WheatNews September 2021

×

Warning

Joomla\CMS\Filesystem\Folder::create: Could not create folder.Path: [ROOT]/cache/com_templates

WHEAT:NEWS SEPTEMBER 2021  Volume 12, Number 9

MANAGING STUDIO PROJECTS USING NETWORKING PRINCIPLES

Verdi1

Click on the above image for a gallery of photos from CKOI.

All this networking has finally gotten to us. Just the other day, we overhead someone say they needed to “interface” to so-and-so. Translation: he had to make a phone call. 

We are certainly connecting in ways we never have before, and that’s as true for studio projects as it is for the actual AoIP studios we’re putting in these days. 

“I don’t know if people realize just how much teamwork goes into a new studio today,” said Pascal Gélinas, the Director of Technologies for Cogeco Media, Quebec, which recently moved into a new WheatNet-IP networked facility in Montreal. “It’s a lot of differences of opinions and how to do things but that’s how you end up with the best facility,” he commented.   

We asked him to tell us more.  What follows are a few tips he learned about managing one of his group’s largest projects using networking principles.

BUILD IN BUFFER TIME 

Teamwork takes time, especially on the front end of a project. “The best advice I can give anyone starting a project like this is to take the time to see what you can do,” said Gélinas. The Cogeco Montreal studio project brought together the different perspectives and expertise of seven Cogeco technicians/engineers and over a half-dozen contract and technology partners, Wheatstone and Marketing Marc Vallee included. Initial brainstorming sessions introduced new, often conflicting ideas but quickly formed around the main concepts of redundancy, efficiency, and eventual WAN connectivity for a total of 23 stations and seven other Cogeco Media studio facilities mainly covering greater Quebec. 

The collaboration produced fiber-optic routing between dual core switches and edge switches for redundancy and customized user interfaces for functions such as signal monitoring and routing of the facility’s 20-plus remote codecs. All total, the team installed 16 production studios, six on-air studios and a news center with a control studio, eight workstations, and a traffic workstation. “I can honestly say we have no regrets. Even though we started this project a few months before COVID-19, we really haven’t changed much from the original plan,” he said.

THE OSI MODEL IS MERELY A REFERENCE 

Skills don’t always fit into clearly defined project categories. Early in the Montreal project when the team began searching for ways to manage the many feeds for Cogeco’s CKOI syndication network, they zeroed in on WheatNet-IP ScreenBuilder and scripting tools. “We needed some programming control and saw that it could all be done with scripts. One of our guys is a very good broadcast IT engineer, and it turns out he also has a programming background and so we decided to give it a try,” explained Gélinas. Staff engineer Yan Malo scripted the utility mixers in key Blade I/O units to hand off the right feed to the right station and the right signal paths based on predetermined conditions. (Each Blade has 8x2 utility mixers with GPIO, logic and routing that can be programed with “if/then” logic for this purpose). He also went on to customize a UI for monitoring and controlling the signal flow of each and every station in the Montreal plant.  Eventually his scripting skills will be used to program the customization of a UI for tracking and allocating the many codecs in use, both through general purpose AoIP panels and on-screen.

IT’S ALL ABOUT RESOURCES TIMING 

For the Montreal team, COVID-19 was a reminder that project management is as much about timing and resources as is IP audio networking. The project started in April 2019 and would be a sidechain to the many challenges and interruptions of the pandemic during most of 2020. “The challenge was getting our staff on the air from home with different codecs and not have everything crash, while trying to get the studios up,” said Gélinas, who oversaw project timelines and resources and handed off the execution of duties to his engineering team. 

They started with the main talk station’s studio (CKOI), and then moved onto each studio one after the other until they were completed. They laid down what cabling they could ahead of time, had I/O Blades shipped from the Wheatstone factory pre-configured, and dropped in new LXE consoles in on-air studios and L-8 consoles in production studios one studio at a time. 

The project took precise timing and resources, including more than 90 I/O Blades, 15 console surfaces, and dozens of AoIP network accessories such as general-purpose button panels, talent stations and virtual screens. 

NETWORKING PRINCIPLES APPLY 

If you’re thinking the principles of networking  apply to large projects only, you might be surprised to learn that these principles apply to small studio projects too. Connectivity, buffering, skill crossovers, and resources and timing are good guiding principles for all, whether it’s a studio project for a small four-studio complex or for a large studio complex like the one Cogeco recently completed in Montreal.  “It’s never a one-man show,” said Gélinas.

