Learning by Doing with Marc Silverman
Posted by Kirk Harnack [TWiRT] on Apr 20, 2015 1:05:00 PM
Where will the next broadcast engineers come from? Hofstra University in New York seems a good source. Marc Silverman is a student and he’s the Student Director of Engineering at WRHU-FM. Marc joins Chris Tobin and Kirk Harnack to talk about learning about broadcast engineering by example and by doing it.
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Kirk Harnack: This Week in Radio Tech episode 253 is brought to you by: the new Omnia.7 FM HD and streaming processor with undo technology; by Lawo and the crystalCLEAR virtual radio console. crystalCLEAR is the radio console with the multi-touch touch screen interface; and by the Telos Alliance with Livewire Plus - Livewire Plus brings 15 years of AoIP development and practice along with AES67 compatibility.
Where will the next broadcast engineers come from? Hofstra University in New York seems like a good source. Marc Silverman is a student and he's the student director of engineering at WRHU FM. Marc joins Chris Tobin and Kirk Harnack to talk about learning broadcast engineering by example and by doing.
Hey, welcome in. It's time for This Week in Radio Tech. I'm Kirk Harnack. I'm glad that you're with us. This is the show where we talk about radio technology, usually engineering stuff, sometimes a little bit of management and philosophy. We talk about anything from the microphone, I know I keep tapping that, to the light bulb at the top of the tower and everything in between, including AM and FM transmission, streaming, digital stuff, and even old analog stuff. We have a good time here.
I'm in a different location than usual. You can see I'm not in the usual TWiRT studio in Nashville, Tennessee. I'm at the world headquarters of Delta Radio and South Seas Broadcasting in Las Vegas, Nevada. That's where I am. It doesn't really matter where I am though. Chris Tobin will be joining us in just a few minutes. He's getting connected.
Let's go ahead and introduce our guest right now. He's standing by. We'll start talking in a minute. At the last minute, we had a little change. First of all to let you know, that a fellow named Jeremy Ruck was scheduled to be our guest today. He had an emergency to handle. He's on the road right now so he couldn't be with us. He's going to be on a later show.
Jeremy is somebody I really want you to tune in for. He is a fantastic broadcast and consulting engineer from Peoria, Illinois. I've known Jeremy for a long time. He's done some incredible work. He'll be joining us on a future show.
But, we have a real treat for you. I love talking to younger engineers. I love getting them on the show. Chris Tobin suggested we talk to this guy, Marc Silverman. Marc, welcome in. How are you?
Marc: I'm doing very well. Thank you for having me today.
Kirk: Thank you for filling in so quickly and being our guest.
Kirk: We met for the first time about 15 minutes ago. I'm glad to have you on the show. I'll tell you what, Marc. We're going to, as I say, keep our powder dry for the big interview, but tell me real quick what's your title, what station are you at, and where is it?
Marc: I'm currently in Studio North of WHRU FM here in Hempstead, New York, 88.7 FM on the FM dial. My exact title is student technical director. I work with the chief audio engineer in terms of fixing things, everything from working with our computer systems to fixing microphones. Pretty much everything either runs through me or runs through the chief engineer.
Kirk: Awesome. Do you guys have some television work there as well or is it all radio?
Marc: WHRU is strictly radio. We've been radio for as long as the station has been around, since, I think, the early '40s. We're within the Hofstra School of Communications. The School of Communications also does have a television program as well. We do some work with them every once in a while.
Kirk: Cool. I see a TV monitor behind you there in the studio.
Kirk: I wondered about that. It looks like one of those high dollar, expensive - we used to use them all the time in studios, the four by three monitor.
Marc: Of course. That's actually the security monitor. I turned it off because no one wants to see outside. To the right of that is our actual nice flat screen. We can get Hofstra Television and use it. We've done stuff with them for sporting events. We actually did last month, we had a live band on the television side and we actually simulcast it on to the radio. We used our different equipment to get that on air.
Kirk: That's a great opportunity. That's cool. We're going to be talking with Marc Silverman about his journey in learning about broadcast engineering, what got him interested in that, how he got into what he's doing now, and where he's going on from there - what he has to look forward to. I'm really curious. The learning process to me is fascinating.
I learned by beating my head against the wall a whole lot. I learned how electronics worked by getting shocked a few times. I learned where all of the electrons hang out. Marc, stand by. Chris Tobin is going to be joining us soon. We're going to have a great conversation about the learning process and how we get to where we are. I've kind of forgotten.
Our show is brought to you in part by my friends at Omnia. There's a great, brand new, being introduced at this NAB show, the Omnia.7. A lot of folks love the Omnia.9 processor, but you know what? It's a little bit spendy. If you need what it does, you can afford it. Stations like mine, smaller, small market stations, I'm not sure that we can afford an Omnia.9. The Omnia.7 has so much going for it built in, inside. It's just amazing.
First of all with the Omnia.7, you're not paying for stuff you don't need. If you want to add, say, parallel HD processing and streaming, or if you want to add RDS capability to it, you can add that. You can license those things and add those, but if you don't need them you don't pay for them. The Omnia.7 processor designed primarily by Leif Claesson but also great hardware design by our staff of engineers at the Telos Alliance, it has a list price of under $6,000. That is truly, truly amazing.
What doesn't it have that the Omnia.9 has? Well, let's see. The Omnia.7 tops out at a five band processor. If you want that seven band that the Omnia.9 has, you need to get the Omnia.9. If five bands will do you, and for most people, it will, check out the Omnia.7.
Also, the Omnia.7 does have built into it this fantastic Undo technology. This is what takes records, songs that have been maybe a little over processed to try to be loud on an MP3 or a download but it's really clipped, well, the Omnia.7 has the Undo technology built into it, just like the Omnia.9. This is really some fantastic tech that makes the song... You start out your processing with a much cleaner sound. On some tracks, it makes a huge, huge difference.
It has some beautiful pre-processing in it, three sections of automatic gain control before you even get to the multi-band processing. Something else that's key in the Omnia.7, it does have Leif Claesson's stereo embedder. This is a little bit different concept than a stereo generator. What it does, here's an analogy. It gives you a room that's bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. Crazy.
It can make your mod monitors read up to 140% left/right demodulated audio, still keeping 100% total composite modulation. What that means is you can run your FM station perfectly legal and be louder on the air because of the way the stereo embedder embeds the left and right channels into the composite. It's amazing. It's so cool and such a great idea. Lots more things to find out about it too.
If you would, check it out. Go to the website. The easiest thing to do is go to TelosAlliance.com, click on "Omnia", and then click on the "Omnia.7" and read all about it.
I'm going to be doing a video about it in the coming weeks right after NAB. We'll explain more about it. You can get your hands on one now. They're shipping right now, the Omnia.7 from Omnia Audio. Thanks Omnia for sponsoring This Week in Radio Tech.
Hey, Chris Tobin, are you with us?
Chris: I am here.
Kirk: All right.
Chris: Can you hear me?
Kirk: Absolutely. Yeah, you're plenty loud. Where are you today?
