Sep 1, 2003 12:00 PM, By Chriss Scherer, editor
Consolidation and technological advances have made radio automation affordable and necessary for modern broadcast facilities. In response to the industry, automation systems are becoming better described as digital-asset management systems. Simple cart replacement isn't the goal anymore. Stations expect digital playback systems to help manage media inventories, automatically record and insert live feeds and voice tracks, work seamlessly with satellite formats and operate as a live assistant for shows. The need for interaction, control and insertion from a distance has become extremely important, as have WAN-based media sharing and the ability to manage multiple stations from a central site.
Most manufacturers have addressed these needs, and now these systems offer much more than basic radio automation. Many systems take advantage of interaction with rich media associated with radio and audio content. This capability has direct applications as stations exploit their Internet presence. Automation systems can send �now playing� data to Web pages, and some companies offer solutions that allow listeners to hear radio on specially designed audio players with a station logo and sponsor ad space, as well as methods for Internet listeners to click and find out more about the music or spot being played or even begin a purchase process. This type of interactivity is being refined, but expect this information and extra features to be a part of future digital radio iterations.
Use this information as a beginning, following up the research by contacting the manufacturer or the broadcast equipment dealer for more information.
A sample of available radio automation systems and some complimentary applications.
Jockey Pro runs on Windows 98 SE, 2000 or XP and uses standard Windows sound cards. The system includes Internet Time Sync and the Auto Go To Feature, which automatically jumps the loaded playlist to the current time position when the log is started. It features triple on-screen carts, multiple programmable recorders when full-duplex cards are used, WAV and MP3 playback, editing and voice tracking capability while the system is on the air, audio overlap and segue and variable audio marker in and out times. The system can also automatically generate Web content for streaming media applications.
Also from 11 Software:
Jockey Pro LT � V-Tracker LT
Spotman Suite - Remote file upload and reporting system.
Audio Rack - A cart wall player that can access as many as 64 audio files at once.
Broadcast Technical Services Group
Generation IV provides music on hard drive, satellite, live-assist and voice tracking automation in one package. Voice tracking is handled by the DJ Tracker module, which is included in the package. The software requires a 1GHz or faster Pentium IV and Windows 2000 Professional or XP Professional. The system supports a nearly limitless number of Quik Button sets that can be triggered by the keyboard function keys or the mouse. Users can set a timed event to automatically load sets of Quik Buttons. Audio files can include additional information such as title, artist, outcue, length, sample rate, mode, start point and end point.
Also from BTSG:
Miniplayer Automation � Proradio III Digital
Automax 2000 � Broadcast Event Scheduler
Spotmax - On-screen cart decks � Clipmax - Cartwall playback
Audio Vault 2 uses an open system architecture and off-the-shelf hardware. The software runs on Windows and is cross-compatible with the company's other digital audio systems. It allows for LAN or WAN program generation, centralized or decentralized audio storage, a touch-screen interface, local or remote playlist administration, an on-screen voice track editor, drag-and-drop program log building and editing and the capability to edit a log while it is on the air. On-site and off-site training is available. The system can also communicate with other systems via MIDI.
Also from Broadcast Electronics:
Vault Express � Web Vault
Broadcast Software International
Simian's interface combines two digital recorders with a voice tracker and Instant Response hotkeys for on-air automation. Simplicity of use is one of its main features, minimizing the need for extra training on multiple pieces of equipment. BSI's Smart Carts ensure that a valid, billable spot plays for each client scheduled. In addition, Dynamic Time Compression allows users to squeeze or stretch content to maximize potential revenue in the available time. Simian allows clustered stations to consolidate spots and music on a single server.
Also from BSI:
WaveCart 3.1 - On-screen cart machine
Stinger 2.0 - Instant audio player cartwall
Raduga 3.6 runs on Windows 98, ME, NT, 2000 or XP and supports MP2 ,MP3, WAV and WMA files. It can operate in full automation or live assist modes. There are nine instant-fire hot keys for cart emulation. The included event scheduler can build event logs and playlists. Six play modes are available: normal, manual, repeat, random, shuffle and intro scan. A built-in silence sensor can minimize on-air failures. The system chooses random tracks from a given directory, build play lists using rotations, schedule jingles and work with a joystick for playback control. The system can interface with Live365 for Internet webcasts.
