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Broadcast Tech Newsletter – December 2018

The Broadcast Tech newsletter landed in inboxes again today. If you missed out, you should totally sign up. If not, here’s some of the highlights:

  • Google is directly encouraging object-based radio production, with their new Google Assistant Audio News feature. This new feature creates on-demand news bulletins based on ‘AI’, essentially splicing stories together from multiple news outlets. If you’re a news outlet wishing to participate, they have released content guidelines and technical specifications. Is your newsroom setup to produce news this way?
  • AWS have just released ‘Ground Station‘ – a new product that allows you to lease time on their network of satellite ground stations. They support low and medium-earth satellite, in frequency bands such as S, X and UHF. I don’t know enough about satellite technology to know if this is useful to broadcasters at all, but it sure looks interesting!
  • Some researchers in the Netherlands have developed a wideband web-based SDR, which allows you to listen to shortwave radio from your web browser. Do you know of anything similar for FM?
  • Axia has released a new console that doesn’t have any outboard ‘Studio Engine’ box (or any local I/O). Just plug a LAN cable direct into the console and suck down all your existing AES67 and/or Livewire audio – brilliant!
  • Have you seen Node-RED lately? This is an open-source visual programming tool, with modules to connect to hundreds of different devices and protocols. They market it as ‘flow-based programming for the Internet of Things’, but you could quite easily think of it along the same lines as broadcast macro/event-driven programming systems.
  • I totally missed this news back in July – Telstra (Australia’s biggest telco) launched a trial of LTE-B (essentially multicast over 4G LTE networks). They said unicast streaming on their AFL football app peaked at 143Gbps prior to this trial, but their LTE-B trial is only for Samsung S8 & S9 devices – it’d be interesting to see how much bandwidth they’ve saved and what sort of real-world issues they encountered.
  • Radio stations are steadily getting on board with MetaRadio – my new product that makes now-playing song data ridiculously easy. It now supports 13 different automation systems, and about 16 different outputs (RDS Encoders, Streaming Encoders, WordPress, etc.).
  • WordPress 5.0 has just been released. The key change is the new Gutenberg block-based editor – a highly controversial change in the WP community, but a concept I think is long overdue. Back in 2013, I wrote an article about CMS architecture. Much to my surprise, WordPress seems to be delivering on this more than any other major CMS (combine Gutenberg with the WP JSON API, Custom Post Types, and Meta Fields, and you have quite a powerful CMS – ignoring all the legacy cruft kicking around under-the-hood). I’ve used Gutenberg on a couple of sites now, and my major concern is that the implementation is not quite ready for prime-time.
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Broadcast Tech Newsletter – September 2018

The latest instalment of the Broadcast Technology Newsletter landed in inboxes yesterday. If you’re not on this list, please consider signing up. If not, here’s what you missed:

  • Nova Entertainment has selected Lawo to design and build their ‘Future Studios’ project. This is a really cool, forward-thinking system. Talent can walk into any studio in the country, tap their RFID card, and recall the console preset and audio routing for their show (which could go to air in another state). This is essentially an audio-only implementation of the NEP Andrews Hubs (which I mentioned in my last newsletter). Lawo’s router software allows cross-points to be created across facilities, automatically selecting from the available IP audio links (operators will no longer need to know which Tieline to dial – WAN audio linking is handled automatically whenever you set an audio routing crosspoint). Until now, I hadn’t personally viewed Lawo as a big player in the Radio Console market in Australia, but ambitious projects like this are a real game changer – how will other vendors respond?
  • Conversations around ‘Smart Speakers’ continue. Stations want to get their radio stream on each platform as a ‘skill’, but I wonder if that’s severely underestimating the power of these devices? Radio is linear by design, but Smart Speakers give us a real opportunity to break the mould and deliver contextual content based on listener preferences. The BBC has been prototyping Object-Based Media for many years now, which looks like a natural fit for these new delivery methods. Do you think broadcasters will actually be able to break out of their traditional production methods, and re-design around non-linear production? In my mind, if we create for objects, then the AM/FM/Digital ‘feed’ becomes just one linear assembly of these ‘objects’ – with many more possible ways to assemble the ‘feed’ based on listener preferences. I’m keen to know what you think about all this.
  • IBC has just wrapped up. Telos Alliance announced ‘HyperStudio‘ – a way to run some of their Linux-based appliances on your existing hypervisor. Notably, their Studio Engines (realtime audio mix engine) were omitted from the list of example products – is CPU scheduling too big a problem to make this work well in a hypervisor? Has anyone else solved this problem yet?
  • Have you heard of the On-Hertz LUMO virtualised radio studio’? It won a ‘Best of Show’ award at IBC. Looks like a web-based all-in-one radio solution (automation, mixer, DSP, phone system, and codec).
  • Russia has selected DRM as their Digital Radio standard, instead of DAB+ (used in much of Europe). This comes after an announcement of DAB+ frequency assignment for Russia in April. Could this mean more dual-format receivers become available? There seems to be some renewed discussion lately of on-band Digital Radio solutions (at least in the online circles I’m a part of – probably rising out of frustration with Australia’s DAB+ implementation, and how so far it’s leaving out narrowcasters, most regional areas, and sub-metro community stations).
  • Back in the year 2000, Joel Spolsky wrote 12 questions to determine the effectiveness and health of your software engineering team. I’ve had a crack at adapting this to radio engineering teams – The ‘Joel Test’ for Radio Technology Teams.
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Broadcast Tech Newsletter – May 2018