Chris: It turns out the studio setup I was on was on Wi-Fi. I believe it was going through two hops. I started noticing a few things when I restarted the machine. I've come to the terminal room. As you can see behind me the punch blocks, the traditional 66 blocks. I quickly threw Skype on a PC, got my headset out of the bag as my emergency backup plan B, and here I am.
Kirk: That's awesome. That's great. The mark of a great engineer, that sounds like MacGyver. You just MacGyver-ed that situation, didn't you?
Chris: I have my travel kit and in it is all the headsets for the ultimate "Oh my goodness, everything else has failed. Let's see what happens with USB device and it works."
Kirk: Wow. Chris, I've got to warn you. Today, I had to be on battery. It looks like I may not make it through the whole show. This five, six, seven hour battery in the MacBook Pro, that only counts when you're not doing anything. I'm powering the focus right. It's not going to last the whole hour. You're going to be finishing up the show with Marc Silverman. Speaking of Marc - I forgot one thing. Chris Tobin, you're the proprietor there at IPCodecs.com. Tell us where people can find you.
Chris: Yes. Real simple, straightforward: email@example.com. That'll get to me.
Kirk: All right. If you need advice on IP codecs, that's Chris's expertise, video or audio. All right. Marc Silverman is here. We got introduced to Marc a few minutes ago. Marc, man, start where you like. I want to understand, first of all, how you got interested in the engineering topic as it relates to broadcasting. This is pretty fascinating.
Marc: I guess for me it would start back in, I would say high school. My high school had a little, tiny TV station, only internal. For some reason, I was always just fascinated how it all worked and how everything connected with each other and how basically it all became.
Then, lo and behold, Hofstra which was nice, my dad was actually was here at the radio station back when it was WVHC. This was back in the '80s. He kind of has, throughout my years growing up, has brought me around the station, seeing what's gone on, what we've done.
So ever since growing up with Hofstra and ever since high school, really, I've wanted to get into radio. It just turns out that I fell into understanding computers and realizing computers can do a lot. Computers run most of this radio station. You need people that can actually do the engineering part behind it.
I realized from an early age I'm not really the person to be on the air, per se. I was always fascinated how the fact that I could push this "on" button and all of a sudden I was on the air. That's why I kind of folded into it when I joined the radio station as quick as I could.
Kirk: Got you. Hofstra, you guys in the Northeast know all about that. For those of us who know nothing about Hofstra, we're SEC fans here, tell me about Hofstra and the tradition of WRHU radio there. I know you've been picked as the best college station in the country.
Marc: Yeah. Last year, in 2014 we won 2014 best non-commercial radio station Marconi Award, which was absolutely awesome, and we were voted best non-commercial radio station from the Princeton Review, which was really cool. WHRU, which used to be WVHC and all the way back to, pretty much, the start off Hofstra used to be something called the Hofstra Community. It had a tiny, maybe 5 watt FM transmitter on top of the Playhouse actually. Up until I believe the late 1970s or early '80s, they were still broadcasting from on top of the Playhouse.
None of these studios that you see, the one I'm in or any of them at Hofstra really existed. Over the years, the program has just kind of grown and exploded. Honestly, it's probably one of the best things that I've been involved with ever. Really, Hofstra building the School of Communication back in the early '90s to integrate television and radio, you can be a television major, you can be a radio major. They really give you a great opportunity to figure out what you want to do with your life and get into the broadcast industry.
Kirk: Are there other engineers, people that work with you, students that are in student broadcast engineering? Are you kind of a lone wolf there?
Marc: For the most part, I'm a lone wolf. I've been told that I'm the most critical lone wolf that we have at the station, especially when sports decides to act up and not actually connect on the road. For the most part, there isn't really, per se, there's no degree towards this. There's no specific motivation for other people.
A lot of people when they come to the station, they want to be on air. The nice part about WHRU is that once you go through the training class, you can do whatever you want. If you just want to host a music show, if you want to do sports, news, talk radio, pretty much anything, there's a little bit of it all here at Hofstra, which is awesome.
Then there's the engineering field. Anybody who wants to become involved, I've always been more than happy to show them around. That's kind of how I got involved. The technical director before me showed me around when I was in the training class and said, "Hey, this can all be yours. You can pick up on all of it." That's how I slowly became in after we did the training class, which was awesome.
Kirk: Aside from being at a high level, a lot of encouragement, your website looks great. You have a lot of student participation, a lot of fun. On the one hand, is the programming kind of typical college programming?
Marc: We try not to be. We do have a little bit of everything. We have morning talk radio in the morning. We have Top 40, alternative music, classical music, jazz music. It is, yeah, I guess it is kind of your college, all together, you have everything.
However, because we have the training class, I, at least me personally, feel like we up our quality a little bit. Since we have a long history, we also have past engineers come and help us with the on-air quality. We have great people that actually work with us.
One of our professionals in residence who actually helps us, his name is Ed Ingles. He was at CBS tons of years. He's done everything in news, sports. He's probably, what I would call, a legend in CBS news radio. He's guided us in terms of speaking on air, how to work at different press events, and really everything quality wise. To me, we sound pretty good. I could understand why everyone says we're a college radio station.
Kirk: If you wouldn't mind, it's been a few years since I think I've been at a college radio station, take us on a little verbal tour of your station equipment wise. In your pictures online, I see lots of Electro-Voice microphones. I think I see a Harris digital console. Give us an idea of what's going on there equipment wise.
Marc: I wish it was a Harris digital console. These are all Electro-Voice microphones in every studio. We have two studios. We have a main on-air studio, which is Air Studio South, and the backup on-air which is the studio I'm currently in, Air Studio North.
All of them are exactly mirrored with each other. Basically, to the right of me, which you can't really see on camera, I have a Pacific research and engineering analog and digital console that basically runs the entire station along with a selector from RCS. That's pretty much, in terms of equipment, what we use for the main on-air product.
From core wise, the selector is really what does it. Then we have ISDNs, but they're all Telos basic ISDNs. I think they're Zephyrs. Telos ONE X Six for the phone system. What's really nice is through the router, like other big radio stations, we just recently upgraded our RCS system to the point that we can actually go on air from the backup studio fully, which is something that kind of fell by the wayside in the past couple of years. Now we can actually basically do maintenance on the main machine in South and be completely still on the air in North, which is pretty awesome.
Kirk: I'm sorry to interrupt you on the tour here. So often that's the case where all the focus goes into one on-air computer and everything. Then you have a computer problem and you end up playing CDs from the production room for three days.
Marc: Yeah. Unfortunately we have a nice wall of CDs that we've done plenty of, I cannot tell you how many times we've done shows of CDs. Our selector used to be not as stable as it is now. Ever since we put in new hardware, we built new computers for it, got everything updated to Windows 7. We only went to Windows 7, I want to say, three months ago, which is pretty crazy. Now that we're fully on Windows 7 and now the fact that Studio North, which I'm in, is an actual duplicate of the other studio, there's been a lot more, I guess, "redundancy" really is the word for it, which is something that I don't think in my now, three going on four years here have seen.
