All posts by Ian

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.

I'm unhappy right now…

So it’s only taken seven weeks but I’ve finally got my computer back and in business…

 …well sort of.  It turns out that the hard disk was formatted by the company that supplied it, even though it was working properly.  At least I’ve got all of the 60GB of data I had in saved in the my documents folder.  But the other 15GB is gone, apparently because I’m “not supposed to save data to other parts of the hard disk.”

Which is ridiculous.  It’s taken long enough (and a threat of legal action) to get my computer back (when technically after 4 weeks they were breaking the law).  I’m now in the position whereby I’ve lost some very important files for good.

In case that isn’t good enough the computer was given to me indirectly by Birmingham University (as I have dyspraxia – a variation of dyslexia).

One typed out rant later led to a 1,180 word email which has now been sent – I’d like to think that Birmingham University would be interested to know the full details about the problems I’ve had!

On a more positive note Hearing Aid went well… I’ll do a proper post about it soon (with pictures).

Hearing Aid

So Hearing Aid is finally taking shape.

Hearing Aid is a charity event created by Livewire 1350 at UEA in Norwich.  Last year they raised over £2,500.  However they wanted to make it bigger.  At November’s Student Radio Awards they spoke to several university radio stations (including BurnFM.com) about having events at different universities at the same time. 

The main issue has always been doing a live broadcast from somewhere that isn’t the broadcast studio.  The obvious method has always been to use the Internet to stream back to our studio.  However the catch has aleays been finding a suitable Internet access point to connect to.

Four  hours of meetings and discussions earlier today have brought us some good news. 

Our current IT department has been really helpful with our problems and Hearing Aid has proved to be no exception.  We’re now at the point where we will be using a wireless router to stream from a laptop in Joes to the bar where our router will sit.  This provides the all-important Internet connection – so expect us to doing a proper outside broadcast!

However if that’s the easy part, getting the stream to sound good is the major difficulty.  Managing two computers at the same time has the potential to cause problems but should work (one being used to play music and jingles, the other for the stream).  The main problem is getting the live bands to sound good and having long enough cables for the microphones so we can do all the charity events we have planned.

This is where our Technical department comes in.  They’ll be providing us with a high quality feed for the live music and making the necessary cables to make it work (unfortunately for a price).  

However having enough energy to last twelve hours could well be the biggest problem!

This is something we have never tried before and is certainly one of the biggest events of it’s kind.  Nine student stations (down from the original fourteen) are invloved and the majority are having live bands as the big event.  In terms of scale the BurnFM.com event may well be one of the biggest in terms of the number of mini-events and the amount of air-time being devoted to the event.  I’m unaware of the general plans for the other stations but having the ability to broadcast the bands live is something quite special.

So when does it take place?  The Birmingham event is on Monday 5th March 2007.  Only five days away!

Yesterday…

As many of you may know it was my birthday yesterday, so I’m now officially old by undergraduate student standards now I’m 22.

As is normal for my birthdays it was fairly quite, though a trip to the pub was always going to happen. A little annoyed that the pub in question was experiencing “technical difficulties” so very little was available on tap – not that it mattered to me as a bottle of Magners is my drink of choice and there was plenty of it.

The thing that surprised me was the number of posts on my Facebok wall.  Considering that I had a total of sixteen posts since I signed up in July I had no fewer than nine people wish me happy birthday.  I’m obviously more popular than I thought.

So thanks to those people who did – I really appreciated it!

Ian