WheatNews August 2021

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WHEAT:NEWS AUGUST 2021  Volume 12, Number 8

Upsizing Small Studios to AoIP

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You know the saying that a rising tide lifts all boats? 

As studio projects go, the boats don’t get much smaller than student-run CFAK-FM in Sherbrooke, Quebec. This little college station recently moved into two new studios in the center of Université de Sherbrooke’s busy campus, having outgrown its one-room studio in the residential hall that lacked air conditioning. 

They went with our self-contained, AoIP networked DMX consoles to save on wiring and other costs associated with an analog alternative, an important consideration for a station that was Internet-only just a few short years ago and now broadcasts on 88.3 FM. 

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“The money for this project was provided by the students. They believe in the station so we wanted to create a radio station that was on par with any station you’d find in Montreal,” said CFAK-FM GM Eric Laverdure, who partnered with Marketing Marc Vallee in Quebec on the project. 

CFAK-FM’s new studios certainly rival any studio today, but hardly tip the scale in size compared to a recent Wheatstone multi-million-dollar contract that includes LXE/DMX digital audio consoles and WheatNet-IP audio networking for 247 studios in 32 U.S. markets.

Both happened to be rolling through our factory about the same time – one huge whale of a project next to this two-studio project that included two compact networkable consoles and a couple of talent stations. 

Our point is that AoIP raises all boats, big and small. In fact, the technology we perfected over the years for multi-studio projects has made it possible for us to scale AoIP for smaller stations like CFAK-FM. For example, CFAK-FM’s DMX-16 and DMX-8 console surfaces with mix engine come with IP audio I/O and are fully self-contained with no external Ethernet switch needed. These compact consoles are the very definition of plug-and-play IP audio networking. At any time, CFAK-FM also can add WheatNet-IP Intelligent Network software such as ScreenBuilder for building virtual interfaces or IP Meters for monitoring signal flow, just as any larger, multi-studio operation using WheatNet-IP audio networking would. 

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And it’s fair to say that those synergies go both ways. Remember that large project we mentioned earlier? It just so happens that many of those AoIP consoles are DMX-8 or DMX-16 console surfaces, the very same in use at CFAK-FM’s new studios. 

When the Chips are Down

SMPTE June 2021 v6

 

By now, you have heard about the fire at AKM’s plant in Japan and the loss of almost half the world’s supply of high-end AD/DA chips. It has affected the manufacture of everything from cameras to AoIP systems and has caused production lines to come to a grinding halt. 

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen component shortages in the 40+ years Wheatstone has been manufacturing broadcast products. But it’s certainly one of the more impactful and adds to an already volatile semiconductor supply chain. Even the common capacitor has hit 60-week lead times. 

With all this going on, you’re probably wondering how Wheatstone is able to double down on manufacturing. You might even be surprised to learn that we are currently wrapping up a multi-million-dollar contract that includes more than 200 console surfaces, 1,000 WheatNet-IP Blades, 250 mic processors and 200-plus VoxPro digital recorder/editors. 

We are less affected by recent events than most because we’ve invested in large inventories of materials and parts. It’s why we can run our production plant at full capacity this year and the next while others are still struggling to meet current factory runs. 

And it’s exactly why we have in stock and on hand critical components like the AKM audio chip mentioned earlier. Just about every company that makes pro audio, MI or broadcast products uses high-quality ADC/DAC IC components from AKM and one or two other suppliers for analog-digital/digital-analog conversion. Some, like Wheatstone, use ADC/DAC chips from more than one supplier to hedge against single-source bottlenecks like the one we just experienced. 

Why is do we go to such extremes? Because without a steady stream of products coming out of our factory, studio deadlines would be pushed back, budgets would go through the ceiling, and we couldn’t be that partner that every broadcaster needs when they take on one of the most important projects of their careers.   

Blading Up for a Disaster

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If you want to see how effective your emergency plan is, just go on vacation. 

