News Jan 2019 (TV)

WHEAT:NEWS TV  DECEMBER 2018  Volume 5, Number 12

Beware of Little Expenses

Franklin2Beware of little expenses. “A small leak can sink a great ship.” These words by Benjamin Franklin are as relevant today as ever, so let’s talk about some of those little expenses that can add up in a typical studio project. 

Wire creep. Cabling and wiring costs can creep up on you, especially if you haven’t thought beyond the sticker price of a console. A standalone digital or analog audio console will always require more in wiring than an IP audio console. You’re looking at roughly $2,300 to $3,000 fixed cost to connect up to a prewired standalone console compared to less than $350 for an IP routed audio console. That’s $2,300 to $3,000 for AES audio cabling with the necessary punch blocks versus $350 at the most for inexpensive, off-the-shelf CAT cable (even with adapter and interconnects) to route audio and control into and out of a WheatNet-IP audio network console.

Soundcards. The real math. We all know the math: a couple hundred for an IP audio driver versus $2,500-plus for a soundcard. But, did you know that there are hidden costs associated with soundcards? And, that the soundcard you purchased a year or two ago can continue to cost you money? Setting aside the cost of the soundcard itself as well as a few hundred more for the wiring kit and break out box (not to mention the labor to put it all together), the next big cost is what you will interface to that soundcard. If it’s an analog console, a soundcard will chew up two or three faders and the equivalent in physical inputs on the console. If it’s an IP audio network, you can add the cost of an I/O node or access unit – at $2,000 to $3,000 a pop – to get the audio into the system. Compare that to an IP audio driver, which requires a single port on the Cisco network switch to bring that audio into the network. 

One broadcast group saved more than $200,000 by going with WheatNet-IP audio drivers instead of soundcards for a new studio buildout.  

Continue Little Expenses

Obsolescence costs. Some things are worth keeping. If you have a trusty analog console and it works, modernize it by connecting it up to the IP audio network. We’ve hooked up plenty of our analog consoles to WheatNet-IP audio networks. All it takes is an I/O BLADE and some CAT cable to get audio and logic in and out of the network. 

DIY networking. Specialized tools and supplies like crimpers, solder and connectors can add up quickly, particularly if you have to bring in a technician or two to use them. You might be able to drastically cut those expenses by going with AoIP and doing the majority of system setup yourself. Later, you can always bring in a technician or integrator for the final commissioning. If you can rack up an Ethernet switch and plug in a cable, you can probably set up a WheatNet-IP audio network without much incident – or incidental expense. 

Even if you have our factory customize, stage, and test the entire network, it’s probably going to save you thousands over having to bring in the technical help to do the same.  We set up and commission entire WheatNet-IP audio network systems for customers in our factory, complete with GPI/O triggers, machine starts and stops, and hardware layout and configuration. All the customer has to do is plug in the I/O units and consoles, and most of the final setup can be done online by our factory technicians. Once it’s all powered up and plugged in, any changes can be done in software with a few mouse clicks.  

Sharing is saving. It’s hard to put a value on what it means to be able to share and access all resources across a network. But, we’ll try! For example, having a stereo multiband processor built into our I/O BLADEs in our WheatNet-IP audio network saves at least  $500 to $1000, which is what you would pay for the equivalent in an outboard processor. AGC, EQ/dynamics and compressor processing built into our WheatNet-IP audio network BLADEs means you can improve remote audio quality and process satellite feeds without paying one additional penny in hardware. Also included in most BLADEs are two 8x2 stereo mixers to sum, split, bypass and segue programming. These networked utility mixers are useful for all sorts of purposes, from creating an emergency intercom system to doing the backend mixing for a virtual interface (which you can create, by the way, using these AoIP virtual development tools). You can feasibly create an entire virtual news desk on a tablet. The cost savings: priceless. 

These are in addition to the usual cost savings you can expect by sharing resources across the network, which in itself can eliminate the cost of having to buy extra codecs, tuners and storage devices.  

An IP audio network system will add a few more items like switches onto the capital expenditure side, true. But such systems will easily save you the equivalent on the incidental expense side – and then some. Less system infrastructure means less furniture, which means smaller studios and smaller real estate, which is where some of the bigger cost savings are realized. 

IP QA

Q: It might be some time before we’re an entirely IP run operation. What do I do in the meantime with HD/SDI and other feeds that we’ll continue to run through our facility?

