WheatNews March 2021

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WHEAT:NEWS MARCH 2021  Volume 12, Number 3

Building in Place. The Dance.

WAER

Click for a photo gallery of WAER-FM’S new studios

Engineering consultant Mike Dorris tells us that renovating an existing facility while it’s still in operation is like dancing in place.

With the WAER-FM rebuild fresh on his mind, he spoke of the huge amount of coordination these projects take and the importance of making sure the new studios look like they belong once you make the final cutover. 

We can’t imagine it’s easy when you’re tripping over boxes and dealing with conflicting program schedules, contractors, and deliveries. 

Mike’s firm, Inrush Broadcast Services, was the consulting contractor on the WAER-FM project and he said one of the best things they did was make some room in the TOC for staging equipment and materials. They freed up space by consolidating rack spaces left open for heat dissipation and removing retired gear when possible. New York nonprofit WAER-FM was already squeezed into tight quarters on the campus of Syracuse University, and things would get a whole lot tighter as they moved through the facility demolishing, rebuilding, and setting in new infrastructure. 

It helped that they were able to reduce the overall hardware footprint by going from a legacy TDM system to a modern WheatNet-IP audio networked studio with LXE reprogrammable control surfaces. They were able to share resources like codecs between studios and eliminate “piles of distribution amplifiers.” They put as much on the AoIP network as possible and floated computer monitors on wall mounts in studios so they could run software instances of Wheatstone ScreenBuilder, our AoIP virtual scripting tool that opened them up to limitless possibilities in visual indications, metering, control and other new studio enhancements through WheatNet-IP. 

They worked in zones, demolishing as much as possible and rebuilding in place. They shifted master control into the production studio, which allowed Mike and his crew to immediately begin rebuilding the main studio and the TOC while operations continued normally, albeit in a slightly more cramped fashion than normal. “Rearranging these operations took quite a bit of frontend work, but allowed the installation to start without delay,” he said. 

After three days of wiring, WAER-FM had its newly renovated master control ready for air and a finalized TOC complete with each wiring harness ready to plug in. A night cutover was scheduled during satellite programming with satellite content routed directly to air for a short time to move over automation and other end devices. Logic controls of satellite content had been pre-prepped making the cutover a relatively seamless affair. 

Inrush Broadcast Services is a consulting engineering firm serving the radio industry and adjacent media fields. Download a copy of Mike Dorris’ white paper The Dance of the Build in Place or contact the firm direct at mike@inrush.net or 312-872-8911.

Congrats Tony!

TonyAbfalter

Leighton Broadcasting has 26 format brands, six markets, 64 RF/streaming audio sources and one engineer. You’re looking at him. 

Tony Abfalter received his company’s 2020 MVP Award for his calm and steady engineering leadership that made it possible for his stations to respond quickly to the events of the past year. 

As Leighton’s AoIP technology partner, Wheatstone and those of us who have had the pleasure of working with Tony over the years can attest to his dedication and ingenuity. We can’t think of a more worthy engineer to receive this recognition and a broadcast group more deserving than Leighton Broadcasting to have him. 

CEO Bob Leighton recently presented the MVP award to Tony in the original KFAM building in St. Cloud, Minn., a WheatNet-IP audio networked facility recently refurbished in retro style. 

Leighton Broadcasting studios are standardized on our WheatNet-IP audio network. 

How Many Cable Runs Are Enough? 

CablesInrush Broadcast engineering consultant Mike Dorris says the rule of thumb is eight to 12 individual CAT6/CAT6A cable runs for air studios and six to eight individual cable runs for production studios for a new studio build. He recommends using these figures as a starting point only and stresses the importance of determining an accurate count before studio construction begins. Adding and rerouting cable mid-project can be costly. He typically uses a simple spreadsheet and line drawings to mark out connections for AoIP edge switches, KVM connections (if necessary), business network edge devices, and other cross connects into each studio. 

In most cases he recommends CAT6 cable for studios because it provides more than enough capacity with approximately 2000 channels of low-latency linear audio at a distance of 55 meters.  CAT6A is more expensive, but is capable of supporting the same traffic at nearly double the distance. 

a·rack·no·pho·bi·a

noun: extreme fear of racks and what you can do about it. 

 Blade4Animated Screens

The fewer racks, the less you’ll spend on cabling, cooling and other rack room expenses and the more room you’ll have for that news or talent station you need. 

That’s the idea behind our new Blade 4. 

This is our fourth generation I/O access unit for the WheatNet-IP audio network, and the first AoIP access unit to integrate audio codecs, software apps and interoperability protocols with audio transport and control in one I/O unit.

