Hearing Aid Birmingham (and the Exec Results Show)

So having (to some extent) recovered from the loss of some of my computer data I’m now in a position to write about Hearing Aid

It all started with an email sent to me by Dave Bradshaw, who was interested in taking a charity event (called Hearing Aid) to a national level within the student radio community.

As I received the email just days before the SRA Awards I suggested that we talk about it at during the event in London… which led to a conversation lasting nearly one hour.

As by that point I had stood down from the Station Manager position (something I wouldn’t have done if I could have found a replacement Head of Engineering) the majority of the organisational work was done by Jo Day. This was especially true as my new show time for the Spring Semester broadcast now clashed with the weekly meetings we have to discuss general events and work. However there was still the engineering side to plan and organise. I thought I had the perfect solution…

Using the mixer normally reserved for our production studio, the easiest way to do an outside broadcast was to connect a laptop to the university’s network and stream the output back to the studio computer. Which was fine in theory.

However a second computer was required to play music. Initially I had hoped that I would have a new laptop to use, but as it’s been delayed I had to borrow one.

The Exec Results Show comes into this at this point, as the setup for that was nearly identical. While we didn’t use any computers for music playout (feed being instant) we simply needed two microphones and the live from the stage that we could broadcast. As we had two inputs the second was put to good use as a laptop was used to record the feed before either Josh or Ed could talk over it.

The output was send down to the BurnFM.com studio via GTV. As we had three channels to play with the extra channel was used to provide Josh and Ed with the broadcast signal (effectively allowing two-way communication between the studio and the mixer, though only on-air).

Generally the night went very well, though wan’t without problems. As the feed was quiet the silence detector assumed that nothing was broadcasting and decided to blast the backup minidisc over the airwaves instead. This was easily fixed – a simple case of removing the input and output cables that were connected to the silence detector and plugging them together – nice and easy!

The rest of the show was uneventful (in terms technical details) but just to be safe I had my minidisc player on hand, complete with the in-line remote with its FM tuner so I could moniter the output.

After eventually getting the equipment back into the studio I joined the afterparty n Joes bar. Having had huge assistance from Michael Salterwaite in setting up the GTV end of things, I then discovered that they had a huge cable that we could use to broadcast Hearing Aid with (by long I’m talking 50 metres)…

… So I was at BUGS just after 8am on Monday 5th March (having not left Joes the same night until 12:45am).

Having positioned the cable I then got round to getting our equipment upstairs and into the bar to broadcast with. Needless to say it wasn’t all plain sailing, as the power supply of Rob Davies’ Laptop was causing extra sounds to be broadcast from the soundcard.

So to plan C (plan A involving the use of my own laptop and desktop, neither of with were available – more on the desktop below). Another desktop. And as the production mixer was being used for the broadcast… why not the production studio computer?

After the first event (Family Fortunes, halfway during which Rob’s laptop died) I then setup the production computer in Joes. Again massive help was needed (provided by tech services) in getting it to work properly but that it did with little effort. All it needed was the playout software (a very powerful program called mAirList). It’s free for “non-commercial use” and it’s worth having for DJ sets or house parties, as it’s perfect for either.

So the rest of the day was uneventful, though around 6pm it became obvious that the sound wasn’t being broadcast in stereo. So the huge cable then became redundant and I went with the original plan of getting everything back to the studio, by streaming.

The other laptop performed perfectly. Although a wireless connection was used, there were on;y minor periods where it didn’t work.

Other people can put into words better than I can the sheer scale of the event and how successful we were in raising £1,089.56 for Comic Relief via Hearing Aid. It was a challenge and BurnFM.com hadn’t done any form of outside broadcasting before – we then get two broadcasts in as many days. THe best part is that it worked really well and hopefully they won’ be the last.

And if you’re thinking that it’s too late to donate to Hearing Aid – it isn’t!  You can still donate here.

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