WheatNews Mar 2019

WHEAT:NEWS MARCH 2019  Volume 10, Number 3


Solving the Missing Link


By Dee McVicker

Something is clearly missing between the IP at your studio and the IP out in the wild. 

On the one end, IP is crisscrossing the globe and touching smart houses, smartphones and everything in modern life. On the other end, IP is also coursing through your studios. In its own AoIP way, it too is routing audio, switching controls, and making things happen.   

And in between? A huge disconnect in terms of full, seamless studio operation between two or more locations. 

We can talk all we want about virtual in a cloud or centralizing operations for several stations scattered across a region. But until we can connect up those two worlds, none of that is going to happen. It all comes down to solving that missing link, or more accurately, several missing links. 

Let’s start with the IP audio networked studio as we know it. Here, you can move programming around via audio drivers and control various elements throughout using software and hardware logic controllers built into the IP audio network. You can trigger mics on or off, set their levels, and in the case of WheatNet-IP, sum, split, EQ and control audio from anywhere in the network and in all the ways that are unique and important to a broadcast operation. 

Control Across the Distance

That kind of intelligent studio operation currently extends only so far, however. To reach across the ether, you have had to leave some of that control behind. 

Although we have a multitude of very effective ways to port audio across many different platforms using a number of standards and protocols – AES67 and MADI, for example -- we haven’t found an easy way to send along all the AoIP operating logic to go with it. Without that logic, you can’t do the most basic of studio functions at a distance, such as turn on a mic or press a play button from 1,000 miles away. You can’t send and receive router commands, automation control, or set fader levels across two locations. You certainly can’t connect two facilities from city to city. Without being able to transfer control logic, it’s impossible to switch audio locally from a regional studio on the other side of the continent or even in the next town over.  

AoIP manufacturers have tried to solve this problem in various ways in the past. One promising new solution is an AoIP appliance for the WheatNet-IP audio network that includes ACI control interface along with two other key technologies. 

SwitchBlade is the first product of its kind to combine AoIP logic control with SIP connectivity and codec bandwidth optimization for transporting both high-quality programming and the control logic critical for full studio operation between sites. It includes WheatNet-IP’s Application Control Interface (ACI) for remotely triggering events and elements in the WheatNet-IP environment, such as turning mics on or off, setting levels and adjusting EQ dynamics through software logic (SLIO) control. ACI is unique to WheatNet-IP and is used by more than 60 technology brand partners to seamlessly integrate automation, monitoring and clocking systems into the WheatNet-IP audio network environment.

With SwitchBlade, WheatNet-IP networked studios can extend full, seamless studio operation across the public Internet. Operators can remotely control a console, mic or automation system from a sister facility in the next state or from a Network Operation Center halfway across the globe.  

Codecs Needed 

Along with control logic, bridging the distance between locations requires being able to transfer high-quality programming. With bandwidth demand in the megabits per second range (1.4 megabits every second for typical stereo music) and available bandwidth over public and private IP links typically in the kilobits per second range (96 Kbps, 256 Kbps), we need really good codecs to give us the means to fit high-quality programming down those pipes and have it come out the other end sounding like broadcast quality. 

We’ve been using and perfecting codecs for a number of years and for a number of purposes, such as downloading music to our phones, sending audio to the transmitter, even for HD radio. In broadcasting, different codecs serve different applications, which is why broadcast equipment manufacturers offer a number of different codecs for distribution and remote products. SwitchBlade, for example, includes 256 Kbps stereo Opus, G.711, G.722 and a half-dozen other codecs. In fact, the number of uses and types of codecs available today is staggering, which brings us to SIP. SwitchBlade uses SIP to simplify that codec selection. It has two network connections: one to connect directly into the WheatNet-IP audio network and the other for connecting to a SIP server. 

SIP, Too

SIP, or Session Initiation Protocol, is a complete messaging protocol for initiating and terminating multimedia communication sessions. When two devices are made aware of each other via SIP, they are able to talk back and forth about bandwidth, whether audio is stereo or mono, how they will communicate with each other and the type of codec to be used to encode the audio in transit.

SIP is an important protocol used in VoIP communications for establishing audio connections over IP paths. As such, it can take the pain out of getting audio paths automatically hooked up at the best possible quality. For example, with multiple simultaneous connections available, one SwitchBlade appliance at the studio can send the same program content to six different transmitter sites, each using different SIP-compatible codec brands and settings and still have 18 more in reserve. In this way, it becomes possible for broadcasters to replace two, four, six or more encoders with one box at the studio and hang onto existing codec units at transmitter sites. 

At its more advanced level, SIP-based connectivity makes it possible to transport high-quality programming to or from just about anywhere -- to affiliates, from stadiums, between regional studios and across the Internet to a Network Operation Center. SIP negotiates the connection as well as the method for compressing high quality streams, freeing the broadcaster to transport programming without regard to the tedious details of routing and transport mechanisms used on the other end. 

In summary, to move full AoIP studio operation across the chasm to a site in a separate location, we’ll need the three technologies in SwitchBlade: AoIP control logic, bandwidth optimization and interoperability with the codecs found at large.  

NAB Sessions You Won’t Want to Miss

Development Engineer Dominic Giambo will be talking about Components of Cloud-Based Broadcasting, from Content Creation to Delivery Sunday, April 7, from 10:40 am to 12:00 pm in N260. He will cover CSPs, the how and why of SIP connectivity, and latency, codecs and security issues.

