WheatNews April 2019

WHEAT:NEWS APRIL 2019  Volume 10, Number 4

EVERYBODY PROMISES THE FUTURE. WHEATSTONE DELIVERS IT.

Cloudy In Vegas

Cloud

We spotted several new cloud formations this NAB show, including committees being formed to eventually move HD Radio and other hardware to the cloud and new cloud products like RCS’ Zetta for disaster recovery. And, of course, we were there with our SwitchBlade AoIP appliance, which quickly ascended to cloud significance as a practical solution for combining studio operations across a distance.

We also talked to plenty of broadcasters who are currently bumping up against the cloud for replacing hardware infrastructure and managing applications remotely, although they stop short of moving their entire operation over to a Cloud Service Provider (CSP).  

Several key developments need to take place before the true native cloud operation is within reach. 

During his NAB BEITC session Components of Cloud-Based Broadcasting, from Content Creation to Delivery, our Wheatstone development engineer Dominic Giambo spoke of a few of those developments. Among them is what he describes as an “API arms race in the cloud industry.” He explained to a crowded room during his session on Sunday that CSPs such as Amazon and Microsoft are developing competing APIs that are the gateway to their cloud service and any applications that reside there. All CSPs want to have the leading “API that people are going to build software on top of and that links to that cloud provider,” he said. 

While this and other issues such as latency, availability, and security still need to be resolved, it was evident at this NAB show that many of the pieces (including our SwitchBlade AoIP appliance) are already in place for broadcasters to begin moving toward the cloud model. 

We're the 10 Percenters

TenPercenter

When asked what kept him up at night, Dan Houze with BC Live Productions in Los Angeles replied without missing a beat: audio synchronization. Others on the panel discussion at the NAB Esports Experience immediately shook their heads in agreement, a synchronized chain of knowing glances and bobbing heads. 

A good five-minute discussion ensued about audio for live production, which someone noted as 10 percent of the content but almost 100 percent noticeable when it goes wrong. 

Meanwhile, in the Wheatstone booth across the North Hall, we had just introduced the compact Strata 32 IP audio console and a new virtual mixing surface. The irony was not lost on us. We might have a hand in only 10 percent of the television content, but we dedicate 100 percent of our time and resources exclusively to audio. 

From the Analog Files

Lightning

We have arrived at a point in broadcast history when we no longer talk about digital consoles that look and feel like analog boards. Ironically, we find ourselves talking about analog consoles that look and feel like digital boards. 

We had one of those conversations recently with Bob VanProyen, a contract engineer with RSVP Audio in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area who purchased a couple of analog Audioarts Lightning consoles.  

We called him up because we wondered what he could possibly be doing with a couple of consoles if not connecting them up in an IP audio network.   

Right off, he told us that one of the on-air personalities asked him a similar question. They wanted to know if he had purchased digital consoles. “I said ‘sort of,’” he commented, which was entirely true. Our Audioarts Lightning is a modernized analog board with patchable AES input for connecting a digital source to any fader and built in A/D conversion for the main program output, not to mention USB and Bluetooth connectivity.  

ThePledgeLogoVanProyen explained that his customer, WPNW-AM/WJQK-FM of Grand Rapids, one of the few remaining AM/FM owner operated combos today, didn’t need or have the budget for an IP audio routed facility. “They don’t really do a lot of routing and all that. For the most part, they sit in front of the board, and they expect the first channel to be their mic and they go,” he said.  

They also expect consoles to hold up to heavy use. Talk station WPNW-AM and Christian Contemporary WJQK-FM, owned locally and operated by Les Lanser and his son Brad, air two live morning shows, a live afternoon show and live news reporting and coverage the rest of the day. “After the morning shows, a lot of the studios in Grand Rapids are empty; there’s nobody there. But this place is hopping. There are people doing shows, voicetracking and recording news, and the studios are always busy. This stuff gets a lot of use,” explained VanProyen.   

WJQK LOGOThe Audioarts Lightning boards will be used in both on-air rooms, replacing 30-year-old analog Wheatstone boards – both still in good working condition. For studio routing, VanProyen is creating a simple router and will use the NexGen automation system to share some programming between the Lightning consoles in the two identical AM and FM on air studios. He will use three of the four program busses in the Lightning consoles for the usual purposes (to send to phone, to record, and to air). The fourth program bus can be used to send programming to the Lightning next door in the AM or FM on-air studio if needed. 

In addition to four stereo program busses (with built-in A/D conversion for digital or analog out), Lightning has two auto mix-minuses, four mic preamps, and A/B source selection on 12 or 16 faders. Bluetooth and USB in/out connectivity provides access to MP3 players, web streams, and other modern sources.

