For thousands of sportscasters across North America, their broadcast seasons have recently gotten underway. Whether football, basketball or hockey this time of year, there is one constant that seems to be an on-going question…how do I get my game audio back to my radio station to broadcast?
There are literally hundreds of answers to this question and for many the easy answer is to use a phone line, or a tie-line. Both are great options, but come with some drawbacks. A phone line, while easy to setup, isn’t great quality and can provide muffled audio that makes it difficult to listen for long periods of time. A phone line is also not great for communicating background noise meaning you either send back voice only or silence.
Tie-lines have been the industry standard for years in major market, however they can be very expensive. While they deliver crystal clear audio to your radio station, the price is the premium and this makes it impractical for small to medium market stations to adopt this technology.
So is there middle ground? A VOIP service like Skype can be a great alternative, however many (including myself) have had serious reliability issues with Skype for broadcast. Calls can be dropped, connections not great and reconnected frequently needed. When you’re calling a game, the last thing you want to be doing is babysitting your audio connection.
This off-season I was faced with this challenge. Find a way to deliver audio from anywhere to my radio station, with a minimal delay (or low fidelity) and high quality. After doing some research and talking with fellow sportscasters and tech-heads, I came across a variety of video game communication options that checked all my boxes. Before the season started, I tried a couple, but eventually settled on Discord.
Discord had everything that we wanted. The ability to delivery high quality, tie-line quality audio across the internet to the radio station, minimal delay (less than a second) and for absolutely free. By setting up a server (their version of a chat room) and putting a password on it, we were able to connect the station and the remote broadcast with ease. The app also has a chat function which is great for coordinating breaks or sharing messages back and forth.
For more information on Discord, and setting it up for your broadcast, you can click here.
The change over didn’t come without a couple of teething issues. The main lesson came through the way that the program picked up my audio.
Discord is meant for video game players, which allows for voice communication either in a “press to talk” mode, or a continuous stream that automatically turns off and on based on volume. The great thing is that you can determine the input volume. For sportscasting, where there may be moments of silence or crowd noise, you can turn the sensitivity way down and essentially force Discord into a constant communicator.
To do this, go into the settings of Discord and select “Voice” in the app settings. Ensure that “Voice Activity” is checked, then drag the slider under input sensitivity way down. I have mine set at -97db which does the job. If I have my mixer entirely down, Discord won’t pick up and transmit my audio, however if there is any hint of crowd noise, it’ll deliver that with no issues.
I’ve been thrilled with Discord this season. There is next to no delay to the radio station, but it provides crystal clear audio that you’d expect from a pricey tie-line system.
You can download Discord for free by clicking here.