The Phantom Control Room. There may be times when it looks idle, but it is always your station's busiest, most efficiently run operation. Why? In the Phantom Control room, you are relying on the most powerful operation tool to come along in decades. The Phantom by RDS.
When first conceived in 1991, the goal for The Phantom was to provide all the tools required to manage, integrate, and air local and satellite delivered programming in a tight, seamless, and live sounding manner.
Until the introduction of The Phantom, stations wanting to take advantage of satellite delivered programming to augment or replace local programming had to accept all the disadvantages: sloppy network rejoins after local breaks, limitations in scheduling, and some very quirky operating procedures.
Since its introduction, The Phantom has improved the sound of hundreds of stations in the U.S. by providing a rock-solid, easy-to-use, radio-friendly package. Register Data Systems, a company with lengthy experience in traffic and billing software development and decades of experience in radio broadcasting, has the system which will compliment your station's operational procedures.
There is no single factor for The Phantom's success. Its superior scheduling capabilities and digital sound technology certainly deserve some of the credit. One could also credit its open architecture, which allows a system to be tailored to fit each station's needs. Register Data Systems' unrivaled commitment to support is a major part of the solution.
While other developers were trying to make their systems look like cart machines, we focused our efforts toward making a system that could manage a wide range of scheduling demands while remaining easy to use. Early on we realized it was just not enough to have a system that could schedule a log and play spots using digital audio.
What input source is on the air? What announcer is on the air? Don't forget to record the network news feed that comes down at half past the hour and is to be aired at the top of the hour, every hour (except on the last Sunday of the month). Also don't forget to switch the satellite receiver to the correct frequency so what you record will be the news and not the ball game. What spots aired in the 2:40pm break on Tuesday two weeks ago? You would be amazed how few systems on the market today can handle these tasks. The Phantom can do all of them, and much more.
The difference will be obvious when you see The Phantom in action. The display provides you with all the information you need to see in a clear, concise manner, without the crowded look that you'll find in other systems. The learning curve is minimal for persons with no computer experience and approaches zero for anyone who is familiar with the most popular PC software packages. The Phantom's pull-down menus guide you though all the steps involved in setup and daily operation, from recording audio to creating and editing logs.
The Phantom eliminates the confusion by keeping everything organized. It simplifies your daily operations by separating information about activities such as input changes, voice changes, and clock changes into individual schedules rather than scheduling them in the log between your breaks. This further simplifies the log by keeping it clean and uncluttered by other activities. Even liners and other voice drops can stay out of the log because The Phantom provides a way to automatically air them on demand.
The Phantom allows you to create new schedules that can begin days, weeks, months or even years in advance. It is just as easy to prepare The Phantom for future events as it is to change its current operation.
The Phantom can retime spots to fit them cleanly into a satellite break window without running late or rejoining the network too soon. The Phantom can also keep you covered by filling incomplete satellite breaks with spots from a list you specify, so that you never rejoin the network in the middle of its closed circuit feed or optional timed song. And The Phantom can do this without violating product separation. In live day-parts, The Phantom can also overlap spots to maintain that traditionally live sound.
The Phantom can create reports to keep you informed on a number of topics, from a list of expired spots to an analysis of potential mistakes in your log. The Phantom also maintains a one-month history of system activity.
While recording audio into the system, The Phantom remains completely functional on the air, switching input sources and airing both scheduled breaks and on-demand voice drops. In live operation, The Phantom's split-screen function makes it possible to view the on-air log during other activity such as recording.
While other systems tie your hands and limit your flexibility by offering only 3 or 4 inputs, The Phantom can control 7 stereo inputs using the Broadcast Tools switcher. More inputs are available with additional switchers. With the capability to control up to 50 inputs, the Phantom can tame even the most unmanageable News/Talk formats.
The Phantom has flexible recording capabilities. You can change the sampling rate, encoding (compression) method, and stereo/mono settings at will to meet your needs. The Phantom includes MPEG Layer II and other encoding standards.
Each input source is referenced using a real name, not some cryptic computer code that has to be translated. Each input source may have dozens of independent voice personalities for liners, ID's, and other voice announce audio. Like input sources, voices and relay functions are referenced using real names instead of computer codes. Some of those "inexpensive" systems will make you manually schedule liners and ID's in your log. The Phantom handles the rotation of all voice elements automatically and can control the Broadcast Tools audio switcher to mix the voice with the program audio.
The Command Center
The main display of The Phantom could be called just that. You see in clear, concise English what is scheduled to take place next, the network and personality presently on-air, a list of the relays or function-key commands for the network or live assist operation, as well as a history of the last three actions that took place. You can look at the log to see what has aired and what is scheduled to air.
