PORTLAND, ORE. — Embodying the spirit of the Pacific Northwest, All Classical Portland is a public radio station that broadcasts classical music to 250,000 local listeners each week in Portland in southwest Washington, and some coastal Oregon communities on 89.9 MHz. More than 6 million people have streamed online at www.allclassical.org from approximately 160 countries. It is our commitment to share the most dynamic and wonderful performances on the air and consciously work to build our community through public service and the programming we share.
Founded in 1983, All Classical is Portland’s only 24-hour classical radio station, reaching listeners across Oregon via a network of HD Radio transmitters and repeaters, including KQHR(FM), serving Hood River/The Dalles, and KQOC(FM) and KQMI(FM), serving coastal areas. We moved our facility four years ago to a modern space within the Hampton Opera Center, where we enjoy spectacular views of downtown Portland, Tilikum Crossing, and the Willamette River from our on-air studio.
Since installing ENCO’s DAD (Digital Audio Delivery) radio automation system in 2009, we’ve relied on it daily for playout of virtually all of our music playlists, as well as six to eight prerecorded shows and promos. Assets loaded into the DAD database — on network attached storage — are assigned cut numbers, making them easier to search, organize, and manage. And while the system can be monitored and managed remotely, this automated playout system has proven to be precise and reliable.
Earlier this year, we upgraded our DAD system by opting for Presenter, an intuitive user interface that organizes the most critical information about our on-air operation into multiple on-screen windows, including the daily playlist, a search feature along with a Presenter program window. With any new software adjustments must be made, and staff must be appropriately trained. There were challenges for us implementing Presenter, but luckily the process was fairly quick and smooth thanks to our dedicated staff.
With its big, colorful buttons, icons and other on-screen visuals, the Presenter display makes it easy to grasp the status of our on-air operations at a glance. For example, as an item at the top of the playlist nears the end of its live playout, an on-screen element flashes boldly to get the operator’s attention, so that no cues are missed. Program changes are also much easier to make, simply by dragging and dropping items between the on-screen windows. The ability to achieve this on the fly during a live show is especially powerful.
When we need to search for a particular item, the search tool allows us to enter terms based on a keyword, phrase or number. It immediately generates a list of results residing in the cuts database that you can choose from, and we simply drag our selection over to the Presenter screen to add it to the playlist, even within moments of it going to air.
While DAD enables us to fully automate our station around the clock, we prefer for our on-air hosts to be on live during the day. This ensures that they can truly engage with listeners and refer to things happening in the community. For timeslots during the night and portions of the weekend, the announcers are voice-tracked. Those recordings are added to the DAD playlist and interspersed with the music, which ensures reliable, fully automated playout on schedule.
DAD color-codes the playlist so that operators can check the status of the transitions, including those that will be fully automated. Red means that playback will stop after the current selection ends, and an operator will need to step in to initiate the next track for playout. Yellow means the system will auto-play, but that no one has voice-tracked the transitions to finesse the way that one selection will lead into another. And green means the segues have been finessed, and the system is set to auto-play one selection after the next until the live operator takes back control.
The flexibility to be on the air live during the day, but to fully automate shows during the night, weekends and holidays, means that our staff can work reasonable hours and enjoy a better quality of life. DAD automation — including its new server-based environment — has really changed the way we do radio. And Presenter has made a world of difference in how we run our live operation.
For information, contact Ken Frommert at ENCO Systems in Michigan at 1-248-827-4440 or visit www.enco.com.