OMAHA, Neb. — As the coronavirus pandemic began to greatly affect radio stations across the country, many were scrambling to produce and maintain program material for their media services.
KIOS in Omaha, Neb., was in a difficult situation since the radio station studios are located in an Omaha Public Schools building and the school system was being ordered to close. Did this order to close mean everyone needed to evacuate the school’s property, including the radio station?
A conference call was scheduled to discuss the issue and how we would prepare to evacuate the radio station studios. KIOS had recently completed a studio project of its four studios. This involved remodeling the studios physically, replacing some studio equipment with Telos Axia Fusion consoles from Broadcasters General Store, and upgrading the ENCO DAD studio automation system.
Three important questions had to be answered: how to remotely control the program; how to remotely access the automation and console; and how to provide real-time audio or voice tracks from a remote location. I had just addressed the same situation with WHYY in Philadelphia, as we were halfway through a studio system replacement and needed to answer the same questions.
Fortunately, using an AoIP system is the same from one facility to another, no matter the operational size. First, my equipment recommendation for controlling the audio console and automation is a utility computer to use with technical applications. One of the applications is the Axia SoftSurface software installed on the utility computer. Remote control of the console is taken care of using TeamViewer to access SoftSurface.
Next, we looked at the ENCO automation remote control. During an ENCO software upgrade to the automation system technical support normally has remote access to the system, as they did have remote access setup. We used this remote access setup to remote control the ENCO automation system.
By using this remote access operation in a different way than using TeamViewer, it provided the ability to remotely access both the console and automation with full control from the same remote location computer.
Lastly, the most difficult question to answer is the real-time audio or voice tracks. We only had the internet as our method to provide a media for real-time audio. This would require a codec, same as we use for live remote broadcasts. It would need to be either software codec from a computer or hardware with a network connection at the remote location. If multiple locations are being used, then there would need to be multiple hardware units or traded less units between remote locations.
Since we are restricting contact between one another, trading a unit between locations was not the best solution. Additionally, there is an audio timing issue between audio from the automation at the studio and the codec audio feed that is slightly delayed. This can cause a train wreck on the final program product if not watched very carefully.
Using voice tracks, the remote location needs to have either remote ENCO WebDAD automation or prerecorded audio to be dropped into the ENCO system by Dropbox (file transfer system). The prerecorded remote voice tracking option was the best choice for KIOS. They would not have to worry about the timing issues of a codec and did not have the WebDAD software option installed for ENCO.
KIOS did not fully evacuate the radio station studios, but is operating with a limited staff. Some on-air shifts are using the remote control of the Axia Fusion Console and ENCO automation with prerecorded voice tracks as described. This remote operation will continue until further notice.
I appreciate being involved with KIOS preparing and executing the remote broadcast operation and the team of people involved: General Manager Ken Dudzik, Program Director Todd Hatton, Local Host, “All Things Considered,” Michael Hogan, former Chief Engineer Richard Dennis and current Chief Engineer Chuck Ramold.
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 Axia Systems/The Telos Alliance in Ohio at 1-216-241-7225 or visit www.telosalliance.com.