WheatNews Oct 2019

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WHEAT:NEWS OCTOBER 2019  Volume 10, Number 10

Which Comes First? Console or AoIP?

08 NRG IMG 4172

Click on the above for a pop-up photo gallery of NRG Media’s new studios in Hiawatha, Iowa. 

By Dee McVicker

Do you base your new studio on the console surface you like or on the AoIP system that is the best fit for your facility? 

Either way, you will end up putting all your eggs in one basket, whether that basket is Wheatstone or another AoIP manufacturer. 

So, which is it? 

I asked George Nicholas, the DOE for NRG Media, who can cite the many tributes of various consoles (especially one of his long-time favorite brands, PR&E). He’s definitely a console man, but don’t start counting those chickens just yet. 

George also has a deep appreciation for AoIP – although, not necessarily for all 40 NRG Media stations in the 10 markets the Midwestern regional broadcaster covers. Some of those are smaller operations that have little need for routing flexibility. But certainly, he did look into all the major AoIP systems before starting NRG Media’s new buildout for KFMW-FM, Rock 108, and Classic Hits KOKZ-FM in Hiawatha, Iowa. “I did a comparison of systems, but I also did a comparison of companies. It’s always been about, and it’s still about, support,” he said. 

The technology has changed, but for him, the same rules apply today as when he bought PR&E consoles as a matter of course whenever he built a studio for then Clear Channel. More than anything else, the company he’s buying that system from has to be solid; it’s important to him how products are manufactured and supported. He remembers some of the familiar names in broadcast manufacturing that no longer exist, and that goes as much for consoles as it does for routing systems. 

NRG_VideoThumb.png

VIDEO: Mary Quass, CEO of NRG Media, tells us about her business success story! The company recently moved three radios stations to Hiawatha and Mary talks about why they chose to do so.

He toured Wheatstone’s factory in New Bern, where all our products are made, before he purchased the WheatNet-IP audio network and LXE consoles for NRG Media’s new studios in Hiawatha. He liked that we manufacture all our products in one factory, from circuit board to faceplate, and he liked that he had more than one source for product and support − that he could pick up the phone and call BSW, SCMS, and Wheatstone anytime. 

When it comes to product pricing and availability, it’s fair to say that he doesn’t like to put all his eggs in one basket. 

Not that the console itself doesn’t still occupy a huge space in his brain. He had a fleeting thought about refurbishing a PR&E board sitting in the old KFMW studios and moving it to the new studios in Hiawatha. He probably would have done it if he could have added a WheatNet-IP audio port onto it.

Truth be told, he’s rather picky about the consoles he puts in his studios. He’s been known to nix a console just because of the size of the on/off buttons. “I’m an old Top 40 guy and I’m used to those big, bright buttons,” he said. He liked the controls on the LXE console surface and that he could change them easily. In fact, one of the first things he did is reprogram the “on” buttons for all three LXE consoles in the Hiawatha studios with different colors (red is for microphones, green is for control for NexGen automation, and so forth). 

His thoughts on the AoIP network itself fall along more practical lines – like, how much AoIP routing can save in wiring and labor, and what that buys him in terms of a good console surface. “We were able to pull back on the BLADEs by consolidating here and there so we could afford a better console,” he said, citing the use of M4IP-USB BLADE mic processors in the studios as one example. These BLADEs pull double duty as four-channel mic processing and I/O signal routing for the studio all in one unit, rather than adding the cost of another unit to handle either mic processing or I/O. 

Which is it then, console or AoIP first? We aren’t entirely sure, but we can say with certainty that both matter a great deal to the functionality and longevity of the studio. What do you think? Console or AoIP? Let us know at wehearyou@wheatstone.com

New York, New York 

NAB NY 05

Click above image for a photo gallery from NAB NY.

We had all the goods at the NAB New York Show last week. One popular draw: our Virtual Dimension Three, a multi-touch virtual console with 64 onscreen faders that seamlessly interfaces into major TV production automation systems.

VirtualD3

Virtual Dimension Three can be used as a standalone user interface (or as a remote GUI for a physical console) and comes with a rackmount mix engine to handle mixing and processing as part of the WheatNet-IP audio network, which provides direct connectivity into major production automation systems.

Ross Video, Grass Valley and Sony have longtime vendor partnerships with Wheatstone’s WheatNet-IP audio network, making for a fully integrated user experience between automation and console functions. 

Heavy Metal at the Factory

Here is a peek inside our metal shop. 

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At the Wheatstone factory, we have the latest surface mount technology that can transform a computer file and spools of components into a fully assembled circuit board. We have steel cutters that cut custom patterns for consoles and millers who can drill just about any pattern into aluminum panels. 

Steel, wood, electronics and other raw materials come in one door and out another door come audio console surfaces, IP I/O units, and audio and mic processors. 

Being able to manufacture every product we make in one 52,000 square-foot plant makes it possible for us to control costs, increase quality, and customize systems. 

Check it out for yourself. Contact Brad Harrison at Brad.Harrison@wheatstone.com to arrange a tour of our factory. 

X5 Sound Bite

DomInProcessingLab

“Amazing. Music is natural, voice like it's in the room with you."

-Dom Theodore

Legendary programmer Dom Theodore of Radio Animal stopped by our processing lab in New Bern earlier this month and listened to the X5 FM/HD audio processor. We talked to Dom a while back about the state of audio processing and loudness in this article Radio Animal Dom Theodore

VoxPro Does Jury Duty

SaintJohnVoxPro2KMVQ/San Francisco’s St. John grabs his VoxPro and heads out to the San Mateo county courthouse for jury duty every morning.