CKOI tech group

Cogeco Media’s new studio facility in Montreal was a labor of love for Pascal Gélinas and the rest of the engineering team at Cogeco Media. Congratulations for a project well done to Pascal, Yan Malo (scripting), Eric Guertin (programming and installation), Yves Cléroux (programming and installation), Sylvain Brunet (installation), Alexandre Bérubé (programming and installation), Kim Bickerdike (programming and installation), and Jean-Pierre Cyr (planning).

WHAT IF? SCRIPTING THE AoIP STUDIO.

Patrick Komando

Scripting your own routines for the IP audio network often starts with two of the scariest words in the broadcast engineering profession: What if…

What if you could create a virtual news desk instead of a physical news studio? What if you could monitor in real-time the status of a WAN of studios from one user interface? What if your sportscasters could have access to the headphone mix, intercoms, and signal monitoring and control through one screen interface? 

What if you were able to script routines into the AoIP for the above and so much more? 

“Everyone always says, ‘Oh, I can’t script.’ But scripting is nothing to be scared of. It’s like speaking a language. If you know the words in a language, in our case, what a source and destination is and what a button is, that’s most of what you need to know. Then you just use the code formatting structure to join the sentence together, and there’s your line of code. Easy,” said Chris Penny, a systems integrator with Agile Broadcast, Australia, who has become a master at developing scripting routines and virtual screens for WheatNet-IP audio networks

Most helpful is our Scripting Wizard, which allows you to assign commonly-used functions to screens, surfaces, button panels and events in the WheatNet-IP audio network without doing any programming whatsoever. All that’s necessary is to assign the input, then select from a list of pre-defined actions as shown, below. If the desired function is not covered by the Wizard’s predefined options, you can create your own programming routines using our script developer. 

The WheatNet-IP script developer includes an editor, a source-level debugger, and a compiler so you can write, debug, test, and implement routing, logic, and control routines. Scripts can be used along with utility mixers and logic in the I/O Blades to automate complicated routines. Through the network’s ACI protocol, you also can extend routines to external automation systems, processors, and schedulers. Imagine, for example, receiving an EAS alert and the audio transparently switches to the air chain, the automation system pauses, and your processing switches to a neutral preset without anyone touching a thing. 

“I prefer coding logic as opposed to using GUIs to define logic. Coding takes less time to do repetitive and complex tasks, and there’s much less chance of making a mistake,” commented Penny, who has learned shortcuts such as putting scripts and messages into Blade I/O call strings to automatically populate onto screens and surfaces. Using this method, he created a chat box in the producer screen (pictured below) shared across multiple studios using only three lines of code.

Chris Penny Producer Screen

APP Vs. APP: APPLIANCE OR CLOUD-BASED APP?

WheatTools3

By Phil Owens 

We seem to be headed down two tracks on our way to the broadcast facility of the future. 

One is the appliance track where we are migrating away from the model of apps running on a Windows® PC and moving functions instead onto one dedicated appliance that isn’t subject to the finicky PC. These are generally specialized AoIP or automation appliances that are Linux based and therefore do not require Windows® drivers, updates or PCs. Good examples are streaming appliances like Streamblade or Wheatstream that replace multiple PCs by putting everything streaming related into one AoIP Linux appliance. 

The other is the app track, which takes us to the cloud and away from hardware in the rackroom. Here, we are offloading functions to the cloud where they can be remotely reconfigured, maintained and provisioned on a case-by-case basis. At its most ideal, centralized cloud-based applications will give us the ability to dial up encoding, IFB, routing, mixing, playback and even the kind of console needed for a given show or operator skill level. Wheatstone, Xperi and other broadcast product makers are working on cloud-based apps using cloud technologies such as container platforms like Docker that will make it possible to transition from the entirely fixed-location studio to a more virtual operation. 

Many of these apps already exist. We know of broadcasters who are containing audio playout in a virtual machine onsite in preparation of eventually offloading that part of their operation to the cloud and others who are putting multiple studio workflows from multiple locations in a one-stop virtual interface. 

Moving it all to the cloud can downsize space requirements in the rack room and shift engineering management to an offsite provider. Eliminating any piece of gear in the air chain along with its connectors and potential points of failure is a good thing, and that goes for specialized appliances too, because these can replace more generic PC-based functions and also reduce space requirements and engineering management.

