When I inherited the engineering responsibilities of WVAZ about five
years ago, the station was logging off air audio with a pair of
reel-to-reel tape machines. A year's worth of log tapes was kept on a
large shelf. Quality of low speed analog recording left much to be
desired. This was a problem because of the space needed to store the
tapes and because we were logging to get air checks for clients. The
audio was awful.
|Performance at a glance
- HTML Access to logged audio
- Multiple audio formats
- Uses any Windows soundcard
- Skim, Log, and Network Tape delay
- Remote administration client
With input from the production and sales departments, it was decided
that a modern solution was needed, so a DAT/hard drive system designed
for 911 logging was purchased.
Drawbacks to that system were soon discovered. We took care of the
space problem by getting rid of the reel tapes, but did nothing to
improve the fidelity of the logged audio. In addition, we caused
another problem. It took a long time — minutes — to eject
the tape, and even longer to find the logged audio to make those air
checks, and someone still had to dub it to cassette. Something was
needed to make logging a less time-consuming project.
At NAB2000, I was introduced to the iMediaLogger, a software-based
audio logger with an HTML user interface. It is supported under
Microsoft Windows 98 and Windows NT 4.0. It can record a variety of
audio formats (MP2, MP3, WMA, ADPCM, PCM, and RealAudio) using nothing
more than Windows-approved soundcards. It can act as a logger, skimmer
or background network recorder and will record up to four simultaneous
streams in different audio formats from one physical audio input.
Recording can be continuous, controlled by external closure or based on
the clock. The software can access the Internet for NTP time packet
data and become the NTP master server for an entire facility.
My first system was based on a PII 450 clone PC, running Windows 98
SE, an Antex LX44 sound card, and a 40GB data storage drive. I
configured the audio format as MPEG Layer 3, 22.05kHz, 16bits, mono and
32kb/s for the logging channel. File length was chosen for 15-minute
intervals. This combination gives AM quality audio, 120 days of logging
and file lengths that fit a 15-minute segment on a 1.44MB floppy.
After a few months, an opportunity arose to use the background
recorder functions for a remote broadcast from South Africa. The
clients wanted copies of the interviews we did. I set the second stream
of the logging channel to record PCM, 44.1kHz, 16 bits, mono, 128 kb/s,
and sent the files to the extra 10GB I had available on the PC system
drive. The recorder started at a predetermined time each day and
stopped after four hours, at the end of the remote.
When I returned, I downloaded the files on the LAN using the HTML
interface, imported them into Cool Edit Pro, edited the interviews,
saved them in PCM format and burned audio CDs. The audio never left the
digital domain, the quality was great, and the clients were
The HTML screen provides IP file access to users through an intranet
or the Internet.
Files can be played through Windows Media Player.
The success of that experience led me to begin using the timed
background recorder for capturing network feeds in the early morning
for the news folks to use. We record a 5-minute block using Mono PCM at
:44 past the hour for three separate hours each weekday morning. We
autopurge the files every other day. The news director pulls the file
off the logger using the HTML interface, puts the cuts into Cool Edit
Pro, breaks them into individual sound bytes, and saves them back as
files named 1, 2, 3, etc. The files are then imported into the
Oplog2000 database, which is set up to template the showlogs looking
for cuts 1, 2, 3, etc., so all she has to do is fire them off with the
touch screen in the studio by the number.
The next step was to log all of the Clear Channel stations in the
market. I thought it would be beneficial to make the HTML available via
our Web pages for listeners to go back and hear something they may have
missed earlier, but our company banned streaming audio due to the AFTRA
affair. I kept the HTML access behind the firewall on the WAN.
A second logger uses a PIII 933 with 512MB RAM, a 14GB system drive,
and two 40GB data drives, partitioned into three segments each. This
gives each of the group's six stations 12.5GB of drive, enough for five
weeks of audio. The operating system is a Microsoft Windows NT 4.0
workstation. I use two Antex LX44 audio cards for a possible total of
eight independent mono channels. A seventh station can be added using
the balance of the computer's drive space, but it is not recommended
that audio be stored on the system drive. I use this logger as the NTP
timeserver for our station and point all servers and workstations to
the logger to get the time via login scripts. A bank of tuners
completes the market logger setup.
I recommend the product. The single station logger running on
Win98SE has been stable, only requiring one restart in a year. The
NT-based logger has only been shut down for software upgrades.
OMT-MediaTouch support staff is stellar. Suggestions for product
improvements are taken seriously, and system upgrades are easily
downloaded and installed. I would like to see a bit more control of the
HTML, so I can customize with company logos and limit user access to
the inventory pages if desired. I have suggested, and seen implemented,
control over HTML colors.
Tim Wright is chief engineer of WVAZ, Chicago.
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