Imediatouch version 2 was released at NAB2003. It features an improved graphic interface, search engine capability and editing functions for production, voice tracking from the studio or production studio, an on-screen phone recorder, hot key fade out and repeat modes, and the ability to playback programs while they are being recorded. The voice tracking features allow up to six hot start elements to be included in the voice track, level control for fades and beds and quick access to auto post, ducking and other quick record controls. A new playback feature allows users to test an entire log before it airs.
Also from Mediatouch:
Imediaaccess - Provides WAN access for Imediatouch systems.
Maestro includes external start, stop and pause connections to trigger audio events from a console. Users can search for songs by title, artist, category or length, and can also configure the screens to suit individual preferences that display automatically during that shift. Each user has 20 instant-play cuts and functions with 20 color-coded buttons on a page, each playing through a separate console channel. These can also be set as global Cart Express pages that all announcers can access. On-screen copy can be entered from news, copy or programming computers, as well as from news wires.
Also from Computer Concepts:
The Digilink family of products is available in three configurations. Each configuration adds additional capabilities and features. Digilink Free is a free software package for full automation and live assist applications. It plays WAV, MP2 and MP3 formats and can mix three audio files to air at the same time for a music segue with voice over. It can also automatically adjust the length of an audio file to fit a specific window. Digilink Xtra adds support for a second sound card to allow audio previews and the ability to program event schedules. Digilink Xtreme adds more features, such as support for satellite automation, an eight-input source switcher, timed recording, console interface logic, an on-screen mixer and audio monitoring capabilities.
Dalet Digital Media Systems
Dalet Plus Radio Suite is a media management system that incorporates production tools and a workflow management module that facilitates each step of the process: audio and wires acquisition, search and retrieval, production, script editing with embedded audio, planning, scheduling, broadcast and archiving. The on-air module user interface and layout can be configured to the needs of an individual broadcast studio or studio operator. After a recording has started, it can be played on the air or edited even while still recording.
Radioman R5 improves on previous versions and adds additional features. The system supports files for music, audio segments, complete programs, scripts and combined cross-media. It also simultaneously supports multiple media formats for a single item. The extended Media Publisher supports parallel Web, DAB and mobile phone media interfaces that are synchronized to the main program flow. Standard features such as voice tracking are included.
Also from Jutel:
SS32 operates on Windows 2000, NT, Novell or Linux. Systems are provided on non-proprietary computers and non-proprietary sound cards. The system uses an exclusive belt-and-suspenders approach with redundant audio drives so that every recording is kept up-to-date locally and on a server or networked production studio. For file playback, the systems uses pull networking. A token is sent to the air studio where the software looks at the current log, Instant Play keys and Cart Walls to see if the new cut is a priority.
The Digasystem concept began more than 10 years ago to provide instant access to digital audio files over a standard network. The software runs on standard PC hardware running Novell, Windows or Unix servers and Windows 95, 98, 2000, NT or XP workstations. Audio files can be stored in MP2 or WAV format. The database is organized through the Database Manager. A built-in audio editor is included. A hardware interface, called the Digistudio, provides machine-like controls and faders for the system.
Distributed by Harris
DAD Pro 32 offers a set of features for storing and reproducing digital audio on demand in a robust 32-bit environment, running on Windows NT or 2000. Included in the DAD Pro 32 feature set is inherent networking that offers connectivity throughout the same building or from across the world. The system can be configured to provide voice tracking, cart emulation, feed recording, waveform editing, a master log for live-assist operation and a general purpose interface.
Also from Enco Systems:
Enteractive Radio - Online content creator, interactive online listener interface
Nexgen Digital contains several customer-driven enhancements for audio storage and playback. Delivering files via WANcasting is made easier with bulk file feeds and off-peak time delivery. Increased tracking capabilities in the WANcasting module allow the user to distinguish data recordings. The Digital Reel To Reel element now includes features to help control outside hardware, as well as options for recurring recordings.
