Radio World publishes User Reports on products in various equipment classes throughout the year to help potential buyers understand why a colleague made a given equipment choice. These are unpaid testimonials by users who have already purchased the gear. A Radio World Product Evaluation, by contrast, is a freelance article by a paid reviewer who typically receives a demo loaner.
ARLINGTON, Va. — A year ago, the Linux-based Rivendell Radio Automation suite appeared in this Buyer’s Guide, begging the question, “Can an open-source, inexpensive automation system really work?” The answer is a resounding yes.
Rivendell, from Paravel Systems, is in use in dozens of North American stations, by Internet and shortwave broadcasters and at least three domestically-based radio networks (including Salem Communications and Radio Free Asia) and at stations as far-flung as the Philippines, Austria and Belgium.
The Rivendell System is shown at work in Radio America’s Control Room B. Now at Version 2.0, Rivendell remains mature, rock stable, immune to PC viruses and easy to use. It has new features to aid broadcaster in the digital age, including a fresh DVD approach to installation and startup. And it is still free.
Lots to do
Here at Radio America, Rivendell manages storage and playout of recorded programs, bumps, bits and commercial material for two outbound program channels while firing off relevant satellite relay closures for affiliates.
While doing that, it is handling airchecking and logging of all program audio. Without breaking a sweat, it encodes and uploads podcasts of shows that ended only moments prior.
These are stock functions of Rivendell; no expensive add-ons or downstream options are necessary.
Music stations can take advantage of a free voice-tracking module to give a “live” sound to unattended hours. A play-while-recording feature means network newscasts can be delayed for slip-time playback. The software converses well with nearly every traffic and music scheduling program out there. Activating the built-in Rivendell Loadable Module API allows Webcasters to provide now/next titles, while terrestrial broadcasters can scroll RDS messages. Again, all included.
With Linux running the show, Rivendell can be on the air for months without a reboot. Rob Landry, the contract engineer for WCRI(FM), Block Island, R.I., reports an uptime of 1,158 days, an astounding three years and two months of uninterrupted service, from a Rivendell system he built. As shown in the photo, there is a big, clear playout screen (RDAirplay) and a multipage instant playback button wall (RDPanel), the way your live talent wants to see it.
Among the new features, there is now main library support for MPEG Layer II audio on common soundcards. Until recently when the patent for MP2 ran out, the file format could only be handled by licensed (and often expensive) soundcards. With this development, Rivendell can support MP2 playout on most inexpensive cards of the user’s choice.
Rivendell can import and export audio in WAV, MP2, MP3, OGG and FLAC formats without conversion by an external program. By using the integrated RDImport program, existing music libraries from retiring automation systems can be batch-converted and imported into Rivendell in one pass.
If you are working with a third-party switcher or console router system, Rivendell is at home with units from Axia, Broadcast Tools, Logitek and SAS.
What will be the most compelling aspect of Rivendell 2.0 to new users is the rollout of the “Appliance DVD.”
This is not a demo that goes 15 days and then “pumpkins” out on you. It is a free downloadable DVD that installs an entire working Rivendell environment on fresh PC hardware: a streamlined OpenSUSE Linux operating system, the MySQL database and the entire Rivendell suite.
No expertise in Linux or MySQL is necessary: Start the DVD, add a user name and a password, begin importing music and spots, hook your soundcards up to your console and go.
Basic computer know-how is sufficient to get the system on the air, but some knowledge of Linux as well as a serious flip through the operations guide will help you get the most out of Rivendell.
If installing and tweaking software sounds like too much work, Paravel Systems will configure made-to-order studio workstations using nonproprietary hardware and high-end ASI audio interfaces (or Axia Livewire IP interfaces), and offers affordable annual technical support.
Users of the DVD can purchase tech support, or may post technical and operational questions to the Rivendell-dev public mailing list. A large community of users answers questions and offers free advice.
The author is assistant chief engineer with Radio America Network.
For information, contact Paravel Systems in Virginia at (877) 447-2728 or visitwww.paravelsystems.com.