If you’re lucky enough to have regular radio broadcasts, then you are well versed in the advantages and disadvantages of having a board op back at the radio station running commercials and helping you produce the show. Having an extra hand to get you through your 3-4 hour show can be invaluable, but there will always be a situation where you’ll be forced to be on your own.
When I started broadcasting regularly in 2011, I had a board operator at the station for my radio broadcasts. It was great, the board op handled all the elements for the show and all I had to do was playback interviews during the breaks and do the play-by-play. However throughout the year the frequency of him showing up to the station late increased. I would plan a 20 minute pre-game show, and then get a text 25 minutes before puck drop saying that he was running 15 minutes late.
So midway through my first season, I began op’ing my own games. In my situation, I found it a freeing experience where I was able to have cart blanche to produce the show however I wanted. It also enabled me to make quick, last minute changes without having to explain things to another person. That being said, there have been lessons learnt along the way:
1. Play as much as you can locally
If you have the opportunity, get local copies of the commercials that you play so you can play them back on site. Coordinate with your radio station to get the mp3 copies of the spots and when they’re supposed to run. I began doing this a few seasons ago and found it a great way to keep track of my broadcast. Using a free program like Zara Studio allowed me to setup an automation-like log for my games where all I had to do was hit play.
The advantage to this is that if your remote connection to the radio station’s automation goes down, you can still execute your broadcast. I had this situation occur in 2014 when LogMeIn underwent scheduled maintenance while I was on air. Because I had local copies of the commercials, I was able to complete my broadcast, by which point the maintenance was over and I could reconnect and re-start the automation.
2. Keep things simple
If you do wind up op’ing your own games, do everything you can to keep things simple. Whether you play commercials locally or maintain a remote connection the important thing to remember is that you’re there to call the game. Take steps to simplify things either by batching certain commercial breaks together, being selective about your in-play breaks and make every effort to help yourself keep focused on the play by play.
For me, keeping things simple means setting up my screen on my laptop properly. My playback system takes up the left hand side of my screen where I can see all my playback elements and commercials. The right half of my screen is for my broadcast delivery system (Skype, Discord, WinAmp, etc) and my recorder (Audacity). This setup allows me to see everything at a glance and play elements easily.
3. Don’t lose your focus
It’s important to pay attention to what you’re doing during a game. We’re paid to call the action and if you find yourself in a situation where you’re op’ing your own radio broadcasts then make sure you focus on the action. There is always time to play a commercial later in the broadcast, and if you don’t hit a particular mark because of something going on in the game, that’s ok.
Controlling your own radio broadcasts can be a very tricky exercise, but it also allows you unmatched freedom over the structure and execution of your show. The important key is to set yourself up for success, streamline the process of playing commercials to a point where you do a lot of the hard work before you go on air and make it as close to a one-button operation as possible.