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Studio Buildout, Part III

I have been so busy that I forgot to post the pictures of the completed studio build out.  Overall, I would say that I am pretty pleased with the end result.  Of course, this is not Manhattan but rather an unrated market in central New York, and the budget reflected that.  Overall, the radio stations are in much better technical condition than before.  They are now located in the center of their community within walking distance of the town hall, other civic locations and activities.

There are five radio stations broadcasting from this new studio space.  Two stations are simulcast using the Westwood One Classic hits format from the satellite.  The only AM station is a Fox Sports Radio affiliate from the satellite with a local morning show.  Another one is a “we play anything” computer juke box and final station has a country format with quite a bit of local content.  Any station can go on the air from either studio.  In addition, all stations can simulcast the mother ship from Oneonta, which comes down via a Barix Exstreamer 1000.

Walton TOC

The Technical Operation Center consists of four racks containing the Ethernet routers, switches, a patch panel, automation systems, audio routing switchers, air monitor receivers, audio distribution amps, Barix units, Wheatstone Blade IP 88A STL, etc.  The equipment racks came from a disused site in New Jersey.

The satellite dish and receivers are located at the transmitter site, audio and closures come back via the Wheatstone Blade IP 88A.

Everything in this room is backed up by a STACO 2.5 KVA UPS.

TOC wire terminations

The wire termination from the studio are mounted to Krone LSA-PLUS blocks.  Studio trunk wiring consists of connectorized 25 pair CAT 5 cable.  There are also six runs of shielded CAT 5e cable for Ethernet and extended KVM from the TOC.

There is a manual transfer switch with a NEMA L14-30 input receptacle on the bottom.  A twenty for 10/4 SOJ cable will reach the ground from the window in the left hand side of the picture.  This is the standard NEMA plug/receptacle set for a moderate sized portable generator.  That feeds a 100 Amp sub panel which in turn feeds the racks and studio equipment.  Thus the entire facility can be run on a 5000 watt (good quality) portable generator in the event of a prolonged power outage.

The ground buss bar is connected to the main building ground at the service entrance.  All racks and studio consoles are grounded to this main ground point.

The air monitor receivers feed both studios.  There is also a provision to connect audio silence sensors up to each air monitor DA to notify the station staff in the event of an off air situation.  Believe it or not, this type of system has never been installed for these stations.

Studio A is the main studio.  The AudioArts Air4 console is a good fit for this type of operation.  These consoles have USB outputs, so the console can act as a sound card for the digital editing computer.  Each studio is equipped with an air monitor switch that can select any station to feed the external monitor input on the Air 4 console.  This allows the guy on duty to keep an eye on all the signals coming from the facility.

Studio A

The counter tops were custom made at a local kitchen place on trade. The microphone are Heil PR-22 with shock mounts, which are better than the Realistic mics in the old studio.  This is the first time that the main studio has had more than one microphone. The morning show guy has already pressed those guest mics into service with a few on air interviews.

The monitor speakers are JBL LSR305 mounted on home made speaker stands consisting of 18 inch black iron pipe and floor flanges.

Studio A

The small equipment rack is on casters and can roll out from under the studio furniture to get at the back of the equipment.  A used Gentner DH3 TELCO hybrid is used to get phone callers on the air.  Adobe Audition is used for editing and production on the left hand computer monitor.  That CPU is in the bottom of the roll around rack.

Studio A

The office chair and other furniture was also acquired on trade.

Studio A

What the operator sees. STORQ computer on the left for music, Scotts SS32 on the right for automation. Both are extended from the TOC. Unless the morning show guy is live on the air, the console is bypassed and the audio stays in the TOC.

It all works pretty well.

Studio B

Studio B is the same as Studio A except fewer microphones.

Studio B

Studio B operator view.  This studio can be used for one of the other stations or production.

Again, this is not a Fancy Nancy installation, but it does get the job done.

Studio Buildout, Part II

Some pictures of the studio build out in progress.

