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Audio Production from the Field
No matter how you decide to record your projects in the field, you may want to send them back home prior to your own arrival. The files are going to be too big to e-mail, so for that reason FTP is the likely way to go. Filezilla is a good option for that. A free server and client version are available. You may have to complete a networking project back at home so that you can reach this server from the field though. Larger organizations will likely already have ftp servers in place - check with your IT colleagues.
Let's back up a little bit now. Perhaps you aren't interested in recording to a laptop+DAW or even an iPad - a portable recorder is more to your liking. One option for you could be the Marantz PMD580. This device has two input channels (analog balanced, AES, or S/PDIF), and records at 16- or 24-bit word length (up to 48kHz sample rate). The media is Compact Flash - the size of which determines how long you can record. It has Ethernet connectivity, with an internal Web server, so you use a browser to control it, although it has the basic front-panel controls as well. File formats are WAV and MP3, and it can automatically archive files to a server on the network. If you want to mix down to two tracks - kind of like was done in my old station's remote truck - then this could be a way to go.
On the other hand, you may want to take care of the mix later on - after having recorded multiple tracks in the field. One option for you then would be the JoeCo Blackbox recorder. With one single rack unit Blackbox, you can record up to 24 tracks (more if you want to link multiple units together) in the WAV format, to an external USB drive or even a USB flash drive. Sampling is done at 16 or 24-bit word length, as high as 96kHz. Inputs and outputs are on the rear panel, done by way of DB connectors. (You have to select unbalanced analog, balanced analog, or AES, since those are all different versions.) The device has the basic controls on the front panel, and a full-color LCD display, along with LED bargraphs. A standard computer keyboard is attached in order to label the recordings. The idea with Blackbox is that you take the recorded tracks back to some sort of post-production facility in order to make the finished product.
Like any other system used in a broadcast environment, you'll need to know your requirements prior to designing a system for field use. The required functionality, the budget, and the end user's personal preferences all come in to play.
Irwin is transmission systems supervisor for Clear Channel NYC and chief engineer of WKTU, New York. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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