What’s in Your Production Toolbox?

Some radio pros reveal the tools they use daily to create the content that gets on the air
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Radio World talked with radio production pros across the country — at both the network and station levels — to pick their brains and hear what tools they use on a daily basis.

Not surprisingly, different people and operations used various tools. However, there were some tried-and-true names mentioned as well. Read on.

What is your favorite software platform tool or the main one you use on a regular basis?

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SADiE 5 DAW I use the SADiE digital workstation from England; they’re distributed in the U.S. by Prism Sound. The BBC used this software for a long time. I began using SADiE 4 in 2003 because it was the best program for long-form production such as a four-hour show. When I was hired to do the countdown, I requested that they provide me with the newer version, the SADiE 5. It’s very quick and effective for cutting, pasting and assembling each hour in real time.

Lonnie Napier
Executive Producer
“American Country Countdown
With Kix Brooks”
“Kickin’ It With Kix”
Westwood One

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David Dein works with Adobe Audition at WAWZ. Note the handheld recorders nearby. Sony Vegas Pro — I had to start on it in 2001 because that’s all the station I worked at had at the time. I had been an Orban Audicy user in the late ’90s as the DAW movement began. I also use Adobe Audition for basic functions like time-stretch, batch converting and basic “two-track” editing, but for imaging, it’s always Sony Vegas.

Chris Morales
VP and Head of Imaging
Yahoo Sports Radio

Adobe Audition CS 6 is what I use. But I still love Adobe Audition 3.0 for speed and reliability.

David A. Dein
Music Coordinator/Creative Services
WAWZ(FM), Zarephath, N.J.

My digital audio workstation is Pro Tools v10.0, running on a Power Mac G5 with the Digi 002 interface. Some would argue this system is “overkill” for radio production. I would respond: “You don’t understand what I do.” The richness of my final product requires a robust system that can handle these complexities.

Scot Kirk
VP Production — Music Formats/Shows
Westwood One

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Cara Shillenn, a producer for the syndicated “Doug Stephan Good Day Program,” assembles a project using Cool Edit 2.1 at the Radio America Network. We are still using Cool Edit 2.1 here every day, even after we moved up to Windows 7. It still sounds great, everyone here knows it inside and out and can work fast and accurately with it. I’m not holding out a lot of hope for it to continue working on Windows 10, but fortunately we have time for that. … In my personal home studio, I’ve switched to Harrison Mixbus. I’ve tried — and really like — Reaper, and I recommend it to everybody, but I enjoy the sound I get out of Mixbus.

Al Peterson
Production Director
Radio America Network

Adobe Audition 6

Dave Plotkin
Director of production & creative services for a large metropolitan radio station

Social media software from my phone — including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Social media connects me, the show, the listeners, the artists and what is currently happening in the pop culture world.

Susan Stephens
“Zach Sand and the Gang”
Senior Vice President/General Manager, Music & Entertainment
Westwood One

What is your favorite or most-used software plug-in tool?

IZotope Ozone versions 3, 5 and 6 are amazing. The presets make your final projects pop. There’s nothing worse than working on a great production piece with it sounding awesome out of the speakers, only to hear it die on the air. Ozone gives me the right amount of pop on the vocal tracks, as well as just the right amount of mastering on the final pieces, and each successive update is its own self-contained program, so you don’t have to trade off your favorite presets when you upgrade.

David A. Dein
WAWZ(FM)

VoxPro. It is the best for recording/editing calls with “Zach Sang & the Gang” listeners for on-air use.

Susan Stephens
Westwood One

Waves L2 Ultramaximizer

Chris Morales
Yahoo Sports Radio

I use numerous audio plug-ins, all part of the Waves Gold Bundle. Equalization, compression and reverb are the most often utilized.

Scot Kirk
Westwood One

Waves L1 Ultramaximizer

Dave Plotkin

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Waves Ultramaximizer Plug-ins

How about your favorite hardware tool?

I am a strong believer in analog voice compression. That is why I use the Symetrix 528E on all my RE27s. I find the Symetrix to be a lot more transparent and natural sounding in their vocal translation than the digital units that I’ve used.

Lonnie Napier
Westwood One

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A Radio Legend, the Symetrix 528E Voice Processor

For field recording, I love my Edirol R-09. That they don’t make them anymore really makes me super sad and very protective of it. It’s small; its microphone does a yeoman’s job when you have to do a nine-person table discussion or a one-person interview at a concert.

David A. Dein
WAWZ(FM)

Shure SM5B microphone

Dave Plotkin

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Neumann U 87 Neumann U 87 microphone

Chris Morales
Yahoo Sports Radio

What’s the one piece of equipment you want but don’t have — something that would make your job easier or more fun?

Sennheiser MKH 416 shotgun microphone for voiceovers. What a sound!

Dave Plotkin

I’d like to get an outboard mastering processor like TC Electronic’s Finalizer 96k … but who has time for outboard gear anymore?