Kirk: Got you. Yeah. Hey, Chris Tobin, have you been to the facilities there at Hofstra?
Chris: Hofstra, WRHU, let me think. Yes I have, actually. I've actually been working with those guys for years when they were back in the smaller studios in the basement of the building.
Kirk: Good, okay. Thanks for not making fun of me. I didn't know.
Chris: I'm only kidding. Marc knows. I've worked with the guys over the years. I'm one of the engineers that come from time to time from industry to help them out. I was there way back in the day when Jeff Kraus was the student, I guess the faculty member that was moving the broadcast curriculum along and instilling in the university that there was something to be done here. That was 20 years ago, now that I think about it.
Marc: If not more.
Chris: If not more, yeah. The new facility that Marc is talking about that he described was built as a result of Jeff's leadership and push to make it happen. Now their current general manager, Bruce Avery, is carrying the torch and moving it along. It's a great program. The students have access to so many things. It's amazing.
Kirk: Hey, I'm sorry, maybe I just missed it, but you said your consoles were not digital? Which consoles do I see?
Marc: It's a Pacific research and engineering console actually. Hopefully you can see it. There you go. That's it.
Kirk: Okay. Sorry, I didn't recognize that. Okay.
Marc: It's the air wave.
Kirk: Okay. Cool. When I have been to college stations, the engineer who's typically really worried about his audio processing and says, "I've got students who just run the board all over the map." Some think minus 20 is the right level. Some think plus 5 is the right level. What do you guys do for processing? How do you adjust that processing so that it accommodates everybody?
Marc: Very recently actually we did upgrade our air chain, probably about a week or so ago. We put in a compiler to level out all the levels going out to the transmitter. At the transmitter itself, we finally got an Omnia - not one of the new ones that you were describing from before, but probably from the late 1990s. Since then, the levels have kind of been pretty consistent throughout.
What's also really nice is through the training class, it's about a six week program that everybody has to go through. They get taught proper level taking, making sure that everything sounds good, listening off-air, listening on-air. I think that, at least, besides cleaning up the air chain, I think just the training class itself has helped a lot of people learn what the proper level is for radio.
Kirk: Yeah. Your audio program there, and I'm sorry if you already said this, is the music quite varied in what you play?
Marc: Yeah. We have probably a little bit of everything. Almost every two hours there's a new music changeover. It sounds pretty much like typical college radio. We start in the morning, 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. with our morning show. 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. we do our Top 40 show. 11:00 to 1:00 p.m. we do our alternative nation show. 1:00 to 4:00 we do jazz. 4:00 to 5:30 we do our classic rock programming. 5:30 to 6:00 we do our news program. 6:00 to about 7:00 is really where we have our community focus radio.
7:00 o'clock on, we do Air Wave, sports. Air Wave is coincidentally the name of the board, but Air Wave is also kind of like indie-rock music show. That pretty much runs for most of the night until about 11 o'clock where we start doing country music. Over the night we do aggressive edge and different types of grunge music, per se. That keeps going 24 hours.
Kirk: You mentioned that the first audio processor in your chain is a compeller. That's an Aphex compellor, right?
Marc: I believe so, yeah.
Kirk: That is a great box for a station where you're never quite exactly sure where the level is going to be because, in the industry it's always been known as the processor that is good at taking any crazy input level and giving you something reasonable out, without really affecting the sound or the timbre of the programming.
I remember being at a commercial station in Memphis talking to the engineer. The first thing in his chain was an Aphex compellor. He looked at the compellor and he said, "Oh look, Tom must be on the air." I said, "How do you know?" He said, "Look what the compellor is doing. He's running it wide open. He's really hitting it hard." He had the compellor for the same reason. If you're coming out of the compellor left and right, is your transmitter there at the studio or is it off site?
Marc: No. Actually, coincidentally, the transmitter is across the street. Hofstra, for those who don't know, is split into campus north and campus south. Campus north, which is across Hempstead Turnpike as we're divided by a major road, campus north is all of the dorms. Actually, through Jeffrey Kraus as Chris mentioned before, he actually got the university to put our transmitter, four bay antenna, on top of one of the residential buildings. It's on Tower C, Constitution. Actually, I believe at the time it was one of the highest points in Long Island. Actually, it sent, believe it or not, fiber from our studios across the Hempstead Turnpike back up to Constitution.
Kirk: Got you. Okay. How is it that you're getting your left and right audio over to the transmitter where I think you said your main audio processor is?
Marc: After it leaves the compellor, it goes through the Pro-Bel router. From our router it goes into our fiber box. We actually send the fiber across Hempstead Turnpike, which was installed, thankfully, some people may know Hofstra from having the debates we had in 2008 and 2012 for the presidential debates. I believe through the 2008 debate, they installed the fiber box that actually gets it up to Constitution. From Constitution, we then convert it back into left and right, and then through the Omnia processor.
Kirk: Got you. A lot of folks are able to rig up some kind of a backup link between the studio and the transmitter site. It sounds like you don't have that opportunity there. You've got this link, yeah?
Marc: Surprisingly, the original connection up there was actually copper. That is still in place. There is actually a relay up there, so we do feed the analog copper straight up. Thankfully, that's run by the university. If we have any problems with it, they can pretty much repair it, if need be. For the most part, we have a relay up there that if the fiber dies for whatever reason, within about, I think, half a second it kicks over to the analog. You do hear a little drop in level, but you're still on the air and it still sounds pretty good.
Kirk: That's fine. We're doing so much digital now days in so many applications, but there's nothing wrong with a nice, balanced pair of copper wires.
Marc: Not at all.
Kirk: You terminate each end with a good quality transformer. Everybody's favorite is typically what that Western Electric 111C transformer. That thing was pretty flat up to 50 kilohertz. That can be a very good sounding system. Wow. After that, you go into an older Omnia processor. Tell me about what's after that. Tell me about the transmitter.
Marc: We actually very nicely just got donated, I believe it is a Harris Digit CD FM exciter, which we just got put in. Yeah, a Harris Digit CD FM exciter. We just put it in. That puts out about 10 watts. Then we get it set into broadcast engineering FM 200C transmitter, which bumps it to about 250 watts out.
Kirk: Got you. What class of station is that? It's in the educational band, right?
Marc: Yeah, it's in the educational band. I want to say we're class C. I would have to look it up.
Kirk: Maybe Chris would know. I don't know. Cs are typically 100,000 watts. It's typically an A that's lower.
Marc: It may be A.
Kirk: Yeah. Maybe it's some other class I'm not aware of. It's been there a long time though.
Marc: Yeah. We've been on the air for a long time. Let me see if I can look this up.
Kirk: You said there's a four-band antenna on top of a dorm. Do people ever raise questions or concerns, like, "Oh, what's that? I'm getting hit with all that RF energy."
Marc: Actually, we're a class A station I found out, actually. We're a class A, yeah. Non-commercial class A. Actually, I think a lot of that has kind of gone away. Most people just don't notice, which is really funny. Whenever we have to go in through the dorm security to actually go up to the transmitter room, there have been plenty of times where, yeah, we have to go into the transmitter room.