From here, simply touch the ALT key to access the comprehensive pull-down menus at the top of the screen. All of The Phantom's functions are available through these menus.
You can import a log generated by the RDS Traffic and Billing System (System 6), or a host of other traffic systems. You can also use The Phantom to create logs manually. Instant on-screen editing of the log is possible for any last minute changes. You may schedule logs into The Phantom as many days in advance as you desire.
Recording audio is easily accomplished in The Phantom. Select the Record Audio command, then select the input source you wish to record. The Record Audio screen appears and The Phantom is ready to record. On-screen VU meters show recording levels before recording, during recording, and during playback. The Phantom can start recording manually, or it can start recording when the audio level reaches the threshold that you specify.
The Phantom can record from any of the inputs that appear on its Broadcast Tools audio matrix switcher or take a direct digital input from any of the multitrack digital productions systems available today. If your multitrack digital production system has a direct AES/EBU or S/PDIF output, The Phantom can handle it.
When you finish recording a "cart", you may listen to it as many times as you like. If you make a mistake in the recording, starting over is always a keystroke away.
Keep in mind that The Phantom remains functional at all times, airing stop sets and voice announcements even while you are recording.
For those situations where a live air shift is in progress and someone wants to record a new spot or edit the log in production, The Phantom's Split Screen menu option allows both to view their own activities, simultaneously!
The Phantom also stores general information about each cart you record. In the Record Audio screen you type in a cart's name, description (with optional product code), out-cue, start date, end date, and desired length. The Phantom will not air a cart before its start date or after its end date.
You may change the length of any cart. This feature is used automatically when re-timing breaks. The Phantom can use the original recorded length, the desired length you specified, or any variation needed to re-time (within the limits you prescribe) each spot in the stop set. The result is a break that is within a fraction of a second of the scheduled length. This dynamic break retiming is vital to satellite programming where short or long breaks are major mistakes.
Additional production tools such as the Splice Editor allow you to trim any dead air from the heads and tails of any carts as well as let you assemble segments from various cuts into composite carts. The Bulk Separator lets you split bulk feeds or long form programs into individual carts for ease of integration into the log.
The Phantom has the ability to record audio in sampling rates ranging from 7k-50k per second. You may select any rate and change it at any time. A sampling rate of 32k will produce a frequency response cutoff of approximately 15 kHz. Higher sampling rates have better frequency response but require more hard disk storage.
To boost recording capacity, The Phantom can employ one of several compression methods. The uncompressed 16-bit PCM method is essentially the same used to store music on compact discs. The MPEG and Dolby AC-2 methods use advanced psychoacoustic modeling to store audio with 15-22kHz bandwidth and with no perceptible degradation in about one sixth of the hard disk space required by 16-bit PCM. In other words, storage time is limited by the size of the hard disk, and the method of compression.
The Phantom can also record audio from any input source automatically according to a predetermined timer schedule. Timer schedules can also open or close relays to provide external switching functions such as changing satellite transponders.
The Phantom has connections for up to 24 contact closure "Relay" inputs that can be assigned to The Phantom's input sources in any proportion. Some models have connections for up to 32 input relays. Names of input sources and the relays used for control functions by each input source are defined in a logical, easy way. The Phantom's Broadcast Tools audio matrix switcher provides solid-state switching and mixing functions for The Phantom's two digital processors and seven stereo input sources. Each additional Broadcast Tools unit accommodates eight more input sources.
The Phantom can automatically switch input sources according to input schedules. Input schedules can perform different switching operations depending on the day of the week. Input schedules have effective dates and can be stored in The Phantom in advance and will take effect automatically on the specified date with no additional input required. The Phantom also provides additional functions for live operation. You can "lock" The Phantom to any input source and bypass the input schedule. This is useful for those sporting events that are always running late. For rained-out sporting events, you can easily correct the input schedule and rebuild the affected part of the log for alternate programming. For airing impromptu, unscheduled breaks, The Phantom's Quick Break function allows you to quickly select and air any carts.
Each input source has its own distinct list of voices. Like input schedules, each voice schedule has an effective date and will take effect automatically on the specified date. The Phantom automatically changes the voice according to voice schedules. Voice schedules also handle each day of the week separately. Each input source has independent voice schedules.
When The Phantom switches input sources, it automatically changes the voice according to the current voice schedule for that input source and begins using the appropriate liners, ID's, and other voice announcements.
Changes to announcer shifts can be scheduled in advance, or last-minute changes can take effect immediately.
Each input source has its own list of relays. Each relay has a name and characteristics that define The Phantom's behavior whenever the relay closes. It is easy to configure The Phantom for the relays of satellite formats, tape or CD automation, or live assist operation.
