I’m a huge fan of Rogue Amoeba’s streaming software for OS X, Nicecast, and have used it before for broadcasting for projects at NMC. With the zaniness of free form live broadcasting in the ds106 radio space, people are sorting out the various live streaming tools and learning as we go.

This is not going to be a comprehensive guide to Nicecast- actually their built in help is rather detailed, and it is where I went to school. Read the whole thing. Streaming music from your computer is easy if you use Nicecast to stream from an application (say iTunes). This guide covers how to set it up when you want to mix, say audio and music, as I have used for Scary Stories from Stawberry.

And I am not an expert! I defer to a real one on sound software.
Your Mileage Will Vary. Caveat Emptor. Batteries Not Included.

The Setup
In iTunes, I create a playlist for the audio I want to use- this would be if you want to DJ, or a list of creepy sounds you want to use. This is cleaner than trying to manually switching songs.

You must set up headphones to monitor the output- do not leave your speakers open, unless you want to stream bone breaking feedback. If I am the only voice, then I just use my USB headset; if in the case when I broadcast with Bryan Alexander, I used the built in mic on my MacBookPro (which also created more room like effects), but plugged the speaker end of my headsets into the headphone jack (I have a Sennheiser that allows my to use USB or just the plugs).

Test Locally
You definitely want to have phones to monitor your output as you stream, even if there is echo.

Use Built in server to test Nicecast

Nicecast has a built in server that can stream over your local network. I use this to test my setup and walk through the effects I want to use. It is the best way to make sure you dont flub dead air on the live stream. Switch over to the settings you added for your streaming server before you go live.

In Nicecast, you can edit the description that goes out in your stream via the Info tab of the broadcast window.

Edit the Info for your stream

A key is understanding the volume controls. The little slider below the broadcast button is NOT your outbound audio (that is controlled by the system volume on your computer or audio source). This slider is merely the volume for your monitor, so if you are not using headphones (BAD IDEA), turn it way down. I keep mine low, so I can just hear enough as I broadcast to let me know the audio is playing.

Pay attention to the levels bar to monitor your outgoing volume.

Mixing
There are two ways to mix music and voice- it is six of one and half a dozen of the other. I set my Nicecast source as my audio (it can be the default audio, which is the mic I have set in my Sound controls). We will see how to mix in iTunes later.

Using Audio as Source

That means my primary source is my audio stream. While you could set it to your music source (and use a Voice Over effect as shown below), this way makes it easier for you to add effects to your audio.


The effects window is where the magic happens. This is total geekery and erector set all rolled into one. It is also the same interface you get in Audio Hijack- the hijacking function is built into Nicecast, so I dont think you need the extra software unless you are doing something more complex (and I tihnk you could go beyond one external source with some soundflower channels).

Nicecast Effects

The left side features overall controls. You can bump up the total gain with the top widget (which is why I may have been blasting at 200%- there is a quick mute button if you need it).

The Wet/Dry mix lets you control how much of the effects are applied to your source (in my case audio)- if you build something elaborate, you can make the effects go away by flipping to the dry side- in my case, it’s all Wet.

And it is always worth turning on the levels display.

The green line is the path of your source- (Voice for me). Anywhere you click on a square allows you to add an effect (select from t e menu from the top of the widget). There are a lot to choose from (see the Nicecast manual Effects Index for a run down). I cannot tell you what they all do- experiment! (using built in server).

I’ve used the Reverb as well as some distortion effects. For each, there is usually an Editor window that lets you play with sliders to control the effect. The knobs allow you to control the in/out volumes (they are tricky to turn with a mouse)- the docs recommend keeping them in the middle.

A key feature is the bypass button- this allows you to turn effects on/off. So I can set up crazy reverb and space effects, and flip them on and off as needed.

The key, key, key one is that application mixer. This allows you (via the editor button shown above) to select the application you want to mix in, for me it is iTunes. You have to remember to click the Hijack button, so Nicecast can use it (see? You do not need extra software!). It typically makes you quit/relaunch iTunes.

Note that once an app hijacked, you cannot hear itunes when you play it there- you have to use the Release button to let that control go. You can monitor by running Nicecast through the built-in server

You then just use the cross fade button to smooth between your voice (Source) and music (Application). If you want background audio, I keep it about 20% in from the left- and fade to the far right to play the music only.

