Wheat:News December 2023

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WHEAT:NEWS December 2023 Volume 14, Number 12


WBEZ Chicago

A pallet full of Wheat was hoisted up three stories, set on a platform, and brought in through a window to Chicago Public Media's newly renovated studio facilities on Navy Pier. Here, engineers from WBEZ, Chicago's NPR News Station, and system integrators with Inrush have begun configuring new studios.

WBEZ will cut over to the new control room with Wheatstone LXE console surface and WheatNet-IP audio routing in the next few days and then the crew will finish out the rest of the facility through the holidays and into the new year. We’ll be arriving with our camera crew once the dust settles, but in the meantime, here’s a video tour of where Wheatstone gear will be living, courtesy of WBEZ contractor Skender Construction.


Size Blades

Size matters. It matters how many and what type of studio elements you’ll need, how much cable you’ll pull, and the amount of cooling and maintenance you can expect. Studio size determines a lot of things, but it doesn’t necessarily determine the total extent of your operation. Consider Nordjyske Mediehus, which downsized its studios while upsizing to more of the things that matter in early 2023.

The Danish broadcaster moved its two radio networks from a shared facility with its sister newspaper to their new facility in Aalborg, Denmark, and in the process, went from 14 large racks to six.

Size Blades Other Studio Matters

Much of that rack space—and the associated real estate, utility, and maintenance costs—was saved by using high-density Blades and our MP-532 multiprocessor that feeds FM audio processing, RDS encoding, and MPX to the codec and out to 37 transmitter sites covering the territory of North Jutland, Denmark. “This alone meant we went from 36 RU to 18RU,” said Henrik Poulsen, CTO of Nordjyske Mediehus Radio.

Nordjyske Mediehus’ radio operation had been a WheatNet-IP shop for 12 years prior to the move, which made it possible for a small staff of 10 people and a few freelancers to operate its adult contemporary format Radio Nordjyske and Top 40 ANR. The two radio networks broadcast from one four-studio facility out to 37 transmitter sites across North Jutland and rely on WheatNet-IP Blades for splitting and summing the correct commercial feeds to the right destinations. It’s not uncommon for nine commercial splits to happen at one time, all managed using the utility mixers built into the I/O Blades. Visual monitoring of all the audio sources running from the studios to the 37 transmitters is done in one screen capture using Wheatstone’s IP Meters software.

For the new studios, Nordjyske Mediehus Radio upgraded from E6 console surfaces to four LXE console surfaces, a handful of talent stations, higher density I/O Blades, streaming appliances and nine MP-532 multipurpose audio processors, with enough budget left over to add cameras, an Atem mini switcher, a Voceware vClock and more.

“We cut our rack space in half and lost hardware in the process, but we also added more tech, more automated workflows and scope to the studios overall,” said Poulsen.

Size Blades Other Studio Matters 2

Touchscreens replaced hardware in some cases and created new automated workflows in other cases. Many of these were custom designed using Screenbuilder tools and routed through WheatNet-IP to create function associations that led to more automation. For example, Poulsen scripted a Screenbuilder touchscreen to bring in RCS Zetta playback with just a tap on the screen and used Blades with high-density logic and I/O (LIO) to route and ultimately mix the program source (studio) and the commercial split playout from Zetta, as well as the occasional remote. “

Size Blades Other Studio Matters 3

This also loads the next show event, moves the faders up and fires off salvos that move the PGM bus on four or five utility mixers on the Wheatstone I/O Blades,” explained Poulsen, who has custom-designed touchscreens using Wheatstone’s Screenbuilder tools for several applications over the years.

In addition, the same LIO extends to the vClock software and changes the media files running on branded ANR or Radio Nordjyske screens for a backdrop on videos in that studio, and “loads” the hybrid phone for that station onto faders on the console. According to Poulsen, “Every time the mic fader is open on an LIO and the on-air light turns on, the Camera One system from Broadcast Bionics starts recording. It gets an audio feed from each microphone from that studio over AoIP, and the cut from camera to camera is based on sound levels read from the WheatNet-IP. Throw ‘automix’ from the LXE console surface on top of this, and Nordjyske Mediehus|Radio now has a journalist-friendly work tool to produce podcasts with video.”

