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Seacrest Studios Comes to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital

Seacrest Studios Comes to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital

Dec 1, 2013 10:00 AM, By Brian Clark and Michael Rose

The Ryan Seacrest Foundation inspires youth through entertainment- and education-focused initiatives. This includes building broadcast media centers, named Seacrest Studios, in pediatric hospitals for patients to explore the creative realms of radio, television and new media.

The Foundation opened its sixth Seacrest Studios pediatric location on November 18 at The Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center following openings in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Dallas, Charlotte, and Orange County, CA. As with previous locations, the Cincinnati project utilized labor and equipment donations from broadcasters and industry vendors to design and build the studio. Clear Channel Communications played an integral role in training hospital staff, interns and in-house tech support, including equipment operation and on-air programming. A Clear Channel integration team led by Dan Mettler also came to the site to help wire, connect and test all radio equipment.

Seacrest Studios creates a fully professional broadcast and production space with a comfortable learning curve and wiring environment. This is ideal for encouraging patients to contribute, and accommodating local broadcasters who wish to do remote broadcasts from the studio. The Cincinnati location retains this concept as in previous deployments, and adds some unique design and operational characteristics.

The facility produces more than just radio programming. Video cameras and a backdrop screen make this a multimedia space.

Most studios to date are built using existing empty space. This is also the case in Cincinnati, where the hospital engineering staff carved out a 970 square-foot space in the atrium, testing and measuring all electrical loads in advance of integration. The team was able to use existing electrical runs, with minimal new wiring required to support the on-air and production workflow. Most of the components in that workflow – including some cameras, a green screen and other video equipment – are located within the cozy space.

Perhaps most interesting is the absence of a central rack room – at least in the traditional sense. Instead, all live radio and TV signals produced in-house are multiplexed and routed across several destinations before being modulated within the hospital TV headend. The radio broadcast and accompanying video signals are broadcast to 700 TVs on Channel 33, and the overall architecture is a seamless marriage of cutting-edge broadcast technologies and legacy hospital RF systems.

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Seacrest Studios Comes to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital

Dec 1, 2013 10:00 AM, By Brian Clark and Michael Rose

Studio design

Studio comfort is a top priority for the young patients who are here for treatment yet able to come down and participate in the broadcasts. Furniture design is therefore a significant factor. Harris Broadcast designed and built all studio furniture and cabinetry, with comfort and visual appeal achieved in equal measure.

Multiple guests and an in-studio audience can be accommodated within the studio.

The designs originated from Harris Broadcast’s Pacific Design Center in California, where a team led by design engineer Nick VanHaaster developed a one-host, five-guest concept with built-in headphone controls at each position, as well as EV mics on adjustable Yellowtec Mika arms. The guest wing is raised to an elevation that accommodates wheelchairs and gurneys in addition to adjustable chair heights.

Nick and his team jazzed up the trim with appealing, out-of-the-ordinary colors that pop when viewed from the central atrium area. The oval-shaped cabinetry atop the surface to the right of the host position adds more visual appeal while providing plenty of storage for CD players and other source equipment. Meanwhile, the sturdy and spacious desktop surface accommodates a wide array of on-air and production equipment for the 24/7 operation.

Computer screens were kept as low as possible to maintain the best possible sight lines.

Interestingly, Clear Channel Communications also uses the studio as a training location for station engineers. Harris Broadcast designed a custom removable desk surface that conceals wiring to the on-air console, mics and other source equipment so trainees can quickly dive in and work. Similarly, the furniture design included a cabling and wiring package that simplified equipment and electrical connections across the space.

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Seacrest Studios Comes to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital

Dec 1, 2013 10:00 AM, By Brian Clark and Michael Rose

Making radio – and more

The on-air and production environment brings all the tools of a modern digital radio studio together, including two automation systems, a multi-channel console, processing gear, telephone codecs, production accessories and source equipment. This enables patients and staff to produce a variety of music, entertainment and educational programming. The radio programming typically comprises DJ-hosted music shows, sports and entertainment talk shows, storytelling and community interaction.

The Ryan Seacrest Foundation also brings artists and celebrities through the studios as they pass through town, with live performances broadcast to patient rooms. Harris Broadcast supplied its World Feed Panel to accommodate these live performances, a 3RU audio signal connection system with an interface panel for cabinet side-wall mounting. It supports all common connector types – RCA, XLR, 3.5 mm, 1/4″ TRS balanced and unbalanced – and an active USB interface to support temporary connection of instruments, laptops, DJ coffins and other live performance equipment to the house system.

There are three backdrop screens available for video shots.

The “house system” in this case is a 12-channel Harris Broadcast Flexiva NetWave console, with removable faders to accommodate future audio signal networking as needed. The NetWave provides on-air personnel with a direct view meter display for clear comprehension of audio levels, which is helpful to patients and staff learning radio for the first time. The console supports multiple on-air sources, including the mics, a Comrex STAC six-line talkshow system, a 360 Instant Replay effects system and a Tascam CD and MP3 player. A Telos Zephyr Xstream rackmount codec is in place for local stations broadcasting live from the studio, providing ISDN and Ethernet options for distribution to host studios.

The two automation systems – a BSI Op-X and an RCS Selector – provide the studio with plenty of redundancy for overnight programming, since the station is typically manned only for 8 to 10 hours a day. The BSI Logger feature is useful for pulling air checks done throughout the day. These are interspersed with music to create a complete air shift.

Most radio streams are delivered to the room with an accompanying HD or digital video feed. Patients and staff often use the video equipment to create music videos or other shows and segments using the in-studio green screen. Live on-air shows can also be conducted while another is recorded. Onlookers in the atrium might see an interview being recorded in the studio while a previously produced program plays on the external studio monitor, as well as Channel 33 in the rooms.

The signal flow gets interesting from this point, as the radio and video elements are multiplexed and routed long distance to the main headend. Audio leaving the NetWave (including audio from a video playback computer) is first moved through an TransLanTech Sound Ariane Sequel. This device provides an AES output that is sent to the AES input of a Blackmagic ATEM production switcher. Here, the radio audio combines with four active video inputs (two ceiling-mounted cameras and an in-studio tripod, plus the playback computer video). All video is captured as HD 720p60 at a 16×9 aspect ratio.

The program-out signal is passed to a Blackmagic Hyperdeck HD recorder, and this unit and a second Hyperdeck connect to a two-input Extron HD video switcher. This represents the start of the final phase of the studio workflow, which is able to pass live (Input 1) and recorded (Input 2) content.

Both Hyperdecks also connect to a Crestron touchscreen for playback control at the DJ deck. This proved to be a challenging component of the integration, as discrete commands required for the RS-422 control were forced through an Ethernet control port. Overall, it required adding 20 static IP addresses on the studio network switch to accommodate all radio and TV devices – a demanding task in a real-estate-challenged space.

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Seacrest Studios Comes to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital

Dec 1, 2013 10:00 AM, By Brian Clark and Michael Rose

At the headend

The multiplexed audio and video signal moves onto to a simple Extron HD distribution amplifier: One feed goes to the in-studio monitor, a second is pushed the exterior studio monitor and a third feed is sent to a Blackmagic mini-converter. This is where the HDMI to HD/SDI conversion takes place, and from here the signal is transported to a general control room space and switching closet before being passed to the hospital TV headend – two buildings over and six stories up from Seacrest Studios.

To solve the problem of carrying the 720p60 signal over such a long distance, it is sent into an Extron HD/SDI to fiber converter and optically transported to the TV headend. There, it is de-fibered and converted back to HD/SDI before passing to a separate HD to composite converter, which conforms the studio signal for the hospital TV system.

The conforming is necessary as the TV system is currently analog SD 4:3 (though there are upgrade plans for digital and HD in the works). However, turning off the “letterbox’ feature in the composite converter allows for a clean 16:9 display on in-room flatscreen TVs. This means that while HD content in the studio is downconverted to SD, signals are displayed in the correct aspect ratio for the TV sets even as SD analog instead of being automatically copped.

At the composite conversion stage, the HD signal also splits left and right analog audio. All three analog signals are then passed to a 25-year old Drake RF stereo encoder and a Drake modulator of the same age. The signal then passes through an RF combiner before being delivered to sets on Channel 33.

The overall effort represents the spirit of everyone involved in the project, from suppliers like Harris Broadcast, Comrex and BSI to the staff of Clear Channel Communications. These companies donated time and equipment to the cause, which is about stimulating the minds of patients in for treatment and encouraging optimistic thoughts through creativity and interactive experiences.

Clark is the chief engineer of the Ryan Seacrest Foundation. Rose works in Interactive Services at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Clarification about the studio furniture: The furniture was based on an original desgin by David Holland of Omnirax and modified by Nick Van Haaster from Harris Broadcast and built Harris Broadcast.

Equipment List

360 Systems Instant Replay 2
Ashly SRA2075
Audion Labs VoxPro, control panel
BSI Op-X, Logger
Comrex STAC
EV RE-320
Genelec 6010B
Harris Broadcast Flexiva NetWave, Phone Strobeflasher, WorldFeed Panel
Middle Atlantic EGR4428, UPS2200R
Mika mic arm with LED
Neutrik connectors
Omnimount 205, 300
RCS Nexgen Digital
Sennheiser HD280 Pro
Symetrix 581E, Jupiter 8
Tascam CD-500, SS-CDR200
Telos Zephyr Xstream
Translantech Ariane Sequel
Vaddio Productionview HD

December 2013

Interoperability standards for IP audio, a Seacrest Studio opens in Cincinnati, the FCC catches up on work, insight to HD Voice, and a rundown of portable recorders….

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