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One Becomes Two at WETA
With the nodes programmed and source profiles configured, we ordered cables -- one color for audio, another for GPIO -- in various lengths for connection to equipment. We also ordered adapters to go from RJ-45 to DB-9, DB-15, and DB-25 for control of equipment (alas, we could not find anything off the shelf to go from RJ-45 to DIN), as well as RJ-45 to screw terminal adapters for miscellaneous use. And finally, we ordered a handful of StudioHub adapters to connect any analog equipment, the reasoning being that soldering a single XLR to a network cable gives you a neat and tidy end product for AES, but having two XLRs hanging off twisted pairs just looks shoddy.
When the weekend arrived, we switched audio and control to one of our production rooms, and double checked that everything was operational. Then we started removing equipment from air control, followed by cutting hundreds of cable ties, and removing nearly a mile of audio and control cable from air control, followed by removing the accumulated debris of 14 years. Bear in mind that each fader of a conventional console needs an audio and a control cable (some channels in the Studer needed six audio and six control cables). In air control, every cable went to a patch panel (including control cables) before going to the actual gear and the rest of the building. In the Axia realm, only a single cable goes to the console, carrying both power and data, so all those existing cables were eliminated. Those patch panels were eliminated as well, as you can configure the Element to allow any source to appear on any fader.
After some rearranging of equipment, we installed the nodes as well as a small fanless Cisco switch for the audio network. The gigabit uplink port of this switch goes to our main Cisco switch in the tech center, carrying all audio and data to and from the room to the rest of the facility, as opposed to the 24 AES cables that were in use previously. Next we pulled cables for audio and GPIO to each device as needed, including a few extras for future expansion. AES cables had XLR connecters soldered on; analog cables were given the appropriate StudioHub adapter, and GPIO cables used RJ-45 to whatever adapters as needed.
Finally, we brought in the console halves, put them in place, and connected them to the Element power supply. Upon power up, everything behaved as expected, and we were able to start finessing the details of the configuration. For this we brought in an on-air host who helped us decide the most efficient and useful fader positions for the most used audio sources. We also locked down a few faders so that only one source would ever be available to it (such as the control room microphone). Add in some cue speakers and a headphone amp (they had been built in to the Studer), and we had a functional studio up and running in very little time.
The primary goal of this rebuild was to eliminate audio problems caused by the Studer; however, we also took the time to simplify things. Gone are two of the four LCD screens in front of the host: weather radar, news service, automation system and utility computer. Instead, two larger screens were put in place for the automation system as well as the utility computer. The news service can be run on the utility computer, and since it is rarely used (we are a classical music station) the decision was made to eliminate the dedicated computer. The weather radar screen is now on the far wall of the room, being driven by a $35 Raspberry Pi computer -- no Windows updates, no moving parts and easily replaced.
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