Counter top mounted

Counter top mounted

This is the counter top, mounted on a riser with the wire way cut into it. These counter tops will have AudioArts Air4 consoles installed on them.

AudioArts Air4 console with microphones

AudioArts Air4 console with microphones

Studio is taking shape. Console mounted with microphones. The rack mounted equipment goes in the Middle Atlantic rack under the counter top to the left of the console.  That rack is on casters so it rolls out to get access to the back of the equipment.  We have pretty much done away with cart pods or other counter top equipment housings.  The automation and other computers will be mounted in the rack room and extended to the studio with IP KVM extenders.

Sub Panel with manual transfer switch

Sub Panel with manual transfer switch

We installed a small Square D sub panel and manual transfer switch. This is to prevent the “Space Heater” outages, you know, when the morning show guy plugs a space heater into the same circuit as the console or computer, trips the breaker, then calls you because they are off the air. Yeah, good times.

In addition, the manual transfer switch will allow them to use a good portable generator if there is a prolonged power outage. On the bottom of the switch I installed a 30 amp twist lock input receptacle.

Since the building is older, the grounding buss was installed and wired directly to the ground at the service entrance panel.   The building sub panel for this floor is using conduit for the ground conductor back to the service entrance panel, which used to be code compliant but no longer.

5.8 GHz dish with non-penetrating roof mount

5.8 GHz dish with non-penetrating roof mount

STL/LAN extension dish installed on roof top. I used an old non-penetrating roof mount for a four foot satellite dish.  The building owner was very specific about not having anything puncture the new rubber membrane roof.  Thus, the heavy rubber mats and sand bags instead of cinder blocks.  These stations will be using a Cambium PTP-250 system for STL/TSL and LAN extension. This will haul program audio for five radio stations plus satellite backhaul and remote control. It is a relatively short path with the FM tower visible from the roof top.

5.8 GHz path to FM tower

5.8 GHz path to FM tower

It was kind of hazy when I took this picture, but if you look really close, you can see the FM tower out there on the hill top.  The path is 3.37 miles (5.43 KM).  With a 40 MHz channel width, that should net about 175 Mbps bi-directionally, which is more than enough to do what we want.  This set up will require a pair of managed switches and some VLAN configuration, which I will post separately.

Studio Buildout, Part I

We are in the process of building a couple of new studios for one of our clients. This one involves a small market combo of one AM and four FM stations.  These stations were formerly located at one of the transmitter sites, two miles outside of town on top of a large hill.  That site could be difficult to get to during the winter and the building itself was not in the best of shape.  Thus, plans were made to move the studios to a better location.  Fortunately, we discovered that right in the village there are several suitable office buildings.

Any worthwhile project needs to be planned for.  The first consideration is the Studio to Transmitter Link (STL) paths.  Since this is a radio studio, it makes sense to located it where viable RF STL paths exist.  One might be surprised by the number times the issue of bad or non-existent RF STL paths has come up during these types of projects.

Studio to transmitter site LAN extension

Studio to transmitter site LAN extension

The next thing to check is the satellite path.  The plan right now is to keep the satellite dishes at the transmitter site, however, at some point in the future we can relocated the satellite dish to the roof of the studio building if desired.

AMC-8 satellite path

AMC-9 satellite path

The floor space was measured out and I drew out a floor plan:

Walton Studio floor plan

Walton Studio floor plan

Before we started work, all of the walls were painted and new carpeting installed.

Almost nothing at the old studio is worth keeping. Thus, all of the furniture, consoles, racks, STLs, and other equipment needed to be ordered.  A local kitchen company traded out the counter tops, which we picked up at their facility and delivered to the studio ourselves.

Studio counter top

Studio counter top

We will build risers for these on site then mount the consoles and such.

New Studio Equipment

New Studio Equipment

In the mean time, most of the new studio equipment has been ordered and delivered. There are still some outstanding items that have not arrived, but I am assured that those are in process and should be showing up shortly.

Used equipment racks

Used equipment racks

These equipment racks came from another market, but are in good shape.

