WheatNews October 2021

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WHEAT:NEWS OCTOBER 2021  Volume 12, Number 10

A TALE OF THREE TOUCHSCREENS

Once upon a time in radio there were three user interfaces: a tablet, a desktop monitor and a surface-mount touchscreen. One was made into a producer’s UI, another a virtual mixer, and the third became central control for two morning shows, two afternoon shows, an evening show, and a 24-hour inspirational program for the Reach Media network syndication. This is the story of how Radio One in Dallas was able to use all three for entirely different purposes. 

rickey

The tablet is too big to be a phone and too small to be a laptop replacement. Yet, for something like this producer screen, which fits nicely on a Microsoft Surface that Rickey Smiley uses while producing his morning show, it works. It’s all on this little tablet: headphone and program feeds, mic controls for guests, and VoxPro inputs for phone-ins. This UI was designed specifically for Rickey Smiley by Reach Media/Radio One engineers using ScreenBuilder tools.

RadioOne Screen2

For the D.L. Hughley show, the engineers at Reach Media/Radio One required a little more screen space. This interface sits on a desktop screen next to a VoxPro monitor in a production studio and is used by Hughley for his afternoon show. “We basically built him a console using ScreenBuilder.  It's a small room, originally intended to be a voice booth only,” said Don Stevenson, CE for Reach Media/Radio One, Dallas.

RadioOne DistScreen

Here’s the screen that started it all. “It’s kind of like a little control center for us,” said Stevenson.  This user interface sits on a 24-inch touchscreen that hangs off a rack in the TOC and it serves as control central for all communications between Reach Media in-studio producers, talent and staff and those remoting in from Anywhere, U.S.A. Anyone can easily do a sound check directly from the UI for any remote source coming in from Comrex Access or BRIC codecs and various other connections, and they can route any of the studio feeds to the Westwood One XDS satellite platform and in the case of the D.L. Hughely show, upload files to the Synchronicity media distribution service. 

There are eleven shows and a 24-hour inspirational program in the Reach Media lineup, all of which have some aspect of remote production. Al Sharpton, for example, does his show from his office in New York, and Erica Campbell produces her show from Los Angeles while her co-host joins in from Dallas. 

The above has been with Reach Media in one variation or another for a number of years and was one of the first screens Stevenson and his assistant engineer Steve Walker made when Radio One’s two Dallas stations moved onto the eleventh floor of the Stone Tower after Radio One purchased a controlling interest in Reach Media. Don and Steve took over engineering for the network syndication after engineer Neal Peden retired a few years later, adding eleven shows to what was already a busy day managing Radio One’s two Dallas stations, KBFB-FM and KZMJ-FM. Both Reach Media and Radio One have four on-air and two production studios, one predominately WheatNet-IP audio networked and the other currently in transition from a Wheatstone TDM Bridge system with a WheatNet-IP MADI Blade temporarily connecting the two networks. A Glass LXE virtual standalone console will soon replace the older TDM board in the Rickey Smiley studio, with a possible second Glass LXE to back up a main studio. 

They’ve since made a few changes to the screen capture above, such as adding a dropdown menu that lets operators quickly select a source that pops up on the screen along with relevant talkback channel. 

ANOTHER WHEAT IN ACTION! 

Brazil 0

Congratulations to Sergio Parisi and the engineering team at Jovem Pan Floripa of Santa Catarina, Brazil, on the new Wheatstone studio and a special thanks to Thiago Carneiro of Switch Broadcast for his broadcasting expertise and making it happen. With this new WheatNet-IP audio networked L-12 console surface, Jovem Pan Floripa 101.7 is now integrated with the Jovem Pan News 103.3 studios, which also has an L-12 console surface. Shown is the new studio during installation and after, with DJ Henrique Fernandes in front of the L-12 in one photo and Thiago Carneiro, Sergio Parisi, Roberto Cosme Silva and Roberto Moreira in another.

Brazil 6

Brazil 1

STREAMING? DOES NIELSEN KNOW?

NielsenPPM

If a tree falls in the forest, can the Portable People Meter hear it? 

