I’m putting together a glossary of terms related to broadcasting, mostly about radio, for an upcoming book. I’ve attempted to put the definitions in my own words.
Here’s a draft.
Anybody care to check my work?
Any and all suggestions welcome.
Acoustic chamber: A small enclosed recording space with sliding glass doors located in Studio 212 (the drama studio) in the Toronto Broadcast Centre. It was used to replicate specific acoustic environments such as the interior of cars. No longer in existence.
Analog audio: The word analog itself (sometimes spelled analogue) means something comparable (analogous) to something else. In the case of sound, analog means recordings in a format (such as tape or vinyl) capable of reproducing continuous, uninterrupted vibrations comparable to the original sound waves.
Audio console: An electronic console used to combine audio from separate sources (such as microphones and musical instruments) and send that audio elsewhere, such as for broadcast or to a public address system or to record it. Sometimes called a “Board” or a “Mixing Desk.”
Audio Systems: What the CBC radio maintenance team used to be called.
Backtime: An instrumental piece of music used to end a radio show or part of a radio show over which the announcer spoke.
Baffles: An object or device used to reduce sound. We used large sound baffles on wheels in Studio 212 to create smaller acoustic environments simulating living rooms, offices etc. on the large studio floor.
Board: See Audio Console
Bounce: Create a two–track (stereo) version of a sound file from multiple tracks.
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC): Canada’s public broadcaster, a federal Crown Corporation funded by (but operating at arm’s length from) the Canadian government. “CBC” refers to the English language service; Radio-Canada refers to the French language service. CBC/Radio Canada also broadcasts in multiple aboriginal languages.
Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission (CRBC): Canada’s first public broadcaster. It came before the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation).
Capsule distortion: When a microphone overloads creating an unpleasant sound because it’s receiving too much acoustic information (everything is too loud for the microphone).
Carbon granule microphone: The first type of microphone. Essentially granules of carbon in an enclosure, one side of which is a thin metal or plastic diaphragm that compress the carbon granules when struck by sound waves. Capable of producing high level audio signals with very little power. Used in early AM radio and early telephones, and still used today in certain applications.
Cart: An industry standard endless-loop tape cartridge developed in 1952 under the brand name Fidelipac. From the fifties until the late nineties, radio stations used them to play every kind of audio material from music to stings to station IDs to sound effects.
Compression: A low concentration of air particles moving through space.
Compressor: A type of audio gear or software used to reduce dynamic range, which is the difference between low and high levels in a piece of audio.
Condenser microphone: A type of microphone that requires power (called “phantom power”) to function. Generally higher quality than dynamic microphones and used to record more delicate sounds.
Confidence clock: A clock in a studio connected to Radio Master Control with a countdown timer and a light (typically red) to let you know when you’re going to be on and off air.
Console: See Board.
Continuity: When audio can pass successfully from one location to another, such as from a studio to Radio Master Control.
Cue speaker: A small speaker on an audio console for auditioning audio before using that audio for a broadcast or recording. Also called pre-fade listen, or PFL.
Dalet: A networked desktop audio editing system used by CBC Radio from 1996 until it was replaced by DaletPlus .
DaletPlus: The networked desktop audio editing system that replaced Dalet, essentially a more sophisticated version of Dalet.
Digital Audio Tape (DAT or R-DAT): A recording and playback medium that was developed by Sony in the mid ‘80s.
D-Cart: Also called Digital Cartridge Editing System. A digital audio editing platform developed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in the early nineties that CBC installed in 1993 and used until replacing it with Dalet in 1996.
Dead air: Unintentionally broadcasting silence.
Dead Room: An acoustic environment in Studio 212 with no hard surfaces for actors’ voices to reflect off, simulating an outdoor environment. No longer in existence.
Delay System: A system to record everything CBC Radio broadcasts to Atlantic Canada that plays that content back an hour later for the Eastern Time Zone, and so on to time zones further west until the content has been played back for the entire country. In this way every Canadian can hear their favourite show at exactly the same time, subjectively at least.
Destructive interference: When longitudinal sound waves are 180 degrees out of phase and cancel one another out, resulting in no sound.
Dialogue Edit: A small CBC Radio studio used primarily for editing dialogue tracks for radio plays. No longer in existence.
Digital Audio: A means of reproducing sound waves by accurately measuring and recording sufficient sonic information over a specific period of time to record the information as a sequence of numerical samples.