They're like, "You have to go where now?" "Yeah, we've got to go up to the 13th floor," which is the common room in the building. They go, "There are no rooms on the 13th floor." I said, "I know. There's a transmitter room on the 13th floor. We need to go there." We've had public safety called on us probably three or four times. Public safety knows it exists, but the people that run the dorms have no idea, which is pretty funny.
Kirk: That's great. All right. First of all, you're watching This Week in Radio Tech, or listening to it. I'm Kirk Harnack along with Chris Tobin and Marc Silverman is our guest. Marc is the student technical director at WRHU FM at Hofstra University.
I love talking about engineering with younger engineers. I used to be one. It's just great to hear about the excitement and the passion that younger engineers like Marc have for learning about the technology that we use to hopefully make great audio come out of people's radios, and all of the stuff that goes into that.
Our show is brought to you in part by the folks at Lawo. That's L-A-W-O. If you go to their website, it's L-A-W-O, Lawo.com. It's a German company. Maybe that has something to do with the pronunciation. Philip Lawo is there. He runs the company now.
Lawo, if you're not familiar with them, they make really big audio consoles - big, expensive, gorgeous audio consoles. They also have a line of smaller consoles for radio broadcasters. They have a console they introduced one year ago at the NAB show in 2014. I understand they've made some improvements to it now, some software tweaks and stuff. If you're coming to NAB, I encourage you to go to the Lawo booth and have a look at it.
Michael Dosch is in charge of virtual radio products at Lawo. On their website, we just saw a moment ago about the crystalCLEAR console. There is a video there, Michael Dosch giving a tour of how this console works. I think this is really fascinating. Of course the console has, like so many consoles do nowadays, it has a rack mounted mixing engine. In this mix engine this is where you bring in your microphones, your analog, stereo sources, or mono, your AES, EBU. Digital sources come into the back of it as well. Up to 24 sources can come into the back of this one rack unit. It's pretty small. A one rack unit mixing engine.
There are also Ethernet ports on the back. You can make it compatible with RAVENNA or AES67. The RAVENNA spec includes most of what AES67 is. You can plug right into the rest of an AoIP environment using AES67, or if you have other Ravenna equipment you can plug right into that as well on your network. The mixing engine, of course it does all the mixing, but how do you control it?
That's pretty cool, because at Lawo they have a standard hardware controller, their Crystal console, but they have another way to control it. It's called their crystalCLEAR console. This is actually a PC running Windows 8 and running an app. The app is a full screen audio console. They make this run on a touch screen that is a multi-touch touch screen monitor. This means you can take two, three, four up to all ten fingers, it's a ten touch touchscreen, and move faders, push buttons, and do all of your mixing right there on the screen. More folks are getting used to this.
There's another application where BSI, the automation company, made an on-screen iPad application. More people are getting used to this concept. The folks at Lawo have really made this work well. The buttons, for example, if you build a console entirely in software, you can have all the buttons be entirely context sensitive.
That means you push a button to change an option and that button only gives you the options that are applicable to what you're doing. If it's a microphone, if it's a codec, if it's a hybrid, when you push an options button to make a little change, it has for you the changes that are applicable to what you're doing. There's not a lot of stuff to ignore, in other words. Of course, you could have presets for the scenes for the console.
If you mess up the console in some way, "Whoops, what did I push? I don't know." There's a panic button. It restores the console to however you were using it before you messed it up. It's really cool. Again, it's touch screen, multi-touch, and I hear that people like this thing. If you want to check it out, do so at the Lawo website. L-A-W-O.com. Look for radio products and then look for the crystalCLEAR audio console.
If you're at NAB, I encourage you to stop by the Lawo booth, meet Michael Dosch, and let him show you around, give you a tour of their virtual radio products including the crystalCLEAR audio console. Thanks Lawo for sponsoring This Week in Radio Tech.
Here we are. It's Kirk Harnack in Las Vegas at the world headquarters of South Seas Broadcasting and Delta Radio, a couple of stations that I'm involved with. Chris Tobin is here as well from IPCodecs.com. Chris is back in some switch room somewhere, aren't you Chris?
Chris: Yeah, it's a terminal room, servers as well - FTP servers, automation system servers, satellite down links. What else do we have here? STL audio, T1 frames. Yeah, it's a pretty busy room.
Kirk: Also, over your shoulder, I'm not sure which it is, to me it's your left shoulder, there's an audio generator. It looks like if we need a tone on the show, you're going to be able to give it to us.
Chris: Absolutely. This is the classic Potomac audio tuner AG51. Look at that. Come on now. I also have the analyzer down below on the floor.
Kirk: Beautiful. That's great, man.
Chris: I'm telling you, people don't realize how good these things are.
Kirk: They are. On the show here, our guest is Marc Silverman. Marc is the student technical director at WHRU at Hofstra University. Marc, you've run us through a little description of the consoles, a little bit of your routing situation, and then your audio processing and transmitter. We were just talking about the antenna when we had to take a break there.
I'm so close to being out of battery that I'm going to have to let you and Chris talk for a while. I'll be back in a few minutes. I was thinking you guys could start to delve into this subject of engineers learning engineering. Marc, where are you stubbing your toe? What things trip you up? What things are you really excited to learn about with enthusiasm? You guys take off and I'll rejoin you in a few minutes.
Chris: Sounds good. All right Marc, let's think of this. Your first week on the job, so to speak, at the radio station. Were you working side by side with somebody like Mark Weiner or anyone, or no?
Marc: Yeah. Originally I was working with our previous chief engineer Joe DeRosa. Then we started working being fed in with Mark Weiner who is currently our interim chief audio engineer.
Chris: Okay. Your first week or two at the station, what did you encounter? What was the thing that you remember the best because it was something so out of left field because you're not familiar with it?
Marc: I think the thing I remembered best was actually being introduced to the routing panel for the first time and the whole concept of doing a mix-minus. We have the wonderful opportunity to have the New York Islanders and actually broadcast their games on our station. The whole concept of using ISDN and a mix-minus feed to them through the router panel was probably the one thing I remember the most. It's surprisingly the one thing I had the most trouble with first understanding.
Now I look at it and I go, "Okay, this needs to go here, here, and here." I believe that was really the first week I was like, "Whoa, this is pretty incredible." Then, not to mention the fact with our audio console having automation. When I was done doing our tracking hour which we do through our training class, having to put in an automation and realizing the radio station just kind of runs itself. As long as the two faders are up, the thing will just go. That was pretty eye opening for me.
Chris: Good. That's the same thing that most people who start in the business, whether it be non-commercial, commercial experience the same. That's a good feeling. Working with a routing switcher can be an interesting experience because you have to understand the difference of source and destination. Which button do you press first? Is it the source or the destination?
Marc: Ours would be the source first because we have a preset window. You pick the source. Each panel, this one is a four panel behind me, a four panel destination, and then you figure out what you want. It's the source first then the destination, which is really confusing when I studied for TV. Because TV, our old, we had a Pacer router on the TV side. That used to be destination first and then source. That would always trip me up trying to go back and forth between the two.
