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WPIG Makes a Huge Technological Leap
Facility Showcase, Feb 2010
Where to begin
The first need was to select a state-of-the-art automation system that would give a good amount of flexibility to the operation. Backup was also an important aspect. The automation system needed to have the ability to keep the stations on the air if a central server failed or one of the main on-air work stations failed. Ease of setup was a must and we wanted to be able to stream WAV files from a central server over Ethernet. Another primary focus in the automation decision was its ability to run with off-the-shelf hardware if need be, in case of failure. This was very important. Being located in a smaller town, a hardware failure could mean those dreaded three words: Off the air.
In the early days of automation, hardware specifications were finite, but I am sure that having the ability to put an off-the-shelf sound card, or for that matter, an off-the-shelf work station to use would be a distinct advantage, at least for the short term. You know the scenario, a major failure happens on a holiday weekend and you cannot get parts. Given all these requirements, Media Touch from OMT was selected as the automation system of choice. The hardware purchased included five workstations, two for each on-air studio and one for production, a central server with a RAID five hard drive array, a gateway workstation, and an additional workstation to run the Media Touch logger software to record network feeds and air checks.
All workstations except for the gateway were outfitted with M-Audio Delta audio cards affording the station balanced inputs and outputs. The gateway workstation's mission in life is to be the location audio files, log files and any other files that need to be put into the automation system from outside the system, are deposited, scanned for any infections, and then copied to the appropriate destination in the automation. As a company, we do not allow the automation system to be directly connected to the Internet. The reasons are many but the most important is that we do not want to render the on-air product useless due to an infection being passed along to it. So, we take extra precautions in this area. I mentioned previously that one of the requirements of the automation system was to stream WAV files on the automation network. Backyard Broadcasting does not condone the use of compressed audio formats, especially for the music. A new music library was purchased for WPIG to use when the new automation system was installed. We have changed music libraries in many of our markets and the difference between compressed and linear non-compressed is dramatic. With hard drive space so cheap, there is absolutely no reason to have a compressed library, unless you are working with legacy equipment and it would not support the larger files. WHDL did not have to go this route as it runs a 24-hour satellite delivered format called Kool Gold from Dial-Global.
Rebuilding studios around the existing operation has many challenges. Given its number of years, there was existing wiring. Not just a little. A lot. Actually more than a lot. Just like any other broadcast facility, the original wiring was added to, and added to, and added to over the years for modifications and new equipment. This left the original wiring path to the studios looking like 20 pounds of bologna in a 5-pound bag. New wiring had to run overhead in a new path and be kept to a minimum as space was limited. Also, remember that the current operation had to continue. In order to accomplish this task, traditional audio consoles with all the ins and outs in the actual console had to be ruled out. The decision was made to go with an audio router-based console system. This way we can keep most of the audio sources and destinations wired in the rack room. Sources such as microphones and CD players along with destinations like headphone and studio monitor amps would be part of the new cabling to and from the studios thus minimizing the actual audio runs to and from the studios. Logitek Remora consoles and audio engine were chosen as they fit all the requirements and cost guidelines for the project, not to mention that this system will afford us the ability to have virtually every source in the building available for selection on the three Remora consoles.
With the two main components ordered, it was time to create room in the existing racks for the new Media Touch automation and Logitek Audio Engine. The existing racks housed many gems not being used anymore including an old cart carousel once used for automation. Audio still being used in the existing operation was still running through the old patch bays so care had to be taken in removing some of the items. In some instances, temporary wiring had to be put in place to bypass these relics. Keep in mind that with this type of rebuild, and the lack of available space, you wind up moving items in the racks two or three times before they find their final physical location. Does this add time to the project? You betcha!
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