IP remotes: Instantly Practical

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The issue of connecting to the public Internet with the portable IP codec is a little more complex though. I've used three different methods. The obvious one is to jump on a LAN that already exists. As I wrote earlier, many venues have some sort of network in place now, usually by way of a broadband connection of some sort: DSL or cable. If they have a router attached to it (likely) then you have to deal with the same network security issues that I also mentioned earlier. In this case, you'll have to have access to the router itself, so you can configure it for port-forwarding.

Let's talk about port-forwarding. One aspect of the common broadband connection you find is that it has one IP address on the Internet. The router is able to accommodate multiple host computers on its private side even while only having one public Internet address by way of network address translation. When a host computer on the private side runs an application that needs access through the router out to the Internet, that application will have an associated port number. The router makes note of this port number; and so when it later receives messages from the Internet that include a particular port number, it knows to use that port number in sending that received information back to the correct host computer on its private side. Since these small routers are used to give small offices Internet connectivity, the port associated with http is by default, open. However, when you want to add an uncommon application to the private side (like your Internet codec) you will need to configure the router to have the necessary ports open so the traffic will be allowed to pass in both directions.

If you can get the credentials to log in to the router's administrative console (done via its LAN) you can generally make the necessary changes. (If you have a good relationship with the venue owner, he will hopefully give you the credentials or he'll have his own administrator do the configuration for you.) I'm generalizing here, but once you log in to the particular router, you will be able to find the page for port-forwarding. Two pieces of information are needed: first are the necessary port numbers, which you will get from the specific equipment documentation. Second will be the IP address of the codec itself when on the LAN in question. When configuring the port-forwarding, you are basically telling the router to allow packets for applications that correspond to the port number you have programmed to pass through to the IP address you have also programmed. That's it in a nutshell.

In many instances, the router attached to a broadband Internet connection at a venue will have Wi-fi capability. You'll need to go through the port-forwarding process whether you use a wired or wireless connection. You'll also likely need credentials to be able to log on to the Wi-fi access point. Get those from the network admin, or look them up at the same time you set up the port forwarding.

The third means by which I've used a remote IP codec is by way of a plug-in EVDO card. This was certainly a very convenient way to go, and offered reasonably good service, though not as good as a network that was more under my control.

Once your IP codecs are talking end-to-end, you'll be doing a remote that is very much like any other, especially compared to ISDN. There will be some amount of delay going both directions, so it'll be necessary to develop a mix-minus at the studio. Depending upon the quality of your connection through the Internet, you may occasionally experience a drop-out or other odd audio quality related to traffic issues. My experience so far has been that these are brief, and parameters that can be adjusted to minimize the negative effects are adjusted inside the codecs without our notice.

Learning how to use IP codecs takes a little time and may require some patience on your part. Hopefully learning about new techniques is something you like to do. Using IP codecs for remotes has provided some excellent results for the group of stations I work for. Not only have we done the standard type of remote, but we've given our programming people a new tool as well, since we've now greatly expanded our capability, in terms of where we can do them, and their timeliness.

Irwin is transmission systems supervisor for Clear Channel NYC and chief engineer of WKTU, New York. Contact him at doug@dougirwin.net.

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