WheatNews June 2020

WHEAT:NEWS JUNE 2020  Volume 11, Number 6

In the Middle of a Studio Project?

Bonneville 2

You get a special I Survived 2020 t-shirt if you are currently in the middle of a new studio project.

We are working on dozens of new facility buildouts started before the switch flipped overnight to at-home studios and everything we knew about the world changed. 

One of those projects is Bonneville’s new San Francisco facility, shown in the photos. “What they did in a short amount of time is amazing. We’re talking full (RCS) Zetta and full WheatNet-IP in the middle of a coronavirus with all kinds of challenges, starting with our gear getting stuck in quarantine,” commented Jay Tyler. 

Bonneville 1

Bonneville 3The project is now nearing completion and engineers there have already made several adjustments mid-project due to recent events. They’ve set up privacy panels and rearranged workspaces so operators are not directly facing each other, for example. “Everyone has been working so hard tearing walls down and creating an open concept, and now a pandemic like this, the walls have to go back up,” commented Bonneville Sacramento DOE Jason Ornellas during a recent interview with Radio World’s Paul McLane.

Bonneville’s new Bay Area facility for its cluster of four stations (96.5 KOIT, 102.9 KBLX, 98.5 KFOX and 99.7 KMVQ) is being built using WheatNet-IP audio networking and LXE consoles with soft controls, which will no doubt adjust to changes as time goes on. 

Bloomberg At Home In NYC, Singapore and Hong Kong

Bloomberg

This is what Charlie Vollmer of Bloomberg Radio sees at his home studio in New York while running the Daybreak Asia show with one anchor in Hong Kong and another anchor in Singapore. Wheatstone’s Remote LXE is on the bottom and automation and audio playback is on the top. Remote LXE client software mirrors the LXE hardware console at the studio. 

“Our technical producers were given high-performance laptops so they could VPN into designated PCs back in our headquarters. From there, they were given full access to our Wheatstone LXE remote mixing app, automation and audio playback systems. We have various audio hybrids set up with a program feed from each station’s air chain so they can listen in real time to the broadcast they’re running.”

“We haven’t missed a beat of programming; we haven’t missed anything at this point.” 

Charles Vollmer, Technical Operations Director, Bloomberg Radio

*Source: Radio World ebook Broadcasting From Home Around the Globe

Tribute to VoxPro’s Charlie Brown

CB Baily PointBy Rick Bidlack

I suppose that for all of us there are inflexion points in our lives where you meet someone or experience some new thing that changes your life thereafter. Charlie Brown was such a turning point for me. He was also my introduction to radio. At the time we met, Charlie had been retired from a successful thirty-three year career in broadcasting where he had worked at Seattle’s top stations as a morning man, holding court and ruling the airwaves in a Top 40 format. His love of radio and wanting to bring the best content to his listeners drove him to create VoxPro in 1992, bringing it to market in 1994 (as a Mac application).  Replacing reel-to-reel machines with computer software was a hard sell, but his own and other early adapters’ use of the product made it a reality. 

Charlie and I were brought together through two degrees of mutual friends – he was looking for a programmer to complete the rollout of VoxPro to the Windows® platform, and I was freshly unemployed from my third dot-com implosion in a year. It was the summer of 2001. The venue, Audion “Laboratories,” was a 12’ x 20’ cabin on the back of Charlie and Kimberly’s property, and there was a 40-minute ferry ride involved in getting there. I thought, “how amazing, perhaps even impudent, to think that you can develop a new product with a skeleton crew and no budget and bring it to market,” but after having been burned by the venture capitalists enough times I was willing to take a chance. So Charlie led me through that process, and he introduced me to the radio family.  He wasn’t technical, but he had excellent instincts about technology. He was unfailingly kind, generous, optimistic, and infinitely forgiving of my many shortcomings and missteps. We had a wonderful journey together at Audion (“Audion-and-on-and-on…”) for 14 years, during which time I got to see his idea, VoxPro, become the pre-eminent editor in radio. He was a model of the well-lived life, an example of what persistent hard work and the willingness to take a risk can bring.  I will miss him greatly.

Rick Bidlack joined Wheatstone in 2015 along with VoxPro. He continues Charlie Brown’s legacy as Wheatstone’s lead developer on VoxPro. 

Everybody’s Doin’ the Local-Motion

Georgia 1By Dee McVicker

Three months ago, many of us couldn’t name five U.S. governors if our lives depended on it. Today, we not only know key governors by name, but also that of police chiefs in certain cities and whether or not local citizens are under curfew or still quarantined, or both. 

If that’s not a referendum on local broadcasting, I don’t know what is. 

It’s just one more crazy twist in recent events that are keeping broadcasters like Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) hopping. GPB covers local politics across 18 radio stations and nine television stations in the state of Georgia. Remote production has become more frequent and more “interesting,” even by election year standards, according to GPB Radio Operations Manager Tom Barclay. 

Georgia 2At the time I talked to Barclay in mid-March, he was preparing for yet another live address by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, the latest in a long litany of breaking news events.   

“For this one, the Governor’s going to be on one TV screen, the Commissioner from the Department of Public Health will be on another TV screen with a reporter, and four or five guests will be in different studios,” he explained. 