There are advantages and disadvantages of both the cloud-based app model and the appliance model. Offloading functions to Microsoft, Amazon or other cloud provider takes away the cost and upkeep of hardware in the rackroom but leaves you subject to third-party vulnerabilities. On the other track, having an appliance onsite gives you some of the consolidation benefits of an all-in-one rack unit similar to the cloud model, although at the additional expense of on-premise infrastructure and upkeep. 

It doesn’t have to be one way or another, fortunately. There are many different ways to divide and subdivide that signal chain between functions in the cloud and functions onsite in an appliance. 

For example, it’s possible to have automation and mixing functions in the cloud but maintain control from a local virtual or hardware interface. If your playback is being done mostly off a cloud server, you might have a virtual control surface in the studio that is talking to a mix engine in the cloud. Similarly, you could also be receiving your mic audio from a codec that’s in the cloud. 

More likely, the broadcast facility of the future will use a combination of both: appliances for consolidating functions into a single 1RU box and the use of cloud apps for shared routing and automation. Both offer engineering and cost benefits and we’ll likely arrive at the future broadcast facility using a combination of appliances and applications. 

JOHN DAVIS JOINS WHEATSTONE

JohnDavis v3 brighter

Know this guy? John Davis joined Wheatstone as part of our support team this month. As many of you know, John has a background in AoIP that borders on obsession. He’ll be based out of Houston where he continues to fill in on weekends at Cox radio stations there. You can email him at john.davis@wheatstone.com

THE EARS HAVE ARRIVED

GreatEastern image002

Here is Jeff Keith in his new home processing lab in Canton, Ohio. Somewhere in that electronic wonderland is an MP 532 processor with a few new presets waiting to get out. 

It’s common knowledge by now that some of Jeff Keith’s best work is done in his home processing lab during odd hours, although he gives the Wheatstone audio processing lab in New Bern plenty of love too! 

Jeff moved to Canton recently to be near family but will be dividing his time between his home lab and the Wheatstone lab. He is the primary developer for our processing line and the ears behind all those great presets everyone is talking about for our new MP 532 FM/AM/HD processor. 

His home lab is still under construction, but he no sooner had the scope set up before he started testing a new round of presets for the MP 532. If you have presets you’d like him to test out for this or any other processor in our line, contact Jeff at jakeith@wheatstone.com

OUR HALL OF FAMERS

Patrick Komando

Shout out to Dan Patrick and Kim Komando, both of whom will be inducted into the 2021 Radio Hall of Fame next month. 

Wheatstone is a proud technology partner to both (read Kim Komando Goes IP Audio and Sound Check: Dan Patrick’s Mancave and Sound Check: Part 2, Dan Patrick’s Mancave).

The Kim Komando Show has come a long way since its unlikely start in the 1990s as the show that was turned down by two broadcast networks because they said computers and the Internet were a passing fad. And, of course, no one does the Big Game like Dan Patrick, the one and only sportscaster with a football field, basketball court, putting green and, yes, a $150,000 golf simulator in his studios. 

Both are now syndication icons with more than 400 radio stations, millions of listeners, and now, Hall of Famers. 

Congratulations to Dan, Kim and their radio teams. 

The 2021 Radio Hall of Fame inductees will be honored at the in-person 2021 Radio Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Thursday, October 28, 2021, at Chicago’s Wintrust Grand Banking Hall.

WHAT’S NEW AT THE NOT NAB

GreatEastern image002

The fall NAB Show has been canceled but we’re continuing to roll out the new products at Wheatstone! 

Here is a preview of what’s new at Wheat that you’ll be hearing about in the weeks and months to come: 

Also, be sure to look for Rick Bidlack’s paper coming out soon on the Politics and Protocols of Getting Streams Cloud-Ready and CDN Compatible

To find out more about these and other Wheatstone products, call Jay, Darrin or Phil at 252-638-7000. 

RW TEASER 990x150 v2

See what's up with Wheatstone and the broadcast industry in this informative webcast!

Date: Thursday, September 30, 2021 • Time: 12:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time

Duration: 1 hour • Click here or the above banner for FREE Registration

Video: 7-Year Old Edits Phoner with VoxPro!

Watch Radio Host Rick Party's daughter edit on VoxPro. If a 7 year old can do it...amazing!

"Zion (my youngest daughter) learned how to edit recorded phone calls on our #VoxPro in less than 5 minutes... "

Stay up to date on the world of broadcast radio / television.
Click here to subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

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.

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. 

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

Site Navigations