Digital Cue Sheet System from Cue Bells Sync
Every time a new technology or a new product comes along, life gets more and more convenient for those of us working in production.
Since you can now do editing on your own computer, you can work anywhere. It's more convenient, sure, but on the other hand you get the feeling that there's no longer any distinction between being on the job and off the job. You're working at the station, then you go home and continue editing, and the next day you take that back into the studio with you. It's up to you to draw the line somewhere, because if you don't you feel like you're working all day long. Nevertheless, I have to admit it means you can use your time more effectively, and so, after all, it is convenient.
Which brings me to my topic: I went along to look at Booth No.5306, run by Cue Bells Sync, a company that has developed the industry's first digital cue sheet system. Essentially an electronic version of the cue sheet used to plan a program, this is efficient as you can now do on a computer screen what you used to have to write out by hand. For somebody with bad handwriting it's great to be able to fill out cue sheets using a keyboard.
This system is already being used at many FM stations, and not just for drawing up cue sheets. For example, they can have on-air track information displayed on their website, synchronized with the times listed on the cue sheet created with the digital cue sheet system.
It gets even more convenient if you combine this with a digital sound source library system that can manage on-air materials as digital data. When you're putting together a cue sheet, you can call up a track, audition it, and if all's well register it then and there - to play back on cue using the one-touch player system. You no longer have to draw up a list of tracks and then go and fetch the discs from the CD room each time, so this too is handy. You can perform your job very efficiently by combining various systems like this.
There's more: some new features have been added to this version - an automatic track selection system and an automatic broadcasting system. Using detailed parameters prepared for each track, you can arrange it so that the system will automatically pick tracks that match a chosen theme. In addition to the track title and artist name, the database needs to have information on the instruments used, the mood, etc. Then if you think "It'd be good to have a relaxing jazz piece with some piano," you just have to input keywords like "piano" and "relaxing", and the system will search out tracks that meet those criteria.
However, to serve this role the database must first contain all the relevant keywords for each track, so when you're registering data for a track, in addition to the basic information you have to input value-added information such as keywords. To register all this information for a vast sound library would be somewhat time-consuming, but once you have completed this task, you can be sure that everything after that will be very easy.
The automatic broadcasting system will arrange to deliver the music and narration just as you have planned using a digital cue sheet. This means it will become possible to produce and deliver programs with just a few people in the studio, or even none at all. In future, those of us who work in production may no longer be needed.
Efficient and convenient, yes, but I have mixed feelings when I think that studio staff might no longer have a job. I wonder if automatic broadcasting systems will take over in the near future and we'll see the advent of the completely unmanned broadcasting station.
[Mitsuru Nomura, radio director]