Philosophies differ in how much utility to put in these I/O units. Many believe in strictly limiting function to the I/O only. But we’ve long been a proponent of putting as much utility in the I/O unit as possible. 

Our thinking: You’ll need to rack up something like a Blade for every junction point in any AoIP network anyway, so why not double down on that rack space with routable audio tools along with the I/O to make the necessary crosspoint connections between devices and functions?

The Blade 4 difference is that we’re well past doubling down here.

07 ClipPlayerScreen

Like the Blades before it, Blade 4 has a built-in operating system. But this one is much faster and more capable. You can run useful AoIP applications from the front panel, or on a 4K monitor that you can plug into the back of the Blade 4. No desktop or laptop or tablet required.

08 EncodersScreen

Add optional Opus, MP3 and AAC codecs at any time. Rather than rack up another dedicated codec to run audio out remotely, you simply install the codec directly on the Blade itself. No rack, no other hardware needed. 

06 LogicScreen

Built-in NMOS for device discovery and AES67 multichannel support and packet timing adaptability to interoperate with a wide range of environments and gear, from pro equipment to other AoIP networks. No additional rack space needed here, plus interoperability to gear that you’ve already racked up and want to make good use of. 

05 UMixScreen

Blade 4 has all those legacy Blade features too, including utility mixers for online mixing of sounds or segueing remotely between feeds and routable processing tools for audio refinement anywhere in the network. 

The Blade 4 is proof that a little hardware can go a long way. 

Why On-Air Processors Are Wrong for Streaming 

StreamBladeGUI

Shown: The GUI for Wheatstone's Streamblade stream processor

The job of a streaming codec is to remove details from the audio and then hide the fact that those details have been taken away. 

Listeners never hear everything that’s in the audio anyway and perceptual codecs do a pretty good job of removing details they probably wouldn’t hear … unless the wrong audio processor gets a hold of it. 

Air chain processors are the worst processors for audio streams because they trick the codec into mistaking artifacts for audio. Noise, hum, large phase errors between left and right channels, clipping distortion byproducts and non-audio signals are treated like audio by the codec, and sometimes multiplied by it. 

Still, we need audio processing for streaming for many of the reasons we need a processor for on-air. 

Those streams need to be processed for level consistency, spectral balance and absolute peak control to keep the codec input level below 0dBFS (there’s nothing above 0dBFS but distortion, i.e. you’re “out of bits”). 

Jeff Keith returned to the processing lab and with the help of Rick Bidlack and other AoIP engineers, designed an AoIP appliance strictly for streaming applications. We introduced StreamBlade for our WheatNet-IP audio network users soon after and recently introduced Wheatstream, for adding on to any existing AoIP network.

These are Linux and AoIP appliances that can stream a few or as many as up to eight stream instances. In addition to built-in codecs and advanced metadata capability, they include audio processing developed specifically for optimizing the performance of encoded audio while maintaining uniform levels, spectral balance and absolute peak control.

The AGC and multiband compression sections are codec-friendly in that they anticipate overshoots earlier in the processing chain in order to avoid the thick program density that can set off issues with the codec. The five-band AGC is designed to eliminate aggressive RMS attack times that can interfere with codec performance. A Predictive Dynamics Controller utilizes Neural Network techniques to manage each band’s gain for extremely natural management of program dynamics. Sophisticated algorithms utilize current and historical data to steer the processing to exactly what is required at that instant.

For the occasional peak that might go over the recommended peak input level of –3 dBFS for most codecs, our StreamBlade/Wheatstream appliances rely on dual-band limiting rather than clipping to do the heavy lifting. Clipping by nature creates additional harmonics that the codec reappropriates as distortion and is therefore not recommended for peak control of streamed content. 

Final limiting occurs separately in two bands, above and below 180Hz, which can be helpful when balancing perceived quality/loudness against finite bitstreams. For low bitrate streams especially, separately managing low frequencies means being able to selectively remove low frequencies in the stereo difference channel (L-R). This leaves more bits available for encoding those frequencies that are more perceptible. 

All of these processing techniques come together to help the codec perform better downstream. 

7 Hour Studio

Here’s a cool YouTube we found of the KLZ studio Wheatstone project, completed in seven hours. Chief Engineer Amanda Hopp, her husband Jordon, her mom Phyllis and Cris Alexander did a complete strip-down and rebuild of the KLZ (Denver) control room in about seven hours, replacing 2005-vintage Wheatstone TDM equipment with a new Wheatstone LXE surface.

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 its 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.

Exit
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. 

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-- Uncle Wheat, Editor

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