Direct Box: Instruments such as guitars can be connected directly to audio consoles via these small electronic devices, eliminating the need to mic the instruments.
Discrepancy: A deviation from the broadcast schedule as it was supposed to air. For example, when an announcer doesn’t show up for their show in time, resulting in dead air. See “Fault”.
Distortion: When the original shape of a sound wave is altered, often by increasing the gain. This can sound good with musical instruments, but it usually sounds bad with voices.
Double-ender: When an interviewer back in the studio talks to a guest on the phone while an audio technician records the guest out in the field. Afterward, back in the studio, a tech eliminates the poor phone-quality recording of the guest, replacing that recording with the high-fidelity recording done in the field.
Dubbing: Making a copy of a piece of audio.
Dynamic microphone: Dynamic microphones operate by suspending a coil of wire connected to a diaphragm inside a magnetic field. When sound vibrates the diaphragm, the coil vibrates and produces an electrical signal.
Equalization: Increasing or decreasing the volume of different frequencies of a selection of audio.
Euphonix System 5: A high end digital audio mixing console. The Euphonix System 5-B replaced the Neve Capricorn in Studio 212 in the summer of 2003. We liked it so much that in December of that year we put one in our Music Mobile recording truck.
Fader: A device used to increase or decrease the volume of audio. Physical faders typically slide along a track in a console. Virtual faders in digital consoles appear on screen.
Fault: See Discrepancy.
Feed: Audio content distributed across Canada, and sometimes to and from other countries, to be used on various CBC Radio shows.
Feedback (acoustic): An unpleasant screeching noise usually considered undesirable (except in certain kinds of music) created when a microphone picks up an audio signal and broadcasts it via a speaker back into that same microphone at sufficient gain and at just the right frequency to ensure a feedback loop. Also known as the Larsen effect after the Danish scientist Søren Absalon Larsen, who first discovered the principles of audio feedback.
Foley: Creating sound effects for radio plays, television and film. Named after sound effects artist Jack Foley, who originated the technique for film.
Gain: How loud the audio (input) is before it’s processed.
Hourlies: CBC Radio newscasts broadcast at the top of very hour, four and a half minutes long, and read by a single news announcer.
ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network): At CBC Radio we used ISDN units at to broadcast remotes. They were basically high falutin’ phone lines. We’d plug the output of our remote console into an ISDN unit which would in turn be connected to a phone line to transmit the audio back to the Toronto Broadcast Centre, from where it would be broadcast. The official definition is “a set of communication standards for simultaneous digital transmission of voice, video, data, and other network services over the digitalised circuits of the public switched telephone network.”
Lavalier mic: A small microphone intended to be unobtrusive, usually with a clip allowing it to be attached to clothing.
Lining up: Making sure the audio from a studio can reach radio master control before a broadcast. Involves a time check as well to ensure the studio clock is showing the correct time to ensure the broadcast starts on time.
Mix: Adjusting multiple sound elements into a pleasing whole via an audio console by a sound engineer, such as for a piece of music or a radio play, either live or for a recording.
Mixing desk: See Audio console
MS Stereo: Stands for Mid/Side microphone recording. A way to record in stereo that allows recording engineers to control the width of the stereo spread and that can be adjusted after the recording. Patented by EMI engineer Alan Blumlein in 1933.
Nagra: The world’s first portable tape recorder, invented by Polish inventor Stefan Kudelski, introduced in 1951. Heavily used in the film industry from the sixties to the nineties. “Nagra” is Polish for “will record.”
Neutral Room: A room in Studio 212 that could be used to replicate multiple neutral interior acoustic environments. No longer in existence.
Neve Capricorn: A high end digital audio mixing console. Used in Studio 212 until it was replaced by the Euphonix System 5-B console in the summer of 2003.
NGCN (Next Generation Converged Network): Developed by Rogers Cable Communications and Evertz Microsystems for the CBC to replace existing landlines, and launched in 2011, the NGCN network carries audio, video, and data content between CBC locations.
Packaging: Putting a radio show together for broadcast later.
Phantom Power: Provides power via microphone cables to condenser microphones and active direct boxes.
Pickup: Recording material either in a conventional studio or in a remote setting. It also means an actor or announcer redoing a line either because they’ve made a mistake or want an alternative take.