Nordjyske Mediehus new WheatNet-IP studios were completely mid-2023, but learning new and easier ways of doing things continues. “The great part about AoIP and digital is that everything can change with just lines of code,” said Poulsen.


Radio Week

Be sure to tap into Radio Week coming up next month when we’ll be discussing studio planning with the experts. Our Jay Tyler will be moderating a panel of experts who will talk about virtual workflows, downsizing trends and studio gotchas to avoid when planning your next studio. Register here.

Studio Project Planning

  • Designing and setting up an effective and efficient radio studio
  • CAPEX vs. OPEX
  • Using virtual interfaces for workflow
  • Deep dive into trends and workflows for big and small studio operations
  • What’s necessary, what’s expendable
  • Hybrid studio design – for onsite and remote operations

Seacrest VoxPro

It’s number 14 for VoxPro and the Ryan Seacrest Foundation with the December 5 opening of a broadcast studio at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. This is the latest studio built at a children’s hospital by the Ryan Seacrest Foundation.

Seacrest VoxPro 2

Like the first Seacrest Studios built at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in 2010 and all those that followed, the new studio will broadcast more than 30 hours of live content a week on closed-circuit TV throughout the hospital and include VoxPro recording and editing for song requests and other call-ins by hospital patients. “We have designated phone lines like any radio station where they can call in to request favorite songs,” said Nicole Mead, VP of Business Development & Operations for the Ryan Seacrest Foundation, which was started to help young patients explore the creativity of radio, television, and multimedia during hospital stays.

“Many of the patients come down to the studio to participate but there are others in isolation who have to stay in their rooms and can’t come down for whatever reason, and this gives them a way to be a part of it,” she explained. 

Seacrest VoxPro 3

Radio and media personality Ryan Seacrest was inspired to open the first Seacrest Studios after seeing the healing impact his broadcasts had on young patients during his frequent visits to children’s hospitals. Since then, thousands of kids and youth have participated in broadcasts and worked with the tools of the trade (like VoxPro) in Seacrest Studios at major children’s hospitals across the nation. Hundreds of college students and others have interned at these very same studios and gone on to careers at ESPN, Spotify and elsewhere in the industry, thanks to a hands-on and innovative internship program that has existed since the foundation’s inception.

Seacrest Studios for hands-on radio, television and media production and participation are in children’s hospitals in Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Memphis, Nashville, Orlando, Philadelphia, Queens (NY), Salt Lake City, and Washington (DC). 

VoxPro controllers and software are in all Seacrest Studios, and were donated by Wheatstone through Broadcasters General Store. “We could not do what we do for these patients and their families without partnerships like this,” said Mead.


50 Shades of Presets

By Jeff Keith
Wheatstone Senior Product Development Engineer

You know that sound you hear in your head that you’d like to get on the air?  There’s probably an audio processing preset for that, or a preset that comes pretty darn close. I know this to be true because my ears have logged hundreds of hours in the audio processing lab getting those presets just so, more recently for our new LiON FM/HD audio processor.

To develop a new preset, I often start with a basic preset and then run it through the mill with as many musical and vocal tracks as I can to determine (actually, train my ears) how it behaves with a variety of programming. I always begin with dynamics and once I’ve dialed that in, I tackle loudness last. You can do the same in a lot less time.

Start with a basic preset like Max Dynamics, Modern Jazz, Classical and Smoothie (although you’ll find a few oddball names in some Wheatstone processors, depending on how late I stayed at the lab). These have the basic spectral balance and general dynamics behavior that make them a great starting point. 

I recommend you don’t do any initial tuning while the unit is on the air. Later, when you’re ready to tackle loudness, you can put the audio processor on the air for the rest of the tuning process. But until then, bench the unit and feed it a good source of linear audio (analog or digital), and then connect the MPX output to a good, quality stereo decoder such as a Belar FMSA-1. Alternatively, you can connect the MPX output to a spare FM exciter with the resulting FM signal demodulated by a good quality modulation monitor or FM tuner. 

It is critically important that the audio going into the audio processor be as pristine as possible, so any subtle changes you make aren’t masked by codec artifacts or other artifacts.

Here are a few examples of how I dial in a sound. The tips that follow focus on our own processors though these tips generally can be used on other manufacturers' processors.

