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Old 13th Jun 2019, 1:56 pm   #1
dave walsh
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Default BBC "Sound"

Not the blessed App Industry we are encouraged to embrace or the new "Sounds" brand name but actual sound quality or reception. I tend to monitor a lot of the output and there does seem to be quite a high number of dropouts during news or live politics features, people ringing in etc. Victoria Derbyshire had phone problems this morning. There was also difficulty with the notorious "ear-piece" from the House of Commons during Politics Live [that happens a lot with other programs]. There's often a break up on OB video as well. This seems to happen very regularly

Have standards dropped I wonder [by comparison with more vintage times?]. Is it privatised "providers", staff cuts, the proliferation of more links and outputs or some other technical issues? Forum members sometimes indicate that they have experience/knowledge of this area and I used to know someone who was responsible for the OB wiring up, often using Isolator Boxes, which he said were designed to ensure that BBC high engineering standards were not sullied by direct contact with other peoples's systems. Is it symptomatic of a different attitude or is the hardware maintained with less competence in the modern market?

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Old 13th Jun 2019, 1:59 pm   #2
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Default Re: BBC "Sound"

"sorry we have a bad line" seems to occur a lot, my landline phone always works!
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Old 13th Jun 2019, 2:05 pm   #3
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Default Re: BBC "Sound"

We find that the volume level varies, especially in the afternoons, sometimes it gets quieter and quieter until we can hardly here what they're saying, I think the sound level man must fall asleep sometimes.

Lawrence.
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Old 13th Jun 2019, 2:09 pm   #4
paulsherwin
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Default Re: BBC "Sound"

There are many reasons why technical failures occur in live programming, but the underlying factors are cost cutting and deskilling (or 'multiskilling' as it's euphemistically described). When I first started working at ITN in 1981 a standard ENG crew would be 5 specialist people - director, camera, sound, lighting, presenter. That level of manning would be completely unthinkable today.

There was a failed interview on Woman's Hour this morning with an academic in Israel. I suspect the Beeb were trying to use Skype or WhatsApp over the public internet rather than setting up a proper broadcast quality circuit with professionals at both ends. Simple cost cutting.
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Old 13th Jun 2019, 2:29 pm   #5
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Default Re: BBC "Sound"

On Radio4 the "promo" for BBC "sound" starts and ends with what sounds like a compact disk with a thumb print on it. I have no idea what the sound effects people were thinking of at the time they made that up.

Even continuity announcers have been issued with microphones that pick up clanking and rustling sounds that are almost as loud as the voices at times. Where on earth did they get such poor microphones from?

The phone lines are no better than they were before WWII.

They have an awful lot of technical equipment that is clearly not fit for purpose.
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Old 13th Jun 2019, 2:31 pm   #6
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Default Re: BBC "Sound"

Not sure just how much of the chain is actually owned and managed by the BBC (or any other broadcaster) these days. Their bit is probably as it ever was, but it's all independent programme makers now. Mirrors many aspects of modern life, not just Aunty.
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Old 13th Jun 2019, 3:02 pm   #7
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Default Re: BBC "Sound"

I don't think "phone lines" are used for any news-y OB stuff these days - if you're setting up a 5-minute interview with someone in their office (which may be half way round the world) and "we're on-air in five minutes" you clearly won't have the time or resources to set up a "proper broadcast-quality line".

Can you even still get that stalwart of last-century ad-hoc studio-connenctivity the 2B+D ISDN circuit? I know that when ClassicFM started up they were using 2B+D to connect their presenters' home-studios to their main production facility.

These days for ad-hoc interviews it'll invariably be a Skype/QuickTime session, a cellphone-call or - maybe - a SIP session. I recall setting up videoconferences over Inmarsat using portable BGAN terminals which were remarkably good quality.

At least these days we're generally spared the bursts of rasping noise that comes from using OB equipment with inadequate immunity to nearby cellular-phone/data signals.
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Old 13th Jun 2019, 3:04 pm   #8
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Default Re: BBC "Sound"

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Originally Posted by ms660 View Post
We find that the volume level varies, especially in the afternoons, sometimes it gets quieter and quieter until we can hardly here what they're saying, I think the sound level man must fall asleep sometimes.
Not sure which transmission is fading in the afternoon, but on many a station, there isn’t a ‘sound level man’ as such. A self op studio is typically connected directly to the transmitter, relying on a limiter-compressor to manage levels.

Even the self op studio is facing redundancy. At least one popular local station round these parts consists just of a PC in the manager’s house. The audio goes over the internet to a local church with a high spire which is ideal for transmitter and antenna. Results are impressively professional.

Martin
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Old 13th Jun 2019, 3:13 pm   #9
ms660
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Default Re: BBC "Sound"

BBC News 24, whatever the reason, the sound level isn't consistent.

My wife notices the same too.