The broadcast went out on all GPB stations along with national and local affiliates, both commercial and public − feeds originating from studios that are sparsely staffed, courtesy, once again, of Covid-19. 

In the weeks leading up to the pandemic, Barclay had spent some time setting up salvos on the studio LX-24 consoles so that operators could interrupt the ENCO automation and mix feeds from any three of the adjoining studios in the facility during a live-breaking situation. The consoles are part of the WheatNet-IP audio system installed in 2018 to network GPB’s radio facility of four edit studios, an on-air studio, a production studio and a talk studio. To repurpose broadcast television audio for radio, GPB uses a Wheatstone HD-SDI BLADE into the WheatNet-IP network that de-embeds audio from the video stream for direct input to the console and then on-air.

Georgia 3“I really enjoy that part of my job where I get to play around with all these tools,” said Barclay, who just hours before we talked had set up salvos to interrupt the 18-plus station IDs coming from another ENCO system during a breaking event. 

He has since added Glass E remote client software for the LX-24 boards so that instead of having someone come in to turn off or on the feed and insert whatever breaks are needed, he can do all that remotely from home. (Remote client software mirrors the console so that settings can be changed remotely).

It just doesn’t get much more local than that. 

Streaming and Compression in Pictures

Things are definitely looking up for broadcasters in the streaming department. According to TechSurvey 2020, almost two-thirds of stream consumers listen to their local radio station’s stream, ahead of Pandora, YouTube and Spotify.   

We know that creating an online signature sound is just as important as over the air radio.  

We also know you can’t paint streaming with the same audio processing brush, especially when it comes to controlling levels and spectral balance. Here is why.   

BeforeAfter

The blurry picture on the left represents what happens if you used aggressive compression on encoded audio similar to that used in FM processing. Extreme time constants create distortion in the audio that not only mask subtle detail, but cause the encoder to allocate bits to that distortion instead of to the desired program content. Compared to the picture on the right, less detail makes the audio sound “blurry.” Added distortion is bad for any stream, but it’s especially bad for low bitrate streams that end up with less of the original audio as it is.  

The typical broadcast approach to inconsistent levels is to apply multiband gain control followed by fast compression or limiting to build uniform loudness and density. Instead, StreamBlade uses neural network techniques to map processing time constants to precisely what is required to provide consistent loudness and density from one program element to the next, and without adding distortion.  

StreamBlade then uses a two-band final limiter to handle peak overshoots and limit them below 0dBFS (the point at which digital runs out of bits). Designed specifically for streaming and to optimize the performance of codecs, the limiter gets the job done without “pumping” or other artifacts that can further degrade the quality of audio passing through the codec. 

You can find out more by viewing Processing For Streaming, presented by Wheatstone Senior Development Engineer Rick Bidlack.

ScreenBuilder Scripter's Forum

ScreenBuilderRebuild

Are you a ScreenBuilder or ConsoleBuilder power user? Register and log onto our Scripters Forum. This is a new meeting place for anyone interested in developing new screens and workflows for our WheatNet-IP audio network. Share scripts, screen shots and ideas with others also developing virtual news desks, control panels, and signal monitors. You’ll find documents, starter scripts and a whole knowledge base available to you for making customized screens like those pictured.

Click to register for our Scripters Forum (it's free)

Sneak Preview of What Wheatstone's Been Up To...

Compare All of Wheatstone's Remote Solutions

REMIXWe've got remote solutions for virtually every networkable console we've built in the last 20 years or so. For basic volume, on/off, bus assign, logic, it's as easy as running an app either locally with a good VPN, or back at the studio, using a remote-access app such as Teambuilder to run.

Check out the chart below, and/or click here to learn more on our Remote Solutions web page.

Remote Solutions Video Demonstrations

Jay Tyler recently completed a series of videos demonstrating the various solutions Wheatstone offers for remote broadcasting.

Exit
Click for a Comparison Chart of All Wheatstone Remote Software Solutions

The Wheatstone online parts store is now open! You can purchase spare cards, subassemblies, modules and other discontinued or out-of-production components for Wheatstone, Audioarts, PR&E and VoxPro products online, or call Wheatstone customer support at 252-638-7000 or contact the Wheatstone technical support team online as usual. 

The store is another convenience at wheatstone.com, where you can access product manuals, white papers and tutorials as well as technical and discussion forums such as its AoIP Scripters Forum

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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 control over 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.

AdvancingAOIP E BookCoverAdvancing AOIP for Broadcast
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF EMERGING STANDARDS SUCH AS AES67 VIA AUDIO OVER IP TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR BROADCAST FACILITY

Putting together a new studio? Updating an existing studio? This collection of articles, white papers, and brand new material can help you get the most out of your venture. Best of all, it's FREE to download!

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IP Audio for TV Production and Beyond

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MANAGING MORE CHANNELS, MORE MIXES, AND MORE REMOTE VENUES

For this FREE e-book download, we've put together this e-book with fresh info and some of the articles that we've authored for our website, white papers, and news that dives into some of the cool stuff you can do with a modern AoIP network like Wheatstone's WheatNet-IP. 

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-- Uncle Wheat, Editor

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