Example: The sound lacks energy and needs to be punched up overall. 
1. Increase the input driving the AGC. Don't be afraid to drive it hard—it can take it.

2. Or, increase the AGC density a dB or two. The higher this setting is, the more short-term density is added to the audio to give you a “fuller” and more consistent sound. 

Example: Needs a bit more density so it sounds even fuller.

The limiter section can help. Increase the amount of input driving the multiband limiter until you can see an increase in the limiter gain reduction (our processors have a GUI that can show you this). We give you up to 12dB of drive available in some of our processors—don't be afraid to use it, though be mindful that a higher limiter drive setting can start to make the audio sound squashed.

Example: Density is there, but needs more bottom-end punch.

Raise the bass clipper threshold a little. If the threshold is sitting at -5dB, you should start to notice a difference by raising it to -4dB. Wheatstone processors have a Bass Clip Drive control that is also useful. The higher the setting, the more you can create ‘bass sustain’, something you'll already hear on many Urban cuts. It might take a while to find that sweet spot because some back-and-forth iteration is always necessary when tuning any bass clipper.

Example: The dynamic balance sounds pretty good overall, but a deeper low end would be great.

Increase the lower band (Band 1) AGC and limiter thresholds a dB or so. Better low end now?

Example: Things are sounding pretty good, except the program content is lacking a stereo effect.

Nudge up the Stereo Enhance settings to change the perceived stereo sound field width overall. We provide the L-R settings on a per-band basis (all Wheatstone processors do, including LiON). But, careful. Here’s what you need to know about those settings. 

A. There is very little stereo separation at very low frequencies in most musical material and boosting those frequencies (AGC Band 1) can exacerbate the perception of multipath.
B. Adding too much L-R at the high end can make your audio sound “splashy” on stereo receivers when they’re in weak signal areas (AGC Band 5).

C. You’ll get the best overall perceived stereo effect when adjusting the midrange (Bands 2 through 4, in the case of our LiON processor). A little goes a long way. 

Stereo enhancement of the midrange frequencies can not only significantly improve the perceived overall stereo sound field, but this can improve how some receivers behave when tuned to your station. 

Example: It’s sounding great but not very loud.

If loudness isn’t quite there yet, you can slightly increase the multiband limiter drive control by perhaps a half dB (0.5dB) and then back down a bit when you hear any objectionable clipper induced distortion. You can also build in a little more pre-clipper density by lowering the multiband limiter thresholds, perhaps by a half dB (-0.5db).

Once those parameters have been changed, and you’re still hoping for more loudness, you can go to the main and composite clipper drive controls to see if a slight increase in one of them (always start with Main Clipper Drive first) will bring up the loudness sufficiently. You can also try lowering the bass clipping threshold slightly and upping the bass clipping drive control to offset it.  But a word of warning: Bass waveforms should never reach the main clipper threshold or IM distortion will result! The bass clipper threshold control in most processors sets how close the clipped and filtered bass waveforms can get to the threshold of the main clipper. In our LiON processor, for example, this control is calibrated in negative dBs, which represent how far below the main clipper threshold bass is allowed to go.

Some of this experimentation can be done off air but at some point, you’ll want to compare your results to what’s on the air, and for that you’ll need to experiment while the processor is on the air. That’s what early mornings are for.  

As you adjust, be sure to give your ears time to adjust to each setting and to listen to a variety of program cuts as well. Make a few adjustments, jot down some notes, save those settings as a preset, and then WALK AWAY. Not taking an ear break is like driving into a roundabout and always making left turns. You will never arrive anywhere, and more importantly, you will never escape! Come back again only after you’ve taken an ear break, listened for a while, and make written or mental notes of what to touch next. 

Happy tweaking, and please let me know if there are any useful tips you’ve discovered along the way. I can be reached at [email protected].


Merry Christmas

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The Wheatstone online store is now open! You can purchase demo units, spare cards, subassemblies, modules and other discontinued or out-of-production components for Wheatstone, Audioarts, 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 our AoIP Scripters Forum

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.

Remote Solutions Video Demonstrations

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

Click for a Comparison Chart of All Wheatstone Remote Software Solutions


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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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