OSLO, Norway — On Sept. 11, Soundware Norway proved that it was possible to run a live radio broadcast using the touchscreen monitor inside a Tesla 3 electric car.The Tesla 3’s in-car monitor, showing the web page that controls program rundown, playout and the audio mixer. All photos: Soundware Norway
Inside the Tesla parked outside Soundware Norway’s Oslo headquarters, Soundware Sales Manager Ketil Morstøl managed a mock live broadcast using the Tesla 3’s web browser, which accesses the web via the car’s built-in LTE wireless modem. The browser was connected to a website hosting Soundware’s DHD user interface that remotely controls a DHD-equipped radio production facility, and David Systems’ TurboPlayer playout system.
Using the touchscreen display — which showed a standard radio music playlist in the center of the screen and standard on-air control buttons to switch/fade between audio sources and turn microphones on and off on the right side — Morstøl cycled through the functions just as if he was doing a live radio broadcast.The Soundware Norway interface set to the remote studio mixer control screen.
“As a proof that we have bidirectional audio, we can switch on the microphone and we will actually see the PPM meter showing the input signal,” said Morstøl in a YouTube video entitled “Soundware Norway to Do BroadCARst as World First!” (Available here.) The microphone was sourced from Morstøl’s own smartphone, which connected to the web browser by taking a photo of an onscreen QR code.
MORE THAN A STUNT
Given that this “broadCARst” was staged to promote Soundware Norway’s appearance at IBC2019, it is easy to dismiss this demonstration as a publicity stunt. But the broadCARst was much more than that: It showed that radio talent can now take remote control of their station’s live production facilities from any location and run the broadcast as if they were actually in studio themselves.
Soundware Norway was able to do this demo inside a Tesla 3 because this car has a built-in web browser on its touchscreen display. This same functionality can be accessed using a web-connected laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Had he chosen to, Morstøl could have run this demo on a Samsung Family Hub refrigerator — because this fridge has a web-connected touchscreen display built in. “We have pictures of us on Linkedin.com, running a radio studio remotely inside a Boeing 747 at 30,000 feet,” he said.A closer view of the screen, showing the music playlist and mixer controls.
“You can do everything remotely using our DHD interface that you can do in the studio,” Morstøl added. “This goes far beyond choosing songs and opening the microphones. You can actually access the mixing desk in the studio, and make and receive telephone calls. We have even integrated an audio codec into the system so that transporting audio data across the web to the studio is easily enabled.”
MORE THAN A RADIO REMOTE
Broadcasting radio programs from remote locations is nothing new. The first “radio remote” is believed to have taken place in 1924, when WHN (New York City) station manager Nils Granlund leased Western Union telegraph lines to connect his station to local jazz nightclubs.
Producing complex radio broadcasts from remote locations is also standard fare in the broadcasting industry, where fully mixed programs are relayed back to the studio for direct airing. So if Soundware Norway’s DHD system did nothing more than this — turning a Tesla 3 into a radio production studio on wheels — it would be impressive, but not ground-breaking.
However, the Soundware demo showed that the Tesla 3 could serve as a web-based interface for complete remotely controlled radio production; just as the other web-connected devices cited above could.
And this is where the demo gets interesting — because it proves that physical radio production facilities operated by broadcasters who have to be on-site are no longer necessary. Rather than building a 24/7 radio station whose production facilities are only used for live broadcasts at peak hours and otherwise left unused, Soundware’s production model makes it possible to use an unmanned “production hub” whose equipment is accessed remotely as needed, and by multiple users/stations at different times of the day.The Soundware Norway system can also be remotely controlled by a smartphone.
“Rather in a specific radio station investing in production hardware that is unused most of the day, you could share the costs of hardware across broadcasters and all use a common facility,” said Morstøl.The Soundware Norway production system also supports physical faders; as shown by Ketil Morstøl.
To cope with the fact that radio broadcasters need production facilities for live morning shows, stations operating in different time zones around the world could do the sharing. As long as Station A is four hours (time zones) ahead of Station B, both could use the same remote production facility sequentially for their four hour-long morning shows.
This same function could be provided by third-party vendors. They could create cloud-based virtual production facilities that radio stations could access remotely, with the mixed radio feeds going directly to their transmitter sites via IP.
Should this come to pass, radio stations would no longer need physical radio production facilities. They could reduce their operations to sales/administration offices and transmitter/antenna sites, with engineering staff located there to handle the remaining physical aspects of radio broadcasting.
This said, there’s no reason that on-air talent could not broadcast from the sales/administration office using a laptop, tablet, or smartphone to maintain the public fiction of actually broadcasting from a radio studio. But it would be a fiction, because the creation of fully remote radio production has made the continued existence of physical radio studios optional at the very least, and unnecessary at most.
This may seem a lot to conclude from a mock radio broadcast from inside a Tesla 3. But the far-reaching implications of Soundware Norway’s demo are there for all to see.
The Optimod-PC 1101e audio processing card from Orban is especially designed for use with digital transmission media such as radio streaming channels.
The unit comes with a variety of presets, speech/music detection and PreCode Technology to minimize artifacts caused by low bitrate codecs and according to the company is easy to set up.
It also features a digital mixing function, which Orban says, is “crucially important for an internet radio broadcaster who needs to control commercial content and insertion.”
Optimod-PC lets users mix an analog source, two digital sources, and two WAV sources. For example, the processor allows users to run a playout system on one’s computer while using the three hardware inputs for a live microphone feed, commercial insert and network insert.
Alternatively, operators can run the commercial insert playout software on the same computer as the main playout system, using Optimod-PC’s second WAV input to separately route the outputs of the two playout systems to the card.
Orban adds that Optimod-PC is useful for users with multiple streams because it allows them to load one computer with as many Optimod-PC cards as there are free PCI slots, each card handling one stereo program.
For information, contact Orban in Germany at +49-7141-2266-0 or visit www.orban.com.
Reexamination of the Comparative Standards and Procedures for Licensing Noncommercial Educational Broadcast Stations and Low Power FM Stations
Great content strictly for engineers, including D-I-Y and first-person articles from Frank McCoy, Wayne Pecena, Todd Dixon and Cris Alexander, as well as insights by Dave Kolesar and Mike Raide about their real-world research into all-digital medium-wave transmission.BAKING WITH PI
Pi for Everyone and Everything
What’s more fun than being able to solve a problem by combining ideas from your own brain with the power of a single-board computing platform? Todd Dixon has the first in an ongoing series of articles.DIGITAL RADIO
Real-World Tests Make Business Case for MA-3
Continuing a report they began in the October issue of RWEE, Kolesar and Raide describe the technique and equipment used to measure power from the WWFD transmitter, and describes the day- and nighttime drive tests of the station’s all-digital signal.
ALSO IN THIS ISSUE:
- Do You Know What Time It Is?
- “Green” Tower Lights Are a Viable Option
- Receivers in a Box on the Roof
REPORT AND ORDER filed in 19-3 : Reexamination of the Comparative Standards and Procedures for Licensing Noncommercial Educational Broadcast Stations and Low Power FM Stations
Filers(s): Media Bureau
Comment Type: REPORT AND ORDER
Date Received: 12/11/2019
Date Posted: 12/11/2019
Address: 445 12th Street SW Washington, DC, 20554
Some of my earliest childhood memories are of car trips that we took, usually at night, between our home in the Texas panhandle and Dallas, where my older sister and later my brother lived. And I remember seeing those vertical stacks of red lights, some of which were flashing, and wondering what they were. “Those are radio towers,” or something to that effect, was my dad’s response.
Of course, at the time, I had no idea what radio towers even were or why they had to be adorned by those red flashing lights, but I thought they were pretty cool. Then, when I started at my first job in radio, there was a whole array of towers with flashing red lights right outside the back door. At that job, I had no responsibility for those lights, but I did know what they were for and if my job were at a non-directional station, what my responsibilities for them would be as a Third-Class Radiotelephone Operator licensee (with Broadcast Endorsement, of course).
That first radio gig was pretty much a summer job, and I landed a job at an FM station across town when it was done. That FM was located at the base of an 800-foot tower, and I worked 4 p.m. to midnight six days a week, which meant that I had to make the daily visual observation of the tower lights and faithfully enter into the operating log, “Tower lights are on and flashing.”
It was kind of a cool thing, standing in the dark at the base of that tower, listening to the ever-present Texas wind howling through the angle iron and guy wires and looking up at those red lights. The top beacon illuminated the “crow’s nest” above the top plate and beacon, and the tower had enough cross section that I could really see it and wonder what it was (I later climbed up there and saw it, the huge Huey & Phillips beacon and side marker fixtures up close).
A MYSTERIOUS BOX
The station signed off at midnight — there were few people out of bed after midnight in Amarillo, Texas, in those days, and of those that were, few had FM radios.
When the filaments and all the blowers shut off, I could hear a rhythmic grinding noise coming from the back wall. There was a mysterious electrical box of some sort that contained a motor, a cam and a pair of black bulbs with wires coming out of them. Up and down those bulbs went, one coming down as the other went up. I had discovered the tower light controls and mechanical flasher unit.The KBRT LED tower lights are so efficient that we could run them off a single 300-watt solar panel and a deep-cycle battery.
For decades after that, I found similar setups at tower sites all over. Even when we bought new towers in the 1990s, tower lights and tower light controls were very much the same. They used the same pairs of 620-watt bulbs in the beacons, the same 110-watt lamps in the markers; and they used some kind of mechanical device to produce the flash, although mechanical contacts were used rather than mercury switches by then.
Over those decades, tower lights were always a pain in the backside. It seemed like I could never keep the lights all working for long — bulbs burned out, flashers developed mechanical issues and the constant vibration on the towers would cause wiring to chafe and occasionally short out. Then when solid-state flashers entered the scene, they were prone to failure, either from lightning or overheating. We would buy them by the case.
A FLASH IN THE DARK
Somewhere back in time, we began to see strobes come into use for some towers, usually with reduced intensity at night. We had (and still have) a tower in suburban Chicago that is 450 feet high and free-standing. It cost a fortune to paint, and we had to paint it every three or four years, so as soon as the FAA lighting standards would permit, I filed to change it from red lights and paint to a dual system with medium intensity white strobes during the day and red lights at night. While we no longer had to paint the tower after that change, those tower lights were a chore to keep working. It was always something with that high-voltage gas-tube system.
Sometime later, a few manufacturers began producing direct replacement LED red beacons and marker lights. These fixtures included integral 120-volt AC power supplies, so the existing 120-VAC wiring, power and flashers could be used with them. They weren’t cheap, but with the promise of much longer bulb life, we went down that road at a lot of sites, with mixed results. At some, we had no problems and the retrofit LED beacons and markers that we installed are still working after many years. At others, we had quite a bit of trouble and any power and bulb replacement savings was quickly consumed by repair costs.
In 2012, we built a four-tower 50 kW directional array for KBRT near Los Angeles, way up on a mountaintop with the L.A. Basin below to the west and the Inland Empire some 3,000 feet below to the east. The marking and lighting for that site were very much in question for all kinds of reasons. First was for air safety and obstruction marking. Then there was the question of light pollution — how much would the various lighting options contribute to light pollution above the skyline of the Santa Ana Mountains? And then there was the question of migratory (and other) bird attraction to the lights.
ENTER LED LIGHTING
After much study, we opted to install red LED lights on the four towers, lights with tightly-focused beams that would confine the light projection to the horizon plus or minus a few degrees. That seemed to satisfy everyone, but I had my doubts that an LED tower lighting system that operated on low DC voltage would be reliable with 50 kW of medium-wave RF present. But to my amazement, I had nothing to fear. The lights worked fine, and we have not experienced a single failure to date. Their power consumption was so low that I was able to run the tower lights off solar panels and deep-cycle marine batteries for a couple of months after the towers went up but before we had commercial power at the site.Today’s LED tower light controllers are a far cry from the motor, cam and mercury switch mechanical controllers of old.
Since then, I’ve become a believer in LED tower light systems (and I’m speaking here of DC-powered LED systems, not hybrid or retrofit systems). I have been converting some of our oldest towers to new-technology systems. It’s amazingly easy. Beacons fit the bolt hole patterns of a code incandescent beacon, and all new wiring employing UV-rated SO cable is used to connect everything up.
A couple of years ago, the FAA began allowing the use of dual white/red systems on towers under 700 feet high, and that encompasses most of the towers in my company. It means that we can, in many cases, convert to dual red/white systems and (if the towers are galvanized) forget about painting forever. And don’t forget about the power savings, which can be significant on taller structures and multi-tower arrays.
So, the next time you find yourself troubleshooting a tower light issue … or relamping … or replacing a solid-state or mechanical flasher … consider making the move to new technology LED tower lighting. It’s the green (or maybe red) thing to do.
Cris Alexander, CPBE, AMD, DRB, is director of engineering of Crawford Broadcasting Co. and technical editor of RW Engineering Extra.
The family of the recently deceased John Lyons has set up a GoFundMe account to help with the costs of education for his 7-year-old son.
Lyons died unexpectedly the day after Thanksgiving. In addition to his wife Natasha and adult son Matthew, his family includes 7-year-old Constantine.
“In lieu of flowers, donations for Constantine Lyons’ education, extracurricular and other school-related needs to help support him as he grows will be greatly appreciated,” stated his obituary. As of Wednesday the site had raised about $5,000.
Find info here.
The National Association of Tower Erectors has elected its new board of directors. Four board members will retain their seats, and the fifth will be occupied by Jessica Cobb, the association announced this week. The two-year terms are effective Feb. 16.
Cobb is CEO of MDTS in Ortonville, Mich. She is a current board member of the Michigan Wireless Association and also serves on the NATE Member Services Committee and as a member of the Women of NATE Committee.
The returning board members are MillerCo President Jimmy Miller, Tower & Turbine Technologies LLC President John Paul Jones, Millennia Contracting President Kevin Dougherty and Lee Antenna & Line Service President Bryan Lee.
“Looking ahead to 2020, the NATE board of directors will be governing during a very exciting and dynamic time in the industry that offers enormous potential to position the association for future growth and influence,” NATE Chief Operating Officer Paula Nurnberg said in the announcement.
At its annual Innovation Day conference last week, the firm showcased a prototype of the low-cost, low-power DRM design.
This, according to the company, addresses the vital need for information by the global population that doesn’t have the internet or TV, adding that since it is low power, it can run from solar or wind-up.
Cambridge Consultants say the design will be ready in 2020, available for any radio manufacturer to license and incorporate into their own products.Ruxandra Obreja
DRM Chairman, Ruxandra Obreja said she welcomes the announcement.
“The unique and inspiring design will finally lead to the development of a low-power, low-cost, small-screen, large-coverage receiver. This means we’ll be able to bridge the digital divide for millions of people who don’t have easy access to broadband.”
The post Cambridge Consultants Unveil Prototype for Low-Cost DRM Receiver appeared first on Radio World.
Podcast #223: Will CMJ Return, Will AM Go Digital and Will FrankenFMs Disappear? Plus Other Big Questions
The Federal Communications Commission is all about radio at the end of 2019, and we catch you up on what you need to know. We all have questions about the possibility of AM stations going all-digital, including the FCC. The regulatory body released the things it wants to know about how digital stations would work, and how it would impact listeners, especially those in rural communities.
Also, the Commission is reconsidering restrictions on duplication programming between AM and FM stations, and the fate of Channel 6 TV on the radio, a/k/a FrankenFMs, hangs in the balance.
Then we dive into the reports that CMJ – the publication and event series that documented and supported the cultural influence of college radio – will come back from the dead. Will it return to print? Will there be an annual Music Marathon in NYC? We ponder.
There was more to discuss about the CMJ return than we had time for, including provocative questions, like: Do we even need a CMJ anymore? Our Patreon supporters get to hear this unvarnished exchange in a Patron-exclusive bonus episode. You can hear it, too, when you sign up to support our work at Radio Survivor, starting at just $1 a month.Show Notes:
- FCC Opens Proceeding for All-Digital AM Radio
- Radio World: FCC Takes Your Questions on AM All-Digital
- Multichannel News: FCC Seeks Input on Analog Radio as Digital TV Service
- Davis Wright Tremaine LLP: FCC Seeks Comment on All-Digital AM and Radio Non-Duplication NPRM
- The Rise and Possible Fall of FrankenFMs Is One of the Most Important Radio Trends of the Decade
- College Radio Watch: CMJ to Return in 2020 and More News
- College Radio Watch: CMJ Lawsuit, WREK’s 50th, Station Tours, and More News
- Podcast 62 – The FCC’s Legacy of Failure & CMJ’s Uncertain Future
- What is the Future of CMJ?
- College Radio Participants Meet Up at CMJ’s Inaugural College Day on Tour in Portland