The Phantom rotates voice elements according to rotation schedules. A single rotation schedule can individually handle all relays and all voices for an input source, keeping a unique rotation list of every relay and for every voice. The Phantom always uses the appropriate rotation list according to the current input source and the current voice for that input source. You can make changes to take effect immediately or schedule changes to take effect later.
Each input source has its own list of hourly clocks. Each clock contains information about the stop-sets that will occur during the hour. It is not necessary to include clock information for Liners, Magic Calls, ID's, etc. as they are handled automatically by The Phantom's rotation schedules. Clocks can also have advanced features such as automation update times, windows for live remotes, and external relay functions.
For local breaks on satellite or network input sources, The Phantom can detect incomplete breaks and fill them with spots selected from a list that you specify in Break Filler. The Phantom can use the product code information stored in each cart to preserve product separation when it has to fill a break.
The Phantom also generates informative reports on various aspects of its operation. A list of expired carts will show you what carts need to be erased. A log problem report will show you incomplete or overfilled breaks and other potential mistakes in the log. You may view all reports on The Phantom's screen or print them to paper, provided you have a printer attached.
The Phantom keeps a one-month history of all system events. You can view the history for any day in the past month, search for specific events, and print all or just a portion of it.
The Multi-Cut Carts feature greatly simplifies how your traffic department handles multi-cut orders for The Phantom. Not only does The Phantom handle simple cart rotations with ease, but can handle very complex day-parting as well.
For those wishing to run music from the hard drive, special format clock codes have been added along with audio overlap to make music on the hard drive sound smooth as silk on the Phantom. There is also a music schedule import routine that allows The Phantom to accept music play lists from most major music scheduling packages on the market. Presently, the following music scheduling packages support The Phantom: Music 1, Powergold, MusicMaster by Aware, RCS Selector, and Natural Music. If you do not see your music scheduling software listed, please call. If you do not have music scheduling software and only need simple rotations, The Phantom can handle that as well.
A powerful bulk-separator routine within The Phantom allows you to record an entire CD, then select the cuts you want to keep, eliminating most of the drudgery of recording your music library to hard disk. We have also entered into an agreement with TM Century and Halland Music for customers wishing to purchase custom music libraries pre-recorded to hard drive prior to delivery of their new Phantom.
In all aspects of its operation, The Phantom remains consistent in its ease of use. The Phantom's hierarchy of schedules keeps the system organized so that you can keep your sanity while implementing even the most complex automation.
Some Recent Additions to The Phantom
In our continuing efforts to make The Phantom more useful and efficient, RDS has added several new features to The Phantom, including:
- Automated Time Announcements
- Automatic Handling of Daylight Savings Time Changes
- Free-Form Cart Rotations: Especially useful for handling live-assisted sporting events.
- Archive Maintenance: Allows easy management of audio cuts archived to the latest generation of fast, removable cartridge disk drives.
- Command Carts: This new cart type performs functions from the log such as opening or closing inputs or triggering relays for remote start of external devices. Allows for easy handling of unattended live remotes and other functions.
- Local Area Network Remote Control: This powerful new option is useful for situations where multiple Phantoms, interconnected via Local Area Network (LAN), need to be remotely controlled from other PC's connected to the LAN. This same option would permit an engineer or manager the ability to dial in from off premises to a designated PC on the LAN allowing full remote control access to any Phantom or any other connected PC from one dial-in line. Please call for additional details.
PHANTOM CENTRAL PROCESSING UNIT (CPU)
The Phantom CPU is a high performance Pentium-class processing system interfaced with video, communications, digital signal processing, and data acquisition subsystems. The Phantom CPU is available with a wide variety of hard disk configurations to meet your recording storage needs, from 24 hours to 99+ hours. All systems also include an on-air playback DSP, a production record/play DSP, 1.44 megabyte 3.5" floppy drive, VGA color monitor, 101 key enhanced keyboard, and either 24 or 32 contact closure inputs.
One Broadcast Tools SS 8.2 audio switcher is standard on all Phantom systems. The switcher provides The Phantom with audio switching and mixing. It includes eight balanced stereo inputs and two balanced stereo outputs. Under the control of the Phantom, the switcher can switch any input to any output. The switcher requires one rack space. Additional Broadcast Tools audio switchers are available to increase the number of input sources.
The Backup option supplies a second hard disk for a quick, economic backup of The Phantom's audio storage.
While The Phantom has an impressive array of standard features, we are constantly adding additional options such as additional workstations for production and traffic, remote control via modem, LAN, and WAN, and a whole host of other networking options. Please call us or your authorized Phantom dealer for a complete list of Phantom options.