Tag: audio

Glossary

One of the items in the glossary.
Who remembers this?

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.

Further Thoughts on Audio Book Production

Cover Art by Jeff Minkevics
A Time and a Place

I thought I had finished the production of the audio book of A Time and a Place.

I had submitted the files to my publisher, who had forwarded them to Audible (ACX), only to have them rejected because they were less than 192 kbps. This didn’t make any sense to me as I was sure that I’d exported them from Audacity properly. When I checked the files out, though, I discovered that I’d actually accidentally exported a couple of files at 32 bit sample rate. It’s weird this only happened to a couple of files; why would the settings change for just a couple of files?

Anyway, I figured this was the problem, so I corrected those files and resubmitted them.

Audible still rejected the files.

Embarrassing.

So I went back and had another look. I thought I had the settings in Audible correct, but my mistake (well, one of my mistakes) was that I hadn’t actually checked the files themselves. This was really sloppy on my part. The reason I hadn’t checked the files themselves was because, well, I had checked the files, but I’d done so on a Mac, which doesn’t tell you the bit rate. It tells you a lot of other stuff, but not the bit rate, unless you jump through a few hoops, which I hadn’t done. I’d simply assumed that Audacity was doing what it said it was doing:

It says it’s exporting 220-280 kbps. So isn’t it? Nope!

Turns out I should have selected “Constant” Bit Rate Mode, which would have resulted in a guaranteed Bit Rate of 192 kbps.

Live and learn.

Because of this mistake, I had to re-export all my files at the correct bit rate of 192 kbps.

This meant finding the original sessions of each chapter. Doing so, I discovered another bit of sloppiness on my part: poor file management. I’d carefully saved each session using a specific naming convention, but I hadn’t paid much attention to where I saved the files, other than ensuring they were saved on a hard drive somewhere in, say, my house.

Well, at least I knew all the sessions were saved on a hard drive attached to my MacBook Pro. Fortunately, my searches usually managed to locate the required sessions. Unfortunately, they didn’t  always do so. I could not find the final sessions for about four chapters. The good news was that I was able to find and re-open at least the penultimate session for each chapter. This resulted in a bit more work than I would have liked. And I became paranoid that I wasn’t re-exporting the absolute final version of each chapter. Because of this paranoia, I decided I needed to re-listen to every second of every chapter to ensure that they were in fact the absolute final, pristine product.

This cut into the writing time of my second novel, which I usually worked on during my commute, and so was a bit of a drag, but it had to be done. Fortunately, I was able to download the files from Dropbox onto my Smartphone, which meant that I could listen just about anywhere I went. Unfortunately, this usually wound up being in rather noisy environments, which meant that I could confirm the proper pacing of the sound files, and that there were no missed edits, and what the chapters would sound like in the real world, but I couldn’t really tell if there were any little clicks or pops or mouth noise etc.

So I listened to all twenty-seven chapters this way, and during the course of this exercise discovered several chapters that weren’t quite up to snuff. In the case of some chapters, it was because I hadn’t been able to find and export the absolute final version, but in the case of other chapters it was because the absolute final versions themselves just weren’t quite up to snuff.

By “up to snuff” I mean mostly that the pacing was off. The way I had read and edited them had resulted in readings that were way too fast. My brain couldn’t keep up listening to them. They threatened to ruin the entire product. Even if listeners couldn’t tell exactly what was wrong, what was irritating about the product, I was pretty sure that it would still bother them. All of these chapters needed to be re-edited. There were a few other minor issues too that I took the opportunity to correct, mostly sloppy enunciation, and some minor issues with the levels.

If I hadn’t exported the files at the wrong bit rate to begin with, I probably wouldn’t have discovered these other issues until it was too late, so I was glad about that.

