WATERTOWN, MASS.—NESN (New England Sports Network) is the broadcast home for the world-champion Boston Red Sox and Boston Bruins. The network is delivered to homes throughout the six-state New England region and nationally as NESN National. Automation and digital content management has almost always been an important part of our broadcast workflow, and the presence of both has only continued to increase since NESN first transitioned to HD.
While discussion around these topics tend to be video-focused, the automation of broadcast audio is a significant component. Audio requires flexibility to move between live and automated playout—especially when it comes to sports programming. Additionally, support for both file-based ingest and surround sound is a must; and on the back-end, business toolsets for monitoring, logging and legal reporting are needed to meet performance requirements and remain in compliance.
Our requirements, responsibilities, and goals for audio playout have continued to evolve across our productions. Our evaluations soon led us to ENCO’s DADtv solution.
DADtv is used in our two main studios, with six regular users. There is an immediate benefit to multi-user communities, as all operators can establish their own user profiles. This provides immediate access to each user’s window layout, audio cuts and more, without having to save each session. The system immediately picks up where that user left off, regardless of who else has used the system in between.
User flexibility has naturally been improved. DADtv offers touchscreen and hardware control options; we opted for the latter, as we prefer physical button arrays. The hardware controller (DADpad) provides 10 banks of 40 buttons, providing us with immediate access to 400 audio cuts, more than enough to support our most complex production requirements.
The migration to ENCO allows simplified macro programming of automation. We can now build a small macro set in our Ross Overdrive system that can easily recall a variety of rotating playlists. This allows us to be stylistically discreet about which cuts are used for what broadcast—and overall more fluid in how we manage broadcast audio.
DADtv makes moving between live and automated workflows simple. Maintaining both local and remote control of each server can be a challenge across mixed productions. DADtv’s Universal Translator feature simplifies distinction of manned and unmanned operations by instructing the system to listen for automation commands. In the end, it’s one double-click motion to toggle between the two environments. Once in manual mode, audio engineers have limitless flexibility in how they stack a specific show, choosing from our library of categorized music cuts to match the mood of the event.
DADtv also improves the way we manage content, and comply with various regulations. DADtv’s Dropbox utility automatically ingests audio cuts across a wide network of PCs and workstations and pulls in all associated metadata, creating a far more efficient process than real-time loading. We can now add hundreds of cuts with a single drag-and-drop function.
For the first time, we have true search-ability of our audio assets by track title or metadata. If we don’t know the exact cut ID number, we have a variety of efficient search methods available to find the right cut. Real-time ingest also simplifies content management through drag-and-drop functionality that even allows us to pull new cuts into a live broadcast on the fly. This was not an option before.
DADtv provides us with software-defined toolsets to log information around each audio cut, from start time and duration to playout confirmation. This offers an ideal reference point to reconcile that content was broadcast as expected. Queries regarding specific cuts and standard commercial music reporting are easily accommodated with DADtv. The AsPlay log function of the system has been exceedingly valuable in this regard.
DADtv is highly interoperable across multiple platforms, working reliably with our Overdrive system as well SSL C100 audio consoles, GPIO triggers, networked storage servers and digital audio workstations. Overall, moving to DADtv has streamlined our audio production workflow and strengthened how we automate and manage content.
George Morgan is the lead audio engineer for NESN. He can be reached at email@example.com.
For more information on ENCO, visit www.enco.com or call 248-827-4440.