Lightweight, portable set-up provides a direct link to the VRT master control room

BRUSSELS — With some 30 live onsite broadcasts per year, VRT’s hit station MNM is an intensive user of the organization’s outside on-air infrastructure. So much so that the Belgian Dutch-language public broadcaster set up a new on-air mobile facility, specifically designed to fit MNM’s mobile needs.

“In the past, we used either studio gear that was either too heavy or with limited technical options,” said Hans Rits, head of Radio Realization for MNM. “The new outside radio configuration had to be compact, light-weight and able to be operated by one person. We carefully went over the technical aspects bearing in minds these parameters.”

Systems integrator Amptec built and integrated the mobile on-air unit, as part of its framework contract with the public broadcaster. “The presenter’s desk is a clone of the ‘banana’-shaped design in MNM’s main studio,” said Jasper Willems, Amptec’s broadcast project engineer. “We made it fit into two flight cases and it looks like a real on-air studio.”

Whereas in the past, the presenter used four displays, the new layout has just one central display and a laptop for the presenter. Like in MNM’s main on air studio, the mobile set is using a DHD MX series modular console with a XC2 core and Dalet Plus playout software.

“The DJ has the option to prepare his or her program on a laptop using Dalet via VRT’s dedicated VPN tunnel and export it into the system,” Rits said. “At present we use a local playout system, but we have plans to set up a remote playout engine in the future.” Two Shure Beta 87 microphones, Sennheiser HME headsets, a TC Electronic M 2000 effects processor and an Empirical Labs Distressor complete the configuration.

“As for the connectivity, we have replaced the VDSL lines from the past by a Peplink Pepwave MAX HD4 routing system — it holds multiple SIM cards from different providers and automatically selects the best connection,” explained Rits. “Another novelty is that the mobile studio’s signal is routed via a Prodys Quantum codec and goes directly on air via the VRT’s radio master control room instead of through the main studio.”

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The basic set up consists of four flightcases that can either be used in combination with the station’s radio trailer or as an individual on-air set up. A self-op presenter, engineer and a social media editor operate MNM’s mobile studio. “MNM is a 360° brand and in addition to our FM and DAB+ on-air signal, we want to fully integrate social media content in our programs,” Rits added.

Rino Ver Eecke, MNM station manager, underlined the importance of the station’s outside broadcasts. “Connecting with the audience, meeting our listeners and making radio is key for us. The implementation of creative and innovative technology is one of our priorities,” he said. 

“MNM is a hit radio station targeting 12 to 44 year olds — listeners who are open to new technology. In addition to visual content, we are experimenting with an AETA ScoopFone 4G, allowing remote presentation from virtually any place worldwide, and LiveU, combining a backpack with SIM-cards and a GoPro camera, transmitting live image streaming to our MNM-smartphone app.”

The new mobile on-air unit was inaugurated in September to cover an MNM contest, where 10 MNM listeners won a five-day trip to New York for a special morning drive show broadcast aired from the “Big Apple.” On Oct 24–28, Peter van de Veire hosted his morning show from New York with the help of a “light” version of the MNM mobile studio, which served as a “remote-control” studio MNM’s on air facility in Brussels.

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