Dominic will also discuss tips for Commissioning AES67 in Your Plant on Tuesday, April 9, from 3:40 to 4:00 pm in room N260. He will discuss mapping out an IP address plan, configuring packet structure and what to do about packet timing and sample rate incompatibilities.

Wheatstone IP audio networking will, once again, demonstrate AES67 compatibility at the IP Showcase, booth C12634 this NAB show. Be sure to catch Wheatstone’s Development Engineer Dominic Giambo at the IP Showcase booth at 9:00 am on Tuesday of the show, when he will be discussing tips for Implementing AES67 and ST 2110-30 in Your Plant.

WTOP on the Phone

WTOP PhoneBladeIMAGEThe telephone is talk radio’s best friend, so it is most fitting that one of the first WheatNet-IP audio network SIP appliances would go to WTOP’s new studios in Friendship Heights, Maryland.

The nation’s top-billing news/talk station moved to a totally WheatNet-IP audio networked facility earlier this year and installed SwitchBlade to get calls in and out of six on-air and production studios, seven edit studios and 41 news and sports positions. The multi-line unit connects into WTOP’s SIP PBX phone system on one end and its WheatNet-IP audio network on the other, providing studios and news/sports positions with simultaneous access to multiple lines at once.

The lines show up as sources/destinations in the WheatNet-IP NAVIGATOR software and are available to every one of the 54 WheatNet-IP surfaces and interfaces in the large facility. Indication of each line is available throughout the WheatNet-IP audio network and answer/hangup can be done by direct software logic (SLIO) control. The two on-air studios’ LXE consoles, for example, have SS-8 Smart Switch panels dropped into their frames for recording, profanity delay dump, answer next, hold, busy all, and drop call functions.

The built-in bus minus functionality on every console channel returns a clean feed to the caller without the need for a telephone hybrid.

SwitchBlade is a multi-purpose appliance for the WheatNet-IP audio network that will be demonstrated at NAB booth N6806 along with PhoneBlade, a similar appliance designed specifically for talkshow applications.

From Single- to Multi-Purpose News Studio

STRATA32 TeaseIf your television station still has a single-purpose news studio that’s only used part of the day, there are a few simple things you can do to put that studio to work 24/7.

One is to change out your audio console to an IP audio routed surface.

Going from a fixed-I/O audio console to an IP audio routed console will give you the flexibility to quickly change mic feeds, configure IFB connections and reset settings going from one show or newscast to the next. 

All routing and control for the console is handled by the IP audio network, which gives you many more options to setting up the console and connecting to the resources you need. If it’s on the network, it’s routable, programmable and accessible – often automatically. For example, when a field reporter’s mic turns on, our WheatNet-IP audio network can automatically send a mix minus back to the field reporter’s headset for IFB. 

And because everything routing and logic related is moved to the network, IP audio consoles are extremely compact. For example, our Strata 32 IP audio console making its debut at the NAB show packs 64 channels and all that IP audio capability into a 40” frame. 

Experience IT ALL @ NAB Booth N6806

IMG 0020We will be there with new AoIP appliances, new surfaces (both behind the glass and on the desk), and all kinds of new ways of doing radio and television broadcast – including a new FM audio processor that will definitely shake things up on the dial. Stop in to see and listen for yourself.

AoIP Around the World and Back. Check out our multinational WheatNet-IP system with part of the network in Ireland and part in North Carolina -- all controlled from the show floor through any number of control surfaces, courtesy of the SwitchBlade appliance. SwitchBlade combines AoIP control with SIP connectivity and bandwidth optimization to seamlessly share studio operation and programming between facilities, sports venues, and other sites in separate locations.

Also, be sure to ask us about PhoneBlade, a similar appliance that is designed specifically for talkshow applications. PhoneBlade connects SIP PBX phone systems directly into the WheatNet-IP audio network without the need for a telephone hybrid.

Glass Zone. Everything you can imagine under glass, from our new Glass LXE virtual console that is fully functional and studio-ready to Remote LXE UI with real-time fader tracking between the virtual interface and a physical LXE board.

Here, we’ll show you how stations are building news desks in under a square foot and a wide variety of other user interfaces designed with our ScreenBuilder development tools.

EXtreme processing! Our X5 audio processor has the works. PPMport insertion loop for people meters, Unified Processing throughout all stages, FM/HD LiveLock to lock in HD time alignment, and our proprietary LIMITLESS Clipper that will take all the highs you can give it and never give you back IMD. Listen to it for yourself!

MPX SyncLink, for keeping your Wheatstone processor at the studio. MPX SyncLink delivers a multiplexed sync-locked FM/HD signal direct to the transmitter, eliminating link-induced diversity delay errors.

Also new…

Strata 32 TV audio console packs 64 channels and the latest IP audio innovation into a 40-inch frame that fits most television applications and budgets under $75,000.

StageBox for our IP audio consoles that extends console I/O, providing 32 mic/line inputs, 16 analog line outputs, and 8 AES3 inputs and 8 AES3 outputs as well as 12 logic ports and two Ethernet ports.

Interesting Links:

Uhm, no. 

D/A and A/D Show and Tell. 

Finally, the cloud explained. (Thanks, John Lackness for sharing)...

NAB's Coming Right Up and Darrin's Excited...

If you are coming to the show, we look forward to seeing you. We'll be set up in booth N6806 and, as Darrin said, we'll have a ton of new stuff. One thing has even gotten nominated by the NAB for Best of Show - our SwitchBlade.


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

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 Audio for TV Production and Beyond


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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