Wheat:News Radio Current Issue

WHEAT:NEWS RADIO  June 2018 Vol 9, No 6

Surviving Smaller Market Studio Projects

Putting together a new studio facility can be a challenge for any broadcaster, in the same way that contenders on the "Ultimate Spartan Challenge" are challenged by moving obstacles, snake pits and impossible deadlines.

But for smaller market broadcasters? Think "Survivor."  

“The biggest challenge is budget, of course. But it might surprise people to know that the smaller market projects are often more complex and for that reason, can be more cutting edge than what you’d find in Chicago or Los Angeles,” said Rob Goldberg, who has managed projects on both ends of the spectrum as the CEO of RadioDNA in Minneapolis.

He said stations living on the margins are more reliant on automation, both for programming as well as for general operation. “They’re tossing around different satellite feeds and they’re often much more intense on remote broadcasts. And, coming more into fruition is doing remote broadcasts without having board operators. They want to save the budget of having to hire a live body just standing around and pushing buttons,” he added.

All of that requires more logic, more integrated routing and more engineering – even as engineers are in short supply at most smaller market stations. Many can’t afford a full-time engineer and instead share a contract engineer with other stations in a region, which doesn’t bode well for the day-to-day grind of studio building. That leaves management running the show, and out on Ghost Island without a paddle.

Deb Huschle, the GM of Gabriel Media in St. Cloud, Minn., has been there and back. Gabriel Media is a nonprofit that originated program for AM talk station K-YES 1180, Christian music FM Spirit 92.9 and an LPFM from its studios in Sauk Rapids, until parking became an issue. The Christian broadcaster purchased commercial property in downtown St. Cloud and set out more than a year ago to build a two-station studio that involved a total renovation down to the studs, and all new gear, save for an AudioVault system that they moved over from the old facility. They went with IP-12 control surfaces, TS-4 talent stations and a facility-wide WheatNet-IP audio network that Goldberg and his field engineers at RadioDNA configured and project managed. The new studios went live in January; no major obstacles, no missed deadlines, and no more worries. It’s all one big automation backbone from one end of the facility to the other.

Huschle’s advice to smaller market broadcasters about to install new studios: “Count on equipment to do more,” she said. “Being able to control things through WheatNet-IP from your phone or your laptop or whatever while you’re in the field, it’s really a cost benefit for these smaller markets,” agreed Goldberg. 

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For most projects, Gabriel Media’s included, RadioDNA field engineers tightly integrate the program automation system into the WheatNet-IP audio network using the Wheatstone ACI protocol. This gives them the framework to control automation functions from anywhere on the network, or from outside the network through an Internet connection. Through the ACI, they’re also able to connect codecs directly into the WheatNet-IP system. When Gabriel Media talent use a codec for a remote in the field, all control can be done with their phone or laptop, to bypass the studio and subsequent need for a board op, for example.

That communication goes the other way, too. “We’re able to troubleshoot through WheatNet-IP. Once we set up a system, we can or Mark (Young, Gabriel Media’s contract engineer who is also the fulltime engineer for Townsquare Media nearby) can just dial in and troubleshoot or make that crosspoint change or add that logic function,” said Goldberg. As we write this, Gabriel Media is preparing for a new FM translator for AM K-YES 1180, which will no doubt burn up the lines between RadioDNA and station staff to make the required changes.

For all his installs, Goldberg color codes and maps out signal paths so that changes can be made by staff on-site with minimal instruction from a remote engineer if need be. “Just having that and being able to tell someone like me with no technical training what wire to change or what to do in an emergency, that is peace of mind,” commented Huschle.

Setting Up a Quick Intercom using AoIP

INTERCOM ART

Chances are you have a plant intercom. It probably works great and you can’t imagine doing without it. But what if you need two people to be able to talk outside the system, and you don’t want to spring for two more key panels that will get only occasional use? Your IP audio networking might be able to form the communication backbone for a temporary or basic intercom system.

All you’ll need is an existing AoIP network that has integrated audio and control, like WheatNet-IP, and a simple microphone, mic preamp, and amplified speakers at each location. A voice-over booth is a good place to start, but, of course, you’ll find mics, preamps and speakers conveniently located in other studios, too.

In the case of our WheatNet-IP audio network, simply connect the mics on each end to the inputs on the nearest WheatNet-IP BLADE (our I/O units that make up the network) and connect the speakers to the output of the BLADE.

Next, you’ll need a push-to-talk button or control at each location. Talkback can be found in talent stations, button panels and mixers already networked into the WheatNet-IP environment (you can also build your own virtual interface with talkback using your Windows® Tablet and our ScreenBuilder application). These can be tied to logic input (LIO) on a BLADE. With a quick crosspoint change using the WheatNet-IP audio network NAVIGATOR software, you can program each TALK button to route the microphone to the other location’s speaker for as long as it’s held down. Note, the only wiring you’ve had to do is to the BLADE at each end. Beyond that, no matter how far apart those two locations are, the network does all the work of getting the signal from here to there.

If you’re feeling ambitious, you can add more sophistication to your WheatNet-IP networked intercom. If one location has a talent microphone that might be open, you can tell the system to keep that intercom speaker muted anytime the mic is on. You can build a multi-station intercom using WheatNet-IP button panels so that you can implement signaling, dial-up station selection, key listen, and talk select functions not unlike those of your plant intercom. Thanks to the utility mixers built into WheatNet-IP BLADES, you can even make it possible to listen to more than one key simultaneously. Most people don’t think of an AoIP audio network as a communications system, but this is just one of the many functions you can implement when your network has audio and control integrated into a single AoIP backbone.

Surprising Uses for AoIP

Oh, the places they go and the things that they do!

