The author is assistant director of integrated broadcast systems for WAMU 88.5.
WAMU is an NPR public news/talk station that services the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.
I came here a little over three and a half years ago from an all-Axia plant in Atlanta. When I arrived, they already had Telos Alliance gear and legacy Pathfinder, which made my transition smooth.
Over time, as I settled into the organization and assessed its workflows, we began to look at its Pathfinder system, which was a bit out of date and needed some love. We put together a grand plan to build a whole new Axia network with Pathfinder Core PRO to freshen everything up, clean everything out and get all the systems nice and neat.
Just as we were about to begin our switchover and start making changes — in fact, only about a week before — the pandemic shutdowns began across the country. This, of course, blew all of our plans out of the water.
Ambitious remote operations
Our station decided very early on to transition to a full remote workflow, and having Pathfinder Core was a big part of reacting accordingly.
We run a national talk show for two hours every day of the week and a local talk show for an hour after that. During these shows, we run through codecs quickly, and in the studio, we had a dedicated person to get people on, connected and checked. We realized that our remote codec position needed some custom help.
For that we turned to Pathfinder Core to build what are called “panels.” A panel is a graphical and functional representation of equipment, signal flows and other functions such as monitoring and internal communication.
We built a panel that allows our codec manager to work remotely and test all 30 to 40 codecs we’ve got, doing line checks and making sure everyone is good to go before show time, and to troubleshoot issues. This was a large panel that I built, and it was a massive help to our operations.
We also built panels for our producers to remotely produce their shows, giving them a real-time feed of the show over a telephone hybrid and the ability to talk to the host, engineer or codec manager as they need to. The fact that Pathfinder Core allows you to do this with web panels makes distributing them to a ton of producers very easy.
We had 35 people “pitching” during our week of remote fundraising, and web panels allowed our pitch producers to speak to the pitchers to coordinate and cue their segments quickly. We turned our panels pages into a series of short links that make onboarding easier than before.
New way of thinking
The most powerful new feature in Pathfinder Core PRO is the relay combiner in Logic Flow events.
With the codec panel I built, we needed to update Logic Flows with new codec sources and destinations actively. When the codec manager opens a panel, they can choose their current codec, which gets written to the “Talk” button’s logic.
I could have accomplished this flow in the old system but with many more steps. When I started using the new system, it took me a little while to get used to the new way of thinking about Logic Flows, but once I got up and running, I was amazed at how much I enjoy using the system.
Right now, we are running a hybrid system of legacy Pathfinder and Pathfinder Core. Any new panels we need are built on Pathfinder Core, while the legacy system is still handling all of our studio switching and air chain events. We are getting close to the point where we will begin migrating over the rest of the systems, and I’m looking forward to having it all up to date.
Radio World User Reports are testimonial articles intended to help readers understand why a colleague chose a particular product to solve a technical situation.
For information, contact Cam Eicher at The Telos Alliance in Ohio at 1-216-241-7225 or visit http://www.telosalliance.com.