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538Group Delivers Visual Radio

Broadcaster builds new fiber optic broadcast facility

538Group radio studios The world of radio is changing. Once concerned with listening figures alone, broadcasters are waking up to the reality of a connected generation. Tablets, smartphones and other such mobile devices mean listeners are hungrier than ever for engaging content spanning multiple platforms. Dutch-based 538Group (538, SLAM!FM and Radio 10 Gold) is one such broadcaster waking up to this reality. Over the past few years we’ve seen radio and television content become more integrated, as radio stations offer more online content.

The 538Group has capitalized on this growing trend for visual radio content to build a new state-of-the-art fiber optic broadcast facility. It is arguably one of the most advanced facilities for radio and television broadcasts in the country. All told, there are up to 40 video cameras throughout the facility, capturing DJs as they broadcast over radio.

Knowing that we wanted to optimize our radio content for television, we approached VidiGo and Blackmagic Design reseller Maarten Sound and Vision. In particular, we wanted the ability to continue working with our existing automation software, which includes VidiGo Audio Director and VidiGo Live.

Central to the 538Group broadcast facility are Blackmagic Design Universal Videohubs (288 x 228). Every single video source throughout the building, including camera feeds, decks, graphics machines and playout systems, is connected via a new fiber optic network to the routers. As redundancy was a major consideration, a backup Universal Videohub was installed to ensure uninterrupted 24/7 broadcasting.

All signals are analyzed by one system, so it works with 64 channels simultaneously. With one card per studio, we are in the unique situation that DJs from different stations can talk to one other from their own studio. The fact that during the show a Skype call with our correspondent from America can be seen, lip-synced of course, is extraordinarily beneficial.

Blackmagic’s Videohub allows users to connect to their own workspace, whether it’s a Blackmagic Design Hyperdeck Studio or a Final Cut Pro set using the Videohub software control. We also have several Videohub Smart control panels, for faster routing to destinations. We can even route to our DHD radio system, so SDI embedded signals can be brought to the audio mixer of the relevant radio station. This makes the link between radio and visual radio or television very easy and flexible.

538Group radio studios Flexibility was 538Group’s ultimate goal. We wanted creativity and technology to come together: Motion graphic intros and outros are made in-house. The creatives consult directly with the DJs, taking the shortest possible line. The workflow is different but the outcome is more options for less money. We are also very pleased with the clip starter. From a tablet a user can control VidiGo Graphics, allowing simultaneous work on radio and television. This is ideal for the DJ — he or she doesn’t even notice that they are covering the visual elements of the show.

Complementing the six multi-cam radio studios at 538Group is a television studio complete with a chromakey wall. For this, we used Blackmagic Design’s ATEM 1 M/E production switcher with an ATEM 1 M/E broadcast panel. 538 also has an OB van fitted out with Blackmagic’s ATEM 2 M/E Production Switcher and Broadcast Panel in addition to several Hyperdeck studios, which are used for capture and playout in a live environment. Blackmagic Design’s hardware combined with VidiGo automation software has allowed us to replace all of our standalone systems and build a combined higher performing network.

We also have TV538, an automated 24/7 television music channel and SLAM!TV, a channel for the younger generation. VidiGo Works is used as an asset manager. Key features are XDCAM HD import, customizable metadata accessible from anywhere anytime, and export to AVID. This, plus the support for Apple Mac OS X, offers huge savings in time and money because content now comes straight from the standard toolkit for graphic designers.

At the 538Group, all on-air graphic layers are built using standard web technologies including Adobe Flash/AIR. VidiGo Playout is used for HD video playout. Key features are 24/7 unattended operation, embedded audio, mix video clips with live SDI input, playlist filling by drag-and-drop, and Adobe Flash command handling.

Without VidiGo and Blackmagic Design, and the “madness” of my team, we could not have made the 538Group what it is today. These partners think smarter than others and are market “fighters,” in a positive way.

Alexander Josiassen is technical and operations manager at 538Group.