WheatNews February 2022

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Wheatstone will be at NAB 2022... See us in booth N2631!

WHEAT:NEWS FEBRUARY 2022  Volume 13, Number 2

BIG DOINGS IN KALAMAZOO

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Click here or on the photo above for a gallery of photos. 

Townsquare Media has 322 local stations in 67 cities, most of which are standardized on WheatNet-IP audio networked studios. This is a photo capture of its recent Kalamazoo, Michigan, project involving both glass and hardware surfaces for four stations: top 40 WKFR 103.3, classic hits WKFR 102.5, talk station WKMI 1360, and classic rocker WRKR 107.7. Our studio pros worked with the design and system engineers at Townsquare Kalamazoo as they created the ideal studios, from initial planning and custom manufacturing to final commissioning and everything in between.

STARTING A STUDIO PROJECT? BEWARE OF LITTLE EXPENSES.

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

Wire creep: the console. 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 a tenth the cost to hook up an IP routed audio console compared to what it costs to connect up a prewired standalone console. That’s easily several thousand dollars for AES audio cabling with the necessary punch blocks versus a few hundred dollars 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.

CONTINUE READING "LITTLE EXPENSES"

Wire creep: the facility:  Then there’s the maze of wires that can easily fill an entire wall in the engineering or rack room. We estimate it costs a minimum of $6,000 to wire together a 64x64 patch bay. You eliminate the wall of wire by going with IP audio networking, the access units of which collect and distribute all the audio I/O and logic virtually throughout the facility instead of physically through a patch bay.

By connecting routing, mixing and studio control through Ethernet cabling, AoIP opens up accessibility and gets rid of outdated wiring and layers of audio infrastructure. One common upgrade is to drop an I/O Blade at various mic or talent workstations in the studio and run a cable back to a central rack room. Another is to connect the wall of plug-in mics and other auxiliary XLR devices to the control room using one WheatNet-IP high-density I/O Stagebox One and a cable. 

Soundcards. The real math. Right out of the gate, a soundcard will cost you 10 times more than an IP audio driver . 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 card 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 might have to add the cost of an I/O node or access unit to get the audio into the system. And for the automation system, you’ll probably need a separate PC that can take that audio. If you plan to repurpose an existing soundcard into a new studio buildout, plan on spending at least $3,000 on hardware for the automation side plus another $2,000 to $3,000 on an I/O access unit to ingest audio into the network. Compare that to an IP audio driver, which requires a mere NIC card for the existing automation computer and a single port on the Cisco network switch to bring that audio into the network.

That’s just in the studios. In the rack room, the savings can be even more significant by the time you eliminate the dedicated PCs and infrastructure costs. One broadcast group saved more than $200,000 by going with WheatNet-IP audio drivers instead of soundcards.

Obsolescence costs. Some things are worth keeping. If you have a trusty analog console and it works, put it in the production or podcasting room and connect it up to the IP audio network. We’ve hooked up plenty of Air-1 and Air-4 Audioarts 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. Or better yet, remote in technical help to do the studio logic part of the project such as muting cue speakers and monitors, lighting on-air lights, et al, and eliminate travel expenses entirely. 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. (Actually, you might not even need to rack up a switch if you’re going with our DMX console surface with Blade Engine I/O and mixing in one. An Ethernet switch is included.)

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. 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 price on what it means to be able to share and access all resources across a network, but we’ll try! For example, having a routable stereo multiband processor built into I/O Blades in our WheatNet-IP audio network saves 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 sweeten phone calls, improve remote audio quality, and process satellite feeds or AGC your program feed to your STL without paying one additional penny in hardware. Also included in our latest I/O Blade 4 are Opus, MP3 and AAC codecs for streaming audio between the station studio and home studios, and that’s another couple thousand dollars you don’t have to shell out. Plus, the Blade 4 has more than enough CPU for running apps and customized scripts, which, besides eliminating the PC to do so, can be priceless for adding virtual interfaces or even entire studios later. 

All Blades also have  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.

The little extras. There are also the savings associated with networking IP audio console features such as the headphone and cue speakers found in most WheatNet-IP audio networked consoles, saving between $300 and $1,000 per studio by the time you make those resources available on the network. Then there are the cost savings that result from going with only the actual channels needed, such as an input fader or two rather than a four-fader panel or larger surface. Adding a small wedge or a virtual console onto the WheatNet-IP audio network instead of an entire surface can save thousands of dollars.

The BIG extras. AoIP appliances like our Streamblade and Wheatstream probably don’t make the small expense category because they can save you big by provisioning, processing and managing all your streams in one RU and thereby replacing rows of desktops and audio processors to do the same. All of this is 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, cameras, 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, after all.

YOU KNOW YOU’RE A STUDENT OF AOIP WHEN…

It’s a December afternoon at student-run WRHU-FM in Long Island, New York.

