources at the transmitter site (which often has backup power as well) in case of a total studio failure. All the station's audio content is readily available for emergency on-air operations.
Indexing and retrieval
Now that your station has established a wide range of audio assets, what good are they if they can't be found? This is a dilemma I have seen many stations face. Someone recalls a certain interview from a few years ago, but where is it now? Without some kind of database, all the audio assets are a jumbled mess. Descriptive file names and file dates can help, but there has to be a better way.
TV has stored, indexed and retrieved video data for some time. How often do you see archived video on news and entertainment programs? Video systems with this capability can be quite expensive, but the same accessibility can be applied to audio files.
This is where an overall database would work well. Files saved on different systems are usually only searchable within that system. Various audio files have different ways to store metadata within them. Through various data chunks, metadata can be stored in the audio file. Artist name, song title, album name and several other standard fields typically exist. Individual keywords should also be carefully chosen, and a common style should be established to aid user searches.
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