I/O BLADEs are the access units that form the WheatNet-IP audio network. But with audio mixing, processing, logic control and IP networking all in one rack unit, BLADEs can also be used for a number of interesting applications. Here are just a few:


SideboardArenaAudio in the Outfield: Quickly set up a small studio at any sports venue. All you need is a BLADE at the press box as your audio interface into your mixing board and mics, and an Internet or other link to the studio. The BLADE gives you audio IP routing, processing, mixing and logic controls in one box.

 


BLADE AS AUDIO SNAKEIP Audio Snake: Transport audio between the production studio and a nearby performance studio using BLADEs at each end. Carry mic and instrument feeds from the stage area to the network over CAT6, wireless or optical fiber link. Do separate mixes live using the BLADE’s 8x2 stereo utility mixers or capture multitrack recordings for future mixing. No transformer splits required!


WNIP AsSTLSTL: Continue IP audio from the studio to the transmitter with BLADEs on both ends of an IP wireless or other STL. IP radios connect to the switch on each end, which are connected to the BLADE for managing audio and any devices hanging off the network. If the STL should lose connection, the BLADE will not only detect silence, it can trigger the startup of playback audio that can be stored on some BLADEs.


BLADE AS MIXERMulti-stage venues. Place BLADE I/O units in the van and on stages or throughout the field, and connect them together over fiber and CAT6 via the network switch for audio transport between them. Great for music festivals that require real-time communication between multiple stages.


NAVIGATOR CROSSPOINT SCREENIFB. Talk to talent over your IP network. BLADEs networked together provide the IFB pathway, whether it’s on location or in the studio. Simply change crosspoints using our NAVIGATOR software to create routable IFB throughout the facility. 

MPX over AES. Because it Just Makes Sense.

Nautel Baseband192 

 

What’s the point in having a fully digital audio processor and a fully digital exciter when you’re just going to connect them together over analog? 

It doesn’t make sense at all, which is why Wheatstone, Nautel and a few other manufacturers got together to develop a method for sending the complete MPX baseband across AES/EBU – from processor to exciter. 

Our baseband192 feature in our FM audio processors now provides the AES/EBU output for the full MPX signal into any transmitter equipped with digital baseband input. No A/D conversion, no hum, and, for many, no more having to separate out the stereo generator with final clipper from the main studio processor. Because the baseband192 signal encompasses the entire multiplex spectrum after stereo generation, it also includes any loudness increases resulting from a co-located processor and generator with composite clipper. Also included are the SCA signals, something unique to Wheatstone processors. Wheatstone processors were designed to sample at 192kHz since day one, which makes it possible to carry the full MPX with SCA signals over AES.

“The clarity is amazing. Interestingly today in broadcasting, we have had so many technical improvements over a period of time that it’s all pretty good. It’s rare that we run into something where you can seriously hear the difference. You CAN hear the difference with MPX over AES,” said Nautel’s Chuck Kelly. 

In this video taken at the NAB show, Kelly and Wheatstone’s Mike Erickson discuss how easy it is to set up baseband192 for MPX over AES.

 

Experience WheatNet-IP Live at Broadcast Asia

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Stop by stand 4P1-05 at Broadcast Asia, June 26 – 28, in Singapore, to get the full WheatNet-IP audio network experience. WheatNet-IP is an AES67 compatible ecosystem of IP routing, control, mixing and virtual development tools. Ask us about how one box can replace an anvil case of equipment for moving and controlling audio in a sports venue, about developing your own virtual environment using ScreenBuilder tools, and about the Mother of All IP Boards (IP-64).

Experience why Wheatstone consoles, networking and processing are in major broadcast studios around the world.

Look for Wheatstone at the Suntec Singapore stand 4P1-05.

MAKING SENSE OF THE VIRTUAL STUDIO COVERRead our new E-Book:

Making Sense of the Virtual Studio:

SMART STRATEGIES AND VIRTUAL TOOLS FOR ADAPTING TO CHANGE

Curious about how the modern studio has evolved in an IP world? Virtualization of the studio is WAY more than tossing a control surface on a touch screen. With today's tools, you can virtualize almost ANYTHING you want to do with your audio network. This free e-book illustrates what real-world engineers and radio studios are doing. Pretty amazing stuff.

Your IP Question Answered

IP QA

Q: Why is integrated control and routing so important in an IP audio network? I thought AoIP was all about routing?

A: Routing is important, yes, but you also need to be able to control the audio being routed. Our approach is to closely integrate control and routing so that audio can be routed along with all the logic functions used to control it or its related devices. Control built into each WheatNet-IP connection point is shared with all other IP connection points across the network, giving you access to not only all source signals, but also the presets and any associated logic that goes along with each feed for controlling such things as mic ON/OFF, or changing remote mic settings for IFB, processing and other parameters. Being able to route audio in tandem with control makes it possible to quickly repurpose a studio, for example, and it’s why WheatNet-IP can be used as the communications backbone for a basic intercom system.

VoxPro at the SVG College Summit

Wheatstone attended the SVG College Summit at the beginning of June and met a lot of new broadcasters as well as touched base with familiar faces. We also held a drawing for VoxPro7, our live record/edit software.

Congratulations to David Spence of Georgia State University, Scott Guthrie of University of Nebraska, and Juan Reyes of Kennesaw State, who all came away from the summit as winners of our latest VoxPro recorder/editor software

VoxPro is being used by the NBA Portland Trail Blazers and other sportscasters for live recording and editing during sporting events.  

We prepped a video on how to use VoxPro to edit a live recording in real time and excerpt a bit of audio for a promo without interrupting the recording. Below is that video.

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-- Scott Johnson, Editor

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