Q It Up: How Did Your Staff Handle the Change to Digital?

Q-It-Up-Logo-sep95by Sterling Tarrant

What if they made a movie called "Twister" and it was about a popular floor game instead of funnels of destruction? I say funnels of destruction instead of tornados because I'm not sure whether tornados is spelled "tornados" or "tornadoes" and I'm too lazy to go look it up.

Being lazy leads me to my premise: When jocks say they don't want to have anything to do with a new digital editor, it's because they're either A) too lazy to get over their fear of computers, or B) too lazy to get over their fear of change. Seeing the movie Twister made me think that it probably would have been easier to make a movie about a vinyl floor mat instead of an F5 hand of God hurtling tanker trucks at the screen; but shoot, why take the easy and lazy way out? Same with learning a digital editor, or copywriting, or helping clients with their marketing, or positioning our station, or improving our sound. Why take the lazy way out on anything? Bring on the tanker trucks. Let's see 'em explode!

How about the folks at your station? Do they want to learn the digital stuff? I talked this month to a few Production Directors who have digital gear to see how their staffs handled the change to a digital system. Let's see how they facilitated the change:

John Frost, KROQ-FM, Los Angeles. They have a few Orban DSE-7000s. We purposely got the easiest one to learn so that you could have anybody...interns, little dub guys, DJs, anyone learn this thing on their own, within an hour, so that we could have that many more creative forces...because you can't get enough good ideas. There's no giant leaps in concept or theory that you have to learn. It runs like a reel-to-reel machine. Interns can start learning how to make stuff like beds for DJs to talk over. I don't have to worry about it 'cause now I have fifty people or so who all know how to loop things. We all adapted to it quickly.

After talking with John, I would think that if you're at a major station like K-Rock, you would have to be able to adapt easily. You've learned about how change is inevitable in this business, and, if you want to get to the top, you had better accept it. Speaking of a major change for someone, John continues:

We need a production genius, someone who's not afraid to try stuff, for Howard Stern's station in New York, WXRK. I can't do both stations at the same time anymore. It's driving me insane. Send tape and resume to me or to Steve Kingston at WXRK in New York, 212/750-0550. There's plenty of money in this position. I think some RAP reader should get it 'cause they're the creative ones.

Next, Charlie Walker at WKDF/WGFX in Nashville, TN uses a Pacific Recorders ADX system. What I'm finding out is that the ones who wanted to learn our old analog 8-track are the ones who are wanting to learn this thing. When I'm teaching people how to use it, I try to do it three at a time because one person might be hesitant to ask a question that somebody else will ask. People don't want to appear stupid. They can all then help to explain things to each other. Change is hard on some people. I know of someone who is having trouble getting a hold of the concept of nonlinear editing. You have to get across to people that these machines are just tools. You still have to have the creativity, ideas and delivery. So I'm trying to "un-intimidate" them that way. It's just a tool that we as human beings use to help us achieve an end. The better you know your tools, the better you're going to be.

Jeff Berlin, WXKS-FM, Boston, MA uses Pro Tools. One thing I've found out is that if people aren't passionate about doing production, they'll have a curiosity, but not really a desire to learn a workstation. You have to show people that it's necessary to learn it and necessary to change the way they're doing things if they're going to make a living. For instance, we just bought a "Vox Pro" system. It's a digital system for recording and editing phone calls on the air. The jocks love it. We're a CHR station that does a lot of phone bits, so it's necessary for their jobs. All our jocks are on the Internet. It's becoming necessary for their jobs. We've had to embrace computers in our work to be better. Plus, the younger folks are embracing this stuff. In fact I'm trying to teach some of them how to splice so that they'll be grounded in our traditions.

Jeff wants to point out that at his home studio he's using a Power Macintosh 7200 running software called "Deck" Version 2.5. He says it does everything Pro Tools does, but it only costs $285. Jeff says, "It's from a company called OSC. Deck used to be Pro Tools in the early '90s before the company was bought out." Check out your digital audio distributor for details.

Chris Adams, K106, Boise, ID whose station uses Session 8: Our staff was scared to use the unit until I was able to sit down with them and say, "See this little line here...that corresponds to track one on our multitrack." So when I could put it into words and concepts that corresponded to our old system, the staff became much more free to experiment with it. We sat down all at once to learn it, and we still do. Now, they come to me individually to learn more advanced stuff. Some of the older jocks don't want to have anything to do with computers. We still have tape machines, and we don't force digital on them. The time's coming though when they won't have a choice, and it's not like we haven't given them an opportunity. I'm one of the older guys here, but I tell you, I love my computer.

In my life I am learning firsthand about the inevitability of change. It's my belief that we have a natural propensity to resist change. I think we're created with that because when we're going through the midst of change, it causes us to rely more on things that are constant. A few weeks ago, two tornadoes ripped through my home town of Decatur, Illinois. One of them came within six streets of my mother's house. It destroyed our neighborhood grocery store and, almost, my high school. When things like that happen, you start to realize how fragile life is and how there's no way you can resist change, be it with a new digital sound editor, or family, or relationships, or your job. It will all ultimately change. Here's to hoping you'll find something that always lasts.

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet