WheatNews March 2022

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WHEAT:NEWS MARCH 2022  Volume 13, Number 3

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

When Your Station is On Fire!

Fire WMIR

One minute Steve Clendenin was chatting with the regulars, the next he was running out the door of the restaurant, heart pounding as flames lapped at the WMIR-FM/WYAY-FM studio in downtown Myrtle Beach, S.C.

A video recorded off someone’s phone and the dead-air alarms going off on his phone confirmed the worst. “I got there, and the entire roof was engulfed in flames,” recalled Clendenin, who simulcasts an oldies format (Carolina Gold) on two frequencies in the area and owns WCNS AM/FM and WXJX AM/FM in Pennsylvania as well as WHGM AM/FM in Maryland under his Maryland Media One company. 

Later, he learned that flames shot up the side of the office complex he shares with eight other businesses, and then traveled up the wood frame to the roof, which collapsed in on the second-story studio. Everything in the studio facility was either crushed, burned, or soaked. “I had antique radios in the lobby and the only thing left of those radios were the tubes and some metal coils from the speakers,” he said. 

With both transmitter sites still functional, Steve was able to redirect music programming logs from a PlayoutONE automation server offsite and continue local programming within a few hours. He has since moved into a new WheatNet-IP audio networked studio across the street and has a few suggestions for other broadcasters who want to avoid disaster. 

Isolate studios if possible. Maryland Media One’s new studio in Myrtle Beach is on the ground floor and isolated from other office suites on its own concrete slab, making it harder for fire to spread. “Most of the commercial buildings here aren’t required to have sprinklers so if a fire breaks out in suite one or two, at least there’s infrastructure in place to keep the fire from spreading.” 

Remote redundancy is a must. Having a backup of the PlayoutONE program automation system in a server off-site and a way for the transmitter site to log onto it was key to getting Carolina Gold programming back on the air before morning drive in nearby Wilmington. WMIR 93.9 serving Myrtle Beach remained off the air a little longer due to the swampy location of the transmitter site that made it impossible to access at night. Staff had to wait until morning to reboot the laptop there and redirect the transmitter IP link to the new server address. Since the fire, Steve has installed a new computer at the transmitter site and programmed the IP link to switch feeds automatically to the off-site PlayoutONE automation server whenever silence is detected by the studio WheatNet-IP system. 

Take time to plan audio paths in the event of an emergency. “Before, with analog, you just plugged things in to get audio and that was good enough. Now with AoIP, I can plan backups of backups for stations in three different markets. If something happens, we can reverse audio fairly quickly. But it all comes down to mapping an IP audio plan first and having a flexible automation system.” 

Deepen the AoIP/automation connection. It’s not enough today that the program automation system can playout the music log and the AoIP system can switch between sources and studios. It’s not even enough that the two systems can talk to each other. The automation system and the AoIP need to be tightly integrated so that if there’s a program interruption due to fire, flood or other disaster, the automation system will know what to do. In the case of WMIR-FM/WYAY-FM, that tight integration between the PlayoutONE and WheatNet-IP is all done through the WheatNet-IP ACI, a control interface that extends AoIP control logic to the program automation system. This makes it possible for the automation system to not only turn channels on/off, set fader levels and change bus assigns automatically according to event or program segment, it’s also critical should the stations need to automatically switch a transmitter’s incoming program feed to an off-site automation server during a disaster. 

Think BIG network. Maryland Media One owns stations in three states as well as two state news networks: Radio PA and Maryland News Network. Both news networks recently shifted from delivering content via satellite to cloud access, serving more than 115 affiliates and a virtual news team that works out of their homes.  “I’m looking at growth for my company, and virtual, AoIP and cloud, it’s all a godsend for us.”

One-Studio Wonder

CarolinaGoldStudio

What’s AoIP without the network?