I had a good meeting with the building owner regarding roof access, a sub panel for the racks and studios and other issues.

The Audioarts Air-4 Console

Aside from everything else, we have been working at WSBS, Great Barrington, MA installing a new Audioarts Air-4 console. WSBS is a small AM station (860 KHz, 2,500 watts day, 4 watts night) serving the Great Barrington area. They also have a 35 watt FM translator (W231AK) on 94.1 MHz which is highly directional.  During the day, the AM station has a much better signal than the translator.  After dark, the translator covers the down town area fairly well.  WSBS has been on the air since December 24th, 1957 (Happy 55th anniversary!), broadcasting from a non-directional tower just east of town on US Route 7.

The format could be termed full service, in the old tradition.  Music, professional sports, local news, network news and weather with coverage of special events like election night and so on.   The station does local very well, and as such, is profitable and has a great community presence.

WSBS control room console

WSBS control room console

The air studio console was this rather tired out Broadcast Audio unit from the early 1980’s.  It had certainly served its station well, but change was in the air, so to speak.  Actually, we were getting worried about continuing to service this unit, as parts had become scarce about ten years ago.

New WSBS control room console

New WSBS control room console

Thus, we moved the air studio to the production room temporarily and removed all the old equipment and furniture.  We installed an Audioarts AIR-4, which is a pretty cool little console.  The AIR-4 has four built in microphone preamps, a telco mix minus feed, two program busses selectable VU meters and so on.   The control room rebuild project included a new counter top, adding extra microphones, headphone amplifiers, cleaning up wiring rat’s nests, installing new monitor antennas, rewiring a good bit of the rack room and so forth.

RE-20

RE-20

It was a little more involved than we first thought, however, it came out pretty well:

WSBS Great Barrington, MA control room

WSBS Great Barrington, MA control room

The carpenter will be back next week, after Christmas to install the sides on the studio furniture under the counter top.  It is a small operation in a small market in Western Massachusetts, but they have a real, live station staff including two news reporters.  Hey, what a concept!  To be honest with you, it is a joy all its own to work at a real radio station, if only for a short while.

Moving the WKZE studio, Part II

The phone company came out and cut over the T-1 circuit on Wednesday, June 2nd. This really kicked things into high gear. By that afternoon we had moved the Prophet systems automation rack up to the new location and started broadcasting from there.

Unfortunately, the backup plan, which was to use the phone company DSL circuit to relay audio to the transmitter site, fell through at the very last minute.  I think the phone company mistakenly turned off the DSL service to the old studio ahead of schedule.  The net result was 2 hours off air in the middle of the day, which we were seriously trying to avoid.  Once it was done, however, there was no going back, so we worked extra hard to get back on the air from the new location.

Naturally, while all this is going on, the electrical inspector shows up to do the final electrical inspection for the town building department.

Here is a nice progression on the equipment racks:

Equipment rack with automation system

Equipment rack with automation system

After the T-1 circuit was cut over, we began broadcasting from the new location with the equipment rack automation system using the production room as a studio for live elements and voice tracking.

Equipment rack, wired to both studios

Equipment rack, wired to both studios

The wiring on the equipment rack is completed.

Completed with phone system and network switch

Completed with phone system and network switch

The equipment rack is completed, the phone system is installed, the computer network is wired and tested.  The yellow light on the top of the rack is a silence sensor.

The old WKZE studio

The old WKZE studio

The old WKZE studio was ripped out on Thursday.  The console was removed and rebuilt with a new control surface

New WKZE air studio completed, console is a Radio System millennium 12

New WKZE air studio completed, console is a Radio System millennium 12

The production room was completed, speakers hung, etc.

The production room is long and narrow

The production room is long and narrow

All set and ready to be “customized” by the DJ’s.  Monday morning, the staff will roll into their new digs, which is always fun.  In comparison to most studio moves and  builtouts these days, this one was relatively small and simple.  Last studio consolidation project involved 5 radio stations and ten studios.  That one took place in steps over several months.

