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KPAM moves forward
A look into the KPAM Production Studio #1.
A hub of activity, KPAM's traffic studio looks into the news studio.
The newsroom bustles with activity.
The KPAM Control Studio.
Pamplin Media Group is a privately owned media powerhouse located in Portland. It has a number of media interests in the Portland area, including The Portland Tribune and other print publications. In addition, Pamplin owns and operates two radio stations in the Portland market. KPAM 860-AM providing a news/talk format, and its sister station KKAD-AM Sunny 1550 with a music of your life music format.
After seven years in one location (and studio equipment that was, in some cases, more than 20 years old) KKAD and KPAM were moving to the ground floor of a new shared building. The space was essentially the same size, about 9,000 square feet, but the broadcast infrastructure slate was blank. The ground floor of the building was empty.
Pamplin's new studios would be extensive: two on-air studios, one control room, one news anchor booth, one full newsroom, one traffic studio, three production studios, one master control and a server room.
Dave Bischoff, Pamplin Broadcasting chief engineer, had some serious planning to do and there were some challenges. From an engineering perspective, "radio stations on the seventh floor of a high rise…not fun."
Bischoff said that the overriding philosophy behind the planning of the new facility was for the technology to "step up," and not just for the immediate future but looking five, 10 or 15 years down the road. Bischoff noted that the technological needs of the AM format are vastly different today than even 10 years ago.
"AM morning shows used to be one person. Now, AM morning shows have three or four people working on the program and they all have technological access requirements."
Bischoff also had to make sure that the change over from the old facility to the new was seamless. He had to ensure that when the switch was thrown the signals from the new stations stayed on.
Early in the process, Bischoff chose Creative Studio Solutions as the integration and design team. Bischoff began working closely with CSS Chief Engineer/Designer Andrew Rosenberg. The most important consideration for Bischoff was the programming that an AM News/Talk station has to provide. "AM operations are remote intensive and field intensive. We had to have a system that gave us the capabilities to expand our AM operations, because that's what AM radio stations are required to do now."
After much discussion and research, Bischoff chose Sierra Automated Systems (SAS) technology for the new facility.
The primary SAS equipment used is the SAS Rubicon SL Console. The Rubicon SL provides router source selection, four mix buses, an unlimited number of automatic mix-minus buses, pan balance and IFB/talkback on each input module.
Bischoff knew that this technology was going to be a dramatic shift for the entire staff. "It's going to take a while for everyone to understand the new system and its capabilities, but with the SAS equipment we don't have to rush to learn the system's new technology, while successfully broadcasting an active AM station."
Mike Hagans, SAS' systems engineer also became involved early in the process because system reliability was also a huge factor. "This was going to be a pretty large facility and I think Dave chose SAS because of our track record." Also, Hagans said that there is an aesthetic quality to SAS's systems that helps.
Behind the Rubicon SL, Bischoff selected the SAS 32KD router. The hub of the Sierra Automated Systems connected digital network, the 32KD digital router/mixer provides switching, distribution, mixing, level control, signal processing, intercom, IFB and mix-minus in one modular, distributed, scalable routing system. The 32KD is expandable to thousands of inputs and outputs at one location or spread throughout a facility connected via fiber.
Each 32KD mainframe supports as many as 512 input channels and 512 output channels. Multiple frames interconnect via the Sierra Automated Systems audio network interface high-capacity fiber link, which carries 1,000 channels.
Space, the final frontier
Another challenge faced by the Pamplin team was the new space itself. Located on the first floor of the building that houses Pamplin's newspaper operations, the space was not specifically designed for broadcast use. Bischoff used the CSS team to assist the building architect with designing the studio space and making it sound proof.
This was a fairly large-scale build but there were three primary factors in determining which construction material to use: quality of product, budget and availability. Rosenberg recommended the Auralex acoustic treatment for the walls of the studios. "We researched a number of options but we kept coming back to Auralex. A significant decider for this project was the ability of Auralex to ship a fairly significant amount of materials in a relatively short time frame in order to meet construction timelines."
To facilitate a smooth integration, CSS used its Pre-Wire Solution. This entailed having most of the pre-wire completed at its facility in Colorado, including testing and initial documentation. This process makes on-site integration far less time consuming than compared to doing pre-wire on-site, and time was a factor in the creation of the studios. KPAM and KKAD had a fixed date to be up and running at the new building and each day spent on-site had to be dedicated to the more intricate integration processes and not the creation of cables, punch blocks and other time consuming tasks.
Hagans spent a week configuring the nine consoles and the router system. Of primary concern for Hagans was setting up the consoles so that the talent would not have too many choices to make on the new systems. "I spent a lot of time setting up display lists so the new systems would not be overwhelming to the talent."
In addition, Hagans had to configure the remote control items and account for the large number of sources and destinations coming into and out of the system.
On Aug. 24, the change was made from the old building to the new facility. It's not quite as simple as flicking a switch, but the transition from aging studios at an old location to a new state-of-the-art facility in an entirely new broadcast space went smoothly, or as smoothly as you can hope for.
"I think any time you're trying to make a step, it's going to be a bit painful," said Bischoff. "That's normal. But you have to take the opportunity to go forward. I'm pleased with the results."
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Sheahan is communications manager with Creative Studio Solutions, Wheat Ridge, CO.
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