On The Air – Part 2

I ended the last post on a convenient cliff-hanger, right before the excitement of the Northumberland Folk show began. Nice touch, no?
So, the call came, “Transition and play ringding in 3, 2, 1, PLAY!”, and something went wrong, every single damn time (I exaggerate)! Once the ringding was done playing, the second call came, “Transition to blue microphone in 3, 2, 1) and the fun began.
At this time post-cake, the sugar was just setting in, so things went according to my well arranged (as always) plan, but after a few short minutes, small, little details started deviating, gradually leading to someone, usually me, saying something stupid that would throw the whole plot off course in a desperate attempt to steer the show back to the main story line. Examples include times when one character asked the character I was playing, “What are you doing here?” and I answered, “I don’t know”. Those three words changed the plot entirely to involving a bar, three new characters, the death of one older character and the inclusion of a clinic scene. Yes, I know, we are amazing. On the often occurring occasion, whenever one of my two colleagues wanted to spice up the story or were just plain bored, they would shout down the microphone, “Ooo, look! Another unknown character!” and throw the microphone across the room in the hope that someone would continue the story. This practice lead to several new characters; too many for three people to voice. As a result, we called in backup: an extra man. Unfortunately, this lead to even more petty arguments and even more complicated story lines. It ended up being the case that the loyal butler was some kind of thief or alcoholic, and the village idiot was some sort of intelligence agent, or something along the lines of that; I forget.

Left: out music manager; Right: the backup…

At Christmas time, Jack received a mac mini. It was mutually decided that the mac mini would broadcast the audio and the uStream feed simultaneously. The MacBook Pro became the ringding and “research” computer while the Vaio remained the music computer. As one can imagine, this new arrangement threw us all off guard again in terms of transitions! It was often the case that we had to cut off the ringding half way through to add a comment or do some last minute adjustment before the next segment. This was also the time when we recruited my Dell Inspiron 1525, known internally as the Dell Craptop, and Jack’s stone-age IBM ThinkPad, measuring in at 2 inches thick, known as the IBM StinkPad. These fine excuses of a computer sat quietly nearby just in case we had an issue with the MacBook Pro or Vaio. They were our quick-response team, although if it had ever come to using them, I doubt they would have been that quick!

 Left: IBM StinkPad; Center: Mac mini; Right: Dell 1525 Craptop

We were becoming pretty good at all of this radio broadcasting stuff, including the problematic transitioning sequence. Eventually came the time when I decided we had to move up to the next level, so I decided to invest in a Numark M4, an analogue 3 channel audio mixer, or in simple terms, a sound board, for £80. Along with this beauty, we needed the infrastructure: a large amount of varying new cabling. Those were ordered and arrived very quickly. It took be a day to learn this new thing, and using my iPod, mac and microphone; I tested various switched and buttons without much fruition. I was forced to read the instructions, which no tech savvy guy likes to do, and learn it that way. This method actually tuned out very productive! The fun came when I had to explain reverse crossfades to our music guy! It does not really help when he has limited tech vocab knowledge either, but explaining complicated tech is a challenge for any tech guy, one which I am glad to face up to!
The Numark M4

The M4 was hooked up as such. It sat in the middle of the MacBookPro and Vaio, with the line outs both feeding in to channel 2, switched between using a slider. The blue and red SingStar microphones (yes, we were still using them!) were plugged into channels 1 and 3, as they both needed phono inputs. The M4 had an output, which was connected to the line-in on the Mac mini.
The first broadcast with it was possibly our most productive yet, with somewhat smoother transitions and a more even volume level.
Northumberland Folk continued to go on its tangential pathways, eventually introducing a doctor, with slightly unorthodox treatments, handling a patient in a slightly unorthodox situation! Around this time, we introduced Avec Joe, the previously mentioned talk show hosted by the music guy. I had arranged this to be during the post post-cake timeframe: the time when all the sugar had passed though our systems and we were on the verge of crashing. He hosted interviews from Jack and myself, however, on one occasion, we had worked out how to hook up my iPhone to the system in a way to allow us to host calls on the air, talking to our listeners should we wish to do so. We got a few people, mostly all friends, on the line and talked to them about Northumberland folk, Avec Joe and other stuff. It provided a nice way to communicate with the audience more, if you are willing to believe that excuse!
We also had a copyright issue on the JMJUN site. An acquaintance of mine had seen our site, after me telling him to during my brief meeting with him, and shortly afterwards, had set up a new site with the same service for a radio station. Lets be clear here, that was NOT the issue. He was perfectly within his rights to do so, the issue came when his friend (or so he claimed) had copied and pasted word for word what we had accumulated over the past few months. How to access the audio stream from various operating systems, descriptions and even our damn motto! It used to be “Setting the Standards”. He changed his to “Really setting the standards”. After a tedious research session of copyright law in the UK and US, we had the right to bring legal action against him and the site (we had update records and all that stuff); but hay, we were kids! A few threatening emails here and there should solve it, right? No. This guy was so stubborn that even to this day, the site stands with our stuff on there! The satisfying this is, however, that they did not understand the limitations of FreeWebs storage capacity, and so only ever archived one broadcast, consisting only of music. We have a whole series archived, although we do not continue with the project anymore! That is why when I rant about copyright, listen! I have had my material infringed and enjoyed the use of others, as everyone unknowingly does every day.
Anyway, that’s the entirety, I believe, of my experience with JMJUN. For those who are wondering as to what JMJUN is meant to mean, it stands for the initials of the three founders: me, Jack Usher and the other guy, who shall remain anonymous.
For further interest, here is the final studio setup, the last one used for the final broadcast of JMJUN.

 Left: Mac mini with Dell monitor; Center: Whole setup; Right: MacBook Pro, Numark M4, Vaio
For those of you who want to know what the point of this exercise was, well, I think I shall make you wait until next week!
This cliff-hanger thing is addictive…


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