WHEAT:NEWS Radio Nov 2015 - Vol 6, No. 10
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Sporting IP at IMG
We have been told that some of the best moves in sports happen right inside the broadcast studio. IMG World, the ESPN of collegiate sports broadcasting, shows us a few. Incredibly, IMG delivers 40-plus games to up to 2,200 radio affiliates out of one studio complex on any given Saturday.
Ben Blevins, the engineer in charge of collegiate sports network IMG World, tells us they’ve literally moved an entire sports broadcast into a different studio while it was live, on the air. And, not one fan noticed.
That’s an impressive display of studio athleticism, and brave too, considering that sports fans can get rather vocal about even minor disruptions in the game.
“We do all kinds of interesting things with IP audio,” says Blevins, who has one of the largest WheatNet-IP audio networks with more than 75 I/O BLADEs and dozens of IP audio surfaces for IMG’s 48-studio sports complex in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
IMG is transporting live sports as it happens and sending it across the ether or satellite to IMG’s centralized studio for final production – a model for producing large volumes of live content that television broadcasters are just now beginning to adopt.
On any given Saturday, IMG produces 40-plus games, each with one or two sportscasters reporting in from different ball parks and fields anywhere in the nation -- all fed directly into IMG’s Winston-Salem’s studio complex, where it is all produced and redistributed to any number of its 2,200 affiliate radio stations.
Incredibly, says Blevins, “We haven’t missed a play in I don’t know how long.”
It’s not uncommon to find 30 board ops and producers with hands moving across Wheatstone E-6 boards like greased lightning as they segue between highlights, real plays and in-field announcers. They can be broadcasting a game live one minute and then pick up a highlight and drop it in for a halftime play the next. All of it is managed through the WheatNet-IP studio network, including all logic control for creating salvos and macros, starting and stopping contact relays and controlling faders.
Add to this a new “Red Zone” channel called IMG College Football Blitz that features highlights from any one of the football games, sometimes as they happen, and things can get positively electrifying. Producers now do all the above, plus cue up various game highlights in succession – panning from Los Angeles to South Bend in an instant, all while punching up post-game or coach comments and highlights from game to game.
To help producers navigate it all in real-time and on the fly, Blevins recently used a new WheatNet-IP audio network application called Screen Builder to build out a customized virtual interface that interfaces to the entire 48-studio network in order to grab the highlights, comments and plays for the Blitz channel. “We built it so that it’s touchscreen and they have their own little headphone mixer, where they can route around to different studios, listen to multiple games and decide where the game is going next,” he explains.
The Screen Builder app has faders, meters, labels, buttons, clocks, timers and other widgets connected to devices on the network that Blevins arranged on a PC screen to create a custom control panel.
With something like 35,000 hours of live sports production – and counting -- for 55 college sports networks including Norte Dame, UCLA and Duke University, Blevins is staying ahead of the game with every technological advantage he can find. IMG represents more than 200 college sports properties, including the NCAA and its 89 championships as well as college and university football, baseball, basketball and other sports teams for 2,200 radio affiliates.
Ben Blevins Demonstrates His Screen Builder App
Audio IP in the ‘Wild’
One of the more promising ideas for long distance, live IP audio transport was presented at the 139th International AES Convention in New York. WorldCast set up a dual link between Northern Ireland and Florida, which during one stretch of operation delivered more than 43 million payload packets with a grand total of 35 packets lost. Here’s more.
A wise person once said that technology is like energy. It can’t be created or destroyed, only changed.
By that description, there was certainly a lot of energy at the 139th International AES Convention in New York. The annual conference is where many new engineering ideas emerge, and that proved once again to be the case during the session on live IP audio transport moderated by Steve Lampen, the Multimedia Technology Manager for Belden who happens to be the wise person mentioned above.
“We’re on the cusp of big change with IP audio,” says Lampen, who moderated a panel of five for Audio and IP: Are We There Yet? “We’re at the point where (in the studio) ‘digital is fine, IP is fine, delivery is fine,’ so let’s move on to the next thing and that is leaving the studio and going out to the world, which is IP.”
Wheatstone couldn’t agree more.
The use of the public Internet and other IP transports for shuttling WheatNet-IP audio across country is nothing new. But the use of IP for transporting live, on-the-air broadcast is, the limiting factors until now being inherent IP reliability and QoS issues. Packet dropout remains a problem for live broadcast applications.