Probably not. But PPMs can hear what’s streaming now that we’ve embedded the Nielsen PPM encoder into our Streamblade/Wheatstream appliances. PPM watermark encoding is the newest addition to these appliances, which include audio processing designed specifically for streaming as well as metadata support and multi-stream management. 

StreamBladeWheatstream

The PPM watermark is inserted after the dual-band limiter for a robust, consistent signal that can be picked up by the PPM without interfering with the performance of the audio codec. 

Streamblade and Wheatstream are AoIP and Linux appliances that can do eight instances of audio processing, each feeding up to four streaming destinations for a total of 32 different stream destinations. The Streamblade appliance can be added to any WheatNet-IP audio network and the Wheatstream appliance can be added to any existing AES67 compatible network, including WheatNet-IP.

THE FIFESHIRE RADIO GHOST

VT StudioRob Stewart recently returned to the Fifeshire studios in Nelson, New Zealand, where he started his radio career almost 25 years ago. He hasn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary yet. But, he said, “Weird things tend to happen at 3 o’clock in the morning.” He remembers flickering lights, creaking doors and turntables springing to life while working the early dawn shift as a newly minted presenter fresh out of college in 1997. 

The studios are home to Mediaworks’ stations in the region and, some say, to Violet, the housekeeper who killed herself on the grounds in the mid-1900s. She returns occasionally to turn lights on or off, open doors, and scare the bejesus out of unsuspecting broadcasters in the middle of the night. 

Lately, Rob has been spending more time here than usual as the Senior Technology Engineer for Mediaworks Radio, which operates nine 24/7 fulltime radio formats on 190 frequencies throughout New Zealand. The Fifeshire house in Nelson is one of his stops in his sweep through New Zealand as he upgrades the analog backend infrastructure with I/O Blades in order to bring more autonomy to the group’s remote studio locations. 

The house dates to the early 1900s, when it was built by the Harley family and was then converted to studios for Fifeshire FM in 1987. It remains a historical landmark and “the stuff of legend in New Zealand radio,” said Stewart. Lore has it that Violet, who had a secret love affair with the master of the house, hanged herself in a tree in the backyard and has been hanging around ever since. 

“One of the guys who worked there years ago was in the main studio, which is the former master bedroom of the house, and he noticed a silhouette of a figure dressed in white walking out the door and toward the balcony. He thought the promo guy forgot something but when he walked out to greet him, nobody was there,” recalled Stewart.  Soon after, station management had the house blessed by a local priest and there hasn’t been much ghostly activity reported since.

New LineroomThe most activity the Fifeshire house has seen lately is that of the engineering team as they slowly upgrade the ‘80s era routing infrastructure. They are digitizing the backend routing and control with Blades in anticipation of eventually replacing analog consoles with IP audio networked control surfaces. 

The studios serve six network stations and two local stations, including shows produced locally and network feeds to and from the main studio in Auckland. “There’s a lot of backend mixing that needs to be done and to modernize it and bring it into the 21st Century, we decided to pull out the analog backend mixing infrastructure and introduce some Wheaty Blades,” explained Stewart.

Digitizing the backend with Blades adds new capability to the older analog consoles in use, such as being able to easily call up Tieline codecs from the console for remote broadcasts. 

This is the sixth regional market on Stewart’s sweep through Mediawork Radio’s remote locations. He’s been in and out of the Fifeshire studios over the past several months and expects that he has about a week’s worth of work left. 

No doubt, he’ll be looking over his shoulder the entire time. 

Fifeshire House 3

Fifeshire house long before it was converted into radio studios. Violet, who some say haunts the studios, is believed to be the woman fourth from the right. 

Main Studio

Hauntings have been reported in the main studio, which is located in what used to be the master bedroom of the Fifeshire house (the room on the top story, to the left, in the previous photo). The older analog RS-12 console has seen plenty over the years and was recently given new life by interfacing it to a WheatNet-IP I/O Blade that replaced analog routing. Console operators can now trigger logic routing on the Blade for access to the station’s Tieline as needed for remote reporting. 

