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Mitch Glider - Network Ops and Big Remotes

Posted by Kirk Harnack [TWiRT] on Oct 4, 2013 11:57:00 AM

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TWiRT 185Mitch Glider of Westwood One joins us to discuss technical operations, and preparation for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Most radio engineers look after 1 to 8 program channels; Mitch Glider oversees 67 of them! As VP-Engineering for Westwood One in New York City, Mitch directs the technical operations for Westwood One in the CBS Broadcast Center. Plus, Mitch is preparing a roomful of radio mixing and transmission gear for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. It has to work when it gets there in January, 2014, and there’s no Radio Shack nearby. Chris Tobin and Tom Ray – both experienced radio network engineers – join me to talk with Mitch Glider on this episode.

 

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Announcer: This Week in Radio Tech, Episode 185, is brought to you by the Axia RAQ and DESQ audio consoles. Small size, small price, but big where it counts. Perfect audio and broadcaster tough. On the web at axiaaudio.com.

And now, our feature presentation. TWiRT. Ever watch over 67 outgoing program channels? Or build a bulletproof radio remote kit for the Olympics? Mitch Glider has, and he's here to talk about it.

From his palatial office of important business. Or, in a choice hotel in a distant land. This is Kirk Harnack. Tom Ray and Chris Tobin join me to meet Mitch Glider, VP of Engineering for Westwood One in New York City. You're dialed in to This Week in Radio Tech.

Kirk: Hey, welcome. It's time for This Week in Radio Tech. I'm Kirk Harnack, your host. This is the show where we talk about, obviously, radio technology. You know the drill. Everything from the microphone to the antenna at the top of the tower, to now, whatever server it is that feeds the world over the Internet. All kinds of things like that. Sometimes, we even talk about taking out the trash. All the things that engineers are called on to do.

This is our 185th episode. Whoever thought we'd be going this long? Also on the show with us, if you're from the beginning, one of our co-hosts, the best-dressed engineer in radio. He's in studio at the GFQ network this evening. It's Chris Tobin. Hey, Chris. How are you doing?

Chris: Hello, Kirk. Yes, I'm in studio. I'm making room for everybody and they're having a good time. I'm just getting back from my CCBE trip from last week in Barrie, Ontario.

Kirk: We talked about that last week. Yes, we had a fireside chat last week about that.

Chris: Yes, it was a good time. A very good time.

Kirk: All right. Also, another co-host on the show. He makes it in when he can. He's a busy man. Tom Ray from the Hudson Valley of New York. Hey, Tom. Welcome in from your ham shack.

Tom: I make it in not only when I can, but when you call me to remind me because I'm sitting upstairs reading a book and I forgot that today was Thursday.

Kirk: Tom, it's Thursday.

Tom: Yes. It's been one of those weeks. You said before that we don't drill, so you'll have to pardon me, I have to go out to the garage to get the drill. Anyway, I'm President of Tom Ray Broadcast Consulting. Here I am. I'm the resident wise guy.

Kirk: You're going to fill us in, maybe on this show, maybe another, about your new position. You have a new job you're doing?

Tom: I've got several jobs I'm doing. With my company, I do many things. To which one are you referring?

Kirk: I thought there was a relationship you had with Burk now.

Tom: Yes. Actually, I've had that for a little while. I am an independent rep for Burk. If anybody has any questions, you may feel free to contact me either through Burk's website, tomray@burk.com, or you can contact me at tomray@tomrayconsulting.com. I'm happy to work with you and make sure you have the proper configuration to make sure life is good. And you can control your transmitter.

Kirk: In fact, we ought to do a show about remote control. We've done one in the past. In fact, Doug Irwin was our guest many, many shows back for a show about remote control. We should bring that subject up again because times are changing, and technology is changing. It's interesting to see what we can do now from our cell phone or iPad, or still from the point of remote control at the radio station. Also, we've got a guest.

Tom: Let me talk to Peter Burk. We ought to get him on the show. He's a real fascinating guy to talk with.

Kirk: That would be a great idea. The world respects Peter Burk. He really wrote the book on a lot of remote control concepts and ideas. I've used his remote controls for years and years.

I'm excited about our guest. I billed this fellow as the world's most awesome remote engineer. Maybe not what you think. We're going to bring him in right now. Mitch Glider from New York City. We've got a whole New York crew except me today. Hi, Mitch. How are you doing?

Mitch: I'm doing great. Thanks for having me.

Kirk: It's good of you to spend an hour being with us. Mitch, you're the VP of Engineering for New York City for this name we've heard before and we'll hear again, Westwood One.

Mitch: Yes. We are Westwood One once again. Without spending the entire hour, we were merged with Dial Global about a year and a half ago. The name stood. Recently, they changed the name back to Westwood One for market familiarity, for lack of a better term. Of course, now we have the larger situation where Cumulus has now made Westwood One under its umbrella.

We can get into that a little bit, or not, or a little later, whatever. I'm just sitting back and waiting to see how that all pans out. I've been through it before. I was working for CBS when the original Westwood One did their dealings with them back in '97, '98. Of course, Dial Global a couple of years ago. Now, this latest Cumulus merge. I have a lot going on, which we can get into anytime you want. For now, just sit back and as I like to say, enjoy the ride.

Kirk: We're going to get right into it quickly because when you and I got to visit in New York, was it last week?

Mitch: Yes.

Kirk: Yes. We've been through a weekend since then. Last week, I found out things about you and your expertise that I didn't know. I had been to the CBS broadcast Center which houses what we're now calling Westwood One. The radio operations. The distribution operations.

In fact, if you're a viewer here and you follow, say, my Facebook feed or our Twitter feed, we've had some pictures up there. We had a picture of just a whole bunch of Telos Zephyr Xstreams married with International Datacasting Event Managers. These are boxes that, when put all together and the outputs of them [muxed] together, they go to an uplink and make a radio network, which I think is just fascinating. In fact, tell you what. I saw that equipment some years ago, Mitch. You showed me around. I got a little taste of what you had put together there. Why don't you kind of run through that for us? Tell me about the distribution equipment and what you guys do there in New York at Westwood One.

Mitch: Sure. Basically, we are a content aggregator, for lack of a better term. Some of the content is local to the broadcast center. As an example, the CBS radio news network or NCAA or NFL sports. But also, we backhaul our content from various other locations. The end result is via an audio router. We route that audio to individual Zephyr Xstreams, as you mentioned, which then get muxed into an IDC encapsulator and go up to the ever- famous AMCA, where we are currently using what is called the MAX Receiver. That's four independent outputs that are tuneable by the affiliate. We do some channel changing, and not really show shifting, copy splits, normal stuff like that. That's really the gist of it.

Among many other things at the broadcast center, we are the head end for the IDC receivers as opposed to the other end of Westwood One up in Denver, which has another head end with the Waggener system. In terms of Westwood One in New York, we are an IDC house. We are using the Telos Zephyr Xstreams as codecs for the head end. As you saw, we have 67 outgoing channels with 10 backup channels. That's the famous picture with all those racks and racks of Zephyr Xstreams. I will tell you that we have yet to RMA one. There's a plug for you. We're very happy.

Kirk: Good. Let me get some more of this straight. You said you're an aggregator. So, you bring in audio content from all over the place, a lot of it right there produced in New York, but others come in from other venues, other locations, other networks who use you for distribution. What are some of the show names that we might recognize? You mentioned NCAA sports. What are some of the other shows you distribute that we might recognize?

Mitch: For instance, from content that's not directly owned by Westwood One, as an example, the Wall Street Journal we distribute. They have a lot of long format, short form stuff as well as a lot of sports teams, with baseball, football, hockey, Seattle Seahawks, Boston Bruins, New York Yankees, New York Mets, just to name a few.

We kind of segregate out in our own heads. We call them our broker clients. Most of that is passed through what they send us in terms of audio relays. We just turn it right around. Then there are other clients where we run inventory via our automation systems and other things. It just really depends. That's really the main thing. It's a lot of sports. There are some one-off shows. Those are smaller. I hope that answers your question.

Kirk: Yes. So when you receive content and programming from other content creators, other networks if you will, typically how does this come in to your facility? I'm sure some of it over ISDN and Zephyrs and that kind of thing. What other types of gear are used to get the audio in?

Mitch: That's a great question. Just about everything. It's really easy. Everything from straight ISDN to, let's say, a point-to- point T1 in its most familiar sense using, let's say, Interplex equipment. More recently, Westwood One has launched a pretty extensive private MPLS network. That's where things have really gotten interesting because we have tied all of our technical operations centers together.

Along with our primary customers, we're converting over to MPLS. So, instead of having a point-to-point T1 with Interplex equipment. A great example, again, giving a little shout out to the sponsor, we just installed a few Telos ZIPs all around the country for some talk show hosts and some other things. It's working out very nicely. But that's not how it is for most. It's starting to become more popular. ISDN and T1. I would say, when it's T1 it's ISDN backup. When it's ISDN, a lot of times it's IP over Internet backup.

Kirk: Okay. So a lot of shows, a lot of networks who use Westwood One to distribute, they've got two paths. They've got a main and a backup way to get audio to you.

Mitch: Yes. Especially for the larger clients. Like any other network or radio station, they're carrying inventory. Inventory has money attached to it. So you need to protect that investment. There's no excuse for a loss of inventory, as we all know in the network industry.

Kirk: I got the impression when I was visiting you, and I guess I didn't really get this clear, but after you aggregate all these programs together, and you're coding them with the encoders-they happen to be the Telos Xstreams-and adding contact, closure and break information. They get muxed together. Muxed, I guess is the right word. What does that process involve? What does muxing together mean, exactly?

Mitch: Muxing, to me, is from the simplest term. Anybody who knows me knows I might not always use the most technical terms, but muxing sounds a lot like mixing. What we're doing is, we're taking in this case these individual IP streams and we're combining them into one stream. That's going into an encapsulator and into a fairly normal RF chain up to the roof. We actually have two dishes on the roof with two 750-watt pole- mounted amplifiers. That's what we call path A and B. We have a tertiary uplink in, believe it or not, Valencia, California. We backhaul that via a proprietary point-to-point 10-meg IP link.

That's really the best way to describe it. IDC is taking all these individual IP streams and mixing them together and giving them their PIDs and their various things that you need to delineate the channels as it goes out over that type of network. The receivers are designed to demux it. That's the best way that I know how to explain it.

Kirk: When you have these 67 channels, maybe you can give us a sense of what kind of bit rate are these channels being coded into? What's the coding algorithm typically used?

Mitch: The coding is ACC. Believe it or not, it's 64 joint stereo. Just because of the way we're feeding the codecs and the way that IDC handles it, it sounds fantastic. That's why we're able to, in my opinion, squeeze the amount of channels that we have, along with pure data stream, with the carrier sizes that we're going with. That's an important element, because as we all know, satellite time and bandwidth are extremely expensive.

And again, for everybody that knows me, I would not even pretend to say that I am the end-all expert on the whole RF chain. But from a practical point of view, it's my responsibility to not only originally design and build that room and wire it and make sure that everything is to spec, but me and my staff do maintain that along with the broadcast IT people that we're all teamed up with at the broadcast center. Because it is kind of a hybrid system in terms of engineering and IT VLANs and stuff like that. It's pretty complicated.

Kirk: So after you get 67 channels, each coded at about 64 kilobits, what's the aggregate? What's the muxed data rate? It must be under 10 megabits, because that's the speed of your backup link to California.

Mitch: Again, all the millions of people that are watching this, everybody knows me. I'm not even going to backpedal, Kirk. I don't know those numbers. I'm the type of guy that is familiar with the system to the point where the installation and the maintenance and everything like that, and there are other members of our team that have all that information.

Kirk: Here's what I figured: 64 kilobits per second. There's probably some encapsulation and some overhead on top of that, I'm guessing. There's probably about six to seven megabits per second as the total uplink.

Mitch: Yes. And I would say that also, the overall size of the carrier is up in the five meg range. For all those that know how to do that kind of math and kind of stuff, I think everybody gets the picture. It's a very efficient system. That's one of the reasons why originally it was chosen. Because of the amount of bang for the buck we can get out of that amount of bandwidth. That's really the basic concept behind that whole IDC system.

Kirk: A couple of questions from the chat room have popped in here. This is coming from VTENG in the chat room. By the way, if you're watching the show, if you ever watch the show live or listen live, you can participate in the chat room on this show, as any GFQ show. Just go to gfqlive.tv and the video for the show will pop up and also the chat room. You can go in there. You can be anonymous. You can give yourself your own name if you want to. I'm always Kirk Harnack in the chat room. Ask a question.

A couple of good questions came in. We've been told that we are one tech retiring away from no one knowing anything about ISDN. How is that working for Westwood One in New York City? Is New York City one tech away from not knowing anything about ISDN?

Mitch: Well, I don't know about that. We recently had a pretty high level conference call with Verizon, as an example, regarding ISDN. People that were on the phone included people like Ren Burke who's one of the top telecom guys in CBS, myself, Eric Wiler [SP], who was also Senior Vice President of Engineering and Operations for all of Westwood One, and a bunch of other people.

To make this as quick as possible, Verizon claims that you can no longer order what they call a standard ISDN. They're calling it a Centrex ISDN now. Really, for the average user, it just means that you have to dial, I believe it's always a nine, and then the standard number.

But the big thing about ISDN is that everybody says it's going away. We believe it's going to go away. That's why all of us are embracing the IP codec. Not only over the public Internet, but as I said before, with private networks. I know Mr. Tobin is always smiling when he hears that because he's one of the guys in my career, and I'll give Chris a little plug, that when he was not only my boss at Westwood One, but later on, always on the cutting edge of the whole IP thing.

To answer your question, we use ISDN a lot. We rely on it a lot. We still find it very reliable. We're still able to order and get lines dropped almost everywhere. Verizon has made it a little different. AT&T is being difficult because in some areas, it is true, they're just not offering it anymore. They have increased the prices a little bit.

I will tell you, and I can speak for most of the engineering team across the country for Westwood One, that we are all about the IP codec, public Internet, and MPLS. As Mr. Tobin smiles even more, I'm sure, this is something that he not only predicted but was pushing for a long time ago. Like when the Comrex Access first came out. Actually, probably even the Brics and some other things like that. That was it. The ISDNs, we have them and we're still purchasing new ISDN units from time to time, but our focus is on IP.

Kirk: Chris Tobin and I were talking earlier about levels. Chris, you used to work in the same building. Did you guys do any audio processing before these things hit the uplink?

Chris: At the time I was there, the processing was just wide band. It was very light. You wouldn't have even noticed it.

Kirk: Mitch, what's going on now? Do you guys process the feeds that come in, or let them go at the level that the content creator sends them to you?

Mitch: What we do is, for a long time we were using compellers more as a limiter, obviously. Not so much as any kind of compression because want to leave that for the end user, meaning the radio station. But now, because all of our encoders are fed by our 32 KD router and there is a new card that they came out with recently that's called a KFX card which I did help them develop. I'm proud to say that.

It has an AGC built into it that is absolutely outstanding. You'll hear it. It just protects everything from clipping. It's exactly what we want. We want how low do you want to go get it. Where do you want to try to maintain it. And how loud is it allowed to get.

Again, for people that know me, I like simple. I like knobs. I like buttons. Even though this is a piece of software, it's not complicated. The compellers, as we all know, work great. Me being a former recording engineer, every time I saw the word gate, I thought of one thing. As we all know, it meant a completely different thing.

That's all we're doing. We're just protecting from overmodulation going out to the network. We're allowing the radio stations to do what they want.

I will tell you this-we have now some of the most consistent levels going out across all of our channels. That's for everything. That's for sports. That's for talk. That's everything. We're very proud of that because there were times for many years, not just our networks but all radio networks, where you really never knew what level you were going to get. It was difficult when you were automating shows and you didn't have somebody sitting there riding the fader, so to speak.

 

Now, with a lot of automated stations, they are relying on us to give them something somewhat reasonably level. That's what we're using. In-the-box AGCs.

Kirk: We've talked about this concept here before, but it's interesting when you're dealing with so many dozens and dozens and dozens of channels and you're thinking about levels kind of in the aggregate. Tom and Chris, my thought is, back in the days when everything was pretty much analog, yes there was a clip point. But we always operated pretty far below that clip point and we had the VU meter to interpret. Not all meters followed the proper VU ballistic. Different amounts of density would cause different action of the VU meter.

Now, we have zero dBFS as the top scale. It doesn't matter if your digital system is 16-bit or 20-bit or 24-bit. Zero dBFS is still zero dBFS no matter how many bits. It goes down to the bottom.

My point there is, we have a level now because things are all digital that you cannot go above. It will not go above. You really don't even want to tickle that level. In my view, and dealing with a lot of Axia systems as I've dealt with, I find that levels just tend to be more consistent than ever before because there's nothing in the router. There's nothing in the distribution system that's going to wander about the change and you've got to go tweak on a little potentiometer on a distribution amp.

The point I'm getting a here is that with digital technology, and finally getting things settled and sorted out, it seems to me that level problems tend to be less now than they were in the '80s. Any thoughts about that?

Chris: Yes. That would be true. But you know, the industries have changed. The way people do things has changed. Back in the day, I worked for a different network. Our audio levels were such that we referenced the VU and we had a PPM meter for the absolute peaks. As Mitch pointed out, for the final transmission to the satellite. But also for the end user. The radio stations, wherever distribution was taking it.

But over time, as the zero dB full scale came into play, which on DAT machines that we had at the time and some other digital systems, it was a learning curve. The hardest part was if not at the network level, at the end user level. And how they interpreted the zero dB full scale. Ten years ago, you had three different reference points for zero dB full scale. You had the minus 20, which was the SMPTE. Then you had the minus 14, which I think was Panasonic. Then there was the minus 12, which I think was Sony, Toshiba, Hitachi, depending on who you talk to. So you try to figure out which of those three was best.

Most people wound up with the Panasonic one for some reason. It just seemed to work out well. If you were a distribution or content provider, as Mitch is doing or what I did in the past, you wind up going with something like SMPTE, which totally screwed everybody up because nobody really followed it unless you were working in the cinema world. They had their own reference, minus 24.

It's interesting how things have evolved. Mitch knows all too well. He and I worked together for some time. Battling levels, understanding references and what's best practice can sometimes be a very subjective decision.

Mitch: Chris, at minus 20, I'm finding more and more that because a lot of analog systems still have, let's say, 20 dB of headroom. For instance, going into an audio router. I'm seeing more and more that they're trying to keep the minus 20 to zero analog reference. I'm seeing a lot more minus 20, is what I'm getting at.

Chris: Yes. In the last couple of years, I will tell you that I, too, have noticed the same. Probably the last three or four years it has become more prevalent. Prior to that, it was somewhat, at times, a mixed bag. Yes. Minus 20 seems to be working out for everybody.

Mitch: Same 20. On either side. Digital or analog.

Chris: Yes. That's probably it. Tom would know too.

Kirk: Tom, you ran some networks there, WOR. I'm speaking from the point of view of an affiliate at small-town talk radio AM stations where we would take shows from all kinds of different networks. From network to network, or even from show to show on the same network, levels were just all over the place. It was really, really pathetic and hard to run, especially if I was using the same satellite receiver. If I had a satellite receiver dedicated for each network, I could set the level for the show we were taking from that network. I'm sorry, a different receiver for each show. But we didn't. We had these tuneable receivers. So you'd have this broadcast tools box that tells the receiver, 'Hey, tune to this. Hey, tune to this.' Different shows on the same receiver output would come in at wildly different-10, 12, 16 dB different levels. What a pain to deal with at the affiliate levels. I'm sorry. Tom, tell us what your experience was at the WOR network.

Tom: Well, the WOR network and also I'm involved with an independently syndicated show on the weekends, Car Doctor. What we do is, we run a compeller in the studio. In limit mode, in case we get that one caller that just goes screaming through the board, if that line is really hot for whatever reason. We can protect the IP link going over to the satellite uplink. We run the IP link going over to the satellite uplink at peak level minus six. That's where pretty much brick walls. Music radio too, but with talk radio, I find that you can get away with a little more than the music side.

Of course, we try to keep the level up as high as possible because the higher your level, the more definition you have in the digital sampling. It's a balancing point. It really is a balancing point. We try to keep things as consistent as possible. Actually, we do a pretty good job. I've listened to some of the satellite downlink from what we do. It sounds good.

WOR, the same thing. We ran a set of compellers in limit mode. We used a Moseley T1 box to get it over to now Cumulus, but then ABC satellite. We ran that at about minus six going over there. It gives about 6 dB headroom in case the limiter overshot.

Kirk: I really didn't mean to beat this dead horse, but all this information is interesting. Especially to me, when Mitch is running 67 channels of audio. How do you manage all that?

Hey folks, you're watching This Week in Radio Tech, or listening to it if you downloaded the podcast. It's the show every week where we talk about radio technology engineering to keep the radio world going. I'm Kirk Harnack, your host. Along with me are Chris Tobin in studio, in Queens, New York at the GFQ studies. Also, Tom Ray is with us from his abode in Hudson Valley, New York. And Mitch Glider, the VP of Engineering with New York City's Westwood One is our guest on the show.

We're going to continue our show and talk to Mitch about remote broadcast. This is where Mitch's experience and expertise really shine. We're going to find out some very cool things about building systems for flexibility that you can ship literally halfway around the world and produce hundreds of hours of remote content from something as exciting as, say, the Olympics. Mitch is going to tell us how that works. This is fascinating stuff, so stick with us.

Our show is brought to you by Axia. The folks are also part of the Telos Alliance. Axia makes, as you know, audio consoles that are connected by IP. I want to talk particularly about the Axia small consoles. These are so cool. The Axia RAQ, R-A-Q, and the DESQ, D-E-S-Q. Maybe we have pictures of the RAQ and the DESQ somewhere there on the website.

The RAQ and the DESQ are the small consoles. I own one of these myself, the RAQ, R-A-Q at our station in American Samoa. I use this small console in our newsroom. Our news director there, Monica Miller, she has this little console right in front of her. She used to have one of those Dixon News Mixers. It worked fine for years, but it's analog technology. We'd get hums and buzzes and things because maybe I didn't hook something up right. I don't know.

This digital console, RAQ console. Rack mounted. Six faders. It still produces six minus automatically for her phone calls and codec remotes. It uses a beautiful little small engine, the QOR.16. QOR spelled Q-O-R. It has analog and AES inputs built into it as well as mic level inputs. It has analog and AES output built into it as well as Livewire. Plus, an Ethernet switch is built right into the QOR.16 little engine from Axia.

The console is so cute. The RAQ is 19 inches wide, 6 faders. It's got OLED VU meters. There's also informational stuff on those VU meters. A clock, for example. You have a couple of buses. Program bus one and two. Plus, a preview bus. It's really just everything you need in a small console. I've been to a number of stations, say, in Dallas, Texas where they have a number of these rolled out in their news and news production areas.

There is a companion console to the RAQ, again that's spelled R- A-Q, it's kind of IKEA-like, right? It's called the DESQ, D-E-S- Q. The DESQ is also six faders. It's really very similar to the RAQ except instead of round knobs like the RAQ has, the DESQ has linear faders. You see it being held right there by the gentleman on the screen. This takes up a pretty small footprint on your desk. Your D-E-S-K desk.

So you can have a small console right there. You've got OLEDs for each individual input. You can see the pre-fader level. You can see a talkback level if you want to. Right there from the console itself, you can change it to an input. For example, to left-only or right-only or left-plus-right or back to stereo. A lot of options right there. It's very powerful. Yet, it's very simple to use. A lot of power under the hood and very easy for the operator to use. Here's what really slick:

You can use one engine, either the QOR.16 or the QOR.32. To that one engine, you can connect two audio consoles and have them in two separate rooms. One engine handles the mixing capabilities, the input and the output necessities for two of these small consoles. Check them out on the Axia website. Go to axiaaudio.com. You'll see that these are inexpensive. I'm sorry I don't have the pricing in front of me. Your dealer would have to tell you that.

But when you hook two consoles together, two surfaces, to one QOR.16, you have a very inexpensive console that's very powerful, and connected right up to the Livewire network. It'll talk just fine to Element consoles, to VX phone systems, to ZIP ONE codecs and Xstream codecs. To anything. To nodes, our new xNodes. Anything that's part of the Axia Livewire world it'll connect right up to. Automation systems, too. No big fancy wiring, just click an Ethernet cable in the back.

Check it out. Axiaaudio.com. The DESQ and the RAQ consoles. You're going to love yours as much as I love mine. I've had no service calls on the thing. I put it on the air over a year ago. It was August of 2012 that I put that console in in American Samoa. It just sits there and rots. Thanks to Axia for sponsoring This Week in Radio Tech.

It's Episode 185. We're talking to Mitch Glider at Westwood One about remote broadcasts now on the second half of our show. Mitch, this is pretty cool. You were telling me some stories about remotes past and remotes future. These aren't your ordinary Ford dealer or shopping center remotes. There are a little bit bigger. Tell me about them.

 

Mitch: What I'm involved with are two primary large-scale remotes. One is to support the CBS Radio Network News for mostly their coverage of large-scale news events like political conventions. We have covered other things like the royal wedding and the last space shuttle launch as an example. Of course, what you're referring to is my experience covering the Olympics for Westwood One. That started back in 2002 with yours truly sitting there. Mr. Tobin and I used back then a McCurdy intercom system and an old SAS router. Chris will know. Was it a 32,000 maybe, I'm thinking?

Chris: Yes, 32,000.

Mitch: To make a long story relatively short, my passion for that was brought out in that first 2000 convention and 2002 Olympics. The way we do things is that we set everything up in a staging area in New York. When I say everything, I mean everything from a full console to smaller consoles. We happen to use the SAS integrated system, which would be like the 32 KD RIOs, their ICM 32s.

They also have a small console they call RubyT that's similar to the RAQ thing that Kirk was talking about. Essentially, what we set up, as an example, because I know we're probably running out of time, we set up a full long-form studio with a control room in the studio. This would be out in Sochi this year along with some read-in positions that actually take in audio and edit it and set up clips.

And also, what we call short-form and update studio. So the content that's going out, to put it in perspective, is every 20 minutes we would provide an Olympic update via the network to all the stations. There would also be live play-by-play hockey or basketball or something like that, as well as kind of a wrap- up show that typically most radio stations would not take live, but would pre-tape and play back another time. The point is that all the audio and content and everything is coming from the IBC. In this case, it would be Sochi.

My big thing is, as we all know, whether you're using an Axia system, an SAS system, a Wheatstone system, it doesn't matter. The days of shielded two-pair cable or twelve-pair Gepco are pretty much over for all of us. This is the world of CAT5 and CAT5 AV. What I've been doing for a few years now is using the black box standard for multipair CAT5 AV, which gives you six LANs, and essentially running stage snakes to various locations. I mention stage snakes because Whirlwind built me a custom breakout box where we would bring mulitpair CAT5s from our rack room that we set up. We would plug it into this little stage box. It would give us, with two cables, twelve RJ45s. What we did is, we certified all this to CAT5e for standard computer data.

As we all know, if it's good enough for a computer, it's good enough for an Axia system. It's good enough for SAS. It's good enough for any radio audio routing system. We carry data. We carry analog audio. We carry digital audio.

If you could just picture a small studio set up where I need two LAN connections, one for a printer and one for a computer. Then I have two data lines for the SAS RubyT, etc. Maybe some audio outputs and inputs. That's all pre-patched. There's a series of racks that have RJ45 panels. That is kind of our claim to fame.

What we do is, we break up the racks into a separate transmission rack, and then maybe the main rack which would have the router, and then a coms rack. The beauty of this is that Westwood One has a system as well as CBS radio networks. They are twins. So if we have a larger event, we combine them.

We borrow from each other. It's a really interesting way to break out all the things. It's all CAT5-based. That's what I'm most excited about. I will tell you one thing.

As an example, for Sochi, our transmission back to New York, which I think might be a big question for some of the listeners and watchers, we're going with ISDN and IP. We're using Zephyr Xstreams and Telos ZIPs. We don't really know which one's going to be the backup yet, folks. That's the interesting part about all this. The ZIPs are going to go over the public Internet, obviously. The Xstreams, obviously, ISDNs. I've been to a few Olympics.

Personally, I've done Torino, Italy. I've done Athens, Greece. The ISDNs, it's hit or miss. That's really what's happening for us at Westwood One. We will stage all that equipment in our broadcast center, which Chris knows, is affectionately known as Old Six. There's an old ripped-out studio that they swore they were going to rebuild one day starting way back in the day before Chris and me.

Every time somebody would try to build something out in there, we would just say, 'You can't.' Because it's a huge, open staging area. We literally set everything up. All the computers. All the routing equipment. Everything. We'd play the game that we used to play when we were kids. It's called kick the plug. Why do we do that? Because sooner or later at the IBC, all the power is going to go down before we shut anything down properly.

That is our final test of staging. Without shutting down any servers or any computers or any of the routing equipment or any of the codecs, I just kick the plug out of the wall. Everything goes dark. I plug it back in. We bring everything back up. If everything comes back up in some reasonable amount of consistency, then the rig is ready to go.

Chris: That's a great test. I love testing that way.

Kirk: Especially actually physically kicking the plug. That's better than pulling it out. Because kicking it involves malice. You want to make sure that the equipment will come back up after the malice.

Mitch: The kicking would simulate one of the two. Either somebody being a complete klutz, or really not liking me, which is possible. I have to say that these kind of techniques, these remote techniques, everything from the intercoms to the IFBs at the Olympics and the way that we communicate with the four-wired venues.

I know I sound like I'm a Chris Tobin commercial, but back in 2002, me and Chris were put in a very unique situation. It was the first time we were doing the Olympics before the big Westwood One change. It was post-9/11. We did not have a lot of time to prepare for this. Mr. Tobin said to me, 'Mitch, go into Old Six. Dig around back there. Find some equipment. Put it together.' This was for Salt Lake City. We went out there. We took an old router and an old intercom system and a bunch of ROC- 10 consoles.

Chris: Yes. That's correct. Logitech.

Mitch: I had to learn those consoles. Learning them doesn't mean ever loving them. I'm sorry. We put it all together. We came up with a lot of concepts regarding IFBing and listening and using the intercom systems that the sports department loved. My next Olympics after Salt Lake City was Athens. That's where we got a big budget. I mean a big budget. To buy a lot of routing equipment.

That's where the whole modular concept came about. That really helped me in learning how to build out permanent facilities, though. That's really what my passion is. Wiring racks, designing rack rooms, distributing audio and data, and all those concepts we used at the latest project, the broadcast center, which is, to completely rip out four routers, a Pro-Bel router, a Trilogy router, an image video router, and an old 9500 intercom system. It's all being combined into one giant multiframe system. Kirk, as you know, we're using all that multipaired CAT5 techniques and it has RJ21 or amp champs or whatever you want to call them. The whole system is designed that way.

My plan is one of the few left that still does use patch bays. Coming out of the router, everything goes to a Bantam patch bay via RJ21 multipair CAT5 out the chrome blocks. That is the whole basis of our system. The way that we distribute out to the studios is with multipair CAT5 and off-the-shelf black box rack mount panels as well as those custom Whirlwind panels. The remote experience that I have has really helped me learn the most efficient, modern, and contemporary way to break out a modern routing system in the plant.

Kirk: In thinking about remotes in years past, you're doing things now with a lot of CAT5, a lot of digital. You're very modular in your approach. I would imagine you even have color-coded CAT5 patch cables for different purposes. Is that true?

Mitch: We do because we delineate things by SAS data, SAS analog audio, SMPTE, and then of course, standard LAN computers. This will be our second time that we actually run a VLAN and we delineate the IP codec patch cords from the standard LAN stuff. To answer your question, yes, I am obsessed with color. I am obsessed with drawings, run sheets. To me, it's almost as fun to draw everything and to do the complicated Excel run sheets with the paste links and the lookup tables, because I can design an entire remote, and it's been done, where I literally hand it to the maintenance shop.

Because I was born and raised in that maintenance shop, we speak the same language. We've had internal infrastructure builds as well as remotes built without me hardly going back to ever even see what's going on. This particular one, I'm going on. This is the first Olympics I'm going on in quite a long time. Since Torino. For the most part, it's a big 'Save As'. We save the documents. We make some changes. That's it.

Kirk: Speaking of past Olympics. I'm guessing that at some past Olympics, you've had some challenging moments. Maybe even some moments where to hold a broadcast on the air you had to maybe hold some twisted wires together. What's a good story that you've got from a past Olympics or some other big venue broadcast that you'd like to share with us? Something that almost didn't happen. Some disaster averted. What have you got?

Mitch: I guess the best one would be in Greece. The second day after opening ceremonies, we had a situation where the power that we had coming into the IBC was the absolute best, of course. UPS generator backup.

That being said, we ended up doing some quick work for some updates using a hotline, of all things, because the tech power had died. We actually used a US hotline plugged into a 220-to- 110 converter, and connected back to the broadcast center, Chris, to the famous Studio 10A hotline. Basically, stuck a microphone headset into the hotline and Joe Tolson [SP] I believe was the guy that literally just made things up as he went along. Just from memory. Those sports guys, you know, they live and breathe it. He ad-libbed it.

I think that was pretty interesting. We just happened to have a hotline laying around. We did have some analog hotlines mostly for the hybrids and colds and stuff like that. That was interesting from a technical point of view. In terms of highlights, quite a few celebrities, you'd be surprised, have a passion for radio and would walk in. A lot more of the athletes than you'd think would walk in there. I don't have any groundbreaking stories. The power outage and the hotline is the best one I've got for you.

Kirk: I've been, as usual, just yapping and yapping. Sorry, guys. Chris Tobin worked for years in a similar network operation center. Tom Ray, the WOR network and the network that he works with now. You guys have got to have another question or two for Mitch Glider to round out the program. We've got about ten minutes or so to go. Maybe you've got something that you can bring up to Mitch, that you want to ask him how he handled something, or compare it with your own experience.

Tom: Mitch, as a network provider in my past and presently, when you go out on remote, maybe not the real big ones, but how do you plan for backup? How many backups do you normally have? Because obviously, one good wire could ruin your whole day. What do you do to make sure that remote can continue? If something were to happen during the broadcast, what's the backup for that?

Mitch: That's a great question. I would say that for a long time, Tom, we would try for point-to-point T1s with ISDN backup. Usually, we'd try to rig up something with alarms from the Interplex shelf with some kind of panic dial and a relay out of that would make some type of route on the audio router kind of instantaneous. I can remember doing that a lot.

Now, we tend to dual and triple feed, to answer your question. ISDN, hotline, IP codec. I guess it was a year ago this summer, the past political conventions, that's exactly what we did. We have ISDN and IP codec dual fed. We always had, back at the far end, back at the broadcast center, they were always fully prepared to switch those sources if one would drop. Obviously, most of that stuff is usually borne out at the network side. If something seemed like it was dropping out, it was the next fader over. I hope that answers your question.

Tom: It does, but let's go one step further. Let's say it's something like the Super Bowl. Is there actually a broadcast crew sitting in the studio who could take over if all hell breaks loose and everything goes away? For example, like that power failure that happened.

Mitch: That's a great question. What we do at the broadcast center is, we will have all the backup feeds actually running the Super Bowl simultaneously. For those who have been at the broadcast center, for instance, we would do it out of Studio 10, Studio 6 and Studio 12, where one would have the hotline potted up all the time. What would happen is, our NOC, our central control, we would have extra people listening to all three of them. We would make the source change to the network instantaneously.

There's nothing bigger than the Super Bowl in terms of revenue attached to an individual broadcast. So no expense is spared. We would have three studios running all three of the paths. Then, we 'd have a technical crew sitting in front of the automation system that routes the audio actually to the uplink, particular uplink channel or channels, in this case, ready to go.

Chris: Mitch, what's the latest with technologies? Is Craig still working down the hall from you?

Mitch: Yes.

Chris: For the news division, what's the latest you guys have been using for remotes? I'm curious how that's been going along.

Mitch: For the large-scale remotes, like the conventions, I just discussed that. That's the SAS equipment combined with multiple backhaul IP. Good old plain hotline matrices as well as ISDNs. The big thing that I would tell you that Craig's people are using now is the Luci Live on the BlackBerrys and the iPhones connecting to, primarily now Mr. Swagler has quite a bit of Comrex Accesses that he has been using.

But we have started using other codecs including Telos ZIPs. Luci Live, to answer your question, to me is the biggest thing. Because, as you know, there are lots of third-party adapters and microphones and stuff like that.

If you plug that into an iPhone 5 with a good connection with Luci Live connecting to an Access, I'm telling you, with the right environmental background noise under control and things like that, it just sounds absolutely amazing. That would be the latest thing from the CBS Radio people. That would be what I would think would be the most exciting.

They are doing more and more where they're using anchors either out of their home or some other remote broadcast to be the actual hourly newscast anchor, as opposed to having somebody in the studio. Again, they're using the IP technology with ISDN technology. I'll drop a name.

For instance, Peter King works out of Florida for CBS. We've been working very closely with Mr. Swagler and the entire CBS news team to make sure that everything that comes into us from Mr. King is reliable. Believe it or not, there are times when the ISDN is rock solid and that's what we go with. Then, there are other mornings. For whatever reason, as we all know, if we knew those reasons, we'd be in a different place. We've had great success over the public Internet.

We are considering dropping an actual MPLS drop into his house as well. That is really where CBS is going these days. A lot of remote hourly anchors and reporting coming in, again, every way they can. ISDN, public Internet, IP codecs, and now private cloud.

Kirk: Mitch, you've taken this conversation in a perfect line for my last question. That is, where do you see technology for the kinds of things you do, both remotes and aggregation, going? Do you see what you might call consumer-level systems-electronics and Internet access and networking-do you see that becoming more and more able to handle professional needs? Or do you still see a big chasm between what professionals need to do their job and the consumer world of the things that we play with and use, like phones and such?

Mitch: I think that, because of my musical recording studio background, there is a parallel there. There was a time when, in order to get a professional audio recording of a band or any kind of musician, there was a huge disparity between what was considered home equipment and what was being called professional.

I think that Tom and Chris will agree with me that where we are now is that the equipment for professional broadcasting, both for mixing and transmission, has gotten so much less expensive as the technology goes up. Here's a great example. You're going to see one day in the very near future that somebody's going to have a little box that they're going to sit down on their desk. They're a news reporter. They're going to plug it into the Internet or connect to a Wi-Fi network. It's going to hit back to an Axia system or an SAS system. It's going to have four intercom buttons. That's going to be it.

I really see that right around the corner because we already have that with the portable IP codecs and the increased reliability buffering and algorithms. That's my simplest answer. The amount of money that you need to spend and the amount of equipment you need to have and the size of it is shrinking. It's becoming less expensive. It's becoming easier to use.

As the bar for IP codecs and the understanding of all that gets higher and higher and newer engineers and either the people like us who have been in the business a long time that are willing to embrace it, or the younger people are brought up. They're not even going to know what an ISDN codec is. That's right around the corner. I hope that answers your question.

Kirk: Yes. Chris, Tom, do you have any follow-up questions? It appears we're just about out of time.

Tom: No. Interesting topic. It always is. It's always good to talk to Mitch.

Chris: Yes, absolutely. The other thing I will say is, for those in the audience that are listening and watching and you're an affiliate of the Westwood One radio networks, anytime you call the NOC central control, be patient. The guys have a lot on their plate. They are some of the best people you'll ever talk to that can help an affiliate. I've got to give those guys credit.

Mitch: That's really nice of you to say, Chris. I'm going to say really quickly that all radio networks in this country have gone through a lot of changes, as we all know. There's a lot more coming. I'm part of all that as we speak. Chris, I don't know if you know this, but to the rest of us, we used to have a separate technical NOC and we had an operations desk. Recently, that was combined.

So again, hats off to the Westwood One folks that are running that NOC because they are very busy. In defense of the rest of the networks out there, because we're not just talking about Westwood One here, everybody is doing two and three jobs where they used to do one, so hats off to everybody.

I want to thank you guys for having me. I know that I tend to be one long run-on sentence. I appreciate your patience. I want to give another shout out to Mr. Tobin and also say hi to Barry Thomas who I know is on the show often. For those of you who need to know, both Chris and Barry were both my directors and VPs as I was growing up at the CBS building. I give a lot of credit to both of them for where I am today. Again, I want to thank everybody for having me.

Chris: You're too kind. It's all right. You've done very well.

Kirk: Mitch Glider, thank you very much for taking time out of your day and agreeing to be our guest on This Week in Radio Tech. We've learned a lot. It's great to get that insight that most people never see, not even full time station engineers out at radio stations. I've been very blessed to come visit you two or three times now, up there in New York at your operations center. Thanks for being with us.

Mitch: Thanks again.

Kirk: Chris Tobin from the Queens studio of the GFQ network. Thanks for being with us from there in Queens in studio.

Chris: You're welcome.

Kirk: Tom Ray from the Hudson Valley of New York in his ham shack. Thanks, Tom. I appreciate your being here, too.

Tom: I appreciate being here myself. Have yourself a good evening. See you all. I'm not on next week, but I will be the week after.

Kirk: Good. Next week, we have an interesting show, as usual. A couple of interesting people. Sanjay Jolly and Will Floyd from Prometheus Radio will be here. Chris Tarr is going to be along too as one of our co-hosts. He has agreed to be on the show. We're going to talk about Prometheus Radio. Radio from a very, very low budget, community level point of view. It's going to be very interesting. Check it out. Thanks to our sponsor, Axia Audio and the Axia RAQ and DESQ. Cute little consoles. Full Axia connectivity. Intelligence. All the cool things you expect from Axia in a small console that fits right in your rack or right on your desk. Hence the name. Thanks for being our sponsor.

Thanks also to Andrew Zarian [SP] and the GFQ network. Andrew, you're the man. Thank you, sir. I appreciate you producing our show and getting it all distributed. We'll see you guys next week on This Week in Radio Tech. Bye-bye, everybody.

Announcer: That's all the bandwidth we can pilfer this week. Another TWiRT has propagated. And all the transmitters and audio equipment live happily ever after, thanks to the handsome engineer and his kind, benevolent care, we'll be back next week. Lord willing and the creek don't rise. This Week in Radio Tech.

Subscribe to iTunes and you'll never miss a show. Search for This Week in Radio Tech in the iTunes store. Soliciting is strictly encouraged. If you liked today's show, tell a friend. If you didn't like it, we were never here. Kirk Harnack's wardrobe provided by the Salvation Army and the Red Cross Disaster Relief services. Hair and makeup provided by Pene Lupe Garcia Hernandez Weinberg. This ends this transmission. Tango, Whisky, India, Romeo, Tango. Signing off. Okay.

Topics: Remote Broadcasts, Radio Engineering

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