TV News January 2017

WHEAT:NEWS TV

JANUARY 2017
Vol 4, No.1

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-- Scott Johnson, Editor

The New Guy Talks

Meet Lon Neumann...

...Wheatstone’s new Sales Engineer whose presence takes up an entire room whenever he talks about surround sound, the CALM Act or anything to do with television audio. From the minute we met him, we knew he had that special something that “gets it” when it comes to broadcast sound. Here, in his own words, are his thoughts on the SDI-to-IP transition, immersive audio, and how mixing live, remote productions from the home studio is about to change everything.

Note, the interview below was done before the video above was shot and is not a transcript of it. Watch and read to get the bigger picture!

WS: You come to Wheatstone by way of Linear Acoustic, THX, and NVISION, among other notables in television broadcast. That’s a side of you well known in the industry, but you’ve also done a great deal of audio engineering in the field, right?

LN: That’s true. I started my career as an audio engineer and added consulting and sales onto my resume much later. While I was the CE for Stevie Wonder, who just so happened to be one of the early adopters of this new technology by Sony known as PCM digital audio (multitrack digital audio), I became interested in technology development and was eventually recruited by Sony. That’s been my role ever since, to introduce new technology to broadcasters. What I find is that there’s a more defined line between sales and engineering on the video equipment side, but for audio, sales engineers have to be able to solve problems, and to do that, you have to understand at a much deeper technical level what broadcasters are facing. This is probably more important because television broadcasters don’t frequently know or have the time to learn about audio. At the same time, now with digital, audio has become a lot more complicated. IP audio is where it’s all headed, which is really where I see my efforts shift to and why I’ve joined Wheatstone.

WS: Weren’t you involved in some of the watershed developments in television sound, such as the CALM Act?

LN: Hard to believe that at one time you could be blasted out of your chair whenever a commercial came on or when you changed the channel! But, yes, I was very supportive of the CALM Act, both as a committee member and also during my role with Linear Acoustic. (Among Lon’s notable involvements with the Act is his keynote speaker role during a joint meeting of NY SMPTE, SBE, AES and IEEE members).

Read The Rest of the Story

WS: You’re known as someone who will roll up his sleeves to get things done. What was one of the more memorable projects you’ve worked on?

LN: I’d have to say the ABC Prospect Studios project, which came about when Disney bought out ABC and needed to update the older TV facility on Prospect Avenue (California) to all digital. It was really exciting because in a lot of ways, this was the digital facility of the future. Synchronous audio routing switchers were new at the time – digital audio routing that could switch synchronously without a glitch. I was working for NVISION, which as you know was an offshoot of Grass Valley Group, and we were developing all these new ways of doing audio for post-production and television. We built systems like master reference clock systems, distribution amplifiers and routing switchers before anyone else was doing it. In retrospect, this all was for HDTV, which, at the outset, didn’t even exist yet. It was a massive, integrated system that I’m very proud to have been a part of. By the way, one of the big deals for this multimillion-dollar upgrade was the use of HD SDI routers, one of the first to be used, along with time code routers and machine-control routers—all integrated under a coordinated control system.

WS: The irony is that SDI is now being supplanted by IP. What’s your take on the SDI to IP migration?

LN: I think IP is the future, for a whole collection of reasons, not the least of which is economic. But SDI isn’t going to go away overnight. It will happen slowly, because even though the idea of using off-the-shelf technology is very appealing, you still have to develop that technology for the demands of television…and that’s where Wheatstone is so powerful.

WS: Let’s talk about that for a minute, and how live, remote production from central home-office studios is going to change things.

LN: Wheatstone has all the nuts and bolts as far as the infrastructure goes to make that happen on the audio side – from the WheatNet-IP audio network environment to the consoles themselves, which take on a much more central role. That’s going to change the whole makeup of sports remotes, where you don’t necessarily need to have a large crew and lots of equipment onsite. Instead, you’re able to set up a (WheatNet-IP) audio interface onsite that can convert and shift audio over to the central home-office studio for mixing. There’s a whole segment of the industry that can benefit from at-home live production today, like regional and college sports. There’s a variation on that as well – that sort of technology can exist locally, like within large stadiums or other large facilities that would benefit from IP networking around the campus. We’re just beginning to scratch the surface for moving audio around and being able to mix it from anywhere.

WS: Your interest in Wheatstone isn’t entirely restricted to IP though, right?

LN: Well, that’s the main thing. But, of course, another thing that is exciting to me is the IP-64 (Wheatstone’s large-frame IP TV console). There are a couple of aspects to the IP-64 that are near and dear to my heart, one being the surround pan feature. That really resonates with me. The IP-64 has a feature that lets you pan the surround. You can actually set the sound field and pan the sound from the mixer. I can’t wait to spend some time at the controls!

