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Bop Mics, SNMP and Security Dogs - Radio World

Bop Mics, SNMP and Security Dogs

Here’s a bouillabaisse of spring show flavors, trends and impressions
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Concentration runs right down the line at the Broadcast Engineering Conference.
Photo by Jim Peck The spring NAB Show is past but trends and new products we saw there will affect our professional lives all year, so Radio World devotes a lot of pages both before and after the show exploring its facets. Last issue we featured show pix; in this one we summarize notable news; yet to come are our Best of Show Award winners and several issues filled with new gear in our Summer of Products series.

What caught your eye on the floor and in the session rooms? Here are some of my impressions:

No one could miss the security officers and law enforcement dogs. I personally felt safe despite a natural uneasiness one feels around heightened security. But this is 2016; and knowing that Las Vegas is viewed globally as a “symbol of America” certainly gives one pause. (Then again, I live and work near the nation’s capital.) We must go on living our lives — the surest rebuke to those who would try to terrorize us. …

It’s interesting to observe a general tendency of show-related events to “shift earlier and earlier.” Sure, official convention opening is still Monday morning, but there are so many important things going on days before, whether it’s the Public Radio Engineering Conference, the Nautel User’s Group, the RAIN Summit, the SBE Ennes Workshop, the National Radio Systems Committee meeting and early sessions of the Broadcast Engineering Conference itself. If you arrive Sunday evening or Monday, a great deal has already passed. Speaking of the NRSC, it updated digital radio guidelines. But one participant in NRSC meetings told me it’s unfortunate that carmakers don’t take more of a role in the committee’s activities and aren’t more open in general to standards discussions. …

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Manny Centeno of FEMA IPAWS talks to a visitor. IPAWS management offered several workshops dealing with cybersecurity best practices, proposed changes to Wireless Emergency Alerts and tips for configuring EAS devices.
Photo by Jim Peck I am struck by continued growth of product offerings for radio stations that want to create and stream video. More and more options are on the market, even since Radio World visited the topic in an ebook last year; radio facility managers seem more attuned to creating professional-looking video content these days. The grand melding of media types and platforms continues apace. …

TV’s “repack” has real implications for radio facilities. This is a topic GatesAir has explained cogently through channels like the Rich Redmond commentary you read in Radio World’s April 13 issue. RW readers should be aware of all this activity on the TV side, personified by ERI and T-Mobile’s partnership enabling the antenna company to ramp up production dramatically. FM broadcasters on shared tower sites should talk to site management about any planned changes by TV neighbors. And if you are hoping to start a project that involves antennas, tower crews and transmission facilities, ask your trusted vendors whether the repack will have an impact on your schedule. …

Radio World readers are keenly aware of the importance of cybersecurity, which was “front of mind” at NAB because of the station stream hacks we reported in our NewsBytes newsletter last month. In that case the situation involved Barix gear, but lessons to be learned are not unique to any vendor or station. Strong passwords changed regularly should be a fundamental part of your work habits. (And for goodness sake, at least change them from factory defaults.) You might also take time to learn about Shodan — described by CNN as “the scariest search engine on the Internet” — and learn about possible abuse of such online tools. Radio World and our sister publications are increasing the amount of editorial attention we give to security issues.

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NAB VP of Technology John Marino is a familiar face at the convention. He will retire at the end of this year.
Photo by Jim Peck This was the first NAB for VoxPro since its parent AudionLabs was acquired; folks at new owner Wheatstone have been enthusing about the cool stuff the recorder/editor can do. They introduced Version 6.0 and drew a crowd when Phoenix iHeart personality Kaden stopped in to be filmed in a demo video for the studio phone editor. Nearby, the configurable architecture of Wheatstone’s new LXE IP console also was grabbing people’s attention. …

More broadly, AoIP implementations and terminology get lots of show time. Radio World has been covering this topic in our eBooks and supplements for more than a decade, but it’s evident that for many people the fundamental concepts remain daunting. Also, despite the existence of standards like AES67, the industry is not really interoperable yet — or at least not “plug and play.” Such integration remains desirable to many people. One observer told me that developments on the TV side should really help drive things forward in that direction for radio too. …

More trends in tech? FM transmitter companies continue to add to their offerings at the lower power levels. … The “cloud” continues to lure technology companies; for instance RCS made a splash, highlighting a philosophy of providing professional music scheduling “as a service.” It introduced The Selector Cloud for radio stations and webcasters. Separately, I was tickled by the clever logo of the company Broadcast Logger, which provides indexed, searchable audio logs in the cloud. …

We see more and more manufacturers highlighting SNMP, or Simple Network Management Protocol; firms that specifically called my attention to SNMP features for monitoring and control applications include Burk, WorldCast, Inovonics, Davicom, Elenos, GatesAir, Nautel and DaySequerra. Burk states the case: “In addition to transmitters, SNMP interfaces are now available on air chain and signal processing equipment, STLs and satellite IRDs, power generation and UPS systems as well as environmental and security devices, to name a few.” Burk introduced an SNMP manager option in its remote control systems. …