One of the more promising ideas for giving IP audio a big push in that direction was presented by WorldCast Systems’ Tony Peterle, one of the panelists on Lampen’s panel. The codec company has developed a method of streaming with two or more IP links, on different paths that could include satellite, microwave or the public Internet, for example, so if a network issue disrupts one, the other one will take over automatically. The two IP paths meet at the destination and are time referenced against each other. If one drops packets for any reason, the other can provide the missing data instantaneously, for almost 100 percent reliability.
Peterle tells us that WorldCast set up a dual link between Northern Ireland and Florida, which during one stretch of operation delivered more than 43 million payload packets with a grand total of 35 packets lost. As of this writing, this demo stream has been in continuous operation for nearly 70 days, delivering more than 140 million packets with zero losses. Latency is set at a couple hundred milliseconds due to the calibration algorithm between the two signals, but this method promises to be a practical alternative to ISDN and satellite for live sports or other programming.
As a manufacturer of audio over IP consoles and studio systems, Wheatstone is very much in support of solutions such as this to move IP audio along. “Audio IP in the ‘wild’ has been on everybody’s radar for years. IP’s great for sending a block of commercials between Point A and Point B, but for actually sending real-time audio over the Internet? With what WorldCast is doing, it’s starting to become viable now,” says our Minister of Algorithms Steve Dove, who was at the AES convention and commended WorldCast for their work.
We could see and experience a very different IP audio network by this time next year. Or, as Steve Lampen once said, time changes everything.
VoxPro 5: Wheatstone's Live Radio Broadcast Production System
In this video, we'll introduce you to VoxPro, the de facto standard audio recorder/editor for live radio broadcast use. It’s hard to walk into any radio studio in the world today and not see VoxPro next to the console. Rick Bidlack (the programmer behind VoxPro) and Wheatstone's Jay Tyler give you a quick overview of the product, and why it fits into radio studios so perfectly.
- CBC (Rankin Inlet, NU) purchased an I/O BLADE for an existing WheatNet-IP audio network.
- Mathrubhumi Publishing (Dubai, UAE) purchased three LX-24 control surfaces and WheatNet-IP audio network for Horizon Broadcast LLP.
- Advanced Broadcast Solutions (Los Angeles, CA) purchased an I/O BLADE to add to USC Annenberg School of Journalism's existing WheatNet-IP audio network.
- KTLA-TV (Los Angeles, CA) purchased a D-32 TV audio console and six SR-8 studio remote access units to add to an existing Gibraltar audio network.
- WDAV-FM (Davidson, NC) purchased an LX-24 control surface for an existing WheatNet-IP audio network.
- iHeartMedia’s WWBB-FM (Providence, RI) purchased an IP-12 digital audio console, TS-4 talent station, and WheatNet-IP audio network I/O BLADEs.
- WGBH-FM (Boston, MA) purchased an LX-24 control surface and L-8 control surface and WheatNet-IP audio network for its station on Cape Cod.
- KRXI-TV (Reno, NV) purchased a Glass-E virtual mixer interface for an existing WheatNet-IP audio network.
- Innovative Technologies, Inc. (Washington, D.C.) purchased two Series Four audio consoles for a project at the Pentagon.
- VOA (Washington, DC) purchased a BLADE through CEI to expand an existing WheatNet-IP audio network.
- Great Eastern Radio (West Lebanon, NH) purchased a Network EDGE for an existing WheatNet-IP audio network.
- On Air System of Mexico purchased six E-1 control surfaces and WheatNet-IP audio network BLADEs.
- Agile Broadcast (Australia) purchased two E-1 control surfaces.
- Russia Today purchased an LX-24 and WheatNet-IP audio network BLADEs.
- KRDR-FM (Red River, NM) purchased an R-55e console.
- KMOM-FM/KABD-FM (Roscoe, SD) purchased an Air-1 console.
Wheatstone Audio Processing
- Leighton (St. Cloud, MN) purchased an M4-IP four-channel mic processor and two drivers for an existing WheatNet-IP audio network.
- Clyde Broadcast Products (Nairobi, Kenya) purchased an M4-IP four-channel mic processor and FM-55 audio processor.
