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Author Topic: What Automation Software Do You Use?  (Read 504 times)

Offline Dave Richards

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What Automation Software Do You Use?
« on: May 06, 2020, 1928 UTC »
What type of automation software do you use on your Part 15 station?  I know that some folk use applications like WinAmp and iTunes to act as a basic player. For operators who want more advanced functionality, the sky's the limit if you're prepared to pay. However, for us hobbyists, who tend to have fairly strict budgets, there are some free options -


1) Rivendell is open source radio automation software for Linux. I have not used it but, at the forum I used to frequent, there was a broadcast professional who loves it. I understand that it has a lot of
    functionality that should satisfy many experienced broadcast types. You can find it at http://www.rivendellaudio.org/

2) Zara Radio is a Windows-based radio automation software. This is the one I use. I'm not sure if the paid version is still available, but the free one is. The free one has not been updated
    in quite a few years, but I am running it on an early version of Windows 10 with no issues at all. My automation laptop used to be connected to the internet. It received regular Windows
    updates, but this was creating problems. The need to reboot the computer was a big one, and not desirable on a machine that I wanted to run continuously, 24/7. Then, there was an update
    that was causing Zara to become choppy and unreliable. I disconnected the laptop from the internet, and rolled the OS back to an earlier version. That was something like 2 years ago, and it
    has been running continuously, completely smoothly, with no issues.

    Zara has some great features. It can automatically announce the time, which I set mine to do at the top of the hour, along with the top of the hour station announcement and ID. It provides for
    some great ways to automate your programming. Sound bites, promos, PSA, commercials, or any other programming elements, can be placed into a folder. Then, at set times, Zara will look in
    that folder and play one file in it. It can select them randomly, or play them in strict rotation. Also, if you have a number of audio files that need to always play in the same sequence, you can
    create a sequence file, with the file extension .seq, and schedule that to play in Zara. For instance, every Sunday at 5pm, my station airs an episode of a big band show called "Fred Hall's Swing
    Thing". There is a pre-produced show opener, then the episode itself, then a pre-produced show closer, which promotes the time the next episode will air. These 3 programming elements are
    saved as a sequence file. One of the elements in that sequence file is another type of file - a rotation file, with the file extension .rot. This is for the specific episode of the show. It's an old
    show, for which new episodes stopped being created long ago. I have all available episodes (1,002 of them) in a folder. Zara plays the episodes in strict rotation - one every week. With 1,002
    episodes, it will be many years before they start repeating.

    The above are just some examples of how well suited Zara is to radio broadcasters. It's a lot of useful functionality for free. The free version is available at http://www.zarastudio.es/download.php


How do you schedule your songs and other audio files for broadcast? Simple solutions are fine. I've spent way too much time on this over the last few years, and do appreciate that it's not as much of a pre-occupation for others. All answers are valid. I'm keen to know what you do.
« Last Edit: May 06, 2020, 1934 UTC by AA7EE »
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Offline ChrisSmolinski

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Re: What Automation Software Do You Use?
« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2020, 2239 UTC »
I am actually in the process of rolling my own (hey, writing software is what I do, so I figured why not). It randomly selects tracks to play from an infinitely deep nested set of directories, and also plays an ID every so often. It's not finished yet (it may never be), so more of a work in progress, meant to scratch my own itch.
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Offline Dave Richards

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Re: What Automation Software Do You Use?
« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2020, 2306 UTC »
Chris - If you ever get to the point where you're looking for ideas of features to add, let us know. Although the software I use does have a random shuffle feature, I use a separate program to create the playlists, and then load them into my playout program.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2020, 0402 UTC by AA7EE »
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Offline ThaDood

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Re: What Automation Software Do You Use?
« Reply #3 on: May 07, 2020, 0623 UTC »
MRAM1500 got me into trying Zara Radio. Not bad. I've done 24hr tests with it, but use it mainly as the spot player for background tunage, liners, PSA's, promos, etc. What sucks is still using a computer to dedicate for it, so I only use it when I need it. Several stations, Part #15 and LPFM, are using Radio DJ software,   https://www.radiodj.ro/  . I have used the commercial NexGen station automation software that was dated from 2001, but still on XP Pro. Works, but watch out with XP's idiosyncrosies.   (Huh... My spell checker can't find that word, so I'll leave that one spelled wrong. O.F.W...)
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Offline Pinole Radio

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Re: What Automation Software Do You Use?
« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2020, 0036 UTC »
RadioBoss.

Offline secretlab

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Re: What Automation Software Do You Use?
« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2020, 0242 UTC »
I used Station Playlist for a web station over about 8 years. It's extremely capable, with easy voice tracking, a nifty low effort scheduler, and a good workflow for ingest of new material. It's also got an excellent overlap algorithm, and sounds very 'live.' It's not free/cheap, and that leads me to point out that the company is only one guy in New Zealand, and if he's not happy with you for any reason you may find your investment suddenly becomes worthless. Overall, a bad experience with a good system, a pity.

I've tried Rivendell, which has many of the functions I like about SP, it's free in the no-support version, and not able to be 'remote killed.' Haven't had time to dig into it extensively, though.
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Offline chanito

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Re: What Automation Software Do You Use?
« Reply #6 on: May 09, 2020, 2009 UTC »
RadioDJ here. Has all the tools and ability to categorize liners, sweepers, TOH IDs, jingles, etc. You can create your own categories and really fine tune things. I like the ability to treat an internet mp3 file as a track and schedule it to play, for news, etc. Rotation functions are nice. Track import is slow, but to start, I just pointed it at the music folder and walked away while it figured things out. You can create events to fire at specific times to automate series of functions like stop, start, play, load different playlist, etc.


