Wednesday 07 Dec 2016

In the Digital Era
Matt Seinberg

How many of us remember editing reel-to-reel tapes, with a razor blade, editing block, a grease pencil and Radio Shack splicing tape? I still own two editing blocks, one on my Otari 10 inch reel-to-reel machine and separate one I used to use on my Akai 7 inch reel machine. My splicing tape is all dried out I'm sure, and there is no point in buying more.

Most of us use a digital editing program these days, such as Adobe Audition or Pro Tools. I started out with a bootlegged version of Cool Edit Pro, which became Audition when Adobe bought them. I then upgraded to a bootlegged version of Audition version 1.0. It worked okay, but it was slow.

When Audition version 2.0 released, I broke down and bought a licensed boxed copy from Adobe. I was finally legal. It was definitely an upgrade, but still slow at some tasks. Then version 3.0 came out. I upgraded, immediately. I'm happy with the performance and speed of version 3.0.

The one thing that Audition does not do is a very simple task; there is no way to burn an MP3 jukebox CD that can hold up to 12 HOURS of music. A regular CD can only hold 80 minutes, but how many of us burn right to then end? Usually we end up with a disc best used as a coaster.

I do all my editing and regular burning in Audition. Then I use either Roxio Record Now or Nero Burning ROM to make music and MP3 CDs. It's so easy to drag and drop files into the programs and arrange them any way I want.

I remember making "mix tapes" as gifts before I had a computer. It was so time consuming. All the music needed dubbing, in real time. I had to find all the tapes and tracks. Then I arranged each one in an order for dubbing.

With .wav or MP3 files, all you have to do is store the music on your hard drive, categorize them and put them in your burning program. So much easier than dubbing tapes, don't you think?

The progression to the digital realm at radio stations was a very quick one. They went from carts, records and reel-to-reel tapes to CD music carousels and computers that played commercials and all station production elements.

In "American Airchexx Magazine," number five, from 11 June 1976, there was an interview, with Don Elliott, the Production Director of KIIS-FM. "Owning and Operating a Razor Blade" was the title of the interview. The work that Don did back in the day with a razor blade was truly amazing. I can only imagine what Don could do today with a digital production suite.

At WHTZ-FM, Z100, in New York City, the Production Director, Dave Foxx, is widely acknowledged as one of the most talented producers in the industry today. The work he has done at Z100 has been truly incredible, and that's one reason the station sounds as good as it does.

Digital editing suites offer so many effects that it boggles the mind. They can be as simple as adding echo or reverb, to applying a Multiband Compressor or even a Tube Modeled Compressor.

Instead of having to redo an entire recording session because of one error, or a tape breaking, now you only need redo that that one section. The amount of time and money saved is staggering. More work done, faster and more efficiently.

The other side of this coin is what computers and digital suites have done to the radio industry. Do we really know if the voice we are listening to is live or recorded? Is it live or is it Memorex? Remember that TV commercial that featured various singers being recorded on tape, and breaking a glass? Then the tapes played back and because the recording was so true to life, another glass was broken?

The same goes for air personalities. How can we tell if they are live in the studio, or in another state? I discussed voice tracking in the past. It's one of the dirty secrets, of corporate radio. I call it a secret if the station doesn't tell the listener if they are listening to a live person, or a recording. Two of the signs of voice tracking are the lack of time and weather checks.

The down side to voice tracking is that it takes jobs away from local personalities and saves the station one or more salaries. The upside, if I can call it that, is that it gives personalities from another station the opportunity to add to their revenue stream. Can we call $25 per voice-track shift revenue?

Many stations require their personalities to voice track shifts at their own station, or other stations the company owns in other markets for no additional compensation. It takes on average 30-60 minutes to record a 4-5 air shift and costs that station nothing.

Before computers, none of this was possible. There always was a live person on the air and in the station, at all times. Now, many building are empty from 7 pm to 5:30 am. What happens if there is a major news event, breaking news or a weather emergency? In most cases, nothing happens. Computers keep rolling the music. Maybe the Program Director shows up and over rides the system. Maybe he or she brings in a news feed from whatever service the station uses, say, CNN Radio. That's because the station no longer has a live and local news department anymore due to budget cuts.

In The Digital Realm, anything is possible. Ask anyone who has been a victim of identity theft. Anyone with a photo-editing program, say, Photoshop, can turn an innocent picture into something lewd and nasty. A voice changes from one gender to another or anything in between, it's takes the blink of a cosmic eye. If you have seen "Avatar," can you tell what is real or computer generated? Are there big, blue people on Pandora?

Are there any live people in your favourite station?

Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.

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