I just sent out another instalment of the Broadcast Technology Newsletter. If you’re not on the list, please consider signing up. If not, here’s some of the highlights…

  • I don’t follow consumer electronics very closely, but apparently ‘Smart Speakers’ are a thing now. Our Commercial Radio lobby group claim 5% of Australians own one (Really? That seems high. I don’t know anyone who owns one of these), but the trouble is there’s at least three competing development platforms – Google Actions, Apple’s SiriKit, and Alexa Skills. I’m currently writing an article on the development effort to get your radio station on these three platforms, and would appreciate your input – does your station consider Smart Speakers a priority? How do you envisage your listeners interacting with it – streaming only, or more than that? Hit ‘reply’ on this email and let me know.
  • Have you tried JetLink – Logitek’s software-based audio codec? The free version lets you send one low-latency, bi-directional stereo stream, and the $25/month version (just released) supports NAT traversal, phonebooks, and higher audio quality. Plus, it’s being developed here in Australia – so that’s exciting!
  • More and more TV Sports Broadcasts are being produced remotely. In Australia, NEP can now produce six simultaneous events from 29 venues across the country. This happens via a dedicated fibre network and SMPTE ST-2110. I really like this concept, but is it economical for radio? Many radio outside broadcasts already only have one technician on-site (or are self-setup by the talent). Would this perhaps be useful for broadcasts with a large live-music component? I know I’d be happier mixing from a comfortable studio, rather than stuck in the back of a van.
  • How are you mixing digital audio these days? Just today, I saw someone on Facebook using Q-Sys as a radio outside broadcast (remote) mixer. This is actually a pretty good way to get AES67 I/O, advanced digital mixing, and configurable iPad control. Last I checked, the Core 110f can be picked up for a little over AU$5200, which gives you 24 analog I/O ports! It’s marketed towards the AV installation industry, but I see real radio potential here.
  • Speaking of digital audio, Audinate (the Australian company behind Dante), has just released their new AVIO product. These are a range of nifty single channel audio I/O adapters for Dante (and also AES67!). Audinate, traditionally a supplier of Dante chips to other manufacturers, doesn’t seem to have a great reseller network just yet – but Full Compass are now selling these starting at US$99. Based on this pricing, you can get 8 stereo inputs and 8 stereo outputs for just US$2064 (plus the cost of a PoE network switch). This is very competitive, considering the price of audio I/O boxes from the big broadcast companies is several times higher than this.
  • Has anyone got a spec document for Dante’s Control Protocol? I image a simple switcher app for Dante would be quite handy (A great way to start transitioning an analog station to AOIP would be to use these new Audinate I/O adapters connected to your existing audio equipment. Want to put in a digital mixer? Try a Q-Sys core with a touchscreen controller, or maybe even a generic MIDI control surface for physical faders. I’m getting excited just thinking this through – should broadcast hardware manufacturers be worried about all this ‘off the shelf’ AV hardware invading the broadcast space? Is anyone looking to revamp their facility and keen to try this out?)
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Various Zetta Scripts

Various scripts for RCS Zetta - Send an Email when Logs are Imported; Timestamp Background-Recorded Files; Batch Exporter; and a HTML Status Feed Viewer.

Various Zetta Scripts

Various scripts for RCS Zetta - Send an Email when Logs are Imported; Timestamp Background-Recorded Files; Batch Exporter; and a HTML Status Feed Viewer.

Broadcast Tech Newsletter – December 2017

The Media Realm newsletter went out this morning. It featured some recent articles from this website, as well as some interesting tidbits from around the internet. Here’s some of the highlights:

  • Have you seen XPADxpert? It’s a free tool to decode and analyse PAD metadata from a DAB or DAB+ mux.
  • Logitek have been building a virtual radio console in Australia. Now, they’re building a software-based audio codec (again, it’s being built in Australia!). Both of these were on display at SMPTE 2017.
  • Did you know the Axia xNode can act as a small audio mixer? The control protocol is available, and people are starting to integrate with it. Obviously it lacks processing capabilities, but it’d be handy for lightweight tasks such as remote location mixing.
  • SCA has seemingly completed their metro-market rollout of RCS Zetta. Here’s a photo of Maestro playing out logs for the last time on Fox FM Melbourne. By the way, Zetta now has proper support for Custom Fields! Hooray!
  • Australia’s Community Broadcasting Foundation just allocated $1.9m worth of government grants, on top of the $14.2m allocated in June. If you’re interested, check out the detailed allocation spreadsheet (& June) to see what people are spending money on.
  • Radio Magazine has released the results of their 2017 Radio Engineering Salary Survey (USA-based). 47% of respondents work as freelance engineers in addition to their full-time radio engineering work. 58% of respondents are 55+ years old.
  • You may have used the Internet Archive to find old web pages, but did you know you can also search through millions of old books? There’s thousands about broadcast engineering.
  • Did you know the price of the Blackmagic Design SDI/HDMI Micro Converters recently dropped? This isn’t strictly radio-related, but lots of us are now getting into video production.

If you want to sign up for the newsletter, you can do so here.

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