The trick is of course arranging all the windows to control things- mostly you need the broadcast window and the effects window up and front. If you are just running a playlist in itunes, you d not need to touch it once you start playing it (remember spacebar is your friend in most audio apps- once to start again to stop).

Don't forget to archive!

Lastly, do not forgot to bring up the Archive window- this will give you your own local recording of the stream! Click the Archive button once right after you click on the Broadcast button, and you are set to have your own copy of the live stream– cause no one else is recording!

In fact, doing a Built-in stream with archiving is a great way to run a rehearsal if you are doing all kinds of crazy stuff.

Bottom line, you can test everything via the built-in server and not fart around on the live stream,

And that’s how I run my show- always room for suggestions, I learn as I do.

UPDATE: Sept 25, 2011 Some new tips on using the Voiceover effect instead of the Application mixer. See http://cogdogblog.com/2011/09/25/son-of-nicecasting-tutorial-now-with-voiceover/

Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.

Comments

  1. This is awesome dog, and I was having some confusion about source to application in the mixer. So, when you move to iTunes in the mixer, can you hear your iTunes through your head phones to monitor the song?

    Note that once an app hijacked, you cannot hear iTunes when you play it there- you have to use the Release button to let that control go. You can monitor by running Nicecast through the built-in server

    So you run Nicecast through the built-in server and monitor it there? I am a bit confused with this. I think i am just being dense and really should read the god damned manual, but it is much more fun to bother you!

  2. A few thoughts in no particular order that come to mind for me about my experience with all of this:
    1. I think another particular success to the radio station is the low bandwidth ability to broadcast. We have a lot of folks with limited broadband capabilities and they’re able to open their iPhone and start talking to the world. It’s an incredible thing. If anything my only wish was that it was even easier in terms of the tech barrier to get started. I think we’ve done a good job with tutorials for Nicecast, Ladiocast, and Papaya, but in terms of dealing with Soundflower, LineIn, IP addresses, bitrates, it can still be a large hurdle for people.
    2. It’s important to note that ds106radio has become its own community that includes not only people participating in the MOOC, but also some folks who are not in any “official” sense participating in the course but came on board for the radio piece and have been going ever sense. ds106radio is not just a mouthpiece for “ds106: The course” but more so “ds106: The community”.
    3. If I had to choose something that I felt wasn’t working well with ds106 I’d have to say it’s the curation (and I hate that word as much as anyone) of the content to the forefront. Often I have felt I was missing a lot of really good stuff by the sheer overwhelming amount being produced. When your RSS feed says you’ve got 120 items from the ds106 feed alone it’s hard to dedicate yourself to anything more than quick scans of content and harder still to give students the feedback in the form of comments on their blog that they need to drive them further. I don’t have an easy answer to that problem, and damn if it’s not a good problem to have.
    4. Stephen Downes, who has often contributed to ds106radio, now has his own radio station built on the same technology as ds106radio. I think that’s an amazing development where now we can start to see the branching of this and ds106radio becoming a model for anybody to create freeform audio content and stream it live to the world.

    This comment was originally posted on bavatuesdays

  3. @timmmmyboy,
    Awesome, thanks for cleaning up my mess and adding your own thoughts, I was hoping folks would. You rule, and I should have also linked to this post about the ds106 community you wrote for Sharon.

    This comment was originally posted on bavatuesdays

  4. Rev, I have no idea how you find the time to give such thoughtful and wide-ranging answers, but I appreciate the effort put into this blog post.

    This comment was originally posted on bavatuesdays

  5. Pingback: Nicecast Mixing
  6. I really like Nicecast, and recently I upgraded my computer. So when I went to reinstall everything that was fine. Only issue I am having is that when I do a voice over I hear myself in the headphones as i’m talking. Would rather hear myself over the broadcast in secondlife when it happens. I didn’t have this issue on my one Mac, so I know there is a way to fix it. I just can’t remember it at the moment. Any suggestions?

    1. Try turning down the monitor level in the broadcast window (the slider under the broadcast button, move to left). That’s not the level of your output stream, just the playback when you want to monitor the broadcast.

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