Q It Up: Archiving Commercials from Multiple Sources

Q-It-Up-Logo-sep95Q It Up: Not so many years ago, archiving spots was easy. Pretty much everything arrived on reel — easy to label, file and retrieve. Now, stations get spots delivered on reel, the occasional cassette, CD, MiniDisc, DAT, via an FTP site, as an e-mail attachment, on the DGS box, on floppy or Zip discs, and the folks at Audiosonix, Spot Taxi, and similar services are knocking at the door. Do you have an efficient system for saving and cataloging spots from all these different sources so salespeople and production people can easily find them down the road? If so, please describe your system, and please include any other comments you might have on the subject.

Ric Gonzalez [Ric.Gonzalez[at]cox. com], Cox Radio San Antonio: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked by a station to send them a copy of a commercial that THEY originally sent to us! When I call and tell them “YOU sent it to me; you did the production on it,” they usually respond by saying that they can’t find their copy. It happens a lot. Hey, we’re not perfect, but I have set up an impeccable archiving system.

First, all agency reels are kept in a cold room for 90 days unless they are jingles. Jingles on reel are kept forever. We only store two things in that room: reels and CDs. If we are sent a spot on a DAT, we dub it off to our DAT files, which are in a rack in the hallway by the prod rooms. We started DAT archiving all our in house production in 1993. As a talent produces a spot, they enter it into a DAT master book. They fill out the log sheet that asks for client name, ISCI, talent(s), date recorded and length. That information is periodically re-entered into an Access template that I created for my assistant. Every couple of months the whole thing is printed in alphabetical order by client name and is accessible to the reps. So, if a client wants to run a spot that we produced and ran back in August of ‘98, I look it up and find the DAT tape and the cut and re-assign it for dubbing.

Every commercial production is also backed up to a DDS tape. These are the full Orban/Audicy multi-track sessions. So if the client wants to air a spot (as it aired) 5 years ago, we have it. If they want to air it but change a portion of it, we can do it because we still have the original session.

As for DGS, I always hated the fact that someone in San Francisco decided what and when to purge from our unit. We loved DCI and were the first in the market to get it. With DCI, I could purge when I wanted to and what I wanted to (plus they let me send out dubs on their unit!) When DCI/DGS became one company, I kept the DCI terminal instead of the DGS unit and bought a bigger hard drive for it. I still get calls from other stations in town (who kept the DGS box) asking if I can resend them a spot that is still in our DCI but has been zapped from their box.

We bought a separate computer for our MP3 transactions. It has a ten-gig drive, and I haven’t had to purge it in 12 months.

All our scripts are also archived into the stations network. When I write a script it is saved to the network drive. We have thousands of scripts archived in there. The sales rep can access it from their computer and see if they need any changes. The script can then be emailed to the client prior to production. After the script is approved, it is produced and can be MP3’d to the client for approval.

Kurt Schenk [PookProduk[at]aol.com], Thewritecreative.com: As for Clear Channel Rochester with 7 stations, archiving is a bitch. We store reels in the morgue (CDs and cassettes too). DGS purges itself, and for some reason we have no capability to take MP3s or upload/download from an FTP site. We also produce our commercials off the Spectral editing system, so there’s only so much space left on Jaz drives. Frankly, things are blown out in 3 months. We may store full produced spots in Prophet for a while.

Now, at home, with my company The Write Creative, I save nothing longer than 3 months and put the responsibility on my client—keeps my drive clean.

Randy Ricci [production[at]rmr media.com], RMR Media Works: At RMR Media Works we basically keep everything on the hard drive and everything is cataloged as it goes in so every client has a hard copy of what’s in their file. Then every quarter we clean out the hard drive and burn everything to CD in data file form. So, if K-mart wants to run the same ad in December as they did in October, we just go to the client index in their own file “K-Mart,” look up spot number and/or title, grab CD, download and ba-da-bing, there you go. Organization is crucial; it takes 15 minutes a day to see it through, and more times than not you’ll save your ass later by giving extra effort today.

Donnie Marion [dmarion[at]104krbe .com], 104 KRBE/Houston: The way we archive spots around here has changed some over the years, not only because we have to have room to keep the spots, but the way I archive them changes over time.

When I started in 1991, we used reel, both for the agency spots that came in as well as the spots produced in house. Figuring we needed to keep all parts to allow for quick revisions, we saved things in the following order on the reel: full spot, voice track, music bed, sfx. We soon began to archive in-house production to DAT using the same order.

Agency spots are kept in the continuity office on a shelf for about six months.

Then, after accumulating about 75 2-hour data tapes, I decided that CDs take up less room. I kept the same archiving order, spot-voice-bed-fx.

Last year I scrapped the spot-voice-bed-fx sequence and now only archive the finished spot to CD. I figure if I have to go back to change things on a spot, I can restore the spot to the workstation from an archive.

For spots that come DGS or some type of computer delivery/retrieval service, I leave them there until room on the hard drive starts getting low. The next step is to find the spots that aren’t dated and may be resurrected at some point and make a CD for continuity to keep. I try to archive by categories, like cokes and beers together on one CD, cell phones together, ISPs together. This is kind of easy with DGS; I just create a new package with those spots and print the list. That becomes the jewel case insert.

During the last TV sweeps, four of the TV stations wanted us to go to their website to download the spots each day. This wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be except for the station that wanted us to use their FTP site—and I still don’t know what that means. But we have an in-house IT dude. He explained it to me, but my eyes glazed over.

The biggest opportunity for screwing up with the computers is deleting a spot before you’ve used it. You have to get a re-send or another download or some other annoying thing, like getting a call on the weekend from a dubber/weekend DJ who knows less about computers than me and trying to walk that person through a download. This is the first time I’ve tried doing that .mp3 thing.

Ever since that RAP mag spotlight shined on Jimbo Kipping 2 or 3 years ago, I’ve been trying to talk up the “store spots on computer” system. Now, I almost know enough about computers to understand what Jim advocated.

I think the .mp3/e-mail way of doing things may sound the death knell of the Spot Taxi and DGSs of the world. It seems to me, a computer is a computer.

Don Elliot [voiceovers[at]earthlink.net]: As you may know, the Prophet has an archive feature. But aside from that, we have taken to archiving on MiniDisc since we acquired a MD keyboard input device for labeling, so you don’t feel like you’re dialing initials as the winner of an archiac “Pong” game. It’s swift and accurate. Our favorite though, is now CDs, since the price is now .22 each. Pretty hard to beat for large file archival. And the utility that came with our old Zip drive has a great archival program for locating data, even for CDs.

Jim Kipping [jkipping[at]texas.net], LBJS Broadcasting Co., Austin, TX: This is a question I take quite a bit of passion responding to. When I got to  LBJ close to eight years ago, we had your typical archive ROOM, not shelf, but ROOM!! Wall-to-wall boxes. This comprised of commercials, masters, and miscellaneous stuff that can accumulate over time. This was one of the most important issues that I began working on at that time. First things first—what to keep and what to pitch? This took a good month to sort!! That’s how many boxes we had. Then we did the unthinkable; we began to DAT archive each and every tape. I can still smell the tape a spinnin’. It was a huge task, but a necessary one. Not only did we DAT everything off in the archive, but we came up with a protocol for which current spots we would save. Minus a few beer spots and TV sweep spots, the rest get mastered…permanently.

This had been procedure since 1993. Development of a way to research these with info was next. Filemaker was the database of choice, and as we mastered, we also performed data entry as well. We included fields like Client, Spot Code (ISCI), Spot Title, Length and Notes. We also included DAT and Cut fields as well. This entry was done AFTER it was mastered. As of today, we have changed to archiving everything via MP3 on a server that we call AudioBank. This is a secure Server that can be accessed by any person in the building to preview and playback, including programming, sales, and production. For security purposes, only production has the ability to record new material or edit the current data on it. The server is a custom built industrial PIII 800 w/256 RAM, two 20-gig operating system drives, and two 45GB IBM data drives, all 4 in a Hot Swappable RAID setup to protect data should we loose any drive. We still use the same database as before, but now we have added a field called ABank #. This is a huge advantage, as anyone can now research where a spot is archived and instantly play it back from the Audio Bank Server. This means if a client calls and wants to hear their spot,  the AE does this from their DESK!!!!

To date, we have archived over 44,000 local and national commercials, and over 9,000 of those are on our Audio Bank system. This system proved to be a lifesaver when our Computer Concepts Maestro system crashed, and we lost every commercial!! We had to re-dub about 3,000 current spots, and quick. We had teams of people simultaneously dubbing in 3 production rooms, and most of the spots came from the Audio Bank. Yes, we also had to dub from DAT to get everything in, but man was that a time burner!!! Getting the DAT from one studio, cueing, mastering and returning tape took about 10 to 15 minutes. Abank was instant—maybe 1 or 2 minutes.