Lawrence.
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Old 13th Jun 2019, 4:23 pm   #10
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Default Re: BBC "Sound"

For my daily "fix" of politics and current affairs, I tune to Sky News.
Too many presentation errors and technical failures on the BBC, and whenever I do watch it, something will usually happen to make me cringe.
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Old 13th Jun 2019, 5:16 pm   #11
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Default Re: BBC "Sound"

I have to say broadcasts on BBC Radio 3 continue to be of very high standards. Live concerts are a particularly good experience.....long may it last!
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Old 13th Jun 2019, 5:55 pm   #12
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Default Re: BBC "Sound"

I think Radio Three have a 'No Compression' sign on the door...
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Old 13th Jun 2019, 6:05 pm   #13
60 oldjohn
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Default Re: BBC "Sound"

I occasionally listen to Radio 4 this week there were a number of silent pauses during various programmes. First thoughts, what has gone wrong with the radio I have just repaired, then I realise there is background noise with faint distant a station, then the programme resumes. These outages maybe less than 20 seconds but seem like a minute or two. I should say the meter showing signal strength always showed full strength, it was just the audio that was cut.


John.

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Old 13th Jun 2019, 6:05 pm   #14
G6Tanuki
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Default Re: BBC "Sound"

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Originally Posted by Welsh Anorak View Post
I think Radio Three have a 'No Compression' sign on the door...
Wish they'd time-compress their annoyingly-long periods-of-silence though! [or backfill with low-level reference-tones so the audience don't all start wondering if the feed's been lost].

At least Radio3's infrastructure seems to handle clapping without too many problems: the DSP used by quite a few other stations is a total fail when faced with applause, sports-stadium crowdsounds or the parliamentary "hear hear" background-to-debate.
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Old 13th Jun 2019, 6:30 pm   #15
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Default Re: BBC "Sound"

Quote:
this week there were a number of silent pauses during various programmes
I find a bit of intended "dead air" quite refreshing. Even unintended is good as it makes one think about the fragility of modern tech. time for a book!
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Old 13th Jun 2019, 7:10 pm   #16
Hartley118
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Default Re: BBC "Sound"

Quote:
Originally Posted by G6Tanuki View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Welsh Anorak View Post
I think Radio Three have a 'No Compression' sign on the door...
Wish they'd time-compress their annoyingly-long periods-of-silence though! [or backfill with low-level reference-tones so the audience don't all start wondering if the feed's been lost].

At least Radio3's infrastructure seems to handle clapping without too many problems: the DSP used by quite a few other stations is a total fail when faced with applause, sports-stadium crowdsounds or the parliamentary "hear hear" background-to-debate.
Once upon a time, I was enjoying lunch with a rather senior BBC TV sound manager when, after a few drinks, the conversation veered towards radio sound and relative status. His emphatic view went like this: Why should Radio 3 balance engineers be so highly regarded? Tune to Radio 3 and most of the time, what do you hear? Bl***y silence!

Martin
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Old 13th Jun 2019, 9:49 pm   #17
Wellington
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Smile Re: BBC "Sound"

Quote:
Originally Posted by G6Tanuki View Post
Wish they'd time-compress their annoyingly-long periods-of-silence though!
Quote:
Originally Posted by merlinmaxwell View Post
I find a bit of intended "dead air" quite refreshing.
I feel that there is something quintessentially English about the silences on Radio 3, though I think that they have got shorter in recent years. I get a similar nostalgic feeling when I hear the 'Open University' ident tune.
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Old 13th Jun 2019, 9:55 pm   #18
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Default Re: BBC "Sound"

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Originally Posted by G6Tanuki View Post
Can you even still get that stalwart of last-century ad-hoc studio-connenctivity the 2B+D ISDN circuit?
They are endangered here. I know ISDN in Invercargill is on notice, I've got one site on PRI who will have to replace their phone system by early next year.

Rhema Media used to use them on their roadshows but they were expensive to set up. Everything is over IP now - using broadcast quality equipment/codecs.

I am not sure if they have started yet, but they were configuring a studio in Oamaru at the home of the drive announcer on their primary network (Rhema), who moved there and is quite tech-savvy, as a pilot for doing more work out of Auckland - almost a throwback to their distributed network from the 80s and early 90s, but without local breakout or cripplingly high Telecom leased line bills.
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Old 13th Jun 2019, 10:02 pm   #19
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Default Re: BBC "Sound"

I totally agree, I love silences, some stations are a "wall of sound" every nanosecond crammed with pointless noise....I find that very jarring.
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Old 13th Jun 2019, 10:03 pm   #20
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Default Re: BBC "Sound"

Quote:
Originally Posted by G6Tanuki View Post
Wish they'd time-compress their annoyingly-long periods-of-silence though! [or backfill with low-level reference-tones so the audience don't all start wondering if the feed's been lost].
I guess no silence detection then

On the Rhema Media networks, after about 10 seconds of silence emergency programming cuts in. If that fails, our local EPU on Life FM cuts in after 16 seconds. The downside is that a minutes' silence (e.g. for the Canterbury earthquakes, Christchurch terrorist attack etc) can't be broadcast - often they'll just play a version of God Defend New Zealand.

RNZ Concert seems to like broadcasting silence though. It's our equivalent of your BBC Radio 3, RNZ just came up with more imaginative names for their networks
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