Looking back, the single biggest hurdles I encountered during the production of this audiobook was the fact that I performed it myself, and did the whole thing all alone. There was nobody to tell me I was reading too fast, and I was too close to the product to realize myself where I was going wrong. I didn’t actually even clue in that there was a problem until after I’d finished recording the entire novel and completed the initial edit of the first chapter. Listening back to that initial edit, I was horrified at the pace of my read. So I re-edited the entire chapter and it was STILL too fast. It wasn’t actually until a few weeks went by and I listened to the chapter again with completely fresh ears that I was able to tell what the proper pace should be. So I edited it AGAIN and finally got it in the ballpark (I hope!).

I made the same mistake with several other chapters, thinking as I was going along that I was getting the pacing right, but again I didn’t have sufficient distance to be able to tell for sure. It was several chapters before I acquired enough experience to know to insert far more space than I thought I needed. Doing so made it  far easier on subsequent passes to edit the material correctly, tightening it up a bit.

Had I been a seasoned performer, I would have been able to get the pacing right in the performance, which would have resulted in one heck of a lot less editing.

At least one chapter (Chapter Four) was so bad that I was forced to re-record the entire chapter. But by then I had a much better idea what I was doing, resulting in a performance  that was much closer to the mark, and that required only a light edit.

Bottom line: it’s mostly about the performance. If you get the performance right, post-production becomes infinitely easier.

I’m not saying that writers shouldn’t read and record their own novels. But I am saying that if you do, have a second set of ears present—preferably, somebody who knows what they’re doing—so that they can set you straight during the recording, which will result in a whole lot less post-production time.

If you can’t have someone else present, maybe just do one section or chapter at a time. This should reduce the learning curve, and maybe by the end of the book your performance which be much closer to what it needs to be.

Still, despite having created a whole lot extra work for myself on this audiobook production, I’m fairly happy with the final product. I did not release it into the wild until I was satisfied with it. I’m also really happy to have this one under my belt. With what I know now, if I ever have to do this again, it should (theoretically!) go one heck of a lot faster.

But then, I have always been an optimist.

A Time and a Place, published by Five Rivers Publishing, is now available on Audible.

Adventures in the Radio Trade

If you came here looking for The Story of Q, the original version is now located here.

Coming Soon

Adventures in the Radio Trade

by Joe Mahoney

From Donovan Street Press

This is the story of your average Joe working mostly behind the scenes at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Adventures in the Radio Trade is an attempt to document a roughly twenty year stretch of CBC Radio between 1988 and 2008. It covers a fair amount of ground from the perspective of single audio technician (me) following his own unique path through the CBC Radio trenches.

My time with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has been mostly positive, so you won’t see much dirt here. This is a celebration of CBC Radio, though an unflinching one, as there were some challenging moments. I do my utmost to be strictly factual based on a pretty good memory and copious notes taken throughout my career.

The tale begins in July 1988…

Something Technical

My roommate came home with a brand new car. I’d been bumming around for a couple of months, enjoying a summer off after working as a lab assistant at Ryerson. He’d been bumming around too, but then he got a job at GM, and one day he came home with a car. It seemed so… grown up. And cool. The guy had a car. He could afford a car. A brand new car. I still remember what kind of car it was. A red Chevy Beretta.

I decided I wanted to be able to afford a car. This meant it was time to get a job.

I applied for a job at Sony where I’d make $25,000 dollars a year. This seemed like a huge amount. Ryerson had paid $13,000 for eight months of work. I was still living off that because my lifestyle cost virtually nothing. I had nothing. Up until then I’d wanted nothing. Until my roommate came home with a car.

I also applied at a post production facility. I forget the name. They interviewed me (Sony didn’t). They were willing to pay me $18,000 a year. They said, if you were offered both jobs, this one and the one at Sony, which one would you take? I didn’t even blink an eye. “The one at Sony,” I said.

“Why?”

“Because it’s seven thousand dollars more a year!”

I didn’t get either job. The post-production facility phoned me up to give me the news.

“Do you know why we didn’t give you the job?” the fellow who called asked me.

“No, why?”

“It’s because you said you’d take the Sony job over ours for the money.”

“So you’re penalizing me for being honest,” I said.

He didn’t care. He was trying to tell me that they wanted to hire someone with a passion for what they were doing, but I didn’t clue in. It wasn’t where my head was at just then. I wanted a job, and the more money the better. I’d figure out the passion bit later.  