WS: I was told we’d end up talking about surround sound!

LN: It’s the sweetest sound ever… I got hooked on surround sound when I worked for the Sony Super Audio CD project, and I’ve been in love with surround ever since. It gets to be more contemplative when you’re talking about surround compared to stereo, because it’s important to set up the speakers just right. It’s all about calibrating and aligning the sound image. When you get it right, it’s such a wonderful thing.

WS: I suppose if you like surround sound, you got to really love what’s happening with immersive sound!

LN: I’ve been following that for some time. Actually, I’m currently Secretary for the SMPTE committee that is setting international standards for object-based immersive audio in digital cinema. As you know, what’s happening in object-based immersive audio for television will be included in ATSC 3.0, and it’s a slightly different format in that it doesn’t have as many speakers and not all the same features that you see in digital cinema. But we in television are going to need to translate from film to TV, and I’m all for that. And there is a lot more for TV in the way of personalization, accessibility, adaptability to playback environments, etc.

WS: What needs to happen for immersive sound to take off in television?

LN: In a perfect world, everyone will install the 7.1+4 speaker system in their home theaters. But I don’t know how realistic that will be right off, because you’ve got speakers all over the place and home decorators don’t necessarily embrace that idea. I mean, we’re expecting people who have resisted 5.1 in their homes to adopt 7.1 plus four, and that may be a bit of a stretch. But I think it will happen, eventually. But there are also some other creative solutions being proposed. I just saw one of them at the SVG Summit last week that Dolby has been recommending, which is instead of putting these overhead speakers in the ceiling, you have speakers that reflect the sound up off of the ceiling. Fraunhofer has also developed a system that they claim will recreate the full immersive sound field from a sound bar that goes under the TV. It’s a work in progress at this point.

WS: One last question. As you know, there are a lot of us at Wheatstone who are into music…and you mentioned that you once worked for Stevie Wonder. Tell us about that.

LN: I started out in live sound, which led me to working in recording studios in Hollywood with a special focus on remote recordings in trucks for Stevie Wonder, Emmylou Harris and others.

WS: Wait! So you started out as not only an audio engineer, but working the truck end of the business … before production trucks became what they are today?

LN: Well, sort of. At the time, Stevie Wonder purchased a facility where Nat King Cole had done his independent work, and the acoustics in the studio were okay, but the technical facilities had been gutted. So, to make it a bona fide recording studio, he rented a truck from Record Plant and we drove it in as a remote truck. My job was to support the audio system in the truck, and it worked so well, I went on to become Stevie Wonder’s CE for five years. Before that I worked on other trucks for Wally Heider Recording, and later on another remote truck for Emmylou Harris that was pretty much left at the studio off Coldwater Canyon (Los Angeles), except when we drove it all over Texas for Willie Nelson’s montage for “On The Road Again,” in the movie Honeysuckle Rose.

WS: I think we’re going to have to leave it at that, for now. Welcome to Wheatstone, Lon.

When The Airport Bans Your Phone

LXE

By Dee McVicker

Did you know that along with knives and guns and bombs, you are no longer allowed to carry a Galaxy Note 7 phone on the airplane? The Note 7 is blacklisted by U.S. carriers. If you happen to make it past the TSA checkpoint and onto the plane with one in your pocket, you’ll be asked to hand it over to a flight attendant...

Something has gone terribly wrong with a product when it’s on the no-fly list.

The explanation is that lithium-polymer batteries burst into flames when the anode and cathode come into contact, as they occasionally do in the Note 7 as a result of a manufacturing error. That’s right. A manufacturing error. I know this because I Googled it as I sat on the tarmac of the Charlotte airport waiting for my plane to take off for New Bern, North Carolina. (Using my trusty iPhone).

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EQ
I return to New Bern every so often to see everyone at Wheatstone and to get my manufacturing fix. I don’t know of anywhere else where steel, wood, electronics and other raw materials come in one door, and out another door come audio consoles, IP units, and audio processors.

EQSo earlier this month, while fresh off two flights with the Note 7 ban burned into my psyche, I arrived at the Wheatstone factory more keenly interested in manufacturing than I’ve ever been before. That’s a significant understatement considering I’ve always had an appreciation for manufacturing.

I grew up in the Midwest where manufacturing was at one time as deeply rooted in the culture there as corn. My dad worked in the Ford plant, and at the glass factory before that. I worked in the plastics plant in high school, and later, I worked for CRL where those of us in the office would spend our lunch hours in the back putting together circuit boards for the fun of it.

