At the gleaming new high-tech radio studios of the Australian Broadcasting Corp., the era of reel-to-reel tapes and messy editing rooms is gone.
In its place are radio journalists using computer screens and toggle pads.
This is the world of D-cart, a computerized radio broadcasting system pioneered in Australia and now being sold overseas. Studios in the United States and Canada have bought the D-cart, or digital cartridge, editing system, and Australia’s AWA Ltd. is set to manufacture it.
“Every time you put sound onto a tape and transfer it in editing, you lose quality, and a lot of tape is thrown away,” said Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio sales manager Marghanita da Cruz.
“With D-cart, there is no maintenance of tape machines,” she said. “You don’t have cartridge machines, there’s no splicing tape, and people in the network have instant access to anything recorded. It pays for itself in three years.”
Under the system, audio material such as interviews and ambient sounds are gathered by radio reporters with tape recorders and sent back to the studio, where they are transferred to powerful computer hard disks.
The item is given a name and logged into the system, immediately popping up on computer screens across the network.
News programs, overseas services, current affairs and talk shows have instant access to the same item for editing.
On screen it appears as a computer text document, with a title, reporter’s name and its duration listed. Press a button and the audio content plays over a speaker.
To edit, journalists call up the item and manipulate the sound on-screen, using a pad that guides a cursor across a long, thin band representing an imaginary tape.
Audio segments can be turned on and off by clicking the pad along the part of the “tape” where the desired sound bite exists.
D-cart, developed over the last two years by the national broadcaster, operates at the Radio Australia foreign service, Radio National, local Australian Broadcasting Co. stations in major cities and in the JJJ youth network. Others will join soon.
The American Broadcasting Co. has installed D-cart at its 14-studio New York and Washington operations.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. has bought D-cart for its Toronto and Ottawa newsrooms, while France’s Europe One and the British Broadcasting Corp. are trying out the system.