Friday, 19 April 2013

Radio head

What was I thinking? Casually saying I'd put together a short radio piece during the last week of the Easter holidays. Have I learnt nothing these past 10 years? Still stubbornly optimistic that I can crack something I haven't done in ages with three kids buzzing around me all day? And by the time they were tucked up in bed I really couldn't face it... Need to think before I write, don't I? To be fair I wrote it down just in case I got cold feet. Once blogged, there's less chance of wriggling out of it, though feel I'm losing momentum, because mundane everyday stuff has got in the way. Again.

It's been a very long time since I've done any radio, and it's a different world now. When I started, interviews were recorded on reel-to-reel tape and edited with a razor blade. I remember on more than one occasion desperately searching through bins of shiny, slithery tape for a tiny important piece I'd chucked out by mistake. 
Thinking about it brings it all back. 
I spent quite a lot of my career feeling sweaty and stressed.

Things had moved on before I left the BBC: digital recording was the norm and so was computer editing. And I remember thinking all that was pretty cool, but these days radio interviews are often done straight onto a smartphone, and as long as there's a signal, the audio can be sent instantly to anyone who wants it, edited and on air before the reporter gets back to the newsroom. All at the touch of a few buttons. 

But no phone for me, I still have my trusty MiniDisc recorder and huge comedy mic.

MiniDisc recorder
I have also just about taught myself how to edit audio on my laptop, but it was a truly painful experience. Lots of swearing and baffling online tutorials. The trouble is new technology, and even not-that-new technology makes me feel old and useless. I really want to embrace it, but end up thinking too hard and get so bogged down I can hear all the cogs clunking about in my head - while the kids seem to absorb technology by some kind of osmosis. It's SO frustrating.

Anyway, I was getting nowhere, until my knight in shining armour - Ben the tech guy from PC World - gave me some helpful tips, and it all started to make sense.  
Honestly I was so happy I could have hugged him.  Well, I could've, until he asked for a look at my MiniDisc recorder because he said he'd never seen one that OLD, like it was a museum piece or something.  When I told him I used to run around Belfast with an ancient, seriously heavy reel-to-reel Uher slung over my shoulder (convinced I now have lopsided shoulders) and splice tape with a blade he just stared at me, speechless. Yeah, I'm old-school Ben.

This is all progress, but the biggest step I need to take is the one in my head, which is why I blogged about the whole thing in the first place: to push me out of my comfort zone. So many doubts and not a lot of confidence rattling about it there. This time, if the piece is half decent, I will send it to someone and see what happens, and if it's not, it'll have been good practice. 

I'm sure anyone still reading this is probably wondering what the heck the piece is about; but I don't want to give the story away just yet, not that it's going to blow your socks off... 
I will say it's connected to the Tour de France, though nothing to do with Bradley Wiggins, and I don't think you have to be a cycling fan to find it interesting....please let it be interesting!

I was hoping to add a short audio clip here, but had that familiar brain freeze feeling when I googled how to do it: I know it'll take me hours to figure it out, and I've other things to get on with, haven't I?


  1. Oooh intriguing! I had a mini disc player too! Loved it! :)

    1. Early 90's! They weren't around for long either - people stopped buying them when MP3 players and iPods arrived on the scene. Worth holding on to, might be collectible one day!