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Serving the public

Serving the public

Nov 1, 2006 12:00 PM, by Chriss Scherer, editor

WUNC has enjoyed great success from its efforts to provide a quality service to the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area, and with this success came the need to expand its facilities. The attention first turned to possible expansions at the main studio in Chapel Hill at the University of North Carolina.

Control 1 is the center of the showcase studio area.

The back studios have layouts that are nearly identical to the showcase studios in the front. This is Studio 2.

Edit Booth 1 is used for the daily newscasts and All Things Considered.

The News Booth looks into Studio 1 and Control 1.

Photos by Dave Horne

This proposition met resistance because the Chapel Hill site has real estate restrictions, including building a second floor over the existing building. Someone suggested looking at available business space in neighboring Durham, NC, which is about nine miles from the Chapel Hill location.

Jim Goodmon, CEO of Capital Broadcasting, had another idea. An advocate of unifying the triangle (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill), Goodmon saw the opportunity to redevelop an aging factory site into a business and residential area. That site is the American Tobacco Company factory where Lucky Strike and other once-popular cigarettes were made. Tobacco manufacturing on this site ceased about 20 years ago. Since then the facility had been abandoned and it was falling apart.

Many of the old manufacturing and warehouse buildings in the American Tobacco Historic District, as it is now known, have been restored and converted into offices, retail shopping and some residential space as well.

Goodmon helped WUNC identify a space of 8,342 square feet that would be ideal for the radio station. This space was also more than twice as large as the potential space that could have been developed in Chapel Hill. To top it off, the location would also provide WUNC with a presence in Durham.

The work begins

The site was chosen in the late summer of 2004. The station immediately began the process of creating designs, pulling permits and arranging contractors. By April 2005, the preliminary steps were complete and the demolition and construction phase began.

On Oct. 17, 2005, the first program, The State of Things, aired live from noon to 1 p.m. from the historic location. The news department moved in Dec. 6, 2005, and by January 2006 afternoon newscasts, All Things Considered and Market Place were also originating programs from the new facility.

Now, every weekday the facility originates local newscasts at 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., and live programming originates from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Part of the appeal of the new facility was its warehouse feel. Lots of southern yellow pine trees were used in the original construction. When it came time to begin preparing the space for the studios, one pine post had to be removed to make way for Control Room 2. A steel beam was installed to support the building load when the post was removed, but the post was saved for reuse. Part of that post now supports the counter of the Control Room 1 furniture.

Another item that required a custom touch was the outside sign. The station wanted a large version of the CBT on-air light that is used inside to make a visual statement outside the studio. David Wright, WUNC associate director of radio, turned to a local fabricator to craft the large on-air light as well as the neon lights with the call letters and North Carolina Public Radio name.

The facility features two studio areas; one in the front of the space and one in the back. The two areas are nearly identical. The front studios are the showcase studios and are visible from the pedestrian sidewalk. This side includes Control 1, Studio 1, Edit Booth 1, a news booth and a call screener booth. The back studios include Control 2, Studio 2 and Edit Booth 2. There is also a tech center with eight racks.

The furniture layouts in the studios are similar, with the only noticeable difference being the Corian countertop in the front studios and the laminated surface countertops in the rear studios. Studio Technology provided the furniture. Control Room 1 also features a profanity delay and an additional ISDN codec.

The heart of the audio system is a Wheatstone Bridge router with Generation 6 control surfaces. The control rooms have 16-channel surfaces, the edit booths have 12-channel surfaces, and the news booth has an eight-channel surface.

Redundancy was important to the overall installation. The dual studio spaces provide obvious backup for studio use, and the flexibility of a routing system adds to that. The facility also has a 100kW natural gas generator and a 30kW three-phase UPS to support the facility.

WUNC is updating its audio storage and playback system with an Enco Dad. The Durham and Chapel Hill facilities have local servers tied together through a direct fiber connection provided by Level 3 Communications. This IT connection extends all the functions of the WUNC and University of North Carolina computer network to the Durham facility. The connection also makes it easier for the station to create and store off-site backups through the connection.

The teamWUNC: Joan Siefert Rose, GM; David Wright, associate director of radio; John Francioni, chief engineer; Nandini Sen, director of IT
Design Development Documentation: Balsys Systems
Integration: Lightner Electronics

While the IT side is connected through the fiber link, the station wanted a dedicated link for the audio and control feeds. A Broadcast Electronics Big Pipe was installed to handle this. The two sites are connected via a DS3 circuit to provide the necessary bandwidth. There are plans to add an RF link to provide the desired redundancy the station wants. The Big Pipe provides a bi-directional path for 16 audio channels, several serial data streams and two video feeds. The video feeds aren’t used yet, but the capacity is there if it is needed. The Big Pipe provides eight off-premise telephone feeds between Durham and Chapel Hill.

The Big Pipe also provides an Ethernet path that is dedicated to the Wheatstone IP control network. This was key because the Chapel Hill facility was concurrently upgraded with a Wheatstone Bridge Router. Durham can now exercise control over the main bridge router in Chapel Hill via a GP-16 control panel for emergency program overrides and inserts.

For the equipment integration, WUNC tapped the resources of Lightner Electronics. David Wright noted that using a system integrator not only reduced the burden of the station staff in installing the new facility, but it also lended the expertise of the installation crew to the project. System integrators are familiar with the needs of the users, and also know how to address the challenges of an installation.

WUNC – Additional Photos

Online exclusive: additional photos from the WUNC Facility Showcase in the November 2006 issue….

Equipment list

Aircorp Model 500
Broadcast Electronics Big Pipe
Broadcast Tools SRC-8 III
CBT Systems Classic and Dual-lens on air light
Crown D-75A
Denon DN-C680, DN-M991R, TU-1500RD
Electro-Voice RE-20
Enberg BA-12
Enco Dad
Ergotron monitor stands
Eventide BD600
Fostex 6301B
Genelec 8030
Henry Engineering Superelay
Krone punch blocks
Neumann U87
O.C. White mic booms
Panasonic SV-3700
Rane HC4, HC6
Sony MDS-E11
Studio Technology furniture
Telos 2X12, Zephyr, Zephyr Exstream, One Delta
Torpey clocks and displays
Wheatstone Bridge, G-6