He’s the host of St. John’s Playhouse (afternoons on 99.7NOW) broadcasting out of San Francisco, and for the past three weeks, he’s been performing his show from the courthouse while also performing his civic duty.

VoxPro audio recorder/editor on jury duty? We were curious, so we asked St. John to explain it to us on his drive into the courthouse one morning.

He told us that jury hours happen to overlap with his afternoon show, which airs on Bonneville’s Top 40/CHR station KMVQ-FM from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. So, he’s been setting up his “lunchbox” with Sennheiser mic and processor along with his trusty VoxPro in a courthouse conference room during his hour-and-a-half lunch break. From there he records his usual show banter and exports the edited results as WAV or MP3 files and sends them as an email Dropbox link for his producer to insert into the show later. “I’m doing them on the fly, like I typically do, but only ahead of time in the courthouse conference room,” he said.

“Sometimes I’m in there yelling into the mic and people probably think I’ve lost my mind,” he added.

It takes all of four minutes to set up − just a USB jump from the VoxPro controller to his laptop. The VoxPro controller acts as a sort of stand-in for the console, with access to hotkeys for quick recall of music clips, FX macros for adding effects, and plenty of tools for normalizing, muting, changing pitch or doing whatever needs to be done during a typical St. John show. He uploads around 30 WAV files to Dropbox each day for the producer to drop into the show. 

His listeners have no idea he’s sitting in a courthouse recording and editing his show for later stop sets between the music. The only thing missing is the banter that takes place in the studio between his listener and him – which is, of course, the original purpose for VoxPro. “I do a lot of interactive contests, a lot of phones, and that’s where VoxPro usually comes it,” he said, adding, “Bonneville is really invested in what goes in between the music. Otherwise we might as well be Spotify.” 

St. John is what we’d call a VoxPro power user. He does a fair amount of voice overs from his home studio, which also has a VoxPro controller, so he knows his way around all the controls. “I’m sure part of it is that I’ve used it for some time but having the controller and having the stability of Vox on a PC here at the courthouse makes it so much easier to do this,” he commented.

When we talked to St. John, the jury was still out on the case and it could be a few more days or week before he can pack up his lunchbox and head back to the studio to do his show as usual. As for the case at the courthouse, he wasn’t allowed to talk about it, but he did say “it’s definitely a pretty heavy one.”

Jay Tyler’s Top 5 AoIP Trends

There is far more to AoIP than routing and connecting things. It is because of AoIP that we can pan studio cameras at exactly the right moment or load an entire studio of controls onto a tablet, for example. 

Where is it all going? 

Here are the top five AoIP trends according to Jay Tyler, Wheatstone’s Director of Sales who has been involved in hundreds of studio projects.

Native AoIP across distances. There’s a lot of sharing going on these days, from sharing VOs and bumpers between sister stations and sports venues to putting everything into one main operating center for several stations scattered across a region. Being able to move native IP audio and control across distances is why. The cost savings are significant in terms of staff, infrastructure and workflows, and disaster recovery doesn’t get much better than having your essential operation up in a cloud or in another zip code while dealing with a local disaster situation in the studio. “We don’t care where music lives. We can pull it in or we can control it remotely. We can mix it remotely, send it to your transmitter site, bypass the studios, whatever you want us to do, we can now do it using a combination of AoIP logic controls, codecs and connectivity,” explained Tyler. 

Native IP for phone-ins, too. Connecting VoIP phones directly into the AoIP network without hybrids or stepping through analog-digital conversions means you can do so much more than just route one or two mic feeds down the phone line. Our PhoneBlade for our WheatNet-IP audio network is a good example. You can split feeds, set up multiple sends, customize talkbacks, routing and conference feeds – all possible now that VoIP phones can connect directly into the native IP audio environment. 

SNMP everything. “Everyone wants to know what everything is doing and they’re doing it with SNMP,” he said. SNMP is a set of standards used for monitoring and managing data from servers, printers, hubs, and switches. AoIP networks and devices that are SNMP enabled have MIB files that define relevant data points for monitoring bitrates, temperatures, signal flow, and other network details. For example, WheatNet-IP BLADE I/O units have MIB files with data points for monitoring as well as alerting if a particular port is dropping packets or if a device is heating up and about to fail. In addition to devices containing MIB files, an SNMP browser or management tool is needed for managing networks.  

Virtual interfaces into the network. UIs into the IP audio network are taking many forms today, from signal monitoring and switching control panels to news desks complete with talkback button, metering, and weather, sports and stock market feeds. Meanwhile, said Tyler, standalone virtual mixing consoles such as Wheatstone’s Glass LXE are popular in mid-market production rooms because they’re affordable to set up and use, and extremely serviceable for today’s production needs. With native audio IP able to cross distances as mentioned earlier, we can now tap into and control signal streams inside or outside a facility from any user interface available, whether it’s a multi-touch flatscreen or a mobile phone. 

AES67 Everywhere.  AES67 is no longer an afterthought. This audio transport standard is becoming an important part of the AoIP landscape as we move more and more audio between network systems. Also up and coming are complementary standards based on NMOS and AES70, which promise to add discovery, control and connection management to the interoperability mix. 

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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!

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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. 

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