So I crossed the street — Jarvis Street — to the CBC and gave the receptionist June my resume. June asked, “What kind of job do you want?”

“Something technical,” I told her.

I have no idea why I said that. It just came out without any premeditation whatsoever. I could have said, “Something that will earn me a lot of money,” or “Something On Air.” But I didn’t. Probably any other answer wouldn’t have gotten me a job. I said, “Something technical” and June picked up the phone right away and called someone.

It was Don Burgess, who was the manager in charge of radio technicians at the time. No idea what his exact title was. I don’t think he did the job very long. But he did it long enough for me. We chatted a bit about my background… plenty of experience in private radio, a degree in radio and television from Ryerson, and so on. He set up an interview.

A week later three people sat at one end of a table while I sat at the other. It was a friendly interrogation. I told them I could read music, that I’d been an announcer/operator for many years, that I listened to CBC Radio all the time since I’d been a kid. I could name shows and hosts dating back a decade and a half. My favourite shows were Variety Tonight with Vicki Gabereau and I also enjoyed The Entertainers when it had been on.

At the end of the interview they asked me if I had any questions. I said, “Just one. What have you been interviewing me for?”

They all laughed. Nobody answered the question. They thought I was joking. But I wasn’t joking. Nobody had taken the time to explain the position to me. All I knew was that it was something technical to do with CBC Radio. (I’ve conducted many interviews since; I always take time off the top to make sure the applicant completely understands what they’re applying for.)

A week later they hired me. A few days after that I received a letter from the CBC saying they couldn’t hire me. This was because I had also dropped off a letter to their Human Resources department asking for a job. The Human Resources department didn’t want me. Fortunately the technical folks did.

I’d been working for CBC Radio an entire week before I really started to get a sense of what the job was. It was a job that hadn’t existed in any of the private radio stations I’d worked for. In private radio you did it all. At the CBC you just did a piece of it all. You specialized. And I was going to specialize in the technical stuff. Not fixing things, operating them. Consoles, microphones, tape recorders, all technical equipment having to do with the recording and broadcast of sound.

Something technical. Those two words changed my life, have defined my life for over three decades now.

Never did get a car. Had to marry into that. But that’s another story.


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Cal-Poly-Radio-KCPR-from-1975-to-1977.jpg

Adventures in the Radio Trade

Table of Contents

Something Technical

CJRW

A Brief History of Radio

Net Testing

The Radio Building

Studio Q

“Joe, We Have a Problem”

Riding the Faders

Radio Techness

As It Happens

Morningside

Freelancing

Studios from Scratch

One Leg at a Time

French Radio: CJBC

Four Days Chez Margaret Atwood

A Dramatic Turn of Events

Tools of the Trade

Cherry Docs

Requiem for a Studio

2F100

Strike! 132

Hybrids

Muckraker

The Handmaid’s Tale

Stuart McLean

Faster Than Light

The Cold Equations

Captain’s Away!

Barney’s Version

To the Ships!

Faster Than Light: The Second and Third Pilots

Matt Watts

Arthur J. Vaughan: One Officer’s Experiences

The Great Radio Drama Submission Call

Birth

Worms for Sale

The Great Lockout of ’05

The Adventures of Apocalypse Al

Live Effects for a Dead Dog

Funny Boy

Canadia: 2056

The Story of Q

The Producer

The Dark Side

Cue Backtime

Glossary

Coming Soon

Adventures in the Radio Trade

by Joe Mahoney

Donovan Street Press

All material in this post, audio and otherwise, is presented under the Fair Dealings provision of Canadian Copyright law. However, if any copyright holders wish me to remove any creative material, please contact me at ilanderz@gmail.com and I will do so immediately.

Stay tuned…


A Time and a Place, by Joe Mahoney

“Unlike any other sci-fi you’ve ever read. This book was both comic and tragic, sad and funny, with a hero who tries to do the right thing but always seems to stumble. Recommended.”

Lee Herman, Amazon 5 Star Review


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