Chris: Right. That's like in the old days of audio patch bays. The top bay of the patch bay was typically the output. The bottom row was the input. Over time, they sort of got transposed. If you're somebody who did a lot of work with patch bays, you made the assumption that the top row was the output. You'd be breaking audio circuits and going crazy. That's good.
Of the students at WHRU, who else gets to work with you? I know you have the sports crew that goes out and sets up on the road. Do you get to work with other students? Which programs are they participating in, or curriculums, at the university to help them along by working at the radio station?
Marc: Most of my friends are either journalism majors, there's a few radio majors and a lot of them are also TV majors. Pretty much everyone in the station is within the school of comm. For the most part, engineering really for me is open to anybody. Most people that I work with specifically are the sports people because they're the ones who actually take the equipment the most and go out and actually have to come back and remote into the studio for the most.
They're the ones that I got to give them a quick nickel and dime tour of the audio board, have them set up a mix-minus route for us for ISDN and what not. They're usually the ones that use the equipment the most. However, we do some music events. We do some music events. We do news events a lot. We do election nights, local elections. Two years ago, I was invited to go to cover Bill de Blasio's election in New York, which was pretty cool.
Chris: Nice. Very nice. You work alongside some of industry's well known journalists, Ed Ingles. Those of us who are in the New York City metro are quite familiar with the name. When they hear the voice, they know. He's one of many legacy journalists here in the city. I'm curious, what do you take away from sitting and talking with Ed? I know what I've taken away because I've talked to him on many occasions.
What's it like to be able to sit with someone coming from a background of zero, not really having everything for broadcast, and sitting with a gentleman who has seen, who has reported, who has had the opportunity to participate in life moments over the last 30 or 40 years. What's it like to be able to sit there and have a one on one in an environment that just allows you to act like a sponge and absorb everything?
Marc: I have to say it's absolutely incredible. I have absorbed as much as I could from Ed. Ed is every day full of new stories. He's done so much with everything. He's been pretty much every major event in the last 30 or 40 years he's had a part of. Honestly for us, the students, and myself included, we've learned so much. We've grown in how to improve our on-air quality, vocal speaking techniques, everything that he's taught us which has been really amazing.
I may be a little biased here being a Hofstra student, but honestly I don't think I would get the same experience at any other college radio station, mostly just because of Ed and the amount of alumni we have that come help us back. Ed, I have to say, every day he has a new story for me of something he's done. He's told me stories. He had lunch with Malcolm X and all of these things. To him it's nothing.
It's like, "Oh yeah, I did that a couple of years ago." To us it's like, "Wait, you did what now? With who? How did this happen?" Honestly, he's just so full of joy. He loves what he does and working with us. Honestly, I think to him, he just loves to give back to us and actually see the next generation of broadcasters grow.
Chris: Excellent. For those who don't know, Ed is formerly, actually probably still working with, he's from the WCBS news radio 880 here in New York City. It's the old news station. I had the honor of working with his counterpart at the rival across town at one time, 1010 WINS, Stan Brooks. Stan and Ed Ingles come from a period of time in journalism that I think is something we won't see much of.
Your opportunity to talk with Ed and hear about Malcolm X is what I experienced working with Stan Brooks when he would tell me about his time at Attica in New York, the prison riots, and being tear gassed and what it was like, to name a few things.
I can appreciate what you're experiencing in talking with him, working in a professional environment with folks of Ed's caliber is priceless. Take advantage of it. He is definitely one person that loves to pass the torch. He's a great guy to know and work with. That's really good.
At Hofstra, when you're working with students, what can somebody take away? You're at the university. You're a student at the university. You're a part of the journalism or the communications curriculum. Where can you see yourself going after you've worked a couple of years at the station, you've worked different departments? Name some folks if you can that have moved on and have enjoyed the fruits of their labor.
Marc: Sure. Our graduate, we had about, I believe he's a year out now, Kevin Dexter, who's now doing updates. He works at News 12 here on Long Island doing sports updates. He does actually weekends and overnights for 1010 WINS doing sports updates. I'm trying to think who else we've had come out. Our list of alumni even in the past, we've had a ton of people.
One of the most famous people that we've had, and his name is escaping me now, which is kind of embarrassing. That's going to bother me. I'll probably have to get back to that. Really, what's nice about WRHU, especially being in the New York market is you are, right as soon as you get out of the training class, you are on the air. You can do whatever you want, any kind of department.
What's really nice is this is the only place to me that you can really get pre-professional development. We treat it as such. We treat it like a real 100,000 watt flamethrower radio station. You can come out of here and say, "Hey, I've worked in a New York City market on a real non-commercial radio station." Not to mention we've won the Marconi Award this past year.
Say, "Hey, I can work. I know what I've done. This is what I've done. I have on-air product to show you and actually show you what I've done. These are the types of tools that I've worked with."
What's really nice about Hofstra is WRHU and Hofstra give you the tools to work. Basically, from what I see here it's pretty much the same thing I see out in the real world. The transition period is nothing. To an employer, to me at least, that's great. They say, "Hey, you can do this already. You're hired," for the most part. You've got to pay back that piece of paper, as they say.
Chris: Yes, absolutely. It's good to know that you have folks like Bruce Avery and John Mullins who are from the industry who help the students understand what it is that you'll need, the tools or the skill sets, as the phrase would be, as to how to make it. You're right. I've worked where the university in New York City, the city university many years ago.
We had a lot of students graduate and move onto places like Z100 in New York City, Power 99 in Philadelphia, Sirius XM Radio to this day. They too benefitted from a curriculum that sort of mimicked the commercial world without the commercials. It's good to see that WRHU is utilizing the same template and getting the same results. That's nice.
With technology shifting and changing the way it has been for everybody, both at home and in the workplace, how have you guys at the radio station managed to sort of take advantage of the new technologies or at least learn them or be aware of them or mix your old legacy stuff with the new stuff? I know a lot of stadiums that you probably go to are venues that have rebuilt their facilities. They may not have ISDN or pots anymore as we used to know them.
Marc: Yeah. That's been a struggle. Especially at the university level, we really don't have that big of a budget, per se. A lot of times we are doing things on a shoestring and a prayer for the most part.We do try to keep our equipment up and running with what we have. Especially with ISDN, what we've run into, thankfully most hockey arenas that we've had to go to all have ISDN.
However, we have run into an issue. I know you know this story, Chris. We actually were doing a game in New Jersey. We had our ISDN lines cut. We slowly, over the past couple of years, the NHL has been talking about moving to an IP based system. We've done, for our basketball remote broadcasts, especially now that these older arenas just don't have the ISDN or the pots as you say, we've now used through Music Cam's Road Warrior [sounds like 00:43:11] and Supremas [sounds like 00:43:12] have been able to do IP remote broadcast, which has been really awesome.
The quality was tremendous. Especially when we had to do New York Islanders hockey on IP because the ISDN lines were cut, that quality was probably the best sounding I've heard the Islanders connection-wise since I've been doing the games. Especially when the ISDN lines are not that reliable, the IP has really come in handy.
Chris: With audio, things change. It makes sense. Oh, Kirk is back.
