Radio Spot Template, session best practices question

I was looking at some radio spots and put together a basic Template (screenshot attached) for a typical 60 second spot.

As you likely know, in doing radio spots, TV V/Os and so on, there’s often many takes, sometime pick-ups, tags, and so on.

So, what’s best? Add audio tracks and then assemble, or use lanes and comp? For music, I think Comping is fine, but for a fast moving radio/TV/VO session, with talent in the booth and the clock ticking, I’m thinking that adding Audio Tracks on the fly would be the better way to run the session as the recording engineer/producer. Since Lanes can’t be named, I think I’d get very confused if I put the multiple takes of a VO on a single track. Having individual tracks, with names, to be assembled and mixed into the final version with any Music and SFX, seems the better method. Your thoughts?


Yes. No lanes as that would unnecessarily complicate what should be ultra fast production under deadlines within minutes. As a matter of fact, I don’t think most radio stations, at least in the USA, use any elaborate DAW including PT. Call your local stations and ask what they use, and I think you will get some common names.

Speed, workflow, simple, and most of all, the radio station budget is important…especially with iHeart media in the tank as well as the other huge cluster owners. It’s not unusual to be assigned 5-10 spots each day and have all of them completed within 3 hours.

If it’s a local ad agency production, or even for regional/national placement, then of course much more time spent on production and most likely a DAW. But generally not for local radio spots as a DAW would be overkill.

Thanks for the comments, all very helpful. Even in a meat grinder like 10 spots in three hours, I think Cubase could whip it out pretty quickly with a template and a room configured for fast production turnaround times. I’ll look more closely at what’s in use at Stations, but that’s not the kind of production I was thinking of. I’m thinking more about high definition sound and creative production, not so much whip it out in 15 minutes.

I’ve cut radio and TV spots, Voice-over tracks – local, regional and national – at great studios, like Superdupe, Howard Schwartz, many others, mostly acting as producer, writer, assistant producer, production coordinator. My sound recording work is mostly in film and video production, location sound. However, I’m developing some new interests and may have opportunity to provide services using Cubase for some audio production work and wanted to lay the ground work for the incoming material and work out good workflow, session management concepts.

I don’t expect to stay confined to some neat box. There will be multiple takes, pick-ups, count-ins, as usual. I guess this is all more about using Cubase as a primary recorder/editor of audio rather than its musical, MIDI functionality.

Wish I could help. I haven’t done enough comping using lanes in Nuendo to have an opinion about it.

In Pro Tools I tend to record wild after the actual spot on the timeline. This keeps things clear where the actual spot exists on the timeline. So I copy/paste whatever takes people want into the correct spot and if I have multiple tracks like you do it’ll be different assembled versions.

I wouldn’t have two takes of “Voice 1” in your case. It’d be however many tracks I needed to comfortably fit selected takes in terms of mixing, and what you have at the very end in your image would be alternate versions. So if you look at your image again I would essentially have either everything except the last line starting at :50 (voice 1 is what I’m talking about) on one or two tracks that would always be playing, with the very last line at :50 existing on two additional tracks called “Tag Take 1” and “Tag Take 2” or “Tag Alt” or whatever, with only one of those two tracks playing back… OR I would copy all of the spot over so that I had two complete tracks with only the tag differing at the end of the respective tracks.

Now, if you’re actually recording on the timeline “in the spot”, while it’s playing back, then I suppose it’s a bit of a different issue. I would then consider alternate lanes or multiple tracks. The one thing I hate about multiple tracks is that as you’re working there’s no way of knowing how many you’ll end up with, so your project window can end up being really ‘tall’ because of all the takes stacked on top of each other. Also, depending on how things are set up, it can be a bit annoying creating a new track to record on unless all routing is automatically done when you do it. PT isn’t always that great in that regard (although one can always duplicate the track without media).

I have a feeling that there might not be a best practice here. I find so much of this has to do with how your brain functions (mine doesn’t) and what your preferences then are. All that really matters is that you can navigate the session quickly and get the job done… unless you’re working with someone else in which case it’s different for course.

Sure Cubase could. Any DAW could. But remember the cheapened environment of radio since FCC deregulation in 1996 leading to cookie-cutter ownership of thousands of radio stations under 1 owner. There is more entry level positions today, and wages have definitely not kept up like it was prior to 1996 when adjusted for inflation. There are more student interns, some fresh off the streets hired to babysit 5 computers running 5 AM/FM voice-tracked stations, and always “by the way here is the copy to get these 10 spots completed.” You need a simple uncluttered seamless program program to accomplish relatively narrow audio objectives. There are a lot of programs more intuitive for a beginner than Cubase.

Now I’m sure I’m going to hear about all the USA radio stations using Cubase. :laughing:

A DAW with score, all sorts of deep midi not to mention logical editor, is just overkill and distraction for most local radio station production IMO.

Production for major radio markets, and especially regional/national I would guess it’s just as you mentioned. In that scenario, why not use lanes? Regardless of music or voice, I would think once you get a workflow down,it could be very useful. Have you found drawbacks? I totally agree that best practice depends on how glued you are to your favorite tool. Emphasis on the user and comfort with the tool, and with my limited use of lanes, I think that is possible.

Side note: 25 years ago in the 149th largest radio market in the USA :laughing: , we had 2 production rooms.

“A” studio had a 16-track tape machine with a 11 foot long 32 track analog board including an Alesis SR 16 drum machine, Ensoniq EPS sampler, vocal booth, and a top-of-the-line CD Hollywood production library that was the envy of everyone in town.

“B” studio had the normal stuff found in any production room…at the time 2 new DAT’s, and the standard 4-track Otaris with the great splicers, and a standard radio mixing board.

I’m guessing it was a tax write-off for the radio station owner which was the phone company, but studio “A” never got used…ever. However it was fun to play around in and pretend I’m Trevor Horn. :mrgreen:

Mattias and greggybud, thank you both for the detailed and very helpful comments and discussion.

I have more to say in response, but I’ll have to wait on that. For now let me just acknowledge the posts and thank you both for sharing your knowledge and good concepts with me and with anyone else that may happen to read the thread. (Wish we still had “like” or “respect” buttons on the forum). :slight_smile: