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Game Ops Commander H.T. (Hints & Tips)

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If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably been busy attempting to load every last mp3 & wav file you have on your hard drive(s) into Commander. With 240 screens in Commander v3.0 Deluxe you definitely have the “screen real estate” to do so. With that said, I’ve had co-workers and even Game day directors question my madness – “You’re never going to use them all”, or “Why are you loading that particular song? You’re never going to play that!”. Well, fellow sports fans, you never know when you may want to play that particular song. You never know when you may get a perfect time to play “that” certain song.

”That sounds reasonable”, they’ll say, but it’s always followed up with, “ . . .But, will you be able to find the song when that “perfect” time comes?” Hmm? . . . Good question! Because we all know, you may only have a couple of seconds to find a song or the “moment” may be lost.

That’s why we developed what I believe to be one of the most important features in Commander 3.0, the Search feature. When we sat down to improve our current version of Commander one of the features I felt needed improving was our search function. I had just two requirements; The search should not only tell you that a song exists in Commander but it should also take you to the screen it resides on, and . . . it has got to be fast. . Uh, I mean “blink of an eye” fast. Well good news, I got what I asked for, and even more.
The search feature in Commander is fast! And, the coolest part of is, when you search for a selection and Commander finds it, it will take you to the screen where the song is and highlight the button for you! (If you’re anything like me, you can certainly appreciate that visual cue. I’ve had many instances during a high-pressure game where I seemed to almost go blind to my screen labels).

Whether you’re using wav files or mp3 files, Commander’s search will find it. Here’s how it works . . . Just click on File then Search. A window will come up which allows you to search by any of the following categories: Clip Name, File Name, Artist, Genre, and even Album. You can further refine your search by searching various media file types. Once you enter something into one of the fields and click Search For Clips, your file(s) will immediately be shown in a drop down window below. Just pick the clip you were looking for and it will automatically take you to the screen where that clip “lives” and will highlight by changing the button color to purple. One of newer technologies we use is the ID3v2 tagging made available to mp3 files. That is, in a nutshell, information “imbedded” or “wrapped” with the mp3 file. The title, artist, album, Genre, etc. is all information that comes with the file (as long as it has been encoded correctly). This allows Commander to search your database and find what you’re looking for.

The Search feature really is nice when I want to find all the songs I have that use a particular word in the title, or to see what songs I have by a particular artist. For instance, in the artist section I can type in Beatles and all my Beatles songs will list. At that point I can choose the one I want to play – Or, in a mobile DJ’s world, what song has been requested. All this can be done while another selection is playing!

So go ahead load up your screens with all those mp3 and wav files. You won’t have to remember where you put each and every song. You now know using Commander Search they’re all just a mouse click away!

Scheduling Songs to start AUTOMATICALLY!
I’ll bet you didn’t know you can schedule selections to begin at any given time – Automatically!

Have you ever been in a different part of your building when it was time for your doors to open and you frantically run to your sound booth to start your music? Or, like us, does your game day director schedule the game day meeting around the time when your doors open? Well, your worries may be over! As a Game Ops Commander user you may not realize you can schedule your music to start at any time using the Clock Scheduler feature in both 3.0 versions of Commander.

Here’s all you do – choose a button in which the music you want to play (yes, it can be an intelliclip jukebox), click and drag it up to the time-clock in the upper right hand corner of the Commander screen. It will then prompt you to select an event time and once you type in the time you want the selection to start, you’re done! You’ll notice a small clock icon in the lower right hand corner of your screen will appear. This lets you know that you have something “scheduled” to play. If you forget, all you do is click on the clock icon and the scheduler will come up. You then can click and see what is scheduled to play. Like most of us, you will have various buttons already loaded with a variety of selections to play as a jukebox. Remember, the clock in Commander is directly connected to the CPU clock on the computer. So, you’re going to want to make sure your computer clock is set to the correct time of day.

The Clock Scheduler in Commander is a great feature that will help keep your mind at ease! Initially, as stated above, the feature was written into the program for those of us who can’t be right next to our computer when the doors open. However, I’ve seen and been told of many other applications where the clock scheduler can be a benefit.

An obvious one is with radio stations and their need to have certain “drops” scheduled. This feature is a lifesaver for anyone who wants to semi-automate their programming. Whether its music, station breaks, or commercial spots, this simple feature allows the programming director so much flexibility. The station can program a week out, a month out or even create years of programming if they so chose to!

Another use is with hotels, theme parks, restaurants, or any small business where pre-recorded programming is running. This allows the user to format certain selections (whether it’s music, commercials, items of interest, etc.) for definitive times, rather than just starting a tape and not having control of what is playing at any given moment.

Probably the most original use of the Clock Scheduler has to go to one of our own developers. I happened to be talking with him a few months ago and he just casually mentioned he uses his computer as an alarm clock. I’m not sure how we actually got on that topic but I asked him how he accomplishes that. (Hold on, you’re getting ahead of me!). He says to me, “I just program in a variety of music and set my wake up time in Commander and I wake up listening to my favorite mix”! Now, I’m not advocating getting rid or your alarm clock, but, if you think about it, it isn’t a bad idea . . .

Using all 6 Mini Media Players To Get Through That Time-Out With Ease!
"Drag & Drop your selections for an upcoming time-out"

For those of you who are wondering what we could do to make Commander even faster and easier for you, we’ve done something in both our 3.0 versions that can make it easier to get through that time out, inning break, or stoppage of play with ease.

In most sports and live events, there are natural stoppages when a team traditionally runs promotions, commercials, and PA reads. In basketball we have time-outs and quarter breaks. In baseball there’s inning breaks. In football there are changes of possession and quarter breaks. In hockey you’re loaded with stoppages and of course period breaks.

One of the changes you’ll first notice in our 3.0 version from our previous versions is that there are 6 mini-media players permanently positioned on the right hand side of the screen. The reason we added this feature was simple – we wanted an easy way to have certain music selections ready to play for an upcoming time-out. For us, a typical time out would mean an instrumental bed of music playing under a PA read, possibly followed by an on-court promotion whereby I would need anywhere from 2-4 selections at my disposal (i.e., funny promotional music, drum roll, sound effects, organ tah dahs, etc.), then end with a music bumper. In the past, I would have many of these selections on different screens, and although I think I get around my screens pretty fast, it just wasn’t as easy as it could be to click on a selection and then quickly find the next, etc. You may find yourself in a similar circumstance – no matter what sport you work in. Sometimes "quick" just isn't "quick enough".

The benefit to having the 6 mini-media players available is that you can drag and drop your various selections onto the mini-media players at any time while the game is going on in preparation for your next stoppage. Then, you just go down through and play each selection without having to change screens (Reminder: you can always program those selections in which you play consistently game after game right on your keyboard for even quicker access).

What this did was allow me to get even faster, be more prepared for our promotions, and even think a bit more creatively which isn’t a bad thing!

Spice up your P.A.'s
No matter what sport we work in, we all have to put up with those “necessary” pre-game & post-game public address announcements as well as a multitude of sponsorship announcements. Have you ever thought about recording those announcements your PA announcer is required to say and playing them through Commander?

When this was first presented to me year’s ago, I kind of laughed and said, “No PA announcer will ever want to record their voice and have it played back for a game”. Well, I was wrong. In the past few years, I’ve heard from many teams and schools using Game Ops Commander in just that way. One good reason I heard from a director (in which will go nameless here), was that his PA announcer was “notoriously late” and “we just wanted to get as many pregame announcements out of the way as we could”. Another scenario that has been brought to my attention is that there are times when your announcer may be a bit under the weather and would rather save their “pipes” to call the game, letting you play specific PA’s from Commander.

Now, before I get a bunch of “hate mail” from all you PA announcers, I’m not advocating doing an entire game with a pre-recorded voice. I just never thought that would be possible – until I heard of a certain professional baseball team that supposedly did just that last season. It was rumored that their PA announcer knew ahead of time that he couldn’t make one of their scheduled games. So, they went to work in the studio recording every possible scenario he might have to say ( I mean everything!). When the big day came, the Commander operator ran the audio and I heard it went off without a hitch! (Please don’t email me with requests of which team it was. I was sworn to secrecy!)

Here’s another idea.

If you’re anything like our team, you’ll probably have a number of sponsorship announcements that under contract you’re required to read. In some cases, if you have page after page of these types of reads, you may want to get creative and find ways to “spice them up”. If you’re lucky enough to have a video board, you can come up with all sorts of creative ideas to present those reads in a more exciting way. If not, one inexpensive way to do this is pre-record those reads with a different voice than that of your PA announcer. Nothing is more boring than sitting though read after read hearing a less than stimulating announcer drone on about “this” product or “that” service. A different voice, even if it’s not a professional, can take out the monotony of your fans hearing the same voice over and over. Sponsors love the idea. In fact, if you’ve got enough time, many sponsors have pre-produced radio sports in which you can record right into your Commander box – And they’ll usually supply them at no charge.

Keep checking back with us for more tips on how to use Commander to its fullest potential and make your games even better!

Commanders new Queue feature a big Success!
Have you ever been in a situation where you are playing some pre-game, halftime, or between quarter’s music and needed to leave your position from in front of your Commander box for a few minutes? “Sure”, you say, “That happens all the time”. If that’s your case, you may find the new Queue feature in Commander a big help to you.

Many of us set up “jukeboxes” on buttons for unattended playback. Generally, the jukeboxes are set up for long “sets” of music (i.e. pre-game) and work very well. However, there are times during a game when you need to fill 5 – 15 minutes of music and possibly have other responsibilities as well. If that’s the case the Commanders Queue feature is for you. If you always wondered what those 12 gray squares are near the top of your screen, then you are on the right track! This is the Queue feature that we built into both 3.0 versions. It’s actually very simple.