Kirk: Hey. That's fascinating. I've been listening for a while. That's fascinating to hear you say that. The industry impression is that IP is not as reliable as ISDN. Honestly, at Telos the company I work for full time, because we have a support department that gets a lot of phone calls, a lot of enquiries, "How do I fix that?" Believe me, we know that ISDN has plenty of problems. As all the engineers at the telcos retire, go away, get laid off, whatever, it's going to have more problems.
The key to IP, and Marc maybe you can tell us a bit about your experience, the key to IP is understanding how it works so you can understand how to work it.
When it has a problem, you have some tools to figure out, is this my problem? Is it this particular carrier? Should we just disconnect and try again? Should we try a different carrier? Maybe you can take me through some of the things that you've learned and maybe you and Chris learned together about hooking up and then troubleshooting IP audio connections.
Marc: Yeah, definitely. Like you were saying before, we're very lucky that we still have ISDN. We have people that can actually can service the ISDN lines here. Thankfully, there is someone fully on staff at Hofstra through the Hofstra Telco that can still do ISDN. We were talking to Verizon not too long ago. We had to do a remote up in the baseball hall of fame. Verizon was very hesitant about installing an ISDN line. They wound up doing it but they were saying, "Listen. This is really it. You really can't get any more."
In terms of what we've done with IP, all of this entire basketball season we've gone to arenas in the CAA which is the Colonial Athletic Association, which Hofstra participates in, down in Virginia. We went as far as, I believe, it wasn't this year, but maybe last year we went as far as Texas.
Really, IP, we have run into our walls. A lot of it is, when we connect with these universities we're running through their Sports Information Director. For our problems, for the most part, we say, "Hey, we kind of know our device needs to go on this port. We need to make sure that we're not going to be blocked by a firewall. It's not really a computer, however it is a Linux box. It only does audio. It can't create viruses on your network."
Really, the issue we've run into a lot of times is it's trying to translate it from the SID, the Sports Information Director's position up until the IT manager. Really, when we've gotten to sites where it's worked great and they've got that information across.
Then we've run into sites where they had no idea what we were talking about. Their only suggestion was, "We can give you another port." At that point, we've done troubleshooting. Unfortunately, we've had to do games on Wi-Fi, which have been iffy. Once we've done the troubleshooting, and we've kind of got it down to a science now. We know what we need and we know for the most part who we have to contact to get that information to them.
Ever since we did the troubleshooting and figuring out what we have to translate to them, and the correct wording, I would say, of making sure that they know that this isn't going to cause any viruses. You don't have to throw up eight red flags on your network. As long as you put us into the DMZ, we're pretty much good to go. We won't really bother you after that. After we got that taken care of, for the most part we've been pretty much good to go.
We did actually, Hofstra's women's basketball team was in the CAA championships from upper Marlboro, Maryland, which is an arena called the Showplace Arena, which has been around for, I think, the early '30s or '40s. Don't quote me on that. They only had ethernet. They did not have ISDN. They did not have pots. We were trying to get in contact with them. It turns out it worked really well. It stayed up the entire three hours or four hours that we did a broadcast. It sounded really good.
Kirk: One of the things that I like, and I'm sure Chris Tobin feels the same way. One of the things we like about IP is that ISDN has been around for 20 plus years. It's not technically any better than it was 20 years ago. It's exactly the same. One of the nice things about it is, okay, there's a point of demarcation. For the engineer, if it doesn't work, "Not my problem, not my fault. It may be my problem, but it's not my fault."
You call the telco and you say, "Here. Make it work at this point." Oftentimes, they would. But, with IP, you've got to take more responsibility than before. Maybe you've got to deal with other IT personnel who don't really get what you need it for. If you get that solved, guess what. You can do not 128 kilobits per second - you can be doing 256 or 384. We've even done plenty of experiments in some remotes with linear audio at 2.5 megabits per second.
The possibilities for quality improvement are really fantastic. I think it's worth the effort. We're going to reach a day when this becomes so standard. Hey, Marc, before you got involved with ISDN, it used to be that ordering ISDN was a super pain. I wish I knew the history, but somehow they came up with ordering feature set S, as in Sierra. If you ordered that, your ISDN would be provisioned correctly. We need a feature set S for IP.
Something that I've found often works is tell the IT guy on the campus, "What I'm hooking up is similar to a VoIP phone." If it works for a Voice over IP phone extension to the outside world, it's probably going to work okay for us - maybe higher bit rate.
Marc: Some of the problems we've really had with Hofstra, with just IT general and not only Hofstra. Is, a lot of people and I'm sure you guys have run into this, they don't understand the concept of what you need for broadcast IT and what you need for regular computer IT networks. A lot of times they are two separate networks.
Mark Weiner who I work with here used to work at CBS. He told me that when he was at CBS they have a department dedicated strictly for broadcast IT and a department for everybody else, sales, all that department.
I think that's really blended in recent years, at least at Hofstra. When we've tried to get ports open at Hofstra, they wouldn't do it. They wouldn't even let us install our own web-streaming servers. They wanted complete control. They wanted specific specifications.
We said, "Okay, fine." We actually went outside and brought in Cable Vision, which is the local ISP here. We've been able to control our own infrastructure. We're, I think, the only place on campus that's allowed to do that, mostly because Hofstra didn't want to open the ports. They were too afraid of this and that.
Kirk: Chris, I think that's a great solution for a lot of folks. I know I've been to a couple of commercial broadcasters whose IT department - I get it. The IT department is responsible for not letting a virus come in, for complying with various laws for publicly held companies. They've got to understand, and the've got to understand desktop computers and OS's and servers.
They don't necessarily get an appliance that's going to be doing some UDP packets back and forth. I get where they're coming from, but I think a great solution for a lot of folks is, "Give me a separate drop. It's not part of the campus network at all. You're not responsible. Let me have a cable TV or a DSL drop." Chris, what do you think about that solution?
Chris: Yeah, that's perfectly normal. As networks and IP become more prevalent and becomes the mainstay, which it pretty much is, proper network management requires you to either create VLANs within your physical network, or you create two physical networks. Marc is correct. At CBS, they do have various departments for various business units. I can tell you that the news division has its own IT group with its own network, which has VLAN capability across to the corporate LAN.
Without the corporate LAN, there are a group of folks who specialize with the broadcasters. Then there's a group that specialize for what we'll call the office environment. I worked with all three of them, so I know. It works as long as the people involved, usually the managers because they're the ones that have to ride the herd, explain to the folks on the front line that here's what it's all about.
One thing I always tell folks, and I told this to Marc, and Mark Weiner who works with him. I said when you guys are doing stuff and trying to figure out a way to get where you need to go with your IP, just tell the person who's being the - how would you say? The obstacle, that what you're doing is tied to revenue and you need to get this to work.
Kirk: Yes, it's tied to revenue. I love it.
