Here are some tools that might make our collective job as road warriors simpler and more productive — helping us add value to our news product, whether that be in the form of better sound quality on quick voice reports from the field on a smartphone; quicker turnarounds on reports using editing software for those smartphones; better sound thanks to devices that improve feeds from improperly installed (but-that's-all-the-sound-you'll-get) mult boxes; and more options for Bluetooth-equipped cell phones.
An iPhone with a VeriCorder Mini Mic attached. I found many of these by prowling the spring NAB Show. Let me know your own ideas.
Seeking the Droids
Comrex's free Android codec app was one of Radio World's "Cool Stuff" Award winners. Simply, it allows a phone that runs Android software from Google to connect with a Comrex Access studio-based codec and deliver high-grade voice-quality audio (to 7.5 kHz) in real time.
The software uses the data plan on the Android phone (whether 3G or even 4G, where available) or a public or private wireless network (802.11 b/g/n) to transmit bidirectional audio. The days of cell phone garble passing for a remote or ROSer (Reporter on Scene) report will, once more 3G coverage rolls out, begin to be numbered.
There are similar options for the iPhone and iPad. Tieline showed the Report-IT Live app for the iPhone; it emulates an IP-based Tieline codec from the field. One acquires Internet access through the 3G network or an available wireless network. Users can broadcast live, and also record and forward submissions via FTP.
I asked a company spokesman if there were any plans to roll out such an app for Android-based phones. He said apps for iPhone are vetted by Apple before they go to the Apple store and are approved for use on an iPhone/iPad. "Because of that and the stability of the iPhone platform, we decided to stay with the iPhone for the time being." A lite version is free while the main app is $30 and an unlimited usage version is $280.
VeriCorder's VC Audio Pro software (starting at $180 per subscription) and hardware also works on iPhones, allowing reporters to record sound and edit it (much like what is done now via laptop) and transmit it back to the studio via FTP on either the 3G network or an available public or private Wi-Fi network.
JK Audio BlueDriver F3 and M3 The company also makes a video editing package called 1st Video (a service that starts around $300), ideal for reporters who must also feed video content to websites. VeriCorder markets a microphone, the VeriCorder Mini Mic, for about $20 that plugs into the headset jack of a smartphone.
Those who carry the BlackBerry may be asking the question, "What about us?"
VeriCorder Vice President of Strategic Alliances Kieran Foster told me that the BlackBerry is a good phone for what it does, but the VeriCorder applications require touchscreen smartphones with a lot of processing power. (Disclosure: Kieran and I served together in the same Army unit during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.)
It's easy being Blue
So, what do we do with our BlackBerry or other Bluetooth-equipped non-smartphone if we are in a live news situation or a revenue-producing remote broadcast situation, and that phone is the only way to get audio back to the studio?
Joe Klinger and JK Audio come to the rescue with a pair of Bluetooth dongles called the BlueDriver ($249 each), allowing the connection of a microphone-level signal output to the phone (F3) or the connection of the phone to a microphone-level XLR input on a mixer, etc. (M3) In a fluid situation it is much better than holding a cell phone up to a speaker to get sound.
The M3 can be used by a reporter in the field to get audio from a Bluetooth phone into a mixer or recorder. The reporter would monitor the call by listening through the headphone output of the device to which the M3 was connected.
Tieline Report-IT This means that reporters can work the phones in the field and record that sound for future reports — more efficient than coming back to the studio after each interview or news opportunity. The F3 allows a reporter to substitute a broadcast mic for the onboard mic on the phone. A 3.5 mm output has both sides of the conversation available for recording. One would monitor it through the recording device headphone output. And the charger for the BlackBerry (usually a mini USB) will also top up the battery-powered BlueDriver units; JK Audio provides one with the BlueDriver. The onboard lithium-ion battery is rated for 10 hours of use before a recharge.
Not humming along
Sound technicians and smart reporters have always carried devices that would get rid of hum from audio feeds that would be distracting if listened to for a prolonged time.
Sescom transformers have been carried by many of those techs and saved many a broadcast. Enter the redesigned Sescom IL-19.
The IL-19 ($49.95) is designed to remove ground loop hum (caused when a mult box and a mixer are not connected to the same electrical power circuit), mode noise and differentially induced hum. It's now contained in a high-impact ABS thermoplastic enclosure. Sescom also makes a two-line stereo version, IL-19-2 ($89.95) and a rackmountable six-channel box, IL-19-6RM ($299.95).
Patriot Solar Power Box Ever wish that you could chuck all the extra batteries you carry and still get the DC power you need?
For those road warriors who patrol the sunny climes, Patriot Solar Group showed off a suitcase-sized solar power box, starting at $800, that would run a small mixer and charge a smartphone or audio recorder, with the proper connections.
They also make solar chargers for BlackBerry/iPhone-style phones as well as solar backpacks and laptop bags, and solar powered flashlights. This may have another application: if your station bills itself as a green facility, perhaps the solar power box could power enough equipment for a remote broadcast, without plugging into the client's power outlets and at the same time make a tangible positioning statement about green broadcasting. Talk about self-contained!
Sometimes items get cut from columns for space. One item that did not make our microphone column in the Jan. 1 issue was Marshall Electronics' MicMate Pro.
Sescom IL-19 This device allows the user to connect a condenser or other microphone and a set of headphones with a 3.5 mm plug to a USB port on a laptop or desktop. The unit provides plenty of variable gain and 48 V of phantom power for those microphones that need it. It also has a gain control for headphones. It works well with shotgun condensers and studio mics alike. I used one to produce voice tracks for "Race-Talk" from the field.
Marshall showed a line of USB interfaces for line inputs and dynamic mics at the NAB Show, along with their condenser microphones, shotgun mics and accessories.
If you have a question, comment or suggestion for a future column, email@example.com me firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paul Kaminski is the news director for the Motor Sports Radio Network and a regular contributor to CBS News, Radio.