Rather than generate playlists, which RadioDJ can certainly do, automatically or manually, I let it free run in AutoDJ mode, which uses the rotation settings to generate the playlist hour at a time or so, and have rotation/separation rules set to keep artists and song title repetitiveness down.


I create specific rotations that include tracks from different categories, like Rock, Classic Rock, 70's, 80's, Triple A, AC, and stick the jingles and liners elements in there as well. All the different positioning elements can be put in separate categories and let RadioDJ pick the oldest to play next.


Mine is really just a jukebox for me to listen to around the house or outside, on pillow speaker at night to kill tinnitus. I do stream it for fun here http://s2.free-shoutcast.com:18594/ so I can listen on my phone or laptop in the backyard, or Sonos around the house.


The event function, for example, I use to do the news block. It is two events, one to start the newsblock and the other to come back to music. The first one stops the play, plays a liner, then loads a playlist that kicks of the news URL playback. Then at 2 minutes in, it kills that and goes to a promo or ID, then depending on what hour, either goes right back to music or plays the time announce, kicks in the AutoDJ generated playlist then Play.


It is possible to automatically create playlists that fill the hour so you can let it backtime to the TOH news or whatever. I'm still honing that. What I do know is that the news service I pull in at :55 has probably the most inept news readers I've ever run across. They can't hit the 2 minute post to save their lives, and they can't apparently read very well either. Oh well. You get what you pay for :-)




just adding to this post rather than creating a new one - other things that are useful in RadioDJ


Can edit start/stop/crossfade point/voiceover in any track in the app
Runs on MariaDB which is super light and free




Having used several different software radio automation platforms starting with AXS in the mid 90's to BE AudioVault, to Prophet Wizard for Windows, to Nexgen, this free RadioDJ is damned impressive. (actual first automation experience was with a Harris system incorporating Instacart, Carousels and Otari reels running TM Century formats, but that is ancient history)
« Last Edit: May 15, 2020, 2058 UTC by chanito »
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Offline secretlab

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Re: What Automation Software Do You Use?
« Reply #7 on: May 10, 2020, 0542 UTC »
I am actually in the process of rolling my own (hey, writing software is what I do, so I figured why not). It randomly selects tracks to play from an infinitely deep nested set of directories, and also plays an ID every so often. It's not finished yet (it may never be), so more of a work in progress, meant to scratch my own itch.

I wanted to mention how much I enjoyed using Sound Byte on an iPad for drops, themes, PSAs, closers and actualities for a podcast I produced for some years. It's an excellent replacement for a '360' Instant Replay, which is how we used it. Better than the clunky 'instant' player inside Station Playlist, for example.

Have you thought about adding simple automation features to it? It would be cool to have a mode where you could pre-program breaks by using the buttons to build items into a short playlist that you could then fire with a single button.

It's worth noting that your revenue model is different than SP, and I appreciated that. They require frequent or persistent connection to the home base for (compensated) updates and renewal of the user license. Sound Byte was still going strong, without all the fuss, when the original model iPad croaked.
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Offline Kage

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Re: What Automation Software Do You Use?
« Reply #8 on: May 12, 2020, 1817 UTC »
Sonicart anyone? I still enjoy using Sonicart 2.2. It's old as hell, circa 2000 lol, but it works, and it works really well if you just need a virtual DJ to take over for a bit. It also has sonienc and sonipack and some other tools to slip in and time promos and IDs. Best of all it all works fine in Wine on Linux.

I mostly use Sonicart itself just as a media player because the artificial selective fade between songs is damn near perfection compared to modern programs I have tried. If I load it up with a track list and let it run it just works and does an acceptable job at transitions and mixing up or cross fades how it does them by analyzing song endings first before moving on. It's real long in the tooth now. Glad this thread exists so I can try and learn some new tools. I tried Rivendell for a bit. It was broken but probably from my lack of understanding it, simplistic usage I am told, but hell if I could wrap my head around it. I tried a bunch of automation all-in-ones on Windows and they were horrible. Oddly Rivendell at least worked right on Linux, but the process of forcefully categorizing music and data, and worse yet requiring a database and software for that too made it far too complex for my liking for simple show production.


I preferred simple track/cart emulation software like Sonicart. It just worked, had great transitions and keyboard access for instant play or auto-cue and would time it all out well.
Only issue the author seems to be missing.

I guess my main thing is live production. I get bored like anyone else listening to radio shows that are pre-programmed with a voice. Real DJs spin records hehe. Not sure we should be mimicking the mainstream crap.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2020, 1821 UTC by Kage »
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Offline redhat

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Re: What Automation Software Do You Use?
« Reply #9 on: May 12, 2020, 2328 UTC »
For live shows, I use Zara under wine on linux.  It's great for this type of show as no database is required, just drag and play.  No FLAC support, which is a pain.  Rivendell works well, but all cuts have to be setup with EOM's talk markers, etc prior to air.  I've never been able to get the built-in scheduler to work, but otherwise works well.  I am running version 1.8 I think on an old atom machine with about 800 cuts in it.  The long term plan is to build three machines with the latest rivendell, and set them up for autosync.  The last relay shows I've run have been off the rivendell box, all other shows run Zara.

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Offline Kingbear Radio

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Re: What Automation Software Do You Use?
« Reply #10 on: July 23, 2020, 1701 UTC »
Freaking iTunes and Winamp! Both not so great, iT is only good for the song library, Winamp has Line-In plug, and also the Audiostocker audio processing, good for AM broadcast. Have tried SAM and Mixxx and a few others.
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