Studio Builds, the never ending cycle

The lease is up, its time to move! Yay, we get to rip apart the old place and redo it! Again! It seems to be a matter of course that every few years a radio station will move. Such is the case with WKZE in Red Hook (the town, not the area in Brooklyn). Their lease is up on the “Grotto” location, so the owner has decided to move to a new location, closer to the center of town.

The new location was the former thrift shop.  I know this because while I am working there, a constant stream of older people stop by and tell so.  Once, while working alone doing some pre-move work punching down wires and computer network cables, I had to use the facilities.  There I sit, on my porcelain throne, when I hear, “Hello?” in and old shakey voice.  A quick glance at the door reveals it is not locked.  Oh, NOs!  Okay, don’t say anything, she’ll go away.

“Hello?”

“Hello?”

“Hello, is any body here?”

“Hello?  Very strange, the doors are open but nobody is here.  Hello?”

Oh for the love of Pete, “I’m in the bathroom,” I finally said.

“Where is the bathroom?” said the interloper.

I refused to say anything else and she finally left.  She could have taken all my tools, if she wanted to.

Anyway, the studios themselves are pretty simple, one production studio and one air studio.  A T-1 line to the transmitter site, which turned out the be the hardest thing about the entire operation.  We moved the old Radio System consoles rather than purchasing new equipment.  Radio Systems has a program called a Millennium upgrade, where you buy a new control surface, which replaces all moving parts, for something like $2,300.00 or so.  For that, basically, a new console is had.

Radio Systems Former RS-12 now Millennium 12 console

Radio Systems Former RS-12 now Millennium 12 console

The new production room is long and narrow.

WKZE new production room

WKZE new production room

The air studio is large and spacious.  They often have live music from this studio, which is really cool.  The station uses Prophet Systems automation equipment, although it is live most of the time.

WKZE air studio before furniture is installed

WKZE air studio before furniture is installed

The main office area is one large room where desks will be located.

WKZE office, painted no furniture yet

WKZE office, painted no furniture yet

We are moving in stages:

  1. Prep work, installing all the computer network cable, phone system cable, pulling all the audio and control wiring.  Then the contractor finished up the drywalling and painting.  Nice Colors!
  2. Ordering phone lines and T-1 line.  Ahhh, the phone company, such a pleasure to deal with, we had to pull a new cable through the underground conduit from the street to the building because the old cable did not have enough pairs.  The conduit length is about 75 feet or so.
  3. Removed the old production room console and took it to the shop to rebuild.  It was not that difficult really, although a little cumbersome.  I throughly cleaned out all the dust dirt and other detreious materials from the console frame and install the new control surface.  I also checked all the power supply voltages with an oscilliscope to make sure there was no ripple.  The original consoles were made in 1992, not bad for an 18 year old board.
  4. Built a new production room with the rebuilt board.
  5. Tested all computer jacks, audio wiring, etc prior to move.
  6. Move T-1 circuit and all office and studio telco lines to the new location.  Fortunately, the phone company is a local company not the big V we have in other cities.  They were able to work with us and get things paralleled to the new location, something a large company might not have understood.
  7. On the air from the production room at the new location
  8. Remove the main rack, intact and move it to new location
  9. Remove office phone system and install at new location
  10. Remove and rebuild old air studio console
  11. Install rebuilt air studio console in new studio, wire
  12. Transfer operation to new studio

Right now, we are on step #6.  That is going to be done next Tuesday (the day after memorial day) morning I believe.  We should have the move completed by the end of the week.  I’ll post updates as they become available.

Axiom


A pessimist sees the glass as half empty. An optimist sees the glass as half full. The engineer sees the glass as twice the size it needs to be.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
~1st amendment to the United States Constitution

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
~Benjamin Franklin

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. To be your own man is hard business. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
~Rudyard Kipling

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers
~Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, Article 19

...radio was discovered, and not invented, and that these frequencies and principles were always in existence long before man was aware of them. Therefore, no one owns them. They are there as free as sunlight, which is a higher frequency form of the same energy.
~Alan Weiner

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