Welcome to Ghost Rider Investigations Sunday, August 18 2019 @ 02:53 pm UTC

Broadcasting using Skype over BlogTalkRadio - The GRI solution

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Broadcasting on BlogtalkRadio is a blessing, until you want to start doing professional-level things like mixing content and adding other inputs to the broadcast, as well as to improve the voice component to get rid of that "telephone voice" from your broadcast. As such, we've been putting considerable effort into building a truly effective broadcast method by coupling a dedicated Skype desktop phone to a mixer-board and to begin broadcasting using this method.

Our research was helped considerably by looking at the following video link. Because of this, we opted to use Skype for the transmission medium for our show, but with a twist... We decided to use the Belkin Skype phone to handle the audio input and output to the mixer-board via a coupler device and to avoid the problems of using a dedicated computer with the attendant difficulties this presents. See:


This link is a very informative link about how to optimize your system using Skype and a USB phone connected and how to tune your network for the best connection. It's not for the faint of heart and it discusses a whole range of options you may want to examine to improve quality. It is really a great resource and hopefully more people will pass the link around.

I studied the problem of broadcasting using Skype and decided to go with a Belkin Desktop Skype phone and integrate an Excalibur HC-1 handset coupler to tie into my mixer board. It made the most sense and my first test broadcast of my own paranormal radio show with just the Skype phone worked nicely, though the PIN number was a challenge for reasons as yet unknown. I'm backing up the Skype phone with a land-line to be safe. (changed as of March 2009!)

The advantage is that the desktop Skype phone suffers none of the maladies of the PC variety, namely it's dedicated and no other process tries to compete for it's bandwidth or memory resources. Next, the audio tie-in is just so much easier and I can bypass having a phone stuck to my ear and focus on traditional studio layouts to do my show. Yep, it costs a little extra, but for $79 on Amazon, I didn't get a bad deal. Latest price is around $100 on the Belkin site.

http://www.bswusa.com/proditem.asp?item=HC-1 for the handset coupler. Our first tests are now underway with this device and it's proving to be a trick to integrate since the default cable couplings need to be customized due to hum in the audio. I found that the tips of the connectors need to be rewired to handle a slightly different arrangement, based on advice in the handi-coupler instructions. A trip to Radio-shack this weekend garnered the parts needed to build the necessary custom cable and it should be up and running this weekend. (As of March 2009, this is still a tough little problem for us - the connectors are jury rigged and we're still trying things out - plan to use the patch only for conventional phone dial-ins straight to the studio).

Update as of April 11'th 2009

The studio continues to evolve. We made a few operational changes.  Primary in the change list is that the broadcast computer is now broadcasting the show via Skype  using our wireless connection to our access point. The support computers are either wireless and we have one dedicated CAT-5 line that handles a secondary computer that is hooked into our audio mixer. We dial in using the old method with the land line to start the show and  then just place it on mute. If we lose the network for whatever reason, we can be back on in a few seconds with the telephone running things to continue the show.

We are also adding a  directed antenna to improve gain for the wireless card so we get better bandwidth for the broadcast computer. We have a Cantenna and will also be building a mast-mounted antenna to get the most db for our $$$.

We are going to examine using the Skype dedicated phone to dial in over the dedicated CAT-5 line next and to keep our long-distance costs down by doing things that way. The big issue is to see how the overhead of two Skype connections impacts the show. A test show will be done to evaluate this and we think it should become the new and final method.

Updated as of March 17'th, 2009

We tried a broadcast with the first setup with the phone patch system and noted that the show would fade in and out as some sort of mysterious audio issue plagued our "Ad-Hoc" show.

So, I went back to the drawing board and decided to do the following:
  1. The Skype Desktop phone is now used to call into the show and then is put on hold. It is the emergency backup in case we lose the other phone line that calls in (the broadcast computer).
  2. A PC with Skype loaded is used to dial into the show through another SkypeOut line and thus we always have two callers minimum on the show. This computer has the input via the USB connection to our conventional sound board and inputs from the sound card and other external inputs to drive the show audio and special effects.
Our first test, using a simple desktop microphone, went quite well and left us convinced that our action to take the show into the next step will be successful. So we're going to rig the sound board to tie in, temporarily, into the line-in with audio inputs to run the studio microphone and a seperate computer with sound effects and EVPs in so we can gain total control of our audio setup.

We integrated a studio Microphone to the mixer board and headset to truly get a radio studio feel and that has been used with the broadcast computer to handle our radio spots and editing needs using the free version of Sony ACID Studio. With ten tracks of edit capabilities, this has proven to be a great tool for our needs and we're upgrading to the commercial version to get direct MP3 exports from the tool to save a post-production step. (As of March 2009 we went ahead and bought Sony Acid Music Studio and have begun using this to record custom music spots and to build up our own royalty-free music library!)

The next item is to start mixing experiments to bring in my various audio clips and sound effects without the need to upload to BlogTalkRadio. Staging it in simple increments should make it easier on me while trying to do the shows at the same time. (And this approach worked! We found out what didn't work quickly and evolved the entire setup as we went!)

http://catalog.belkin.com/IWCatProductPage...oduct_Id=404607 for the phone - these things are great. Mine is so much clearer than the computer version of Skype and it's only dropped one call in all the eight months I've owned it. Once it comes back into inventory, I'm getting another one! (As of March 2009: We've made this a key element in the new configuration - this phone now dials in and starts the BlogTalkRadio show and then is muted and sits in the background as the emergency broadcast setup while the broadcast computer dials in and takes over the audio presentation for the show).

The mixer board is a Radio-Shack model (now discontinued) that retailed for about $90. I picked it up for $39 and it's a really nice model. It'll tie in my audio decks and computer inputs to provide sound to route to the Skype phone so it's turned into quite a setup! Will document and blueprint the entire thing once I get it tuned and the show matured.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRw8GwwMtiY for a model one step up from my 3-channel version.

http://support.radioshack.com/doc/320/qse32-2057.pdf for the PDF guide.

Our first test broadcasts with the mixer begin this coming Friday evening when GRI will begin test broadcasts with the mixer over a conventional land-line, soon to be followed by a dedicated CAT-5 line to be buried underground after we spend days digging a ditch - What I do for paranormal bliss! We'll keep adding to the article and to add photos as the installation progresses. (March 2009: The CAT-5 line is in and hooked up! We now have the Skype phone hooked in to a Linksys workgroup switch that also ties in the two broadcast computers so we can hook in and do all our special effects and audio controls).

Hope this helps someone out there who is considering building a studio for a paranormal radio show like ours! More to come as our installation matures and it grows! As of this time (March), we've adapted the design to the realities of our situation. I expect that the final piece of the puzzle, a Beringer U-Control patch system will port the audio to and from the computer via USB connection to the audio mixer and eliminating a lot of audio issues along the way.

To speed the development cycles, I'm increasing the number of shows (test) to daily as we keep tweaking the system and improving on our overall presentation. By the end of the week of March 15'th, we should have this pretty matured and ready to rock. I can't wait for the final pieces to fall into place!

Until next time!