The "And More" of Automation


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Automation systems have evolved considerably over their decades of existence. At first, all that was needed was the playback of music and perhaps back-announcements and hopefully, commercials. Tape machines, and then tape machines plus cart machines, were all you needed to generate radio station programming -- well, those, and a lot of patience.

Over the last 10 years though, those requirements turned into the most basic features. All automation systems out there are going to allow you to do the following:
■ Schedule a music log, and playback of songs according to the log
■ Schedule commercial content, and playback of spots according to the log
■ Log reconciliations, to prove spots ran over-the-air
■ In-house voice tracking
■ Embedded recorder/editor

Without these five basic features, you don't have a system that is of any use in a real radio station. It's the "and more" that we'll focus on. The reality is, now you have to accommodate voice-tracking that can be done by remote talent; content management features for streaming audio or on-demand features like podcasting; and management of metadata (for now playing features) and perhaps social media functions as well.

I'll start with remote voice tracking and remote content insertion. iMediaTouch (from OMT Technologies) offers an option for its system called RemoteVT Portal. Like an in-house voice tracking system, this one also allows a remote user to drag and drop music intro and fade levels; it offers a music bed pop-in feature, with drag and drop underneath dry voice tracks; and the remote talent can add up to six tracks of sound effects to be mixed in with the dry voice tracks. iMediaTouch offers another option called iMediaImport, which automatically imports station content from a variety of sources, including FTP sites, production houses, network folders, and music and programming services, including NPR's Content Depot. Last but not least I'll mention iMediaAccess, which affords radio groups an interactive, remote interface to station clusters and individual stations within the cluster; modes include one-to-many where a user can access many individual stations or station clusters; many-to-one where many users can access a single station or station cluster; many-to-many where many users can access many stations or station clusters; and finally central-to-many where many users can access a single central facility that provides automated access to many other stations or station clusters.

ENCO's DAD has similar features. For example, in consideration of remote voice tracking, there's no need for uniformity or duplicate libraries on either end. ENCO's Gateway Internet file transfer utility transfers everything needed for voice tracking with surrounding material in headphones to the remote talent. When the remote talent is finished, Gateway immediately brings it back to the studio in the background. No user intervention is required, and the studio from which it will air can be left unattended. ENCO also has a Remote Voice Tracking Client/Server application that allows the use of central FTP server which can upload/download compressed tops and tails and associated voice tracks. A feature coming soon is the capability for voice tracking via a Web browser.

ENCO's DAD has similar features. For example, in consideration of remote voice tracking, there's no need for uniformity or duplicate libraries on either end. ENCO's Gateway Internet file transfer utility transfers everything needed for voice tracking with surrounding material in headphones to the remote talent. When the remote talent is finished, Gateway immediately brings it back to the studio in the background. No user intervention is required, and the studio from which it will air can be left unattended. ENCO also has a Remote Voice Tracking Client/Server application that allows the use of central FTP server which can upload/download compressed tops and tails and associated voice tracks. A feature coming soon is the capability for voice tracking via a Web browser.

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