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A different kind of consolidation
Setting a foundation
After that decision, we focused on furniture. Omnirax was selected for two main reasons. The most important factor to us was customer service. David Holland, Omnirax's lead salesperson, was on top of every detail. He worked with our architect and traded CAD drawings of the furniture to make sure everything would fit together. The other reason was that Omnirax was price competitive for a custom-designed system. Getting great customer service at a competitive price was a win-win.
Broadcast equipment was the final piece of the puzzle, and a lot easier to decide than the router and furniture. We bought new Zephyr Xstreams for ISDN and 360 Systems to replace some older units, and we repurposed our Enco Olympics equipment to use for sound effects, production beds and on-air spot delivery for our talk shows.
Audio editing is a primary function of the facility when it's not on the air for a live show. Shows that we compile and edit in Culver City include Off the Record, In Concert, Out of Order, Beatles Brunch and Beatle Years and more. We started with all new Dell computers. We upgraded the CD-ROM drives to Plextor models because we've had better results with those writing masters than stock CD drives. We added a lot of hard drive space, upgraded the audio cards and purchased the latest version of Wavelab 6. Wavelab 6 has been the editing software of choice at the facility; everyone was used to it and it does the job. So rather than force Pro Tools or Adobe Audition on the staff, we simply upgraded what they already felt comfortable with, which has worked well.
With all the decisions made on the equipment, space plan and renovation, we received approval for our budget and then began the next phase of the project. Equipment lists were finalized and equipment was ordered at the beginning of April 2006. Our first construction meeting was at the end of April, where the demolition plans were confirmed with our general contractor. We had to coordinate carefully with the contractor a good time for an engineering crew to be on site to cable the space. We needed a time near the end of the demolition but before construction got too far along. That time was about the beginning of June. We sent in our team of company engineers to install all new home runs of Cat 5e cable and audio cables. The number of audio cables was significantly reduced from previous station builds we've completed with the selection of the SAS router-based system. Because the interconnects between the studios and the main router use Cat 5e, there's hardly any need to put audio on a dedicated pair. Our team also pulled all new cable for the phones, computers and building alarm systems as well.
The cable runs and certifications of all the computer cables were completed by the end of July, which timed well with the town signing off on our electrical contractor's work.
Our second crew of engineers arrived at the beginning of July. Their job was to assemble the furniture in the studios, install the router, consoles and all of the ancillary equipment, and then test it. We purchased, as part of our package with SAS, support time to configure each studio and the router. While we mimic many of the functions of a radio studio, we also have many unique tasks for the network that a radio station normally wouldn't have. In a radio station installation, for instance, it's common for all sources in and out to be stereo and the program feeds to be stereo. At the network, we have many mono distribution feeds so we need to be able to send and receive mono feeds to T-1s, ISDNs and other links.
A graceful move
An advantage of moving a network facility is that typically the studios are not in use 24/7 like a radio station air studio. This provided flexibility when deciding the transition date. We began by moving a few of the production studios during the last week of July. Then we picked a weekend to move the main talk studios.
The link between California and our main uplink and network operations center in New York is handled with Harris/Intraplex T-1 equipment. We took the opportunity to move our main program feed to a linear path, which has significantly improved the sound quality of our live broadcasts by reducing transcoding effects of multiple audio compression paths. We have a linear path in both directions, which has also helped with voice-overs and interviews conducted on both coasts. We also added a DS64-NC card with an Ethernet adapter that allows our Enco networks to trade files in both directions.
Once everyone was moved and all of the bugs were worked out, we hosted a visit by Genelec. We purchased 8030A self-power speakers for our studios and in the larger control rooms we added a 7050B subwoofer. Liveliness and frequency response was measured and adjusted by the Genelec representative. We were happy to find that the studios have flat response and behave well. After all, audio is our business and we wanted to know that we were starting off with the best product we can for our affiliate stations. The other advantage of stepping through this exercise is that we balanced all of the rooms so that they are as close as they possibly can be to each other. If you've ever worked in a radio station where there are different brands or even different models of speakers, the producers and talent always seem to have a favorite room. People will line up and wait for the favorite room to be free rather than use the empty room with the “bad” speakers. We did our best to make all of our rooms as equal as possible.
Westwood One's Los Angeles operation is now positioned for the future. We have flexible routing, we have room to grow and we can accommodate anything we can think of today.
360 Systems Instant Replay|
ADC punch blocks
Aphex 230 mic tube preamp
Enco DAD 32
ESE master clock system, GPS sync
Genelec 8030A, 7050B
Harris Intraplex T-1 equipment
Middle Atlantic racks
O.C. White mic arms|
SAS 32KD, Riolink, Rubicon
Telos Zephyr Xstream, Delta 100
Whirlwind Headphone interface box
Trautmann is senior VP of engineering and technology, Westwood One, New York.
More photos and a floorplan of the Culver City facility are posted with this article online at beradio.com.
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