Also from Prophet Systems:
Musicgen - Music scheduling software
Wireready32 can be used in live-assist, satellite and music on hard drive installations. Any workstation can run live-assist and automation at the same time. With multiple PCI-based sound cards or a sound card with multiple inputs and outputs, a single machine can capture programs while playing on the air. As many as eight independent automation schedules can be run at one time. The system runs on all Windows platforms, but NT or 2000 are recommended.
Also from Wireready:
News Ready - On-screen wire service management
Web Ready - Web delivery and ad insertion system
Register Data Systems
The Phantom provides all the tools required to manage, integrate and air local and satellite delivered programming in a seamless and live-sounding manner. Files are recorded by selecting the Record Audio command and then selecting the desired input. The system can start recording manually or start on audio sense. Features include automated time announcements, free-form cart rotations, archive maintenance, command carts (to schedule events through contact triggers) and LAN remote control to control multiple systems from a remote location.
Also from RDS:
The Replicator - Time-shift audio storage and playback
On Air Digital
The Radio Suite HD uses Linux for mission-critical elements and Windows workstations in less critical applications. Systems are inherently networkable through Linux. The efficiency of Linux allows the system to play four simultaneous sound files and use the same CPU resources as a PC running just the Windows operating system. Audio data encoding/decoding is done through software and allows the system to work with nearly any audio file format including WAV, MP2, MP3, ADPCM and now Apt-x. UDS II is the control system, which currently runs on Windows but is being updated for Linux.
Radio Assist 7 is a modular set of programs that allows the user to choose modules as needed and configure them to individual needs. User categories, file types and other parameters can be set as desired. The software runs on Windows NT 4.0 and higher and uses a Microsoft SQL 7 database engine. Audio file sampling rates are adjustable from 32kHz to 48kHz. Files can be recorded in Layer II or linear WAV formats. The system can provide audio and data for on-air, online and DAB applications, as well as audio-on-demand functions.
Smarts Broadcast Systems
Smartcaster is designed for satellite and music on hard drive automation. In the last year, Smartcaster Digital Audio completely redesigned its system to operate on Linux, which provides a solid operating system that provides a high level of reliability and high-resolution graphic screens. It is capable of storing large amounts of data. The Linux Smartcasters can now play virtually any audio file including MP2, MP3, WAV, ADPCM and optionally Apt-X. Systems use non-proprietary, off-the-shelf hardware.
CDS32 Pro runs on Windows 2000 or XP. It offers live-assist, full automation, satellite and music-on-hard-drive automation. It supports all traffic and music scheduling software, but also includes a simple Spot Set Editor and Quick Music Scheduler. The system can also provide automatic website content. Other features include automatic spot set fill, complete remote control, support of multiple networks, extended instant play features, multiple-cut spot rotation, multi-station file access, an audit log function for affidavits, in-context voice tracking and support of all traffic software formats.
Radio Computing Services (RCS)
Master Control XV features a Living Log, Internet Voice Tracking and audio storage management tools. The Living Log integrates with other event scheduling systems. All changes made to the schedule can be seen instantly by any workstation on the network. Real-Feel Voice Tracking and Internet Voice Tracking allows talent to perform locally on a network of stations from anywhere. The Audio Storage Manager manages data at a central production facility, enabling a group of stations to share audio in the same building or anywhere in the world. The system uses non-proprietary, off-the-shelf computers, networking and backup products. Audio can be played from any combination of formats including WAV, MP2, BWF and Cart Chunk.
Also from RCS:
Iselector - Customized audio player
Selector - Music scheduling software
Air Control NT 2000 Professional runs on Windows NT or 2000 and provides a 32-bit system. It was designed as an open system for future developments with Mediatron's plug-in approach. Through this method, features are added to the base program as they needed. The software runs on standard, off-the-shelf PCs and network hardware. Available plug-ins provide a hotkey interface, enhanced cueing functions, crossfade mixing, voice tracking, a database search engine, a CD-ROM jukebox controller, a production tool for making hooks, an Internet/intranet Web display interface, an RBDS data module, program-associated data output and remote interface for I/O control.
Also from Mediatron:
Media Station - Automation for small to medium markets
Find more information in the Radio magazine Online Buyers Guide