Chris: I'm not saying that in a bad way. It's true. The problem is, people look at these IP things, IT, and they don't attach the revenue portion to it. It's like, "Hey, I'm running an automation system, but I'm the computer guy." I can tell you that 99% of the computer guys managing these automation systems in radio and TV don't connect the dots as far as, "Hey, if this automation doesn't properly play out what it is you're doing, audio, video, or a combination thereof, money is lost." That's the part that still some seem to be permeating, bubbling to the top for a lot of folks.
What Marc is talking about when he goes to a place and says, "Hey, this box does this. It doesn't really, it's not a security threat or a vector for security issues." If you're not talking to someone who understands the business at hand, and I'm not saying just servers but the bigger picture, what you're doing with this technology, yeah, you're going to run into a problem. You can ask for a separate port or a spigot.
I always tell people, I said this to Marc and the guys at Hofstra. I said, "Call up the place. Two questions. One: do you manage a DMZ switch for vendor access?" If the answer is no, then you say, "Do you manage policies on your firewall for special ad hoc connections such as what we're going to do?" If the answer is yes, Marc has the sheet. You give them the information, the ports, the protocols. Usually, Marc can say whether it's true or not, nine times out of ten or eight times out of ten, you get through without issue.
Marc: Yeah. I would say we have a pretty good success rate. Once we give the ports out they pretty much say, "Okay, fine. We're not responsible if it doesn't work. Here you go. We'll get it configured on our end." For the most part, we've been good to go.
Chris: Yeah. If you get a person who knows what they're doing and you're giving them ports and protocols, they should look at you and say, "Oh. All right great. I can lock down this access to just these ports and protocols. I'm fine." Technically, that's what you're supposed to do. Kirk, as you pointed out, IT people are concerned with security. A true security IT person will say, "If this is all you need, then I can configure this access just for that and protect my network."
If you run into people who don't do that, then you know, yeah, you're right, you're going to run the gamut of who knows what's going to come out of that.
Kirk: So you have that conversation about specificity of what you need for ports being forwarded and open to this IP address, or even you could supply the Mac address, to the device you're going to bring, if you had to do that. You're right, that can supply a better security scenario certainly than they thought they would have.
Chris: Yeah. The Mac address should be the second question they have for you after they ask you what protocols and ports? Can I have the Mac address? That's what they'll go by - what they should go by.
Marc: We've made it standard on emails now when we email to our Sports Information Director and say, "Hey, this is our unit. We know that these places have Ethernet. We go here. This is our unit." In the email, this is the initial email, we said, "This is the Mac address here. Let us know when you're set to go if you have any other questions."
Kirk: Yeah. To our viewers and listeners, this is the program This Week in Radio Tech where we talk about radio technology. We're having a great conversation with Marc Silverman, the student technical director at WRHU FM at Hofstra University in New York State. We're coming to the close of our show. Guys, I'd like for both of you to hang on here and be ready to hand out a tip for our viewers and listeners. Chris, you're usually full of tips. Let me explain this to Marc.
Marc, think of something. It may be something that you think is mundane or something that you just learned, but I want to know about, if you could give some advice to some fellow engineers about how to fix something, something you've come across here just recently maybe, or an old trick you've always thought, "Hey, I know how to do this. This is my MacGyver move." Hang on. We'll get to that in just a moment.
Our program is brought to you in part by the folks at Telos and the Axia division at Telos. I want to take a moment to tell you about some of, this being the 30th year that Telos has really been around, I want to brag, a little bit, on some of the things that Telos has done in 30 years.
First of all, Telos, if you didn't know this, absolutely has the largest audio R&D, Research and Development group in the broadcast industry, and we have for a number of years in the audio R&D department. Telos has a bunch of engineers in Cleveland, Ohio, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania now, in Germany, in Latvia. We have some engineers working out of China, and a couple of sharp guys in Ukraine. Telos has really got it together as far as R&D, working all the time, and figuring out better ways for all these engineers to work together towards common goals.
The Telos Alliance also has a large and growing intellectual property portfolio, including multiple patents and trademarks. This is very cool. This means that Telos can do some things in ways that nobody else can do. That means that some Telos products are extraordinarily innovative in how they get a job accomplished. As a customer, as an engineer, that can make you look really good.
Telos, the Axia division, was the inventor actually of Audio over IP that worked for the broadcast environment. Yes, there was Audio over IP before, but it really wasn't useful at all in a live broadcast environment. We have Audio over IP now in the form of what we call Livewire Plus. It's also the basis of the AES67 standard. That's pretty amazing. Livewire Plus fully incorporates AES67.
Telos is the winner of multiple prestigious radio and TV awards, including a Technology and Engineering Emmy award - our linear acoustic division has that award proudly displayed in its Lancaster, Pennsylvania office. We're not content to just improve existing products, although we do that. We focus on leading the way with innovations, always looking for a new way to improve broadcasters' work flow and efficiency.
I know those are a lot of words. They sound like PR words, but we really do sit around conference tables from time to time and look at: what are the trends, what are people asking about that they want to be able to do, what can we offer them that they haven't thought yet? There's a phrase that gets bandied around, it's usually me doing it, around the office where I say, "Hey, Henry Ford said if I had built what my customers asked me to, I'd have made faster horses."
You've got to get the analogy there. We're trying to come up with new ways of doing the things that engineers need to get done. Telos did have, in fact, the first DSP based product in broadcasting. Period. That was the Telos 10 telephone hybrid. The first licensed use of MP3, which was over ISDN, in the world. We were the first licensee from Fraunhofer. That was in the original Zephyr product more than 20 years ago now.
The first streaming audio encoder hardware and software in the audio active encoder. The first totally digital broadcast audio processor and totally digital - I mean from input to output. That was the Omnia FM. Finally, the first AoIP mixing console and routing system from Axia.
I just want you folks to know that there's a lot going on at Telos in the five different Telos divisions: Telos, Omnia, Axia, Linear Acoustic, and 25-Seven. Some amazing products are in the booth at NAB. If you can't come to NAB, no worries. We'll be telling you about them here on this show and in a series of videos that'll show up on YouTube, and articles too, from the Telos Alliance website and from the various newsletters.
I just wanted to take a minute to pass along the things that Telos has done and the things that we're able to do now because of terrific leadership and awesome, just awesome engineering. We've got some of the best guys in the world.
All right. Thanks very much Telos Alliance for sponsoring This Week in Radio Tech. I do appreciate it very much.
All right, the short time that's left, Chris Tobin, maybe you have for us a tip of the week you could pass along.
Chris: Actually, I do. It's a good tip. First of all, if you have critical equipment in your racks or in studios and you want to make sure that nobody pulls the plug or powers down the unit improperly, get yourself a nice fluorescent pink [sounds like 01:01:16] IAC connector.
Kirk: Oh my goodness.
Chris: Trust me. This is will be [inaudible 01:01:22]. They'll see that there's something about this is different from all the others that are black in the rack. Very important.
Kirk: Wait. Where do you get that? It looks like you got it at Claire's in the mall.
Chris: Yes, actually it was Claire's. No, no - electrical supply shop, specialty places will have it. The other thing to remind people of, now that we're in the world of Livewire, [inaudible 1:01:45], Logitech stuff, RAVENNA and everything else, the RJ45. Uh oh. The audio is blown out? Look at that. How's that?