As far as how spots come in, we either take the spots we receive as mp3s via email and rename them once we dub, then dump them onto the archive drive. We don’t use web-based services like SpotTaxi or SlingSpot due to opening our systems up to potential viruses or web misuse by the jocks. So we have them send us CDs. External dubs via DAT, CD or reel we dub to a WAV file as we dub to Maestro (DCS), then once we are done with production for that session, that WAV file gets encoded via Audio Active (mp3 encoder). Our Audio Active’s default is to delete the original file and store the new file on the Audio Bank. It sounds complicated, and it actually is, but because it’s all automated, it’s very easy!! Plus, the money that has already been saved from down time or missing spots is enormous!!

With 5 stations, 40 sales folks and 20M+ in billing each year, it pays to dot I’s and cross the T’s.

Craig Jackman [craigj[at]canada.com], CHEZ/CKBY/CIOX/CIWW-AM/CJET, Ottawa, Ontartio, Canada: All station produced spots are saved to DAT for a minimum of 12 months. If it’s a more complex spot, or we think that the client is going to revise it, we save an 8-track session of it on ADAT. The now occasional reel that comes in is archived in a storage cabinet in the Creative office. DATs, CDs, and MDs from outside sources are found in the same place. DGS spots are left on the box. MP3s from all sources are saved in a partitioned area of the hard drive. Creative is responsible for keeping track of what the client has run in the past, and where they are likely to find it again. The problems with our system are: a) Producers not knowing the difference between SAVE and DELETE. b) Hardware failures of our DGS system wiping out our archive. c) Creative/Production people assuming that the spot that ran x-months ago is done, only to have the client want to run it again 3 days after it was thrown out or deleted. If sales wants to check or audition a past spot, they have to first go through Creative to find out where it is, then go to Production to hear it. It’s not the best system in the world, but problems are rare.

Richard Stroobant [bigdick[at]cjay 92.com], Calgary, Canada: We are running ProTools on a Mac here with an external hard drive saving all our ProTools files. When it comes to ANY mp3 file, we created an MP3 folder on the external hard drive. All the mp3’s are tossed in there. They are so small that you can put a ton of ‘em on it. We write on the production sheet what the date is that it was saved. Then when the 4 GIG external hard drive is full, we save ALL the files to a 4 GIG Data DAT and date the DAT and toss it in a cupboard. So, when we have to go back and find an old dub, we just look at the old production sheet, look up the date, and then we know which DAT tape it is on. Same thing goes for dubs from an FTP site, Slingspot, SpotTaxi and  others. Once we download their file, we toss them into the MP3 folder.

As for DGS, we keep as much stuff in there as possible, hardly ever erase it unless we know for sure it won’t run again (concert spots etc.) No, we don’t use the old DGS box much anymore now that mp3 pushed it aside. About 80% of our dubs come in via mp3. Reels, CDs DATs, floppys, and all the rest, the creative department (writers) store them in their area.

Jack Steele [jacks[at]amfm.com], Clear Channel Birmingham: We archive spots each month on the last day of the month, and we use optical disks for this purpose. Since we are on the Prophet system, this is REAL compatible with a Sony optical disk system. It works great and is accessible for retrieving spots that might come back from sales. Incidentally, this is HANDS OFF for sales. I keep the optical disks in a cabinet locked up and backlog them for at least six months. All the spots that run. I keep on the discs by the assigned number from traffic. Works great!!!!! Discs can be reused again and again!!!

Greg Schweizer [Gschweizer[at]amfm .com], Jammin 105, New York: I couldn’t keep track of all the spots we do without the cooperation of the Traffic and Continuity Directors. The Traffic department handles the reels, CDs and DATs and manages to keep it all straight. DGS is self-contained, and if a spot is old enough to be deleted from there, then the client will usually send a new spot. But with all the new audio transfer mediums being born everyday, I have to cover my own ass.

When it comes to MP3 commercials forwarded as e-mail attachments, I save them to a folder on my desktop. I then slate and master these same spots to a DAT tape along with a corresponding list on a clipboard—the price of progress. It hasn’t been a problem yet, but you never know when your computer might crash (knock wood), and you won’t have access to your desktop to even play spots you already have. SpotTaxi.com is fairly reliable and keeps an archive of spots sent going back several months, but again, I still archive these to DAT to CYA.

Just this morning I received a call from an agency giving me a heads up that I would be getting a spot by e-mail. Then he asked if I could do him a favor and burn the spot to a CD for a competing radio station and that they would pick it up at our reception desk. He said it was because this other station had “issues” with e-mailing commercials. I told him “no” and that FedEx could solve those “issues.” You can fight it, but not for long. This is the way things are going to be done for a while until something cheaper and faster comes along. There used to be DGS and DCI, then DGS bought DCI…end of story. So by the “big fish eats little fish” analogy of consolidation, I see one company eventually taking the lead and creating some unified system to make this as easy as it is intended to be. Until then, cover your ass.

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