A: Just because you go with an IP audio network doesn’t mean that you lock yourself out of all that. That’s where specialty access units come in handy. For example, we have a MADI I/O BLADE that hooks into our WheatNet-IP audio network to manage 64 channels of MADI I/O data. We have another HD/SDI BLADE that de-embeds audio from HD-SDI streams, and we even have a four-channel mic processor BLADE (our M4IP-USB) that can put mic processing on the network to be shared among all your microphones, separate settings and all. Another important point is that we also have AES67 compatibility built into our I/O BLADEs that make up the WheatNet-IP audio network, so if you have another audio network that you need to transport audio to and from, it can be done through this IP audio transport standard.

 

Now Is The Time To Back Up

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By Wheatstone Systems Engineer Paul Picard  

Backing up systems files is cheap insurance. It costs you very little in terms of time and storage media, and can save you hours upon hours of work trying to recover a system from scratch. You know that, of course. But do you know which files are important and where to find them to back up your Wheatstone TDM network? Wheatstone's Paul Picard walks you through what you need to know.  

Before our WheatNet-IP audio network came along, Wheatstone TDM audio networks were quite popular. Wheatstone’s BRIDGE and GIBRALTAR networks were and are stalwart, solid workhorses. Many of those systems are still going strong, and if you’ve got one, we want to keep it that way until you’re ready to take the IP audio plunge!

So now, while your system’s in good shape, is the very best time to make a backup of recent systems files. What happens if you lose a CPU card in a system with only a single CPU? What if one of your switches should fail? As test pilot Chuck Yeager was known for saying, “Never wait for trouble.” 

Even if you have an original copy, those files are useful only as a factory reset. Reloading original files will restore it to its “first birthday” state, just as it was shipped to you. But if your system’s been running for a decade or so and has been constantly evolving, that’s probably the last thing you want.

That default configuration will only clear out any changes and updates you’ve made to the system.   

Wheatstone’s TDM networks are configured using an application called XPoint, which runs on a Windows PC. This application stores a copy of the entire system configuration. On the Windows PC you’ve been using for your system over the years is a copy of everything – the current system configuration, as stored by XPoint as of the last time you made any change. That’s what you want to preserve. With that in hand, you can bring the system back from any casualty. 

Be sure to back that up NOW, while everything’s still working. 

Here’s how. On the PC where you run XPoint, look for a subdirectory called “Wheatstone.” It will usually be at C:\Program Files (x86)\Wheatstone\XPoint. On older versions of Windows it might be at C:\Program Files\Wheatstone\XPoint. Pop in a USB flash drive and copy that entire folder to it. Grabbing the whole thing is best, says Picard, because it’s now portable. You can plug that flash drive into any Windows PC and restore the folder to the same place. The XPoint application is very portable; it should run on any version of Windows.

Each time you make a change to your system, make sure to update your backup drive so that if you should ever have to use it, it won’t undo any recent changes.

You might also have other important settings that aren’t stored in XPoint and these can be backed up, too. For example, on a control surface you might have a number of snapshots (stored console configurations) that you’d want to save. You can back up the full configuration of every device on your system using FTP. It’s a bit more involved but it saves absolutely everything.

For assistance with this procedure, contact me or our support team at paulpicard@wheatstone.com or support@wheatstone.com and we’ll get you started.

The Making of a Studio Starts Here

In addition to designing and building consoles and IP audio networking gear right here in New Bern, NC, USA, we regularly set up large systems like you’ll see in this video series. We test how our gear is going to be used in their destination studios to ensure everything will work flawlessly. We then invite the customer to visit the factory to get a hands-on feel for how everything will work together before it's all put into operation in their own studios. 

This particular series is of Bonneville Broadcasting’s Salt Lake City studio, just one of dozens of studio installs we customize, commission and test each year.

Our Annual Holiday Video

Scott Johnson put this holiday video together for 2017 and it's so good that we are reprising it for 2018. Enjoy!

IP TV EBOOK COVER

FREE E-BOOK: IP AUDIO FOR TV PRODUCTION AND BEYOND

Putting together a new studio? Updating an existing studio? 

We've put together this IP Audio for TV Production and Beyond 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. And it's FREE to download!

Just click on the cover

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-- Scott Johnson, Editor

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