Engineering for Non-Engineers with Skip Pizzi
By Dave Sarkies on Jul 28, 2014 2:56:00 PM
For most of us engineers, our jobs would be easier if our colleagues understood a bit more about broadcast engineering. Skip Pizzi has finished updating the fourth edition of “A Broadcast Engineering Tutorial for Non-Engineers.” He joins us for a fascinating look at this updated book, and how both engineers and non-engineers benefit from broadening their engineering horizons.
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Chris Tobin: This Week in Radio Tech, Episode 221 is brought to you by the Telos Hx6 and iQ6 Talk Show Systems, six lines and two advanced hybrids for perfect color conferencing, and by Lawo and the new crystalCLEAR touchscreen audio console, intuitive, progressive and focused. For most of us engineers, our job would be easier if our colleagues understood a bit more about broadcast engineering. Skip Pizzi has finished updating his fourth addition of a broadcast engineering tutorial for non-engineers. He joins us for a fascinating look at his updated book on how both engineers and non-engineers benefit from broadening their engineering horizons.
Welcome to another episode of This Week in Radio Technology, Episode 2-2-1, 221. I'm Chris Tobin and I'm also an IP Consultant, IP-Solutionist. I help people solve problems that they didn't know they had. No, I'm only kidding. I try to help workflows, and my 30 years in broadcasting has somewhat given me an insight as the craziness we all enjoy as radio and TV engineers. Also, hosting, not hosting this week, but on video file server, I'll call it, not tape, is Kirk Harnack. He's the host of the show. I'm a co-host.
Chris Tarr and Tom Ray are on location on assignment, I guess we'll use the terminology. So Kirk is joined by Skip Pizzi in a pre-recorded interview to talk about where things are going in the radio and TV engineering, where all our lives will wind up in 20 years with the way multimedia, new-media, broadcasting, IP, everything is just changing. The world around us is just spinning like crazy. Then again, it's always spinning 24 hours a day.
So before we get into the video. It's about a 37 minute video, so after I'm done with this sponsorship moment, take a quick break, run out and get something to drink, come back and get ready for very good interview with Skip Pizzi. We all know Skip, and those of you who don't, you'll find out more about him during the video.
But to speak about our sponsor, Lawo. Now, it's spelt L-A-W-O. It's a German company. The pronunciation is Lavo, that's the way it goes. Don't ask me why, it's just that that's it. But Lawo does consoles. They do mixing equipment. They do things like many of us come across with other manufacturers. But they've decided to do something different still using a console approach. They call it, make sure I have this . . . I have to get this just right, because if I don't, everybody will be so upset, it's a crystalCLEAR. CrystalCLEAR is a virtual audio console.
So think of a work surface like a touchscreen. Now, you have a touchscreen, which is multi-touch enabled, which is even better. And you have a GUI, the Graphic User Interface, and now you just touch. Right? My fingers are going on the screen for those of you who watch, and those who are listening, think of it as like a Smartphone with multi-touch capability. Now you can mix and match audio sources. You can do pre-fade listen or cueing. You can do the typical mixing of audio as you would, say, at a studio.
Or think of it on location, but using IP. It's your inter-connective IP using DSP technology, digital signal processing. They're able to do everything in real-time, doing it in a very fashionable manner that's mission-critical time sensitive that we're all accustomed to. It's broadcast grade, the equipment is designed in such a way that . . . Boy, I tell you, the last time we spoke to Mike Dosch who's part of the Lawo team,*** and if you know Mike and know his history, he comes from a background of background designing consoles. Maybe you've heard the three letters BMX, or maybe you've heard of AMX. Now people are really going crazy. But if you've heard those three initials and you know what they are and who made them, then you know that Jack Williams did a very nice job of understanding workflow and trying to bring things to the forefront back in the day.
Well, Lawo is now taking the same approach and is now bringing thing to the forefront today. Today it's touchscreen, multi-touch capability. So crystalCLEAR gives you that ability. It's pretty cool. You've got to go to the website, lawo.com, and check out more of the details. But you have again, talk buttons that automatically appear on mix-minus channels. And the guests have TALKBACK. All the stuff you expect or the touchscreen. See, look, I'm touching the camera. So if I can take my Smartphone and make adjustments with it, how cool is that?
Now, again, I'm going to use this example. I did it once before. You're doing a broadcast, say it's a concert and it's in Hyde Park in the U.K., and you decided that I can't bring everybody out to the event because a lot of the presenters we're going to use are going to be elsewhere doing stuff. So what do you do? You take this crystalCLEAR engine, you bring it out to the site, you plug in all the audio sources into it, all the microphones and everything else you're doing, and then, with IP, you bring back all that information to your studio where you have the mixing console. Now you have your work surface, and now you can mix and create a great OB event. But yet, you're physically back at the home base where you have all of your resources to do more things, to add more stuff.