One engineer we know was at home during one uneventful Christmas vacation. There were no panic calls, no late-night trips to the transmitter, nothing at all to indicate that the STL at one of his transmitter sites had been hit by lightning. 

He had spent the week at home blissfully unaware that something was wrong. Another week passed before someone mentioned to him that the song title and artist information for one of his stations wasn’t coming up on their HD Radio.

He then made the trek to the transmitter site and discovered that the main 6 GHz link had been hit by lightning and had automatically failed over to the backup 900 MHz STL. The WheatNet-IP I/O Blade at the site had detected silence immediately after the lightning hit and had transparently switched over to the backup STL while he was at home, enjoying the holidays with family and friends. The only clue there’d been a failover was the missing HD Radio song identifier, data the backup doesn’t carry.   

He thought of that Blade a few months later when a storm surge dumped a massive wall of water on the studios and another transmitter site lost programming. Once again, a Blade at a transmitter site detected silence from the studio and in this case, failed over to the backup automation machine onsite until he could restore connection. 

As this engineer discovered, Blades can be especially useful at the transmitter site as a final workaround in an emergency because they have silence detection, flexible GPI logic and salvo programming for all kinds of situations.

We recently heard of a Blade being used to automatically rotate a backup transmitter between four FM stations that were running off generators after a Cat 4 hurricane knocked out power to the region. Fortunately, this engineer planned for the possibility that the stations could be running off generators for a while. Not only did he have a maintenance plan to keep backup generators running for more than a month, he also had WheatNet-IP control and routing that made it possible for him to easily switch the backup FM transmitter between four FM frequencies and program feeds by setting up a salvo and using the GPI logic on the Blade. 

These are a few of the many examples of why putting a Blade at the transmitter makes sense,   but let’s not forget how useful having a Blade in the studio can be during an emergency. 

We’ve lost count the number of times we’ve heard about broadcasters grabbing a Blade from the studio during an emergency and because every setting for the network was stored in that one Blade, were able to restore AoIP connectivity to the studio and continue broadcasting from home after a flood, fire or tornado. 

Coming to NAB this October

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We’ll be at the upcoming NAB show with all the good stuff you know and a few new products that you might not know about yet. Stop in. Wheatstone booth N4031.

Hear for yourself why the MP-532 is the most significant change in audio processing to come along in the last two decades.

Experience our fourth generation I/O Blade and how adding codecs, apps and NMOS/AES67 interoperability to the AoIP network can make a difference.

For TV, we've got our new ultra-compact Tekton 32 digital programmable AoIP console that's designed to fit in the tightest spaces, yet provide full 5.1 surround mixing to multiple applications.

Check out our latest console surfaces like our new GSX with soft switches and controls.

Take a peek at our new Wheatstream appliance and learn about the latest in metadata support and audio processing for streaming applications.

See our newest Audioarts additions, the TS-1 talent station and HS-1 headphone station

Haven’t signed up yet to attend NAB in October? Register at NAB and use Wheatstone’s free guest pass code LV4588. 

Getting Streams Cloud-Ready and CDN Compatible: Politics and Protocols

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The broadcast industry is currently in a transitional phase, heading toward a world in which a large portion of listeners will receive the station’s program via an Internet stream. Many accomplished engineers and station managers, while experts in traditional radio technology, find themselves feeling like neophytes once again when it comes to Internet streaming. For an overview of this new world as well as standards and practices, be sure to catch Rick Bidlack’s session Politics and Protocols of Getting Streams Cloud-Ready and CDN Compatible at the upcoming BEIT conference, Tuesday, October 12 at 11:30 am during the NAB show. 

Video: ScreenBuilder in 142 Seconds

How easy is it to use ScreenBuilder? Here’s a quick video from our partners at Agile Broadcast, Australia, showing clocks, metering and tallies being set up in ScreenBuilder. 

Stay up to date on the world of broadcast radio / television.
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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.

Check out the chart below, and/or click here to learn more on our Remote Solutions web page.

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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