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Grand form for the Big Horn

Grand form for the Big Horn

Feb 1, 2002 12:00 PM, By Chriss Scherer, editor

While small-market stations generally don�t have the capital budgets of major-market stations, it is possible to design a facility that is economically sound and still a showcase. This kind of planning created a
Grand Form for the Big Horn.

The town of Cody, founded by Buffalo Bill Cody, lies about 60 miles east of Yellowstone Park and is home to about 8,000 residents. This wide-open area is also home to the five stations that form the Big Horn Radio Network: KZMQ-FM, KZMQ-AM, KTAG-FM, KODI-AM and KCGL-FM. These stations are licensed to or operated by Legend Communications of Wyoming and serve a combined listening audience of about 50,000 people. While this situation is a far cry from a top-ten market, the same attention to on-air quality and facility planning is being successfully applied.

When Legend Communications first acquired its stations here, the studios were spread across the listening area. As is the case in many consolidations, a combined sales force and shared operations staff could not work efficiently in multiple locations. In addition, the existing facilities had a mix of equipment, and the studios, which had been slowly modified to meet the stations’ current needs, were less than ideal. Maintenance and operation of these studios were a struggle. The decision to consolidate facilities was an easy one to make.

The five stations take the majority of their programming from satellite services, and it would have been easy to switch audio feeds from the AudioVault automation system and simply have a rack for each station. This short-term plan would have needed revision, and the station would have needed to be rebuilt if any live events were to be aired. Two of the stations have live morning shows, so studio space was needed at least for these stations.

The new studio building for the cluster (left) is adjacent to the old studio building for KODI.

A studio facility for KODI and KTAG stood in Cody. This building was too small to house all five stations and would have required some major renovations while still keeping the stations on the air. A section of land was available next to the existing building, so a new building was designed to house the four stations with room for a fifth when the agreement was signed. The plans were set, and construction began.

Make it happen

The two-story building is designed in a ring; the outer perimeter has the studios and general offices, and the sales staff area is in the middle. The basement houses the technical operations center (TOC) and has room for storage and future expansion.

Part of the plan was to have the studio facilities available for all five stations to be able to go live on the air at any time � even simultaneously. Two of the stations have daily live shows. By installing complete studios, each studio can also be used offline during satellite-fed programming. In addition, the central hub to the studios is two Logitek audio engines. The routing capability of the Logitek system provides additional flexibility for sharing audio feeds or reassigning an entire studio.

The control room for KODI-AM is the largest studio and can accommodate up to three guests. The window looks into the news studio and the control room for KTAG-FM and KCGL-FM.

The production studio is centered around a stand-alone Radio Systems console, but it still has access to any source on the Logitek engine. This was done partly because the console was owned before the move, but more so because it provides an isolated backup. If the Logitek system is taken down for any reason, the production studio can continue to create commercials (and maintain revenue) for the stations. The stations themselves can be run directly through the AudioVault system.

Studio-interconnection conduits were going to be run below the floor, so placing the TOC in the basement made sense. It placed some of the sensitive equipment in a central location, but kept it out of a high-traffic area. The six racks and the back-up power UPS are on a separate air conditioning system, so everything stays cool.

The smallest studio is used by the sports director. Because only basic editing and recording functions were needed, a small Mackie mixer was installed. This studio also feeds the audio engines, so it can be accessed by any station when it is needed.

Because most of the audio sources are available through the automation system or through the console�s routing functions, the control room for KTAG and KCGL is not crowded with equipment.

One interesting item on the equipment list is the AKG headset mic. These mics are placed in the guest positions in two of the studios. These were chosen because the typical guest is not accustomed to speaking on-mic. At the beginning of the interview, the guest will be attentive to the mic placement, but in a short time, the guest will sit back in his chair or turn his head to better interact with the other people in the room. This results in a great setup with disappointing results on air. The headset mic locks the mic position to the guest and yields a consistent sound throughout the interview.

More photos of the Big Horn Radio Network can be seen in the Studio Spotlight.

With a sales staff covering a distributed geographical area, a method was needed to gather high-quality audio in the field and then send it from the satellite sales offices to the studio. For the field recorders, minidiscs were chosen. Their low cost and simple use made them ideal for the sales people to carry. They could also easily find inexpensive additional recording media when needed. Once the audio is recorded, it is dubbed to a laptop using Windows Sound Recorder. The audio file is then converted to an MP3 and e-mailed to the main studio. The MP3 file conversion was chosen because the satellite offices do not have high-speed Internet connections. The smallest possible file size was need to minimize the transfer times.

The production studio is the only studio with a stand-alone console. Barbara Greene, sales manager, and Timmy Kennedy, production coordinator, preview some spots.

Because of the decision made at the beginning of the Big Horn Radio Network facility project, the studios will remain flexible to the changing needs of the station. It also shows that a small market audience does not mean building with small ideas.

The technical operations center with its six racks is centrally located in the basement.

Equipment ListAKG HSC 200 headset mics
Alesis Microverb 4
Andrew coaxial cable
Avcom SCPC satellite receiver
Belden wire and cable
Belkin OmniView PRO 8-port
Best Power Ferrups UPS
Broadcast Electronics Audio Vault
Broadcast Tools 12×4 stereo switcher
Broadcast Tools 8×2 dual stereo switcher
Burk ARC-16 remote control
Cedar Mountain Custom Cabinets studio furniture
Comrex Hotline POTS codecs
CoolEdit Pro DAW software
Crown D-45 power amps
DBX 286A mic processors
Denon TU-1500RD tuners
Electro-Voice RE-27 mics
Furman SRM-80 monitor selector
Inovonics Model 1530 FM modulation analyzer
JBL 4206 monitors
Jones satellite receiver
JVC XL-V282 CD playerLogitek Audio Engines
Logitek ROC 10 control surfaces
Logitek ROC 5 control surface
Mackie 1402-VLZ Pro console
Marti STL-8 STL
Modulation Sciences Sidekick
Moseley 6010 STL
O.C. White mic booms
Omnia Audio Omnia processor
Omnia Audio Omnia3 processor
Orban Optimod 9200 processor
Radio Systems Millennium 12A console
Scala Miniflector STL antennas
Shure SM7 mics
Sony CDP-D11 CD players
Sony MDS-E12 Minidisc
Sony MDS-JE510 Minidisc
Sony PCM-R500 DAT
Starguide III satellite receivers
Tascam 122 cassette decks
TFT 8300 STL
TFT 930A
TFT 943

Project TimelineGround breaking:September 2000Studio install began:April 2001Occupancy, first two stations and office staff:June 2001Occupancy, second two stations:July 2001Occupancy, last station/sign on:November 2001

Thanks to Larry Patrick, president of Legend Communications for making the arrangements for this article. Also thanks to Roger Gelder, general manager, and Charlie Dozier, chief engineer, of Legend Communications of Wyoming for their assistance in preparing this article.