“It’s not digital versus analog. It’s just simply that it has to be durable,” commented VanProyen. 

Still, he said, “This is the first analog console I’ve purchased in I don’t know how many years.” 

Editor’s note: We introduced the Audioarts Lightning console last year at the NAB show, and since then this little analog board has been flying out the door.

Esports. Beasley, and the Whole Nine Yards

Esports

Esports seemed to come out of left field this NAB.  

If you, too, followed the big blue sign to the Esports Experience, an exhibit floor destination that happened to be within line-of-sight from our Wheatstone booth, you were probably hit with the same thought. 

Esports has been around for a while, more as a curiosity than anything. It started as video gamers facing off while fans watched online and is now exploding into a $1 billion industry with leagues, live tournaments, the whole nine yards. Gaming fans are crowding into stadiums to watch live esports events and stadiums like the $50 million arena being built in Philadelphia are starting to pop up all over. 

That’s real people in real stadiums watching virtual realms on big screens.  

And, why is this of any significance to broadcasters? 

BeasleyXP 1We decided to ask the guy who happened to be hanging out under the Beasley XP arches at the NAB Esports Experience. Anthony McIntosh, who is himself a Millennial and employed by Beasley Media Group as part of its Beasley XP esports initiative, told us that esports is a way to reach the younger listener.

Our friends at Beasley are onto something, as usual. It is estimated that 427 million people worldwide will be watching some form of esports in 2019. The demographic for major league gaming is approximately 85% male, with a majority of viewers between the ages of 18 and 34.

Beasley acquired esports gaming lifestyle radio show CheckPoint Radio in October, and the weekly two-hour program now goes out to WBZ-FM/98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, and 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia as well as 58 other markets across the United States and Canada on Westwood One. By the way, we’re proud to say that WBZ-FM/98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston is a WheatNet-IP audio networked facility, as are most of Beasley’s facilities.  

BeasleyXP 2While at the NAB show, we also learned that Beasley purchased a minority stake in the Detroit Renegades, an eports franchise that holds competitive gaming matches and is building a new facility in Detroit. Events at the facility will no doubt tie into Beasley’s local radio stations, especially young male-targeted active rocker WRIF-FM. 

That’s some smart broadcasting, even if esports is an odd concept for those of us who tend to think of sports as an institution involving hot dogs, fan art and chasing after balls. 

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Click upper left of popup for playlist of videos...

Highs and Lows of X5

Some said the highs were brighter, others said that the bass was deeper. Tom Lawler with TJL Productions listened to our new X5 FM/HD audio processor at the NAB show and commented, “It’s like a winter coat has been lifted off the audio. The highs on the analog are just as clean and clear as they are on the HD.”

Then, a few hours later, Dan Hyatt put on the same pair of headphones and said this: “I’m a huge critic of bass. I have a lot of hip hop stations I deal with and a lot of classic hits and rock stations I deal with…I've got to make sure those bass sounds from bass guitars come out and sound good – not nasally, but they really rock and they shake the earth. I like that deep, shaking tone and that’s exactly what the X5 is bringing out.”

Click above for several videos about the X5, including Dan Hyatt, Scottie Rice, Big Tom Lawler and, of course, Jeff Keith and Mike Erickson.

Four for Wheat 

It happens every year like clockwork. We design, we build, we make changes, we add features, we tweak features. Every NAB show feels like a finish line. 

So, as we counted down the minutes to the close of NAB 2019, we once again held our breath, hoping to get at least one product award.

And, guess what? We got four!  

We sprinted across the finish line again this year with four awards, including an NAB 2019 Product of the Year award. 

Our Strata 32 compact IP audio networked TV console with 64 channels in 40 linear inches received a Best of Show award from TV Technology and another from Government Video

And, our SwitchBlade AoIP appliance received a Best of Show award from Radio World and another from NAB as an NAB Product of the Year in the Audio Production, Processing and Networking category.

Thank you from all of us at Wheatstone for another spectacular year in Vegas!

Video Check-Ins from NAB 2019

Radio DNA's Rob Goldberg

Radio DNA's Rob Goldberg talks with Scott Fybush at NAB 2019 about the WTOP project and other work he's been doing recently.

WHIZ's Kevin Buente

Chief engineer Kevin Buente talks with Scott Fybush about how they are using virtual and cloud technology with their radio and TV stations.

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For this FREE e-book download, we've put together this e-book with fresh info and some of the articles that we've authored for our website, white papers, and news that dives into some of the cool stuff you can do with a modern AoIP network like Wheatstone's WheatNet-IP. 

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-- Uncle Wheat, Editor

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