Sound at the BBC Television Center (part 5)
A studio without a sampler is a rarity indeed, and Television Centre, like so many others, have chosen the Akai S1000, for both production and post production applications. It doesnt meet all their requirements however, and the famous Special Projects division had to be called in to help.
The Akai sampler has enormous advantages but it has the enormous disadvantage that the front panel controls are a little bit fiddly for on-line use in a transmission situation. We would consider having a music keyboard in the control room, but its really better operated by someone who is musically literate and our operators arent necessarily that. There is also the difficulty of being able to select keyboard operations that would enable you either to stop and start cues at your choice, or separately stop and start as part of the same function. We generate MIDI cues from a box of our own which has a straightforward set of numbered keys on it, numbered according to the output you are playing from. We have a standard box used for all kinds of things, which doesnt produce MIDI cues directly but DTMF telephone dialling tones. Fortunately there are interpreter chips readily available, so we use one of those with an interface card built by our own Special Projects people which turns DTMF cues into MIDI, which may sound like a long way round of doing it but it saves quite a lot of design work. Hopefully, a project to generate MIDI cues directly will be completed soon. The other part of this enterprise is that the standard Akai sampler we started with, the S1000, before they produced the S1100, would not sync up to timecode so we had some of our people here write software which produced a timecode cue list which you could edit and would then produce the cues to fire off the sampler from timecode. The more recent S1100 has the ability to do this but, It doesnt do quite what we want it to do. Apart from that its a lot easier to edit a cue list on a 12 inch monitor than the display on the Akai. We use it mostly for spot effects, although we do run backgrounds in from time to time. If you watch game shows these days you will notice that they are sprayed liberally with cues at almost every instant. Samplers are very good for that sort of thing because you can have all the cues poised on an output so you hit the button and youre there, with no wows or flutters. The other great advantage of the system we use on games shows is that the business of the game show running can be so complex that it is actually operated on the studio floor by a computer. The input from the bells and buzzers of the contestants and whatever the scoreboard is doing is all handled by a computer which fires off the appropriate messages through the graphics interface. It also fires cues up our lines for the sampler to play the right noises because a game show is unpredictable. You couldnt possibly keep up with it without the computer doing it for you, so these interfaces are extremely handy.