In a previous WheatNews article (read Machine Learning) we told you about how, after years and layers of studio infrastructure, Mediaworks is slowly but surely replacing layers of multi-generational technology with AoIP technology.

AUDIO AND THE EVOLUTION OF THE TV NEWS TEAM

evolution mashupBy John Davis, Support Engineer, Wheatstone

Gone are the newscasts of yesterday when we had one person running the Chyron, another person on the switcher, yet another on the mixer, and several technicians along with a director and producer overseeing cast, cameras and live breaking updates.   

Today, many of those jobs are done by the producer, the director and perhaps a teleprompter operator, who may or may not double as a presenter.   

That’s two or three people with their heads on a swivel trying to manage all the work once done by seven or more people during a typical newscast. The TV news team has evolved and so has the audio mixing system in six key areas. 

  1. Audio is a workflow. Production automation systems are now managing audio as part of a workflow that needs to be coded, normalized for levels, and slotted in as elements in the newscast. This has been true for some time in larger markets, but hometown news operations are now also adopting these systems to produce the news. Bringing audio into the overall production workflow as an element, rather than mixing as you go, requires a much tighter working relationship between the audio mixer and the automation system. For this reason, AoIP console systems today come with 64-channel layering as a standard interface to the automation and some also provide a means for fully integrating the automation and mixer into one native IP audio environment.

  2. Motorized faders are the new VU Meter. Those swiveling heads now doing many different jobs rely on motorized faders tracked to the automation to indicate that newscasts are going along smoothly. Consoles that have motorized faders let producers monitor the faders as they fly and make adjustments when needed. 

  3. Occasional mix-ups.  The two or three newscasts produced in the day of a television station are typically done with production automation whereas for the occasional news report or sporting event, hands-on mixing is generally the norm. Today’s newsroom console has evolved to include more backend functions on the AoIP network and more upfront functions on the surface. Tactile faders on the one hand and touchscreens on the other make it easier to adjust EQ, fix levels and mix in feeds for the producer or director who is busy making sure talent is hitting all their marks and the robotic cameras are pointed in the right direction. 

  4. The shrinking news studio. Virtual production sets continue the great downsizing of the news studios and with this comes a much smaller console. Consoles that used to take up half a room now take up half a desk, thanks in part to AoIP networking. AoIP carries much of the load that once sat on the console and simplifies the layout of the board overall. 

  5. No audio operator onboard. The person overseeing the audio is likely to be the same one running the video switcher, and both of those duties are likely to fall to the sole producer on set. Bottom line: the news studio console has evolved to be far easier to navigate than ever before. 

  6. IP accessibility rules. Booking satellite time for a guest interview and rushing them over to a studio for a three-minute segment is so 2019. Web conferencing is in along with IP overall, and embedders/de-embedders and HD/SDI are out. By connecting routing, mixing and studio control through Ethernet cabling, AoIP opens up accessibility and gets rid of outdated wiring and layers of audio infrastructure. For example, one common upgrade is to drop an I/O Blade at various mic or talent workstations in the studio and run a cable back to a central rack room. Another is to connect the wall of plug-in mics and other auxiliary XLR devices to the control room using one WheatNet-IP high-density I/O Stagebox One and a cable. AoIP mixing consoles come with expansive IP audio networks that can scale all the way up to several network elements and geographic locations, such as across a WAN for use in REMI or other remote broadcast applications.

STAGEBOX LH3QTR v4

WheatNet-IP audio network I/O Stagebox One and a cable can be used to connect a wall of plug-ins to the control room. 

TEKTON RH 3QTR

AoIP console surfaces like this Tekton 32 are made for automation workflows and occasional hands-on mixing. 

Video: Jay Tyler and Jeff Keith On Wheatstone Streaming

Jay Tyler and Jeff Keith introduce you to Wheatstone's Streamblade and Wheatstream AoIP Streaming Appliances and how they fit in the broadcast studio's signal flow.

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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. 

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-- Uncle Wheat, Editor

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