TheEC: Help with Online Listening & Podcasts

Jun 15, 2015

Everybody loves the RIPR webcast!
Credit iPhone6Wallpapers.com

Listening to RIPR online gets easier every day!  But since the webcasting world is constantly changing, we have to change, too! If you've got a problem hearing us on your Android phone, or you want to know what's going with the stream on our website?  Or maybe you need a little help choosing a wifi radio?  

All is revealed on our Streaming Help page at www.ripr.org/streaming

Check it out for all sorts of helpful info on how to keep the bits flowing and RIPR on your speakers - now freshly updated by your Intrepid Engineer with new info on podcasts and NPR One!

Podcasting, you say?  Why yes!  We know that you love RIPR content but you can't always catch it live, so we have several of our shows available as podcasts.  

What's a podcast?  If you're not already familiar, this means you have software on your computer or smartphone that watches for updates on a special web feed, and when it detects one, it downloads an audio file (usually an MP3) automatically to your device, so you can listen to it at your leisure.

What podcasts does RIPR offer?  Check out podcast.ripr.org for the full list, but it's weekly segments like our Political Roundtable and Bonus Q&A, hosted by Ian Donnis, Scott MacKay and Maureen Moakley.  Or Scott MacKay's weekly commentary.  And our hourly newscasts, too!

Hourly newscasts, too?!?  Yes, and I'd like to talk about that because it's an interesting system we had to cook up to make this work.

We don't have the manpower to manually create a newscast for all 15 of the daily weekday newscasts, so I had to create a system that would automate all of it.  Here's the breakdown:

  • All our newscasts air at very specific times, measured down to the second, to stay in synchronization with NPR's content.  We've talked about this before when NPR changed their program "clocks".
  • I have a computer set up with a copy of the audio being fed out to our transmitters, via a distribution amplifier, running software called Total Recorder that starts and ends recordings every weekday to match the specific times the local newscasts air, and spits out a 64kbps mono MP3 file of the newscast.
  • After recording, a file management program called Fileaze makes several copies of the resulting MP3 into different folders.
  • Then a program called GoodSync automatically scans those folders for any changes, and take actions according to the folder.
    • One folder/action copies one version to a local server computer on our network that runs a media server called Subsonic; we use that for in-house review & critique of the newscasts.
    • Another uploads the newscast MP3 to ripr.net, a special web host we have that's on a separate server from ripr.org.  On ripr.net, we have a podcast PHP script running called DirCaster that manages incoming podcast requests.

Since the recording starts/stop automatically based on a clock, it's not quite perfect.  Sometimes we upcut/downcut someone's voice a little bit, usually because the network ran late or our host started a little early.

We're in the process of migrating our entire studio facility to a Logitek AoIP (Audio over IP) mixer system, which will give me far, far, FAR more flexibility about isolating specific audio sources to feed to the podcast recorder.  That way I can eliminate the up/down cuts by removing the network audio from that feed.

Why no newscast podcast during pledge drives?  Because pledge breaks shuffle around all the other content, our newscasts end up airing at different times than the recorder expects.  So we turn off the recorder during pledge drives lest it just podcast out really odd-sounding breaks.  (ditto for the local newscast feed to NPR One)   I'm hopeful we can fix that with the new Logitek AoIP mixer as well.