- Radikal Elektronic Ltd (Istanbul, Turkey) purchased an additional M2 dual channel mic processor for Power Group’s existing L-12 console and WheatNet-IP audio network.
- Beasley Broadcast (Boca Raton, FL) purchased a VP-8IP multimode audio processor.
- Great Eastern Radio (West Lebanon, NH) purchased an FM-55 audio processor and M1 mic processor.
- Oakwood (Toronto, ON) purchased two Air-5 consoles and a VP-8IP multimode audio processor.
- KABC-AM/KLOS-FM (Los Angeles, CA) purchased a VoxPro system 5.
- Beasley Broadcast’s WNCT-FM (Greenville, NC) purchased a VoxPro system 5.
- KHKX-FM (Odessa, TX) purchased a VoxPro system 5.
- Entercom (San Diego, CA) purchased eight VoxPro system 5 upgrades.
Yours. Mine. Ours. WGN Gets IT.
How IP audio networking can make sharing audio between two studios five miles apart so much easier.
Sharing seems to work as long as what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine. So that’s how we set it up for WGN-AM and WGN-TV, which are able to share audio and resources for traffic, sports and televised events across five miles through WheatNet-IP audio networking
WGN-TV shares live weather, sports, and traffic reports with WGN-AM, even though their studios are more than five miles apart. The WGN-TV studio on Bradley Place in Chicago and the WGN-AM studio facility five at the Tribune Tower are interconnected through a metro Ethernet LAN circuit and WheatNet-IP audio networking.
A single audio interface BLADE connects a WheatNet-IP audio network at each location, providing the live audio go-between for the AM’s morning simulcasts with WGN-TV anchors.
WheatNet-IP networking also makes it possible for WGN-AM to pick up ENG feeds from WGN-TV Master Control for local press conferences and other televised events – and, more recently, is being used for talkback communications during live traffic reports from the WGN helicopter. “We set up a bidirectional IFB from the AM, through the WheatNet to TV, and up to the traffic copter. We just push a button in the producer intercom panel, and like magic, talk to the copter and they talk back to us,” said Bill Murdoch, Engineer-in-Charge at WGN-AM, Chicago. WheatNet-IP provides both the IFB path and logic commands for triggering mix minus settings. The audio network includes integrated control, distributed intelligence and a complete audio toolkit with audio processing and mixing at connection points.
Both WGN-TV and WGN-AM use WheatNet-IP to route and control audio in their studios along with IP-networked E-6 audio consoles.
WGN-AM moved its studios into half the space previously needed when it took a lease on the seventh floor of the Tribune Tower in Chicago. That’s the same number of studios, in half the space. “A lot of that was for hardware that we didn’t need anymore, and multi-pair audio cable was predominantly replaced with much less expensive Cat6 cable,” says Bill Murdoch, Engineer-In-Charge, at WGN-AM, Chicago. Gone are the racks and racks of DAs and relays, down from 25 to 11 racks in all, thanks to WheatNet-IP audio routing and control.
WGN no longer designates studios by the show. They don’t need to. Mix-minus, bus minuses, mic presets and even video follows talent and shows no matter where they are located on the audio network. All of which means that WGN-AM’s Roe Conn might walk into Studio A on the 7th floor and sit at the console there one day, or sit street-side in Studio D on the first floor the next. Or, he could report in from some remote location, like at his annual benefit concert.
Lukas Hurwitz. The New Guy.
The newest Wheaty is Lukas Hurwitz. He joined our sales engineering team to represent Wheatstone’s line of digital signal processors, consoles and audio network systems from his office in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Some of you might be familiar with Lukas from his time with Inovonics, but did you also know that he is a violinist and produces electronic music in his spare time?
Lukas can be reached at email@example.com or (252) 626-7570.
Your Question Answered
A. You’re going to need a very quiet mic preamp for those microphones. We use super quiet preamps in our M4-IP mic processor – we actually call them that, Super-Quiet (SQ) microphone preamps! The M4-IP microphone processor has four SQ preamplifiers that have an extremely low noise floor, very wide dynamic range, faithfully accurate transient response, and ruler flat frequency response. The M4-IP also uses high quality 24-bit A/D converters and a 96kHz base sample rate, so it doesn’t add undesired coloration to the signal and faithfully preserves the sound of any microphone and talent combination – something else that helps with those ribbon mics.