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Love the logo on the business card of Broadcast Logger President/CEO Curtis Machek. You also saw the photo page we ran last issue with all the virtual reality and drone hardware. Those are huge topics in themselves, but who doesn’t love a drone? When people look back at show photos from our era, they’ll smile at pictures of drones and big goggles, much as we smile when we look at pix of tape recorders, big computer frames or early DAWs. …

Did you every hear the term “bop mic”? I had not in my 38 years in this biz; but a guy on the monorail was educating another: “It’s a board-op mic. So if you see a label for a ‘bop mic,’ that’s what it is.” Something new every day. …

Yet another massive line to get into the ham radio reception on Wednesday evening. Love the enthusiasm, love the camaraderie and love the great door prizes. I always give my stub away though. The prizes are for hams; they shouldn’t be sucked up by journalists, so if you see me there, grab me early! Thanks as well to the kind industry colleague at the reception who insisted on getting a picture with me and made me feel like a celeb …

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John Lackness of Tieline talks gear with Josh Harstad of Hubbard Radio Seattle. Tieline launched the ViA codec, saying it simplifies the process of remote codec configuration.
Photo by Jim Peck Which reminds me that it was fun to watch Bob Orban, a real celeb in radio tech circles, being asked again and again to pose for pictures in his booth. He expressed amusement that he works most of the year in a relative quiet and normal environment but then comes to the show and is asked repeatedly to pose like a rock star. …

I enjoyed the chance to catch up with Glynn Walden during a monorail ride. He retired last summer as senior vice president of engineering for CBS Radio, and he looked as relaxed as I can ever recall seeing him. I suspect Glynn still has much to contribute to broadcast engineering and I know how strongly he feels about the role that digital plays in that future. Glynn remains active in the NRSC as well as radio industry technical leadership, as with the AM Radio Preservation Alliance (you saw his name as one of the authors of the alliance guest commentary in our previous issue). Clearly he is enjoying retirement while still being involved with broadcast engineering. …

And speaking of CBS, what a pleasure to run into my old kite-flyin’ friend and Philly engineer Ben Hill. …

Nice also to see the new owner of Broadcast Electronics, Brian Lindemann, working the BE booth. By all accounts Brian plans to continue to be hands-on, even retaining his VP of engineering hat. …

Creating new, cheaper audio distribution options is the goal of composite FM codec μMPX, demoed by the Telos Alliance with Nautel and Moseley. It is intended to transport high-quality multiplexed FM signals over relatively small data pipes — a 320 kbps IP connection. It’s in development, not yet a product, but CEO Frank Foti said the purpose was “to share μMPX with the industry so we could broaden the conversation … our intention is to make it available under license to a wide variety of interested parties.” A demo sent an encoded signal over IP from the Telos booth through a Moseley Starlink STL into a μMPX decoder feeding a Nautel transmitter. …

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Gary Kline, right, has opened Kline Consulting. We were chatting when NAB Executive VP of Communications Dennis Wharton, left, swept by.
Photo by Jim Peck This was the first spring show since Cumulus appointed Mary Berner as CEO, replacing Lew Dickey. The debt and other challenges facing the company are real, as we’ve reported and as was reinforced in the company’s latest quarterly financial report. But there was undeniably a positive and different energy among Cumulus technical people I talked to, a general sense of “buy-in” and fresh start as a result of the changes at corporate. I had a great chat with new Senior VP of Technology and Operations Conrad Trautmann, a longtime friend to Radio World, and other staff there. I also spent some time with Conrad’s predecessor Gary Kline, who recently left the company and opened Kline Consulting — “real-world engineering advice on the things that matter most.” Gary is already enthusiastically busy, chasing projects and new business. …

At any given show, it seems, news of the outside world will intrude and creates buzz on the floor; this time it was the death of Prince, which I heard about as the show wound to a close. I still remember being at the spring show in Vegas in 1993 and hearing people talking about the fiery culmination of the standoff at the Branch Davidian complex in Waco, Texas; and in 2010, when we were all hearing about the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption in Iceland. …

The 2016 show had a good vibe, and traffic seemed good, particularly in the first two days. NAB said an estimated 103,000 people attended, almost exactly as many as last year.

If you haven’t been, you might envision all these folks crammed into radio engineering conference rooms. No; the convention in modern times is an amalgamation of a broad range of electronic media industries and beyond; radio, frankly, is a pretty small part of it in terms of physical presence.

Radio remains a key component, without question, though exhibitors express frustration to me that the location of the Radio/Audio Hall — actually a part of one hall, informally grouped — has moved around the convention center year to year lately. I personally liked having radio back in the North Hall, near the Westgate. Next year the radio booths will again be in North Hall but toward its western end.

Longer-term, plans for the next big expansion of the LVCC are in the works, as we’ve reported; it’s part of a bigger idea, a planned “Las Vegas Global Business District.” According to the publication Vegas Inc., the LVCC work will cost $1.4 billion. It would put outdoor exhibit space where the doomed Riviera is (as soon as 2017); then new convention facilities will follow, plus renovations to the existing one. And there’s talk of, someday, a centralized Vegas transportation hub right in the area too. If anyone has a time machine, I wouldn’t mind zipping ahead 20 years to see what this all looks like (and whether my future self is still walking around the show with a badge and sore feet).

Share your own observations at radioworld@nbmedia.com.

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