by Jerry Vigil
"What can this sampling thing do, other than make words stutter?" the Boss said. Management can't be expected to know what today's technology can do; it's difficult enough for engineers and producers to keep up with the technology. "And if we want sweepers that stutter," the Boss continued, "it's cheaper to dish out 50 bucks to our sweeper guy."
Ed Itmann, Production Manager at XYZ-FM in Prodo, Utah, didn't give up. Eventually he got his sampler. What Ed had to do now was assure the Boss that the sampler was worth the expense. Fancy promos with words that went, "C-C-CASH," and "G-G-G-GIVEAWAY" were good, the Boss liked those, but was that all the sampler could do? If Ed could show the Boss an example of how the unit could save the station money, that would be the ultimate. (The Boss related well to that sort of thing.) He might then be more willing to listen to Ed when Ed made suggestions for other equipment. Ed's credibility with management would increase. They would look at him with greater respect, and maybe, someday, even look at him as management material. Fat chance.
Ed used the sampler a lot for promos, and he kept his creative mind open for a chance to really show the Boss that the machine could do more than just make someone stutter. Finally, the opportunity came along.
It was 3pm, Friday afternoon. It was a typical Friday in that there was a lot to do for sales--6 spots, 40 dubs, and about a dozen tags. The PD, thoughtless of the load on the Production Department at this time on a Friday afternoon, decided to start a special weekend show that following Saturday night. The name of the show was going to be "Street Beat." The PD needed sweepers for the show, something that would say, "Street Beat, X-X-XYZ-FM." XYZ-FM has all their sweepers voiced and produced outside of the station by a famous "sweeper guy" that charges $50 a shot. The money, however, was not an issue here. The problem was that 24 hours was not enough time to get the "sweeper guy" to cut some sweepers and get them back to the station in time to air. So the PD simply asked Ed to voice the sweepers until they could be produced later by the "sweeper guy". Ed didn't care to voice and produce some sweepers that were only going to run for one weekend until the "real" sweeper guy could produce them. That seemed like a waste of time. Ed sat down for a moment (hoping the PD wouldn't walk in and see him motionless, on his butt, staring at the wall). Suddenly the idea clicked in his head. It was time to put the sampler to work.
Like all good Production Managers, Ed kept all the sweeper masters sent by the "sweeper guy". Ed had each reel labeled with the contents so he could quickly find any sweeper he needed. Reading the labels on the reels, Ed found a sweeper that had been done months before that said, "The Beat On The Street, X-X-XYZ-FM." There were all the words he needed--Street, Beat, and XYZ-FM.
Ed threaded up the reel and cued up the sweeper. He readied the sampler to record the sweeper and then transferred the "sweeper guy" into digital memory. Using the edit functions of the sampler, Ed isolated the word "Beat". It sounded fine. Next he isolated the word "Street", but there was a problem; The "sweeper guy" overdubbed the "X-X-XYZ-FM" before he was through saying "Street", so all Ed had to work with was "Streeee". No problem. Ed made another digital edit on the word "Beat" and isolated just the "T" sound at the end of "Beat". His particular sampler had the ability to splice samples together to make new samples, so here was a good opportunity to use that function. Ed used "Streee" as the first part of the new sample and spliced the "T" to the end of it. The splice was done with the push of one button, and the new sample was called "Street". (So far, only about 5 minutes had been spent on the sampler.) He reached for middle C on the keyboard and pressed it. "StreeT", the sampler said. The word was perfect! The splice was perfect!
Ed sampled the "XYZ-FM" from the original sweeper and assigned all three parts of his new sweeper to the keyboard. He added a little reverb and rolled a tape: "STREET BEAT...X-X-XYZ-FM." He added a sounder before the call letters and carted it up. The new sweeper sounded perfect, and he only spent 15 minutes on it; but better yet, he had saved the company another 50 bucks on a new sweeper, and the sweeper was ready now, not sometime next week. Ed played with the keyboard a little and came up with 2 more variations on the sweeper within a few more minutes. He then called the Boss in to hear what he had done. The Boss was impressed.
As a result of Ed's awesome inventiveness, the Boss bought Ed another sampler, thinking samplers were like cart machines --the more you have, the better. Ed didn't argue. That evening, the Boss asked Ed over for dinner to meet the Boss's daughter. Ed and the daughter hit it off and married shortly thereafter.
The applications of a sampler are only limited by the creativity of the person using it...
Ed eventually became the new Manager of XYZ-FM, and one day, Ed's new Production Director came to Ed and said he needed the new 500 track computerized digital workstation that was advertised in Radio And Production. Ed asked the young man why. The impatient and persistent Production Director explained that the workstation would generate more creative production and could even save the station money and pay for itself in the long run, (somehow). Ed smiled and placed the order. And so ends the story of Ed Itmann and his sampler.
The applications of a sampler are only limited by the creativity of the person using it. Ed Itmann obviously isn't for real, but what he did with his sampler is, and it was done quickly, with precision and quality unmatched by any blade. There are still a few years to go before these machines become common gear in radio production studios, and the reasons are many. For most stations, the budget is the miserly culprit; but today, samplers are significantly less expensive than they were just 2 years ago. Other stations don't see the need for a sampler, but this blindness is often spawned by a lack of knowledge about the many uses of a sampler. Still, other stations don't have samplers in their production rooms simply because their creative production reaches its limits with a two voice spot, and this is enough for them. These stations have about as much use for a sampler as they have for a publication such as this one.
If you're ready to pursue purchasing a sampler for your station, start by doing your homework. Visit your local music store and have them demonstrate the samplers they have. Some will be rack mounts without a keyboard; others will be "sampling keyboards". Study them, study their specs, study their functions, and shop for price. If you don't have access to samplers in your area, contact distributors or manufacturers and ask them to send you literature on their products. The more you know about what you want and what you need, the better prepared you'11 be to make your pitch.