HULL, England — U.K.-based dance music radio station This Is Electric is an entirely virtual radio station broadcast on DAB digital radio and online, created using a dedicated “Radio In The Cloud” solution from Broadcast Radio.
The station uses the innovative system to broadcast a unique format of pure house music, without the need for a permanent studio base. Managing Director Quentin Nield, an experienced engineer and studio builder, said the station came about as he believed club music was being ignored by radio.
“We set up This is Electric to play the music we were hearing in the clubs, broadcasting online-only initially, but then going on the small-scale DAB multiplex in Cambridge. This allowed us to be on the U.K. Radioplayer app, which we thought was important for marketability, credibility and accessibility. For online, we also found it is important to make sure your station is registered with all the ‘tuning services,’ such as Reciva, TuneIn, myTuner Radio, vTuner, iTunes — between them they cover every device or car/home stereo system.”
With the station hosted “in the cloud,” the need for studio equipment is light, said Nield.
“All the presenters use their home setup of mic into an external USB audio interface, into a PC. Most of them use the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface. I have a Belkin TuneStudio multitracker we use for OBs and artist recording, as it has a built-in mixer with two mic and three line inputs. Access to the playout system is by proprietary software from Broadcast Radio — we just connect and voice track.”
Nield said the system makes its remote broadcasts simple, as the equipment is light and easily carried to site, where the only requirement is power and internet access.
“DJ mixes are uploaded to a Dropbox folder monitored by our system, which drops them into ‘carts’ that are already scheduled. We then use Myriad playout with Spatial’s SAM Cast streaming encoder, passing through a Breakaway processor which combines the four channels into one, and processes the audio to the same high standard as an Omnia 9.”
Last year, the station broadcast live from the Pride in London festival, using a Soho bar as its base. Nield edited and produced from there, while presenters went out and captured audio using iPhones with iRig Mic HD 2 external reporter microphones.
When setting up the station, Nield brought in Broadcast Radio, based in Hull, Yorkshire.
“I went with Myriad Playout as a lot of our team had used it before, so there was less of a learning curve — plus I have a good relationship with them going back almost 20 years. They host our admin, playout and streaming functions. It’s been running for nearly five years with very few outages during that time, so reliability is not something I have to worry about.”
David Boulton, Broadcast Radio’s brand manager, explained how their part of the station’s broadcast chain works. “As we all know, ‘the cloud’ is just some computers, somewhere in a data center. We have dedicated Windows PCs that run the full versions of our Myriad Playout system, and AutoTrack Professional scheduling software. Our clients then use standard remote-control applications to ‘dial in’ and control the system. They have full access to the features that would be available to them if they were based at their own premises.”
The Myriad suite used by This Is Electric includes several software tools. Auto Importer checks sources such as FTP, file locations and Dropbox, and brings audio produced off-site directly into the system. Stations use this either to deliver complete shows, or for ingest of hourly elements such as news and travel bulletins. Remote voice tracking allows presenters based anywhere in the world to voice-track their shows for later broadcast.
Meanwhile, Online Content Processor sends “now playing” information to DAB multiplexes, websites and streams and can send tweets and Facebook posts automatically with dynamically built information about the surrounding audio. Finally, Myriad Playout in its “AutoFade” mode is able to hit time-critical events, so the program hour can be back-timed to hit a news bulletin exactly.
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Boulton said Broadcast Radio manages the hardware required for the station. “We look after the maintenance, electricity and cooling. There’s a fiber backbone connection to the internet, and we have our own streaming servers for the end client connections. We also have a variety of different audio processors — physical and software — to provide a signature station sound, and a choice of encoding options.”
For This Is Electric, Nield believes using “radio in the cloud” has simplified its workflows while retaining flexibility.
“You can be with your setup at home or on a trestle table at a festival; it’s irrelevant as long as you have a good internet connection,” he said. “Truly live OBs with some sort of link can be unreliable — we record links in the same hour so it’s ‘as live,’ but with the comfort of knowing it’s loaded into the log and in good quality.”