Kirk: That's better.
Chris: Here we go. So we have the familiar RJ 45 correct? Now you take the RJ45 and you put the end of it [inaudible 1:02:02 - 1:02:05] connectors. Now you say to yourself [inaudible 1:02:08] useless. Now we take the studio hub device and extend your connection through a cat 5 cable. Now from the rack room down the hall to a studio you may be doing some work, you now have the ability to test things without having to go crazy. You would use a hand-held tester to make it happen. You see?
Now this may seem crazy [inaudible 01:02:37] to some folks, but trust me, today I just used this in a bundle of wires to test out something in a studio down the hallway. They looked at me and said, "What are you doing?" I said, "[inaudible 1:02:46] from the rack room to the studio." [inaudible 01:02:49] 50 foot cable, cat 5, both ends have [inaudible 01:02:55]. The other end [inaudible 01:02:59].
I do not have to go underneath the console. I do not have to go through the [inaudible 01:03:04]. I do not have to try to figure out if the wire behind me [inaudible 01:03:08] pull a punch out or try to punch it through something. That's my useful tip. Trust me, if you practice this occasionally, you'll have that one moment where, "Wow, this really saved my bacon."
Kirk: Chris, thank you so much. By the way, Skype has decided to boost your mike level unbelievably. Thanks for the tips. You know what? What you were pointing out there, unfortunately you couldn't hear it, but the audio was horrible. You can just hold those things up. I'm thinking, yeah, a cat 5 cable as a long, stereo, analog extension, or for AES. Just use those radio system adapters at each end. So much more convenient than building up an audio test cable just for each specific purpose. I keep some of those adapters in my tool set. I haven't run one down the hallway yet. I hear you better now.
Chris: Trust me, the hallway part really works well. At the output of a CD player that needed to be tested, they claimed there was distortion. The CD player was at fault. I said, "Let's verify that." The studio wiring documentation wasn't available so I just grabbed that roll of cat 5, my adapters, plugged it in the back, ran it to the TOC where we have a monitoring station, a quality control station. Sure enough, that CD player was pristine. The issue was the fader.
Kirk: Yeah. Divide and conquer, even if dividing means running something down the hallway to put it on a great tester.
Kirk: That's awesome. All right. Marc Silverman, we're going to put you on the spot here to see if you can come up with a tip of the week to tell us about.
Marc: I don't know if I have as good a tip as Chris, but my tip would probably be, especially coming from being young, is don't be afraid to ask questions. I know that's kind of the cliché one, but I cannot tell you the amount of things, especially coming into the radio station, I've learned by just saying, "Hey, what does that do? Why does it do this?" Talking to other engineers and figuring out new ways to get stuff.
I've learned so much from Chris and the people I've worked with - Mark Weiner, Joe DeRosa at the time, and other people I've met in the industry just explaining things, their experiences. I know that may be, especially because I'm young it may make a difference especially for me, for learning everything that I can.
Honestly, I cannot tell you the amount of things I've learned by just saying, "Hey, what does this do?" Once I figure out what the device is, looking at the documentation and going, "Oh, that goes into this. This is at this level."
The fact that I don't think if I ever asked as many questions as I have, I would be able to rattle off the entire air chain off the top of my head as decent as I can, explain certain model numbers. I think just asking questions. Also keeping in mind that yeah, some of this stuff may be old. We don't have the greatest, newest Omnia or the newest compellor, but at the same time we can still get a great sounding sound on 88.7, especially being a part of redoing our air chain has made us sound really good.
Kirk: That is great advice. Don't be afraid to ask questions. I'll admit to you, like many engineers, I was not formally trained in electronics. Yeah, I read some manuals, put some Heathkit stuff together. You know the best training I ever got, and this dovetails right in with your comment, Marc, is the best training I ever got was by calling tech support at a company you're probably not familiar with anymore - ITC3M. They made cart machines as well as some other things. Also, Harris and Orban. I talked to these people.
I at least had the sense to, kind of, figure out what it was I didn't know and then ask about it. I'll tell you, I give high praise to especially the guys at ITC about how, "I don't understand what makes this solenoid pull up. I see this last transistor, but what turns that transistor on?" The guy ran through the circuit for me, same thing with some of the Harris techs. They would run through the circuit and tell me exactly, "This is the modulator right here." Man, it was just great.
You know who else did? They've been gone for a while, Marti Electronics, some of the techs in Cleburne, Texas at Marti Electronics talked me through circuits. That's such great advice. Ask questions.
Marc: Honestly, hands on. Like you were saying, ask questions and calling companies. I think for me also, being hands on I've learned so much and being able to speak to these guys who have been in the industry for so long and just saying, "Hey, this is what I'm trying to do. This is how far I've got. Help me out here to get to the end of it."
Kirk: Great advice. Thanks very much. Marc Silverman from WRHU at Hofstra University, the student technical director there. Marc, you've got a great career ahead of you. I think you can do anything you want to. I'm glad that you're learning about audio and how we make things try to sound good in broadcasting.
Marc: Thank you for having me. Thank you so much, honestly.
Kirk: Chris Tobin, thank you for being with us too. Man, talk about MacGyver-ing a new situation there. You even downloaded Skype to a different computer just to be on the show when the first one wasn't working out.
Chris: You've got to be prepared. I don't like those 4 o'clock in the morning phone calls.
Kirk: If I've got something broken, I want you fixing it, man. Chris I forgot to ask you, are you able to get to NAB this year?
Chris: Yes, I'm flying out Sunday. I'll see you. We'll be able to do our thing on Thursday. Do I need to bring a microphone or anything or do you have everything we need?
Kirk: I think, you know what? Focus Right doesn't actually - we're going to gather around one mike apparently, unless I can figure something better out.
Chris: Okay. Do I need to bring a stick mike if we're going to stand up like we did last year or no?
Kirk: I do have a hand held, that's right. You know what? It kind of depends on how much bandwidth we have in the Telos Alliance booth. We've had some bad luck with bandwidth. We pay a lot of money and don't get the bandwidth that we deserve. Last year it just so happened that the booth across the street from us had fantastic bandwidth, so we did the show from there. As usual, the situation was fluid. Whatever it is, we're going to have a good time doing it. I can assure you of that.
Chris: I love it. Fluid moments. I've done many of those.
Kirk: We might need some more MacGyver skills.
Chris: Okay. I'll bring my Verizon card.
Kirk: All right, great. Hey, our show has been brought to you by the folks at Omnia and the new Omnia.7, mid-priced audio processor. I'm getting one myself. Also from the folks at Lawo and the crystalCLEAR audio console, and also brought to you by the Telos Alliance and 30 years of engineering innovation and lots of industry firsts. Thanks to all of those guys for making possible this show.
Also, thanks to Andrew Zarian at the GFQ network. Andrew, we sure appreciate you producing the show and being there and getting us distributed all over the world. Andrew, thank you very much. We'll see you next week, live from the NAB show floor on This Week in Radio Tech. Bye-bye everybody.
Topics: Broadcast Engineering
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