Multimedia Madness

CameraLensWNIP 420If you wanted to mess with cameras all day you wouldn’t have gone into radio, right?

It’s not just YouTube, either. Or the website that needs a continual stream of video and audio, or the photo bombs that are going off all day, every day. Or even that the morning guys are running all over town with a microphone and a camera.

It’s that multimedia is such a huge production now, and it’s beginning to get in the way of that other major production: radio. 

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“We’ve got cameras and streaming wares and everybody (in the studio) has something in front of them, laptops and tablets and iPads. Multimedia doesn’t even begin to describe it,” says Mike Maciejewski, who is the engineer in charge of Townsquare’s five-station cluster in Grand Rapids, Michigan, home of nationally syndicated morning show Free Beer & Hot Wings.On any given morning in the Free Beer & Hot Wings studio, there are a variety of audio formats to source from the Internet, podcasts to produce on the fly for the website, Ustreams crisscrossing the Internet headed for either the studio or the website, or both, and iPhones and cameras recording every move.

Slaving cameras to WheatNet-IP?

To keep up with it all, Mike has big plans for the studio’s new LX-24 control surface and two TS-22 Talent Stations networked through a WheatNet-IP audio system. For starters, he expects to be able to get a line on the huge shifts in audio levels found in WAV, MP3, and any variety of files downloaded from the web and used in the show. “The levels are all over the place for the stuff we get off the web. The audio processing that’s built in will help us manage some of those wild sounds,” he says.

He’s also looking at the WheatNet-IP system to manage some of the multimedia overload. “We’re going to slave the studio cameras to the WheatNet-IP system, you know, automate the triggering of the camera for taking shots of who’s talking,” says Mike, who likes the idea of video following audio for a change – a reversal from the television norm of audio following video. The results will be posted on social media sites and YouTube, all of which is requiring Mike to rethink radio from a whole new perspective. 

He’s hardly alone. “More and more broadcasters are asking about lower profile mic arms or smaller equipment to get that out of the way of the camera,” comments Justin Warbreck with BSW. “Rather than the big overhead booms, we’ll give them a mic that sits low on the desk,” he adds.

Justin sees a lot more gear and wires tucked under the desk, too, or the removal of gear and wires altogether. He finds that with IP audio networks like our WheatNet-IP, stations can go a long way in ridding the studio of eyesores like breakout panels and outboard gear. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to IP audio networks and clearing out clutter. “We see people putting a minimal amount of I/O in the control room with the console, and then putting everything else in the TOC room, ” says Justin.

Wall monitors

Mike Maciejewski is all for that plan. He says that in the new multimedia world, where every moment is a photo opportunity, the more you can put in the rack room, the better. With our new WheatNet-IP BLADE3 I/O access units, for example, broadcasters will be able to relegate functions like audio processing for codecs and podcasts to the TOC as routable functions on the network, connecting it all to the studio through a CAT6 cable.

YouTube and Instagram will never have to know about the utilitarian boxes in the back – or of the graveyard of PC monitors that had collected in the Free Beer & Hot Wings studio over the years and are now removed through networking.

“We’re going with screens up on the wall to get them out of the view of the camera shots and so it’s more of a natural setting, instead of looking around the screen,” explains Mike. Automation, web and other sources/destinations will feed the monitors from separate locations using simple IP networking, accessible through the control surface or talent stations.  

“The next step is to be able to play out of the iPads and into the system,” he adds, only half joking. (Wheatstone is currently developing a suite of iPad/tablet mixer interfaces based on the popular Glass-E virtual mixer).

As we write this, Mike is finishing up installation of a new WheatNet-IP studio for Free Beer & Hot Wings and Justin is spooling unused wire and making boxes disappear. Multimedia in radio stations continues unabated, and so do the ideas.

(Mike wrote about his adventures in the September 2014 issue of Radio magazine. Here's a reprint of that article, courtesy of Radio.

Radio Magazine: Free Beer & Hot Wings 

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