SALT LAKE CITY — Seventeen studios in six weeks seems like a long shot for even the best-planned moves, however that is what we at Broadway Media Group accomplished with our friends at GatesAir and SCMS, the supporting sales and service arm for our project.
Broadway Media Group acquired Simmons Media Group of Salt Lake City in early 2014, and within months initiated a relocation plan to consolidate multiple FM and AM stations on the second floor of a downtown Salt Lake City building. With a lengthy skywalk, large windows and an open and inviting design, the new location offers a visually impressive facility that gives passersby a clear view into our multistation operation.
The overall goal was to build a noticeable facility that delivered a better working environment for employees, and a more efficient technical design. GatesAir delivered on all fronts, with special emphasis on the last point: a fully networked environment with facility-wide routable audio and data, along with a vast reduction in wiring and technical infrastructure. The biggest benefit to date has been the common functionality: Instead of forcing two or three disparate systems to talk to each other, we instead have one unified, comprehensive platform that works exactly as we require.
Following a studio design phase with GatesAir — including custom furniture plans to match the open feel and ambience of each studio — the Broadway Media team moved onto technology decisions, with SCMS working hard to procure supporting equipment within the quick timeframe. The networked strategy eliminates the large consolidated routing model of past systems, and instead leverages a distributed architecture marrying a central GatesAir VMConnect network core with VMXpress I/O points in each studio. The cross-studio interconnections are simplified, using Cat-6 connectivity with breakout XLR connectors. This removes the time and labor-intensive headaches associated with legacy wiring and soldering.
Console choices were narrowed to GatesAir RMXdigital consoles for seven on-air studios; and NetWave consoles for 10 production studios. Even though all consoles live on the audio network, the flexibility for standalone operation proved handy during the move-in phase. Each studio operated as its own entity early, with quick connectivity to the GatesAir VM audio network in the final stage.
Our RMXdigital consoles are built to 20 or 28 channels depending on the needs of each studio, with each providing I/O for up to six microphones, a POTS system, native media players, ISDN units and auxiliary audio among other sources. We find its session-based design to be especially useful. Our DJs can come in for shifts and load their sessions with the push of a button, without needing to reset the console and adjust settings. This is a shining example of the operational efficiency we receive from the RMXdigital.
We highly regard the mix-minus capabilities of RMXdigital for our largest shows, including our sports station. The ease of bringing callers into the live show can’t be overstated, with a quick learning curve for those unfamiliar with the console. A second, and perhaps greater, advantage is the ability to route a mix-minus feed and recall it in another on-air or production room, without requiring a manual send. This is a new benefit for the Broadway Media operation that highlights the value of the VM network.
The NetWaves are ideal for the production rooms, which require the networked functionality and operational flexibility without unneeded bells and whistles. Using eight-channel models for all but our largest studio (12 channels), the NetWave delivers a high-functioning, cost-efficient choice for our busy production operation. The latest NetWave design does add functionality compared to previous generation models, including an extra program bus and a direct send bus — along with more virtual channels to mix in additional sources.
We chose to equip our production NetWaves with two routable channels, allowing producers to pull up any sources in the facility on two faders of the console. And because the consoles are networked, we can go live-to-air from production, easily and seamlessly when needed. This happens quite often due to conflicting sports events, with a simple change to the transmitter route from the rack room.
An added benefit of the GatesAir networked consoles is the elimination of many computer monitors. We looked at other systems that required monitors for each console. That option is less attractive from both an ergonomic point of view and visual reasons. Our on-air studios are all wired for HD video, with remote controllable cameras to stream our shows online. GatesAir slims down the infrastructure, removing pointless monitors from the desktop. This was a cosmetic benefit that proved especially attractive to our DJs.
Moving forward, we will explore integrating next-generation VMXpress IP devices into the network, which will allow more freedom in moving audio between the studio and three transmitter sites in collaboration with our GatesAir Intraplex NetXpress systems. We expect that will be just one of the many benefits of transitioning to a true radio over IP environment over the coming years.
For information, contact Keith Adams at GatesAir in Ohio at (513) 459-3447 or visit www.gatesair.com.