As the Official Podcast of the 2009 NAB Show, the Digital Production BuZZ produced 37 live news casts, and 12 hours of live programming and interviews. These were syndicated to more than 25 websites and reached tens of thousands of listeners. All in six days.
I thought I’d share with you how we did it.
Production planning for NAB began almost two months ago as our producer, Cirina Catania, event manager, Debbie Price, and myself starting work on this event. Cirina handled all content issues, Debbie coordinated the booth, and I was responsible for all tech.
We instantly agreed that NAB was too big a show for our normal format of a weekly one-hour show. Cirina came up with the idea of doing daily one-hour shows, while I wanted the flexibility to cover breaking news using a five minute newscast. We decided to do both.
Then, about a month before, one of our syndication partners – wsRADIO – asked if we could produce some custom shows exclusively for them to distribute. So, we added five additional one-hour shows to our production schedule.
It was impossible to meet this sized production schedule with our existing production staff, so about a month ago, I put out a call for volunteers to see if anyone would be interested in helping. I was stunned with the size and quality of the response. Our volunteers have been magnificent – amazing talented and dedicated folks – who have truly worked tirelessly to pull this off. (I’ll have more on them in a minute.)
In addition to staff, we also needed gear. Edit Share loaned us one of their field servers, Marantz loaned us four of their latest portable digital recorders (PMD-661) and Aphex loaned us four 230 Master Voice Processors.
Load in for the booth was last Friday. Essentially, in a day, we setup a broadcast radio station that could do two things:
1. Broadcast live news, integrating audio clip playback directly from our server with me reading voice-over copy
2. Record multichannel audio interviews (each guest on their own mike and recorded separately) in our booth for later editing and integration into our one-hour shows.
For the live news, each field reporter had a Marantz recorder, Shure SM-58 microphone, Sennheiser HD-202 headset, and a clip board to note whom they talked to and what they talked about. Each Marantz unit recorded directly to a 1 GB flash memory card.
Each morning, Cirina (pictured above) would decide what stories we needed to cover. Then, she would assign our field reporters out into the conferences and show floor.
Our field reporters did an amazing job – interviewing over 200 people in less than five days and getting amazing coverage of the show. I am truly grateful to this incredible team of volunteers:
Roz McNulty (President of Pitch Page) – www.pitchpage.com
Philip Roy (MediaLab Maine) – www.medialabmain.com
Norman Hollyn (Author & Media Expert) – normanhollyn.com
Bob Merrill (MFocus Media)
Carol Tenney (Attorney at Law)
Sue Lawson (CHIFCPUG) – www.chicagoedit.com
Philip Hodgetts – (Intelligent Assistance) – www.intelligentassistance.com
When the reporters came back with the story, they would hand the recorder to our Traffic Manager – Hana Peters, in the teal jacket above – who would copy all files to the server, rename each of them so we could track the status of each file just by checking its file name, and send it off on the editorial process.
(Hana is the newest member of my staff and is truly amazing for her ability to remain calm and focused when complete chaos is breaking out around her!)
Since we were server-based, all news files were instantly available to our audio editing team:
Rocco Zappia (Production, Post Production) – www.roccoz.com
Greg Ingber (Writer, Broadcaster, Producer) – www.gregingber.com
Both these men were great – very fast and talented; in fact, Rocco was with us the entire week. Completely focused, cheerful, talented and dedicated, we could not have done this without him.
Every audio file was auditioned, converted from WAV to AIF format, and edited for content. We used AIF files for their high quality and maximum compatibility between systems.
Once the files were edited, they were moved into a new folder for renaming by Hana, then moved to a third folder where Cirina would listen to them and decide which ones to schedule for the hourly news report. Cirina would then write the script for each newscast.
While all this was going on in the booth at the production tables, Debbie Price was coordinating studio interviews with dozens of exhibitors. The purpose of these was for our hourly shows each evening, to give companies with new products a longer opportunity to explain them to our audience.
Each interview ran between 10-15 minutes. I recorded them in multi-track format using Soundtrack Pro 2, and edited them throughout the day, and evening, and, um, night for integration into each show.
We did about twelve interviews a day for a total of about 65 interviews. We would do three to four interviews an hour, then broadcast a newscast, then back to the interviews.
News Equipment Workflow
We had, essentially, two different systems set up in the booth: one for live news and the other for pre-records.
For live news, all news clips were in Quicktime format and stored on the server. I’d open the files we needed for each newscast on my Mac laptop.
Leaning the script against my computer monitor, I’d start reading using a BeyerDynamic DT-190 headset microphone into the Aphex 230 Master Voice Recorder (I’m trying to see if I can carry on of these things around, just to improve the sound of ordinary conversation..)
From there it would go to a Mackie VLZ-1402 audio mixer, then into an Edirol UA-25 portable mixer for conversion to digital using its on-board limiter to keep our levels safe. It then traveled over a 15 foot USB cable to our streaming server, where it would be streamed, recorded, and posted to the variety of syndication sites that were carrying our news.
The last stop on our team was our streaming engineer Gregory Clark (VP Technology of Intelligent Assistance) – www.intelligentassistance.com. Working with Greg was like swatting flies with an elephant gun — I don’t think there’s a web-based technical problem that he can’t solve.
Interview Equipment Workflow
For our interviews, we used a set of three BeyerDynamic headset mics, each feeding into its own Aphex box. From there, the output went into a Presonus FireBox for digitization and was recorded on my laptop using Apple Soundtrack Pro 2. I would store the files locally for editing and up to the server for safety.
After deciding which interviews would be in each show, I’d record all necessary opens and closes, then assemble the entire program in my hotel room each night.
After some initial problems during the first weekend, all the equipment worked great. By Tuesday we found a working rhythm where everything was flowing seamlessly and files were moving extremely quickly from interview to air.
We knew going in that this would be an enormous project. The key is spending the time to plan, getting the right people, and setting up a consistent workflow. Oh, and getting it all working perfectly from a standing-start to full operation in less than two days.
One last note, I was blown away by the quality of the people on this team. Each one is a talented professional. And, each one is free-lance. If you are looking for some help, these folks are a great place to start.
I am enormously grateful to everyone on our team for making this possible.
To see what we accomplished, visit: www.nabshowbuzz.com
Executive Producer / Host
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