Field Report: Enco Systems DAD

January 1, 2008

Southern California Public Radio operates both KPCC in Pasadena, CA, and KUOR in Redlands, CA. The two stations broadcast throughout Los Angeles County, northern Orange County and parts of San Bernardino County. Our main studios are located on the campus of Pasadena City College with auxiliary studios in downtown Los Angeles. We are an NPR affiliate that carries both live and time-shifted programs from Content Depot, as well as local talk- and magazine-type shows. We have been using DAD for digital audio storage and playback since 2004.

The automation software can be purchased and installed on any current Windows system, but we purchased the computers from ENCO. This allowed the system to come pre-configured, and Lance Harper, our chief engineer, installed it.

Playback machine on DAD desktop
Playback machine on DAD desktop
Recording machine on DAD desktop
Recording machine on DAD desktop

Since the initial installation we have added six additional workstations. Our current setup includes 18 separate machines. In Pasadena, 11 workstations are used for production, recording and on-air playback, one is used for recording live Content Depot feeds, one for Content Depot file ingestion, one to control HD-2 and KUOR, and one is a gateway between the DAD LAN and the KPCC LAN. We have three workstations at our auxiliary studios in downtown LA.

The Pasadena machines are on their own network while the downtown machines are on the company LAN. This configuration provides us with adequate security for our main network while allowing access to our remote machines.

Up to 99,999 unique cuts can be stored in the system. Each cut belongs to a user-defined group. In order to manage the library of cuts we decided to use a filing system where each five-digit cut number follows the GGSSN convention where GG is the group, SS is the show number, and N is the segment number. For example, cut number 12345 would be segment 5 of show number 34 (a Christmas special) in group 12 (Special Recordings).

Anything loaded into the system in Pasadena is immediately available in Pasadena. Retrieving audio files from the downtown studio system to playback in Pasadeana is a major challenge because the systems are on different LANs and must go through the WAN cloud. This is a big concern for us as the majority of our reporters file stories from downtown. We use an auxiliary program called Gateway, also by Enco. The gateway machine, located in Pasadena, is able to interact with both LANs. It checks for new cuts every five minutes during the day. Bandwidth is always a concern, but the gateway performs well. During heavy network traffic the gateway will sometimes fail, but we do not have the budget to have dedicated bandwidth to transfer audio.

KPCC on-air signal

We have a studio engineer on-site 24/7 to control our main on-air signal. Each studio engineer is given the freedom to use the system the best way he sees fit.

Performance at a glance
Software-based digital audio storage, recording and playback system
Manual, live-assist or full automation
Multiple options for playback
Network or stand-alone system
Support contract available

The playback machines are preferred for time-shifted network shows. The playback machine has a playlist that will sequentially play one audio file after another. The playlist can be generated from any workstation and loaded in the on-air machine as needed. The playlist can also be generated and changed on the fly. This allows studio engineers to set the playback for their entire shift, minimizing misfires and incorrect audio played on-air.

For our live, local call-in shows most choose to use the array or mini-array. Each mini-array has 24 buttons per page and 10 pages. Two mini-arrays are included as part of the basic software package. This allows for bumper music and other audio files to be played in any order.

We air Morning Edition and All Things Considered with local content inserted throughout the programs. The studio engineers use both the array and playback machines.

KPCC HD2 and KUOR audio

KPCC broadcasts an HD signal. This gives us two additional channels of content to program. We have one machine controlling two switchers. HD2 is programmed with world news in Spanish from the BBC Mundo. Our switcher machine has control of a Broadcast Tools ACS 8.2 Plus switcher and a Broadcast Tools 6×1B.

For the HD2 signal we have a playlist loaded into one of the playback decks. We use a combination of hard branch events, DCLs and IDs in playback deck one. A hard branch is fired in a playlist at a specific time. DCL is an acronym for DAD Command Language. In our case the playlist hard branch event fires at 59 minutes and 30 seconds each hour. The first event is a DCL that sends a signal to the ACS 8.2 that switches the input to playback deck one. A legal ID is then played, followed by another DCL that signals the switcher to select the BBC Mundo signal as the source.

We also need to get audio to KUOR, which carries the same content as KPCC. It was decided that each station needed its own unique legal ID. This was solved with DCLs. Each cut in DAD can be assigned a start and end DCL. This will fire whenever the associated cut plays. We assigned a start DCL to all of our IDs. The DCL sends a command over the DAD network to the Switcher machine, telling it to play the playlist in playback deck two. The playlist in this deck consists of a DCL to switch the 6×1B machine to deck two's output, followed by a rotated cut, finishing with a switch back to our main on-air signal. A rotated cut is a special cut that will play a different version each time it is called. We populated this cut with various legal IDs, but we could also create a rotated cut with different versions of a spot. For example, an automotive sponsor may wish to highlight a different car each time a spot is played. Instead of the traffic manager scheduling a different spot each time, the system automatically rotates the spot for us.

The software package includes a few other ways to play audio, but we do not take advantage of these machines.

We have a support contract with Enco that provides 24/7 emergency technical support, next business day non-emergency tech support, and upgrades whenever a new version of the software is released. Like all companies, the quality of the support depends on the person that pulls the support ticket. Overall, the support provided has been very good.

Enco Systems

We do not upgrade our software with every version, but still upgrade two or three times a year. Program stability has not been an issue. The upgrades contain new features requested by various stations. For example, the start and end DCLs were not able to fire from an array and this was a problem for us. The next version of the software included this ability.

Overall, we are happy with the DAD system. In early 2009 we will move to an entirely new and larger facility, and we plan to use the DAD system there as well.

Krinock is master control specialist for Southern California Public Radio.

Editor's note: Field Reports are an exclusive Radio magazine feature for radio broadcasters. Each report is prepared by well-qualified staff at a radio station, production facility or consulting company.

These reports are performed by the industry, for the industry. Manufacturer support is limited to providing loan equipment and to aiding the author if requested.

It is the responsibility of Radio magazine to publish the results of any device tested, positive or negative. No report should be considered an endorsement or disapproval by Radio magazine.

Receive regular news and technology updates. Sign up for our free newsletter here.