The 12 boxes can represent up to 12 different selections you want to play in succession. All you do is drag a selection up to the first gray box. It will number it “1” and put a corresponding “1” on the button (this is so you’ll now what song(s) are in the Queue). Once you have enough songs loaded in the Queue, just click on the “Q” button and when the song you are playing is finished the first song in the Queue will begin playing! As the songs progress through, you’ll notice the numbers change on the media buttons to show which song is next in Que. It’s just that simple!

We’ve found this to be a really big hit with many Commander users. Unfortunately, a fair amount of you didn’t know what those gray boxes were for. If you haven’t played around with the “Queue”, try it out. You’ll be amazed at how it will help make your game presentation even better!

Are you using your Commander Hot Keys to your advantage?
Since the inception of Windows, most of us have been relying on our mouse to navigate around our screen, and Commander users are no different. I’m amazed when I hear of some Commander users who aren’t using their hotkeys. I’m even more amazed when I find out some of those users didn’t even know they could use their keyboard to trigger selections!

One of the quickest ways to access a variety of your selections is through assigning them to keys on the keyboard. Personally, I use every key for something – From “hot timeout” songs that I’ve got to have instant access to, to funny sounds when the basketball goes flying into the crowd. I know many of our baseball users will put the “breaking glass” sound effect, or car tires screeching sound on a key to use when a foul ball goes flying into the crowd. Hockey teams do the same thing – Puck goes flying into the crowd, all the operator has to do is hit the appropriate key – all which add to the “fun” environment we’re all trying to create. Some years, I even have specific sounds I’ll play when certain players make a basket. It’s so much easier than having to navigate to a particular screen for a sound effect that has to “hit” right now.

One of the advantages that the 3.0 versions have is that you can import a number of selections on any one key. This really helps in having a variety of selections on one key, making it much easier for the operator. Let me give you an example. During Blazer games when we have a slam dunk, I have designated my F1 key as the one I use for that “occurrence”. So before hand, I’ve determined that I have about 15 – 20 “cool” slam dunk sounds that will work after a slam. I assign them to the F1 key and then as an operator, all I have to do is remember to hit the F1 key after a good dunk, and I’ll get a different sound each time! It really makes it easier to “tag” all those situations where time is “of the essence”.

A couple of other keyboard shortcuts you might not be aware of in 3.0 are the Page Up and Page Down buttons. Pressing one of the other will take you either up a page or down a page (i.e., if you’re on screen 100 and you just want to move down one screen to screen 99, just hit the Page Down button). It’s that easy. In addition, if you’re up on a higher screen and you want to quickly get back to your first screen, just press the Home key and you’re there instantly. Want to fade out a selection you’re playing? Just hit the Space Bar and your selection(s) will automatically fade.

If you haven’t used your hot keys, you might want to try them. You’ll be amazed at how fast you can get to that “perfect” sound effect, and even more importantly, you’ll be amazed at how the crowd will react!

Looping Without Any Headaches
Back in the “old days”, (B.C. – Before Commander), it was a real hassle trying to easily loop a portion of audio that needed to be played continuously. For our NBA games here in Portland, we actually got to the point (with editing equipment) of laying a track down, but unfortunately the easiest way to do so was to “create” more content than you really needed. For instance, if I wanted to play a nice instrumental bed underneath a PA read, I would find the music (usually about 5 – 10 seconds of music) I wanted and then essentially “cut & paste” that portion 10 to 15 times to come up with a minute or two of non stop instrumental sound. It was time consuming to create, and even in the early days of PC based audio systems, it was also “hard disc consuming" as well. Sometimes it was even a bit embarrassing if the edits weren’t perfect. You know, those horrible pauses or skips in the music when your edit wasn’t precisely on the beat? Doh!!!

Even worse to work with were many of the audio prompts we used during our games. Like most teams, we use a few variations of the “Boom Boom, Clap Clap” audio prompts to get our crowd excited and into the game. Since our use was for an NBA game we needed those prompts to be at least 24 seconds long . . . at least we thought that amount of time was long enough since a possession during an NBA game wasn’t longer than 24 seconds. Except we forgot that the other team could (and does) actually get the offensive rebound on occasion and that 24-second clock resets and now we need a longer prompt! So, back we’d go to the editing room for more “cutting & pasting”.

No more! With the looping feature we’ve built into Commander, there’s no need to be in the editing room for extended periods of time. A simple, “Boom Boom, Clap Clap” can be looped very easily. All that has to be done is one click in Commander! Once the file has been imported into Commander, there is a right mouse click option to loop the clip. Once that has been "checked”, the clip will play seamlessly without stopping. This is a huge time saver – and disc space saver too since the clip is not much more than a second or two!

I can now find cool instrumental parts of songs, and loop them without any extensive editing. And as long as the selection is smooth on both ends, your loop will sound seamless and endless! Ah, what a relief! This makes for a better game presentation by having music underneath, PA’s, video packages, promotions, etc.

No matter which sport your working, the looping function can be a handy tool for your audio presentation.

 

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