Students have been assigned an IP address representing a studio device and at least one student (Shayna Sengstock, class of 2022) has been assigned two IP addresses as a “dual NIC” in a human version of the WheatNet-IP audio network. 

Another student has agreed to act as a router and another has agreed to act as the firewall, while the others are guided through a maze marked off with masking tape and printer paper in a learning exercise on how routing and IP layers work. To get past the firewall, which happens to be the studio doors to the outside, a handful of students were given the secret password required for VPN authentication ("New England clam chowder").

Welcome to the final semester of 2021 at Hofstra University, where broadcast students learn first-hand about IP audio networking, routing and control and where the IP-12 console and WheatNet-IP Blades form the backbone of the WRHU-FM five-studio facility. 

Many will recall that it was from this very facility that WRHU students hosted a memorable worldwide radio network for World Radio Day a year ago, interviewing more than 50 industry professionals in the process. 

WRHU is the first student-run station to receive the World Radio Day award in 2021 by the Academy of Radio Arts and Sciences of America and it happens to be an all WheatNet-IP shop, with IP-12 consoles, Comrex remote and RCS automation. Its main studio is dedicated to the memory of 2012 graduate Richard “Richie” Phillip Cavallaro, a producer, engineer, anchor and host, who was also legally blind. When the five-studio facility was updated with the latest AoIP technology starting in 2018, the station installed braille labels on the IP-12 console and provided touch-based hardware and controls for Richie. WRHU’s FM signal covers all of Nassau County on Long Island and parts of New York City’s five boroughs and the tri-state area. 

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Click here or on the photo above for a gallery of photos

The station produces and distributes all of the New York Islanders, Long Island Nets, New York Raptors and Long Island Ducks games; Islanders games are rebroadcasted via its WheatNet-IP TOC to ESPN-New York, Sirius and NHL.com as well as JVC Broadcasting’s LI News Radio 103.9 serving Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island.

WRHU is staffed by 200-plus student volunteers, many of whom will go on to become passionate radio broadcasters working alongside us in the industry. 

AUTOMATING RDS FOR THE NEW CONNECTED CAR

MP532 RDS Animated

By John Davis, Wheatstone Technical Support

Part of the connected car experience is the delivery of current song title and artist data from the automation system directly to the dashboard via RDS. 

RDS encoders in audio processors such as our MP-532 FM/AM/HD multiprocessor receive song data and other messaging from the automation system via Ethernet using UDP packets. If you have an older automation system that only transmits serial data, you can turn the RS-232 data into UDP using software such as Serial to Ethernet Connector. (In a multi-station operation, be sure to use unique UDP ports for each automation PC so you don’t send the wrong artist/title information to the wrong station.)

Automation systems also send data formatted in one of four ways: UCEP Strict, UECP Unpacked, Plain Text PS, or Plain Text RT. Details of each and to get a list of RDS formats by automation system and other information, download our application note Automating RDS With the MP-532 Audio Processor.

In addition to a full-featured RDS/RBDS encoder, our MP-532 audio processor has baseband192 for digitizing the entire multiplex spectrum including RDS and SCAs up to 80kHz between the processor and a current solid-state FM transmitter. 

NO Log4J JAM HERE

Apache Log4j LogoWheaty customers will be glad to know that none of our software has used or currently uses the Apache web server, nor any version of the Log4j library, and therefore they are not impacted by the recent Log4j 2 (aka Log4Shell) vulnerability.

As background: The Apache Log4j logging utility code written in the Java language is widely used in a variety of consumer and enterprise services, websites, and applications to log security and performance information. Recently discovered vulnerabilities in the utility code make it possible for hackers to install remote access tools for stealing data, deploying ransomware, or creating botnets.

Log4j vulnerabilities are now being tracked by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and hopefully the issue will be resolved soon. In the meantime, rest assured that the Log4j 2 (aka Log4Shell) vulnerability does not impact Wheatstone products directly and that our engineers continue to monitor the situation. 

27 Seconds of French Broadcast Studio Bliss

This is what it’s all about. Littoral FM’s new studio in Perpignan, France. Thanks SAVE Diffusion for a project well done!

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SCREENBUILDER SCRIPTER'S FORUM

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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)

Stay up to date on the world of broadcast radio / television.
Click here to subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

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, 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 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.

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Click for a Comparison Chart of All Wheatstone Remote Software Solutions

MAKING SENSE OF THE VIRTUAL STUDIO COVERMaking Sense of the Virtual Studio
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!

IP TV EBOOK COVER

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. 

Got feedback or questions? Click my name below to send us an e-mail. You can also use the links at the top or bottom of the page to follow us on popular social networking sites and the tabs will take you to our most often visited pages.

-- Uncle Wheat, Editor

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