Clear Channel Cleveland - Short turnaround


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On Aug. 28, 2000, Dave Szucs, director of engineering for Clear Channel Communications Greater Cleveland operations received word that a lease finally had been signed for the company's new 59,000 square-foot multi-station facility. At the time, he could not decide whether he felt more panic or anticipation as he realized that operations from the new Independence, OH, location had to begin within seven months.



Large-graphic logos mark the entrances to the FM studios along the central corridor. The AM news/talk area is at the end of this hall.


Deceivingly tranquil here, the newsroom comes alive when its 14 workstations are occupied. A central master clock display keeps things in sync.


Monitors and keyboards overwhelm the BMXIII-32 console in the sports network control studio.


Seating a host, producer and as many as six guests, there is no room for confusion about whose studio this is.


Inside the control room for WMJI.


The rack room.


Seating a host, producer and as many as six guests, there is no room for confusion about whose studio this is.

W ant to see the floor plans?
Click here for the FM studios. Click here for the AM studios.

It was a formidable timetable. The first station to occupy and commence operation from the new location was the leviathan WTAM-AM 1100, a 50kW full-service news/talk station that also serves as network flagship for the city's NFL, AL and NBA professional sports franchises. This meant dealing with a morass of telecom and satellite issues, multiple studios and a newsroom with 14 networked audio workstations. Stretching the schedule, the station hit the air from its new home on April 28, 2001.

This was just a warm-up. Over the next six months, the group's five FM stations moved in on a roughly 30-day cycle, making the journey from three other pre-existing facilities. The occasion also served as a step-off point for an upgrade of the existing Prophet WAN audio servers to the Prophet Nexgen platform, a process that tested the nerves of IT and programming staffs already undergoing transitional strains.

When the dust settled, Szucs and his crew found themselves facing a sizable punch list. With 27 studios (and provisions for an additional four) the need to generate designs and documentation on the fly (a process known as concurrency among defense contractors) often had engineers working double shifts.

As with any consolidation of this scope, there were unexpected complications. A 70-foot microwave antenna tower designed to provide sufficient clearance for the multiple STL paths of the six stations was stymied by a local zoning board, and all but one of the stations found themselves operating via T1 Intraplex links. Studio configuration preferences of individual stations, temporarily set aside in favor of interoperability, had to be accommodated over time through studio customization. Likewise, removing, cataloging and deciding where existing equipment could be incorporated into the new facility was an ongoing process. But by the end of the first year, it was time to breathe easier and declare victory, as the largest single migration/integration of radio facilities in Cleveland broadcast history was essentially complete.

The layout

While glancing over a studio floor plan, there is a noticeable line of demarcation between the AM news/talk operation and the music-based FM stations. The WTAM design has a dual focus, one centering around a comfortably large talk studio/control room configuration with two adjoining news studios, and the other dominated by the newsroom with its 14 Newsready workstations, master clocks, satellite video and radar displays. The remainder of the AM side has a Protools-powered production studio, still another news studio, and a live sports studio that sees double duty as a sports network master control point and production room. This same studio uses one of two legacy consoles brought from the previous FM studios, an enormous PR&E BMX III-32, refurbished and well suited to its multi-role mission.

The FM studios, in contrast, are laid out in a regimented, cookie-cutter approach. The six parallel sets of rooms, or modules, are identical in dimension and function. Each module consists of a show prep room, production studio, news/voice tracking studio and an air studio equipped with a Harris/PR&E Airwave console. Even though there are only five FM stations in the local cluster, the extra set of studios allows for overflow, redundancy and network origination of syndicated content. Rounding out this studio block is a live performance studio complete with a control room suited for additional production work. To lend a sense of individual identity, each station has its logo emblazoned on the wall next to that module's entrance off the main corridor.

Throughout the entire studio core, the basic design principles are exemplified by the use of non-parallel studio walls, magnetic seal doors and central cable trays. Studio cabinetry is a standardized modular design allowing interchangeability and simple layout.

Connectivity between studios, workstations and the outside occurs at several levels. Prophet Nexgen (music and commercial inventory) and Newsready (news/sports copy and integrated audio) supply digital source material not only to the Cleveland hub, but also to outlying company properties via Clear Channel's WAN. This system provides tremendous programming flexibility. Meanwhile, the routing and distribution of real-time audio and digital sources is handled by a Sierra Audio Systems 64000 router with 128 inputs and 56 outputs.

Remote broadcasts are a staple throughout the industry and Clear Channel Cleveland is no exception. Sixteen Telos Zephyr/Zephyr Xstream ISDN codecs carry the day-to-day load, backed up by four Comrex POTS codecs. But remote pickup is not limited to hardwire alone — the facility is also served by a high-tower, narrowband RPU repeater system for news and traffic as well as a two-channel, four-site network of wide-band RPU receivers providing audio links for a small fleet of remote trucks.

Today and tomorrow

In many ways, this snapshot of Clear Channel's Cleveland build-out is a template for the kind of synergy promised by large market consolidation. Yet it remains a work in progress. Several new studios are being built, while some existing studios are undergoing further modification and refinements. For engineers that like to stay busy, life just doesn't get any better than this.


Equipment List

360 Systems Instant Replay
360 Systems Shortcut
Acoustics First studio sound panels
ADC Pro Patch
ADC-I-24B wire termination blocks
AKG 414 B-ULS
Audioarts R-5
Audiometrics DA 16000.b
Audiometrics mic booms
Baird satellite mounts
Benchmark HPA-1 headphone amps
Broadcast Tools ICM 16 intercom
Cabinetworks Unlimited studio furniture
Circuitwerks telephone autocouplers
Comtech 3.8m satellite dish
Digidesign Pro Tools
Dixon NM-250 newsroom mixers
Electro-Voice RE-27 N/D
Fidelipac 340 on-air lights
Gentner SPH-10
Gepco 24 pr. control cable
Gepco GEP-552624GFC 24 pr. 110 ohm multiconductor
Harris Airwave 20
Harris Intraplex Plus System
JBL 4408A
Mackie d8b
Mackie DB-8
Middle Atlantic equipment racks
PR&E BMX III
Prophet Nexgen
SAS 64000
Shure SM-7
Symetrix 528E mic processors
Telos 1A2 Interface
Telos Delta 100
Telos Delta hybrids
Telos One
Telos Zephyr Xstream
Newsready 32


Krieger is a contract engineer based in Cleveland.




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