SAN FRANCISCO —
SomaFM is a multichannel Internet broadcaster, and we use OtsAV for
most of our channels. A few of our music directors are Mac OSX-based
and use a Mac-based playout system but our most popular channels and
the majority of our listeners are listening to OtsAV-powered
We’ve developed a
workflow where we choose music from all the incoming tracks from
either iTunes or Winamp, and build playlists of music there for the
various music categories (e.g. high rotation, low rotation, oldies,
hot & new, etc.). Perl scripts take these playlists of MP3 files,
and using the ID3v2 or v1 tags, will rename the files using the Ots
file name encoding format to load the metadata for the songs, copying
them from the local workstation to the OtsAV playout system running
in our leased datacenter space.
These basic categories
are then used within the OtsAV scheduler, which is pretty amazing.
This is one of the killer features of Ots. It’s more of a
scheduling tool set than a GUI-based scheduler, but because of this
it is extremely flexible. It’s a simple programming language, but
is versatile. You can fit playlists into a specific time-block, and
Ots is smart enough to recursively go through your music database and
based on your rules, find a way to assemble a playlist that will
perfectly fit a block of time.
Alternatively, you can
run it in a mode where it’s not time-based, but rather based on
iterations of groups of songs and other audio assets. For some of our
channels that don’t run an hourly clock, we use this mode. I like
that OtsAV doesn’t “sound” like any of the more popular
broadcast schedulers. I’m not sure what it is, but I attribute it
to the flexibility of the scheduling tool and the great sounding
The other thing we love
about OtsAV is the overall sound. Out of the box with no
customization it sounds better than most other automation/playout
systems. The process for auto-generating segue data is great and only
rarely needs manual intervention (typically only when using tracks
that are from continuous-mix CDs does one have to manually adjust the
One “secret” of
OtsAV is that it can be run easily over Remote Desktop. This works
out great for remote broadcasts where we can control the system from
a laptop from anywhere. In fact, many of our DJs/channel directors
run their entire broadcasts remotely by connecting their laptops to
our Ots systems living in a datacenter in downtown San Francisco.
For doing Internet-only
or terrestrial side channels, you can actually run OtsAV playout and
the stream encoding software on a single box. The hardware setup we
have standardized on is a Supermicro 5015A-EHF-D525 base system with
2 GB RAM, running Windows XP or Windows 7, an Orban 1101e audio
processor board, Orban’s OptiCodec-1010 stream encoding software
(although you can optionally use the Shoutcast stream encoder). The
playout, processing and encoding run on a single machine and the CPU
load is rarely over 25 percent. The Supermicro systems are also very
power efficient which can add up over time in power savings.
If you’re on a budget
and can’t afford a $2,000 Orban audio processor board and encoder,
you can use the built-in OtsAV audio processing system, which is
surprisingly good. The wideband AGC excels in the fact that the
attack and release times can be set to really long times (over 100
seconds!). I’ve yet to run across an AGC — hardware or software —
that can be that set to those slow of times. It’s really brilliant
at gain riding.
On some of our channels
we run just the Ots internal processor with really slow attack and
release on the AGC and just a little bit of compression; mostly to
correct for the occasional audio that changes too fast for the AGC to
It also has a graphic
EQ though we don’t often use it. However, in the rare case it’s
super handy to have it there.
There are a lot of
features of OtsAV we don’t use (such as the virtual “scratching,”
the video features), but it’s nice to know that the system has that
OtsAV offers a free
trial for download at its website.
contact OtsAV at www.otslabs.com/email
or visit www.otsav.com.