EQI like the smells, the sounds and the busy-ness of the factory, and I especially like seeing the elves at Wheatstone make things and the pride they take in their work. Just about every screw that goes into those Wheatstone consoles is traced back to the individual assembler who put it there.

These are highly skilled craftsmen and women -- more so than those in the factories I remember when growing up. When my father worked in the Ford plant, everyone on the assembly line had a very specific job. They did the same job, day in and day out. Back then, that was the beauty of mass production; Ford could turn out cars by the droves. But there was a drawback. In the early days, if you wanted a Model T, your color choices were black, black or black.

EQWhat struck me most as I made the sweep through the Wheatstone plant last month is just how much things have changed in manufacturing – and what an investment in quality, talent, and resources it is. Wheatstone has some fairly impressive surface mount technology that can transform a computer file and spools of components into a fully assembled, working circuit card. There’s no guesswork to quality control anymore. We now know those boards are fully functional because we have specialized cameras that take pictures of the finished board and can detect misplaced or improperly soldered components. And because it’s all done in-house, Wheatstone can customize, experiment, and perfect product development. Take the module strips in the LX series consoles. Rather than use the traditional silkscreen method of labeling, we’ve been able to make those strips more readable and durable by powder coating them and then laser etching control legends directly through the coating. That kind of thing is difficult, if not impossible, to outsource.

EQIf there was one takeaway from my trip back to the factory it is this: Being able to manufacture everything in one 52,000 square-foot plant is about controlling quality and cost, yes. But it’s as much about customization, too. Wheatstone steel cutters cut custom patterns for consoles and chassis that are too intricate for a traditional punch machine. Operators at a multi-axis CNC milling machine can drill just about any pattern into aluminum panels. Same with the miller at the milling machine and the resulting customized wood trim used in Wheatstone consoles.

EQThis is why each WheatNet-IP system can be customized exactly as needed, whether it’s for a single studio with a console that has a few faders or an enormous multi-station facility with many large control surfaces that are consolidated with talent stations, metering and various button panels. It’s why we can customize systems, change orders and fast-track a project in no time at all.

It’s also why you’ll never see the Wheatstone name on the no-fly list.

Editor’s note: Dee McVicker is located in Arizona and occasionally returns to the “mother ship” in New Bern as part of the Wheatstone marketing team. She recently upgraded to an iPhone 7.

Your IP Question Answered

EQ

Q: I’m looking into IP audio networking for mixing live remotes in our master studio, or what everyone calls “at-home live production.” Are there other applications for your WheatNet-IP audio system that might be useful?

A: Yes. Quite a few, actually. For example, the same I/O access unit (we call them BLADEs) that you normally use for at-home production can be used when covering live speeches down at the city hall. The news conference becomes another point on the network, so you can turn on the reporter’s mic and all the relevant processing settings – and even bring in another reporter located elsewhere in the network, plus set up mix-minuses for IFBs from one central location. You can place BLADEs in the van, on a stage or throughout the ballfield, and then connect them together over fiber or CAT6 via a network switch and transport audio between all those locations. The possibilities are endless, because each BLADE has routing, processing, mixing and logic controls for mics and other devices in one rack unit – sort of like a “studio in a box” that essentially extends your studio WheatNet-IP audio network, and all the routing and control that goes with it, to anywhere you need it. By the way, we also have a specialty network unit if you want to take advantage of 5.8 GHz unlicensed wireless IP radios as a line-of-sight link to the truck or studio. Our EDGE unit connects directly into the IP wireless radio through RJ-45 connectors to carry audio between locations. We can’t wait to hear back on all the different ways you’re using the system!


EQ

Wheatstone

  • KPLM-FM (Palm Springs, CA) purchased an IP-12 digital audio console.

  • University of Miami (Florida) purchased an IP-12 digital audio console with I/O BLADEs.

  • iHeartMedia (Charlotte, NC) purchased two IP-12 digital audio consoles, an LX-24 control surface and WheatNet-IP I/O BLADEs.

  • Radio 6PR (Perth, WA) purchased two LXE control surfaces with talent panels.

  • Hubbard Radio (Seattle, WA) purchased two TS-4 talent stations for an existing WheatNet-IP audio network.

  • CBC Radio (Iqaluit, NU) purchased two ScreenBuilder apps with Scheduler through Marketing Marc Vallee.

  • Rogers Communications (Toronto, ON) purchased a MADI I/O BLADE through Ron Paley Broadcast.

  • KEZN-FM (Palm Desert, CA) purchased an IP-12 digital audio console.

  • Larche Communications (Orillia, ON) purchased a TS-4 talent station through Ron Paley Broadcast.

Click to See The Rest of the List...

