I get a lot of requests about what’s behind the scenes here at the Conversations Network. Although most of the post-production audio work is done by the volunteer members of Team ITC who have their own setups, Studio 2 (my 2nd bedroom) has a bit more gear than most for four reasons: (1) I do a lot of the transfers of source recordings from the various formats in which we receive them; (2) I record many of our phone interviews; (3) Our live streams originate from his studio; and (4) I’m addicted to buying used audio gear on eBay.
The equipment racks:
Left rack, top to bottom:
Right rack, top to bottom:
As far as computers go, Doug uses the following:
Since I produced the first IT Conversations show in June 2003, I’ve continuously upgraded my equipment and processes. If you listen to the shows in chronological order, you’ll have no trouble hearing the differences.
The audio sources include the studio microphone, an Electro-Voice RE20 processed through the Mackine Onyx 1220‘s preamp, a dbx 1066 noise gate and compressor, and a Rane ME-30 parametric equalizer, and music playback from an Apple MacMini that I use as an audio file server (not shown) via a USB-connected M-Audio MobilePre. For highest quality telephone-interview audio, and because I’m four miles from the telephone company’s central office, on 9/16/03 I upgraded the studio telephone lines to ISDN, and since 3/2/04 those lines have been connected directly to a Telos-TWO digital hybrid. The output of the mixer passes through an Aphex Compellor 320A leveler and an Aphex 720 Dominator multi-band limiter.
As of January 2004, I’ve been recording multiple tracks digitally on a Windows PC at 24 bits and 44.1kHz through an Echo MiaMIDI interface. I also make backup originals to a Marantz to audio CD using a Marantz CDR300. For longer shows such as live events I record backups to a Sony SLV-900HF HiFi audio VHS recorder. Live streams from the studio are fed via a USB interface to the Windows Media Encoder running on another dedicated 2.0GHz Pentium 4 Windows 2000.
I use Sony SoundForge 7.0 for most editing, normalization and EQ. Staying in the 24-bit/44.1kHz format, I mixdown with Flavio Antonioli’s n-Track Studio. Finally, I take the 24-bit/44.1kHz files back to SoundForge where I use Wave Hammer and other tools to master for 16-bit, and convert to MP3 format using the Fraunhofer IIS encoder. Of course, after listening to IT Conversations squeezed into 16-bit 64kbps/44.1kHz MP3s (to keep filesizes small), you probably wonder if it’s worth all this trouble. Well, it really does help, but it’s too bad you can’t hear the beautiful originals!
I also use ISDN phone lines for broadcast-quality stereo links to other studios and radio stations via a Zephyr Xstream, which supports G.722, MPEG2 AAC and AAC-LD. I broadcast from remote locations back to the studio using a Zephyr Xport (not shown) over ISDN (AAC-LD codec) or POTS lines (aacPlus). My head-worn microphones for remotes are Audio-Technica PRO 8HEx. For remote interviews (i.e., when I’m not streaming live) I sometimes record on a Sony MZ-N10 MiniDisc recorder fed by Audio-Technica AT803B omnidirectional lavalier microphones or an Electro-Voice 635a.
The web site runs on a Linux server with Apache and mySQL. Server-side scripting is done in PHP, and I use the Smarty template package with home-brew caching and content-management software. MP3 are hosted on a content-delivery network from Limelight Networks, who also provide the Windows Media streams for live events.