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Extreme Studio Networking at Clear Channel Seattle
Standing before Clear Channel Seattle's new 36,000-square-foot facility on Elliott Avenue, you wouldn't know that inside is an extreme studio network with more than a million crosspoints connected through a 1,232 x 1,232 audio matrix shared between 21 studios and seven stations.
The goal wasn't to build a network this large when the lease ran out on Clear Channel Seattle's studio facility just a half mile up Elliott Avenue, but that's what happens when you cross 77 Wheatstone IP88a Blade access units with 15 Wheatstone control surfaces, 12 crosspoint controllers, three producer turrets, 43 headphone panels, 23 mic control panels and 45 mic processors. And as if that's not enough networking, Clear Channel plans to add at least seven more IP88 Blades, 17 mics, 17 headphone panels and 17 mic processors before the end of the year.
This is one large AoIP network. So, why the big network for seven stations? Why not? And, why don't other stations have networks this large?
It's been more than a year since Clear Channel made the switch, and the benefits are evident at just about every juncture of daily operation. For example, the cluster does a lot of remotes, and like most radio operations today, has a finite complement of remote gear that is always in demand. Sports stations KJR-AM and KHHO-AM are always carrying the latest game, while the music stations -- AC KBKS-FM, Classic Hits KJR-FM, Alternative KKBW-FM, AC KUBE-FM, and Country KNBQ-FM -- are always covering one event or another in and around Seattle. Now, this vital connection to the community is more easily managed and executed due to the system's centralized management of shared resources.
Another benefit of a network of this size and scope -- being able to fully integrate the cluster's RCS NexGen automation system with audio routing for full studio control anywhere on the grid. The stations had been using the automation system since 2001; it is the heart and soul of the operation. Staff schedule music, log in field reports from iPhones and transfer audio files between other Clear Channel stations all over the country using NexGen and an ISDN or Internet connection. Talent can even create an audio segment at a home studio, for example, and drop it into NexGen as an event in the program log.
Tight integration of the AoIP system and NexGen automation was an important consideration. With WheatNet-IP networking, all GPIOs would move off the automation to IP routing access units, which promises transparent interoperability between consoles, automation and networking -- and on down to microphones, recorders and other elements in the studio. Clear Channel could replace soundcards with software drivers where applicable, and replace much of the hardware I/O switching needed for connectivity previously.
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