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Radio Production Worktext: Studio and Equipment

by David E. Reese, Lynne S. Gross and Brian Gross

Radio Production Worktext: Studio and Equipment By special arrangement with the publisher, AudioLink is offering an excerpt from the newest edition of the standard text on studio production and studio equipment.

Radio Production Worktext, 5th Edition is designed to provide an introduction to the modern radio production studio, the equipment found in that studio, and basic techniques to accomplish radio production work. The text emphasizes digital equipment, but also includes information on the older analog equipment still used in many studios.

The worktext format combines information, Q&As, and projects, providing a complete resource for teaching and learning, either in a formal classroom setting or as a self-study guide for the individual. The companion CD-ROM provides project material and demonstrations of key concepts. Radio Production Worktext’s clear and simple approach makes it a useful reference for the entry-level broadcaster.

Chapter 1 is excerpted below for our AudioLink audience.

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CHAPTER 1


THE PRODUCTION STUDIO ENVIRONMENT

Figure 1.1
  FIGURE 1.1  Equipped with computer and broadcast equipment, a digital workstation desk can function as a complete audio "studio." (Image courtesy of Omnirax Studio Furniture.)
 

1.1 INTRODUCTION

The room that houses the equipment necessary for radio production work and in which a broadcaster’s finished product is assembled is known as the production studio. What may initially appear to be merely a roomful of electronic equipment will become a comfortable environment, once you’ve become familiar with the space and components that make up the production facility. If your facility has several studios, they may be labeled “Production 1” or “Prod. B” or simply identified with a common abbreviation for the production studio, “PDX.” Today, a streamlined digital “studio” may merely be a workstation desk setup in the corner of a room with a mix of computer and audio equipment as shown in Figure 1.1.

Traditionally, however, the radio production setting will be a full-blown studio and most radio facilities have at least two studios. One is usually delegated as the on-air studio and is used for live, day-to-day broadcasting. The others are production studios, used for putting together programming material that is recorded for playback at a later time. In other words, radio production is whatever isn’t broadcast live. This includes such items as commercials, features, public service announcements (PSAs), and station promotional or image spots (promos). Regardless of the actual physical size or shape, the production facility is the creative center for a radio station or production house. Often the production studio mirrors the on-air studio with the same or very similar equipment configuration and serves as a backup for the on-air room. Some stations also have a studio that is considered a performance studio or announce booth. It usually is smaller than the other studios and houses nothing more than microphones, a table, and chairs. The output is normally sent to a production studio to be recorded, although sometimes it’s sent directly to the on-air studio for live broadcast. A performance studio can be used for voice-over work, for taping interviews, for discussions involving several guests, or for putting a small musical group on the air.

Two of the biggest concerns for studio design looked at in this chapter are acoustics and ergonomics. Acoustics refers to how sound “behaves” within an enclosed space; and ergonomics refers to design considerations that help reduce operator fatigue and discomfort. While you may never build or remodel a broadcast studio, an understanding of the characteristics of the production room can help you assess your facility and suggest ways you can improve the surroundings you’ll be working in.

1.2 THE AUDIO CHAIN

Figure 1.2
  FIGURE 1.2  The audio chain shows how sound moves through the broadcast equipment that is linked together in the production studio.
 

Figure 1.2 shows a simplified “map” of the typical radio production studio. Starting with various sound sources, such as an announcer’s voice, a CD, or an audio recorder, it shows the routes that sound takes to ultimately be broadcast or recorded. This is often called an audio chain because the various pieces of equipment are literally linked together. The trip can be complicated since the sound can go through several changes along the way. For example, it can be dubbed, or copied, from CD to MiniDisc; or it can be equalized, which is a form of signal processing. The solid lines show sound being sent to the audio console from a variety of audio sources. Then it goes through signal processing equipment and finally to the transmitting system, which would be normal for an on-air studio. The broken line shows the sound being sent back to an audio recorder after signal processing, which would be common for a production studio. In both cases, the sound can be heard in the studio through monitor speakers or headphones. You’ll learn more about all of this as you work your way through this text, but for now the diagram in Figure 1.2 provides a look at where you are headed.

The equipment shown is also representative of what is found in the typical radio production studio. A microphone transforms the announcer’s voice into an audio signal. It is not uncommon for a production facility to have one or more auxiliary microphones for production work that requires two or more voices. Most production rooms also have two CD players, enabling different CDs to be played back-to-back or simultaneously. Many production studios still house a turntable so the occasional vinyl record can be played, but some have eliminated this piece of equipment. Audio recorder/player sources often include reel-to-reel or cassette recorders, although these analog devices, like the turntable, are becoming obsolete. Modern studios utilize digital gear, such as the MiniDisc recorder, personal audio editor, CD-R (compact disc) recorder, or computer-controlled digital audio workstation. How many recorders or players are found in the production room depends on the complexity of the studio and the budget of the station. All of this equipment feeds into the audio console, which allows the operator to manipulate the sound sources in various ways. Signal processing equipment, such as an equalizer, noise-reduction system, or reverb unit, is usually put into the audio chain between the audio console and the transmitting or recording equipment. Monitoring the sound during production work is accomplished with studio speakers or headphones.

Installment 1: The audio chain
Installment 2: Studio layout
using studio furniture & racks
Installment 3: Studio sound considerations, construction materials, and size and shape


AUTHORS: David Reese, General Manager of KUNV radio and Affiliate Assistant Professor in the Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies in the College of Urban Affairs at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV).; Lynne Gross, Professor, Communications Department, California State University, Fullerton. Independent programming consultant. President of Broadcast Education Association.; and Brian Gross, Professor in Radio, Film, and Television department at California State University at Fullerton. Published author, composer, and visual artist; video editor and writer for public television.

ISBN: 978-0-240-80690-7.

The worktext format provides a complete resource for learning & teaching.
The accompanying CD-ROM demonstrates key audio techniques.
The Chapters have been reordered to address digital production concerns.