Wheatstone (continued)

  • Hubbard Radio (Minneapolis, MN) upgraded to NAVIGATOR 3 for an existing WheatNet-IP audio network.

  • Townsquare Media (Lubbock, TX) purchased an I/O BLADE to run programming over a licensed 11 GHz link as an STL for five stations.

  • Audio Design Company (Hong Kong) purchased an LX series control surface for Hangzhou Radio in Hangzhou, China.

  • Sinclair’s KOMO-AM (Seattle, WA) purchased a split-frame LXE control surface, thirteen SideBoard control surfaces and TS-4 talent stations along with WheatNet-IP I/O BLADEs.

  • Audio Design Company (Hong Kong) purchased an LX-24 control surface for Shantou Radio in Shantou, China.

  • WUSF-FM (Tampa, FL) purchased an LX-24 control surface.

  • KRFC-FM (Fort Collins, CO) purchased two L-12 control surfaces.

  • Cox Radio (San Antonio, TX) purchased additional I/O BLADEs for an existing WheatNet-IP audio network.

  • WGN-TV (Chicago, IL) purchased an I/O BLADE.

  • Jackson Casino (Jackson, CA) purchased five TS-4 talent stations and an I/O BLADE.

  • The LDS Church (Salt Lake City, UT) purchased a MADI I/O BLADE for an existing WheatNet-IP audio network plus four Aura8-IP multi-mode processors.

  • Rogers Communications (Kitchener, ON) purchased the ScreenBuilder app through Ron Paley Broadcast.

  • CJBQ-AM (Belleville, ON) purchased the ScreenBuilder app through Ron Paley Broadcast.

  • American Forces Network (Riverside, CA) purchased the ScreenBuilder app.


Audioarts Engineering

  • KIRX-AM / KRXL-FM (Kirksville, MO) purchased an R-55e console.

  • Lorain County Community College (Elyria, OH) purchased an R-55e console.

  • KNZA-FM (Hiawatha, KS) purchased an R-55e console.

  • KMAN-AM (Manhattan, KS) purchased an R-55e console.

  • KVOK-FM (Kodiak, AK) purchased an Air-4 console.


Wheatstone Audio Processing

  • Catholic Radio Network (Pueblo, CO) purchased an FM-55 audio processor.

  • Townsquare Media (Missoula, MT) purchased an FM-55 audio processor.

  • Westwood One (Los Angeles, CA) purchased 22 M2 dual channel mic processors.

  • Radikal Elektronik Ltd (Istanbul) purchased an M2 dual channel mic processor.

  • CBS (Detroit, MI) purchased an L-8 control surface and an M4IP-USB four channel mic processor.

  • KJLH-FM (Inglewood, CA) purchased an M4IP-USB four channel mic processor.

  • Corus Entertainment (Toronto, ON) purchased two M4IP-USB four channel mic processors through Ron Paley Broadcast.

  • iHeartMedia (Tucson, AZ) purchased an M1 mic processor.

  • Durham Radio (Belleville, ON) purchased an Aura8-IP multi-mode processor and M4IP-USB four channel mic processor through Ron Paley Broadcast.


VoxPro

  • iHeartMedia (Portland, OR) purchased a VoxPro6 digital audio recorder/editor.

  • KWKW-AM (Los Angeles, CA) purchased a VoxPro6 digital audio recorder/editor.

  • CBS (Minneapolis, MN) purchased a VoxPro6 digital audio recorder/editor.

  • Cumulus (Nashville, TN) purchased a VoxPro6 digital audio recorder/editor.

  • iHeartMedia (Los Angeles, CA) purchased a VoxPro6 digital audio recorder/editor.

  • Redemption Baptist Church (Albertville, AL) purchased a VoxPro6 digital audio recorder/editor.

  • iHeartMedia (Columbus, OH) purchased a VoxPro6 digital audio recorder/editor.

  • KNLB-FM (Lake Havasu City, AZ) purchased a VoxPro6 digital audio recorder/editor.

  • WBZ-AM (Boston, MA) purchased a VoxPro6 digital audio recorder/editor.

  • CBS Radio (Colton, CA) purchased a VoxPro6 digital audio recorder/editor.

  • Jackson Casino (Jackson, CA) purchased a VoxPro6 digital audio recorder/editor.

  • Oakwood Broadcast (Mississauga, ON) purchased five VoxPro6 digital audio recorder/editors.

  • iHeartMedia (San Antonio, TX) purchased a VoxPro6 digital audio recorder/editor.

ANDY CALVANESE DISCUSSES WHEATNET-IP FOR TELEVISION
Wheatstone's VP/Technology, Andy Calvanese, discusses some of the advantages of the seamless, built-in control layer of the WheatNet-IP audio-over-IP network when used in television applications.

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