Polarity: Two possible choices that are mutually exclusive. In sound, polarity is a question of direction of flow of electrical current
Pot: Short for potentiometer, and another word for fader.
Potentiometer: A position sensor used to measure displacement in any direction. Potentiometers that slide up and down (faders) measure linear displacement and potentiometers that turn (rotary pots) measure rotational displacement.
Presentational Radio: Presenting content to listeners in a straightforward, unambiguous manner, such as on a newscast or interview show.
Pre-tape: Taping material for broadcast before the actual show.
ProTools: Professional digital audio editing software sold by Avid Technology
Public Address System (PA): A system of speakers, amplifiers, microphones and other assorted equipment to broadcast audio material such as voice and music in public spaces, either indoors or out.
Quarter-inch tape machine: Devices to record and playback audio using quarter inch tape. Sometimes called reel-to-reel machines. The workhorses of CBC Radio, usually four to a studio, during their heyday before the advent of digital desktop radio (D-Cart, Dalet, DaletPlus).
Radio: See Chapter Three.
Radio-Canada: The French language service of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Radio Master Control: The central hub, through which most CBC Radio shows passed before hitting the transmitters and the radios of the nation.
Radio Play: A story told by means of sound often employing multiple actors accompanied by sound effects and music.
Radio technician: An individual whose job it is to record, manipulate and broadcast sound
Rarefaction: A low concentration of air particles moving through space
Recording Room: A room in the basement of the Jarvis Street Radio building where radio technicians received and recorded audio feeds for later broadcast and for archival purposes. The room existed in the Toronto Broadcast Centre as well until the adoption of digital technology when it was replaced by a digital virtual recording room.
Reference Tone: A continuous tone, usually 1Kilohertz (1K) used to “line up” audio equipment (adjust playback and record levels). Reference tone is also used to ensure that the audio signal is travelling successfully from one location to another (i.e., one studio to another). This is referred to as “establishing continuity.”
Remote: A broadcast or recording outside of a conventional studio, often for a special event.
Representational radio: Content representing something other than what it actually is, such as the fiction of a radio play.
Rev 5: A type of outboard audio gear capable of producing multiple types of reverberation dating back to the 80s. In other words, it can make a person or music sound like it’s in different sized rooms anywhere from a closet or a theatre.
Reverb: Short for reverberation, reverb is the sound we hear bouncing back from various surfaces in our environment not including the source of the sound.
Rotary Pot: A device used to increase or decrease the volume of audio on a console, like faders only round. “Pot” is short for potentiometer.
Shure FP42: A small portable stereo mixer with four inputs and two outputs, great for remotes.
Sound check: Testing a sound system before a performance or broadcast to ensure that everything works and sounds good.
Splitting the board: Using an audio console for more than one purpose at time, such as recording a pickup with the main inputs and outputs while simultaneously dubbing separate content using auxiliary busses.
Sting: A brief piece of sound or music used to punctuate a radio program and/or separate two different sections of a radio program in a pleasing way.
Streeter: Short, snappily edited interviews with people out in the real world, “on the street.”
Studer 963: An analog console, quite common in CBC Radio packaging and live studios from the 90s on until the advent of digital consoles.
Studer On Air 2000: A digital audio console
Swap tone: Low frequency, barely audible tone added to the end of a recording on quarter inch tape for automation systems to detect to trigger a “swap” to the next tape containing additional programming.
Switched 56: A high quality telephone line.
Top and tail: insert leader tape before and after audio for broadcast on quarter inch tape to make it easier for technicians to cue them up.
Travelling Shot: A scene in television, film or radio in which the camera/microphone follows characters on the move without interruption.
Two-way: A recording usually involving a host in a studio in one location and a guest in another.
Video Switcher: Hardware used to switch between different audio and video sources such as television cameras, used during live or live-to-tape television productions.
Video Tape Recorder (VTR): Hardware used to record and play back video and audio from magnetic tape.
Voice track: A track in editing software containing voices, either actors, guests, or otherwise.
Voice tracking: Recording the voices of actors, performers, announcers and guests.
VU Meter: Stands for “volume unit” meter. Displays a representation of the level of audio in audio equipment.
Volume: How loud audio is after it’s been processed (i.e., put through a piece of gear such as an amp or speaker).
Wallbox: Usually located near the floor in studio performance spaces, wallboxes provide a means of plugging microphones and other audio gear to the console in the control room.