Chris Morales
Yahoo Sports Radio

Fun? Nothing less than a Moog System 55 analog modular synthesizer. I’ve wanted one since I was about 14, but they cost the same as a Lexus CT 200H, so it’s not bloody likely.

Al Peterson
Radio America Network

Do you have a music library/service? If so, what one?

I use TM Studios and Benztown Branding. I’m responsible for the creative direction and on-air image of more than 20 different music formats as well as numerous shows. Needless to say, I consume an extraordinary amount of production music and workparts, and these two companies fulfill my needs. Their dedication to the craft — as well as their relentless pursuit of constantly creating and updating relevant production music and workparts — is beyond impressive.

Scot Kirk
Westwood One

We use 5 Alarm. It’s easy to search through the cuts, new material is added frequently, and the composers/artists who work through them have a good grasp of a lot of genres.

Al Peterson
Radio America Network

We use Audio Architecture for commercial production and Shortbus for imaging.

David A. Dein
WAWZ(FM)

I use too many to count, but Alien Imaging is worth mentioning. It’s cost-efficient and has a buyout imaging library that is really is spectacular.

Chris Morales
Yahoo Sports Radio

“Zach Sang & the Gang” uses Hit Disc Music Service from TM Studios.

Susan Stephens
Westwood One

Elias Music Library, Warner Chappell and Megatrax

Dave Plotkin

What element, segment, bit do you consider yourself the master of?

I would consider myself the master of long-form show imaging, including show opens, rejoins and more, to set the stage for performers and pump them and their listeners up. Over the years, anytime I explain what I do to fans of a show or listeners, they mention “show openings.” They don’t know to call it imaging, but they recite how they think it sounds cool or makes them laugh before the show begins. That is the goal — we are still doing radio and theater of the mind. Because of budgets and decreasing staffs, we have allowed imaging to be thought of as a dry voice track over a rock or hip-hop bed. That’s not imaging; that’s production. Let’s not get it confused with what our job as imagers is — making something sound “bigger than life” and “cooler than what it really is.” It’s the station or show’s marketing; it’s your audio billboards on the side of the freeway of a listener’s brain.

A former boss, Andrew Ashwood (RIP), would call it the “Zippie Zow Wow.” What does that even mean? Exactly, it means what we want it to be. This is radio.

Chris Morales
Yahoo Sports Radio

In my job turnaround is always a problem. I once had to image an entire new station in less than a week, and it needed to sound like it had taken months. So I think I’m the master of doing things fast that don’t sound like it.

Does your show/station/network do enough or not enough in-house production? If not enough, what’s missing?

There’s always something missing, or to rephrase your work should embarrass you a little if you revisit it six months later. That’s the beauty of production, once you know the rules you need to start breaking them, or you get stale.

David A. Dein
WAWZ(FM)

I have a real skill for, not only writing imaginative copy that really paints a picture and tells a story, but making that script come to life.

Dave Plotkin

Do you do jingles and promos? If you do, tell us about that.

Lots of imaging and promos. As a network show, “Zach Sang & the Gang” updates imaging both on the network and for local stations daily. Promos are a must with daily promos sent to all affiliates teasing the next night’s show.

Susan Stephens
Westwood One

Many of our music formats utilize jingles. These are not your parent’s jingles: they are updated for the 21st century, and sound fantastic on-air. TM Studios is our go-to … the best in the business.

Scot Kirk
Westwood One

In creating station promos/imaging, we like to think up different and creative ways to get out message across ... and still be straightforward with the delivery at the same time.

Dave Plotkin

Does your show/station/network do enough or not enough in-house production? If not enough, what’s missing?

That’s all we do. Radio America produces “The Doug Stephan ‘Good Day’” program and “The Roger Hedgecock Show” live every weekday, and we rent studio space to a prominent conservative host aired on another network. The place is buzzing every day.

Some shows come to us from outside producers, and all we do on those is quality control for levels and fidelity. Otherwise, we produce many original hours of political talk, financial and lifestyle shows every day — both live and prerecorded, weekday and weekend — in addition to remixing those shows for podcasts and for affiliate download.

We are uncommon in that we also have a video production arm here as well (videostudio66.com) and a number of our radio staff double as TDs, audio and lighting directors and camera operators. We also record veterans’ personal histories, which we share with the Library of Congress, and do studio media tours for outside clients. So, yeah, we’re kinda busy.

Al Peterson
Radio America Network

The “Zach Sang & The Gang Show” has access to great in-house production, using the resources of Westwood One Creative Services team with daily updates to imaging and daily production to be current with everything that’s happening in the pop world at the moment.

Susan Stephens
Westwood One

We do utilize some freelance producers, but the vast majority of our creative production is done in-house by me and my fantastic team.

Scot Kirk
Westwood One

Do you have some fave production tools or fantastic tips? Let us know atradioworld@nbmedia.com.

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