You’re looking at it. One studio, one IP-12 console, and every possible workflow imaginable for on-air, production, even syndication. It’s all done right here in Carolina Gold’s new Myrtle Beach, North Carolina, WheatNet-IP audio studio. 

carolina myrtle beach wilmingtonThis happened because the previous studio was destroyed by a fire in October and new owner Steve Clendenin, who purchased 106.3 (WYAY) of Wilmington and 93.9 (WMIR) in Myrtle Beach the previous May, didn’t have time to build out an analog studio. He had already wired together a completely new analog studio just three months prior to the fire and it was a long, drawn-out ordeal he didn’t want to repeat. With that studio now completely toast and talent working temporarily from home in the meantime, he needed a more immediate solution. 

Enter the one-studio WheatNet-IP audio network solution, which cut the cost and time of putting in a new studio from weeks to days. It helped that the new location was directly across the street from the old location with line-of-sight to the WMIR-FM transmitter site and previously occupied by an IT company with a killer server room that he could convert into a rack room. All Clendenin needed to do was run about 10 feet of CAT6 cable from the rack room to the IP-12 console in the studio. 

The IP-12 console has four event switches, which gives Carolina Gold four completely independent console snapshots for working with different workflows. “We can easily do production in our on-air studio without having to worry about kicking someone out to do all the mix-minus and setup. This gives us the ability to fully utilize that one studio without having to have a second or third studio and take up more real estate space,” said Clendenin. Plus, he added, “We’re using WheatNet with PlayoutONE so if we need to grow and need more inputs or outputs, we can. We can always route through PlayoutONE for live or voicetrack, for example. It just gives us unlimited capabilities on expanding our automation system.” 

When we spoke to Clendenin, it was two days after talent had signed on with the new studio and he had just decided to add program syndication to the studio’s workload. “Our afternoon drive-time jock does a syndicated beach music show that we are the flagship for, on about 125 websites and stations around the world. He was producing it from home but this week, he will start doing it from the studio. He can easily lay down the voice work and do the phone calls and all the interviews while he’s in here and knock three things out at once, instead of going home.” 

For now, everything for Myrtle Beach is currently being done from that one studio, but Clendenin has big plans for his growing radio operation, which includes the two FMs mentioned plus six stations and two local news networks up the coast. He plans to eventually convert to AoIP for each of his market locations in Maryland, where he operates WHGM AM/FM in Havre de Grace, and in Pennsylvania, where he operates WXJX AM/FM licensed to Greensburg and WCNS AM/FM licensed to Latrobe. “That way, we can have monitoring and remote control access from Maryland or PA to Myrtle Beach so that we always have eyes on each market,” he said. 

The last thing he wants to ever deal with again is the devastation of a studio fire. 

Hypervisors, Thin Clients and VoxPro

In this video shot during a Zoom call, Bill Jackson tells us how he’s virtualizing VoxPro audio recording/editing functions using VMWare, thin client and a Windows® dongle server.

Jackson is the Principal Studio Engineer for Educational Media Foundation (EMF), the parent company of K-LOVE and Air1 radio networks broadcasting on stations across 50 states. 

To centralize music playout and voice editing, he set up VMWare to manage several server blades* running the RCS playout system and VoxPro editing at EMF’s Franklin, Tenn. media center. VoxPro is running in Windows 10 and shared across a number of Windows instances on a network of thin clients. He’s using Hewlett Packard’s thin operating system based on RDP, or remote desktop protocol. 

Jackson is currently in the process of duplicating the same infrastructure in EMF’s media center in Rocklin, Calif. “We’re not working in the cloud and nor would I want to work in the cloud for our ministry,” he explained. “This is truly a hypervisor. We’re doing it under VMware and there is an underlying Windows machine that is doing that within that virtualization stack and VoxPro is running in that Windows environment.” 

The Cisco cluster houses several server blades that VMWare manages the hardware resources for, plus the Windows virtual machines. A SAN array is acting as the drive space for the virtual machines. Because the thin operating system doesn’t accept a driver required by the dongle key code, he’s using an SEH dongle server to license VoxPro from its virtual Windows environment. SEH has a utility that runs on Windows to instruct where the virtual USB port is that authenticates the licensing key needed. 

Virtualizing what once took up 172 rack units has been reduced to equipment in 12 RUs, five for the SAN array plus seven RUs for the virtual stack of servers. Cost savings for satellite and other hardware nearing obsolesce is estimated at around $300,000, not including electrical, AC and real estate cost savings as a result of the virtualized system. 

The virtual system is currently at 50 percent capacity. 

*Note: Not to be confused with WheatNet-IP I/O Blades, server blades are ultra-compact server modules typically housed together several in a chassis. 

8 Smart Studio Trends

FinalStudio0

Here are the eight most significant studio trends you should be thinking about as you plan your next studio project. 

Home is where the studios are. You already know that spare bedrooms are being turned into studios. But did you know that studios also are being turned into home-like settings? The Bridge (90.9) in Kansas City is just one example of how stations are adding courtyard entertainment and living room-like studio spaces with WheatNet-IP routing, control, and automated cameras throughout. (Read Wheat News article Radio, We’re Ready for Your Close-Up Now.)

Virtual is real. It’s everywhere and on every device, from multiple screens in the control room to tablets on the ballfield. Virtual and WheatNet-IP is why the Reach Media syndication can touch everything from home to studio, tablet to console surface, and from single location to multiple locations between New York to Los Angeles. (Read Wheat News article A Tale of Three Touchscreens.)

AoIP is the rising tide lifting all boats. AoIP has been a part of larger station groups for some time. But now stations like student-run CFAK-FM in Quebec are going AoIP with fully contained, IP audio networked DMX consoles and saving a boatload on wiring and other costs associated with an analog alternative. (Read Wheat News article Upsizing Small Studios to AoIP.) 

Studios are downsizing as the cost of real estate rises. Consider Great Eastern Radio, which rented out half of its three-story building in New Hampshire by consolidating its eight stations into a new studio space that takes up a little over a floor. The regional broadcaster went with “glass” consoles in some studios and created codec gateways throughout, all managed, controlled and routed through WheatNet-IP audio networking. 

TOC rooms occupy a smaller footprint. Broadcasters are using what space they do have for voiceover booths and other workspaces, not for racks of equipment. Audio codecs now occupy the same I/O unit in the rack room along with audio processing and other apps, thanks to our new Blade 4

No more Windows® updates or PCs. Rows of PCs are being replaced by Linux AoIP streaming appliances. As part of its WheatNet-IP audio networked studios, Great Eastern Radio is managing metadata, processing and provisioning for 16-plus streaming instances through one RU Streamblade appliance, with capacity to spare. 

Help wanted. Short-staffed stations are leaning more on technology partners such as Wheatstone for everything from initial project planning and AoIP system pre-configuration to commissioning and ongoing support. (Read Wheat News article Project in the Cayman Islands.) 

It’s all in the AoIP. Everything from mic processing to streaming appliances and automation integration is now part of one native AoIP environment. All this and more is in WheatNet-IP, making it possible to scale operations by show or by region or even for eventually offloading part or all of your operation to the cloud. 

NAB 2022. WE’LL BE THERE. BOOTH N2631

NAB2019

We’ll be at booth N2631 with all the Wheat you’ve come to know, plus a few surprises we’re keeping under wraps until then.  Here’s what we can tell you so far:

New in AoIP

New consoles, new Blade and new, well, you’ll see. It’s All in the WheatNet. 

New in Audio processing

We’re bringing along the MP-532, the new multiprocessor for AM/FM/HD that everyone’s talking about. Hear it for yourself. Booth N2631. 

New in Streaming

What used to require a row of computers for streaming multiple programs and another PC for metadata along with audio processing for each channel can now be contained in one AoIP Linux appliance. You’ll see. 

ONSITE OR CLOUD? STRATEGIES FOR MIXING IT UP.

Dom

Presented by Wheatstone Technology Manager Dominic Giambo, NAB Sunday, at 2:35 pm

Not ready to entrust your entire operation to a cloud provider, if ever? Dominic has a few strategies for you, including one very promising option that doesn’t require a complete infrastructure overhaul. He’ll be presenting at the upcoming NAB Broadcast Engineering & IT Conference on NAB Sunday, April 24, in room W-3017-W309 at 2:35 to 2:55 pm. 

How Long Does It Take To Reboot a LOT of Blades?

In this video, Jay Tyler reboots 75 BLADEs in about 1.5 minutes.

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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)

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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, 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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