So you have an engineer. You bring everything into that. You bring everything into the remote site. Now you've got yourself . . . You orchestrate a broadcast that, well, 20 years ago you couldn't even think could be done. Now you can. Because crystalCLEAR gives you a point-of-sale quality touchscreen capability, multi-touch, that is . . . Oh, "point-of-sale", yes. Well, when you go to your favorite restaurant and you place an order or you get your reservation prepared and the hostess or host touches the screen at their countertop, that's point-of-sale terminal. It's designed with a little extra robustifity [sic]. That's right, you want to be able to tap that glass a little harder than usual than you would, say, at home on your iPad or Android tablet.
So crystalCLEAR, Lawo, their product, they design it and they say, "Okay, you're in a console environment in a studio where you have multiple fingers touching, different people. That's the way it goes. Just, face the facts, okay? Your studio environment is hostile. End of story. But with Lawo and crystalCLEAR, you now have the ability to do more, which means if you can do more, you can generate revenue. If you generate revenue, you keep your job.
So at the end of the day, you buy Lawo crystalCLEAR console, you generate revenue and you keep your job. Is it as simple as that? Yes, because it's IP, you plug and play. Your imagination is what's going to limit you. So if you're not a very imaginative person, because maybe you're an accountant. Time to take a break, step away, and learn how to be imaginative. But if you are an engineer or a broadcast producer and you understand all the intricacies of both multi-touch and producing and the technologies that go in between the IP, you've got yourself a home run.
So give it a try. Lawo.com, www.lawo L-A-W-O, .com. www.lawo.com. Check it out. It's called the crystalCLEAR Virtual Audio Console. There's a few other things you can do with it, but I'm not going to tell you about it. You need to go to the website and read about it. Because it's more important that you read it, take a look at your workflow and say, "Where does this plug and play?" And once you have that understanding, then if you'd like, drop me an e-mail, I'll give you more details and we'll talk about you buying it and going in and having a fun time. Okay?
That's all I've got for you for now. We'll come back with more of that later on.
So let's go to the video of Kirk Harnack, Skip Pizzi spoke earlier this week. It's on a video file server. I won't say, "Let's go to the tape." It's on video file. So if Andrew, back in the studio, would be so kind as to hit that button and let's hear from Kirk and Skip, and have some fun. Its 37 minutes. Sit back and be educated on stuff for the non-technical engineer. That's what this is going to be about.
Kirk Harnack: Hey, it's Kirk Harnack. Welcome in to This Week in Radio Tech. We have a guest this week that I'm delighted that we were able to record an interview with him earlier in the week, and our guest is Skip Pizzi.
Hey, welcome in, Skip.
Skip Pizzi: Thanks, Kirk, how you doing?
Kirk: I'm great. Good to see you, too. It looks like you're in the NAB studio there.
Skip: I an indeed, our basement studio.
Kirk: It looks like you took over the Charlie Rose studio. It's nice and dark in the background.
Skip: That's right. Exactly.
Kirk: Skip, I've known you for years. In fact, I was just so delighted you asked me to write some articles for you back... oh my goodness... that must have been 20 years ago when you were at what became "Radio Magazine".
Skip: Yeah. Right.
Skip: Back then.
Skip: Yeah, it's been a while. We won't . . . Who's counting, right?
Kirk: Yes. So now, you're Senior Director of New Media Technologies at NAB. Well, most of us know what the NAB is, the National Association of Broadcasters, but what does that mean about being Senior Director of New Media Technologies?
Skip: It's a good question. We have a saying around here that says, "When do you stop calling it new?" At some point, it becomes just "media", right?
Skip: But the thing is there's always something new coming down the pipe. And so, the target keeps shifting and the title probably can stay current even though what it's talking about is always something new. It's kind of an unusual thing. For broadcasting, we tend to think that broadcasting has been super stable for so many years. And I guess if you compare it to, say, the Internet, that's true. But it's not like broadcasters haven't been innovating all along. We get kind of beat up about that today. I think that's not really warranted.
If you actually look at, the fact is broadcasting's been innovating for its entire history. Hence, the fact that we're already to the fourth edition of this book. Boy, I'll tell you, having just going through the revision from the third edition, which wasn't that old, there was a ton of stuff to change and stuff that had become outdated just since 2008 or so. So, that's testimony right there, to the amount of stuff that's always new media coming in to the broadcast world and stuff that broadcasters are adopting and taking on and applying to their industry and moving forward with.
Kirk: I should introduce the book that you're speaking about. You said the fourth edition of the book.
Kirk: This is the book.
Kirk: It is called "A Broadcast Engineering Tutorial for Non-Engineers."
Now, it says right here "Fourth Edition," but I didn't realize that this book was already out until you mentioned its fourth edition. I guess I hadn't paid attention and seen this on the shelves until I saw your name associated with it, Skip Pizzi. Now were you responsible for previous editions as well?
Skip: No. This is the first time I've been . . . Well, I just joined NAB in 2010. As I said, the third edition of this book predated that. So my co-author on this, Graham Jones, was the sole author of the third edition. He'd since retired from NAB and kind of handed over the third edition plus some work that he had done, thinking about the next edition, and then I took it from there. So that's why we're listed as co-authors on here.
But I was managing the project on this book and as I said, Graham and I went back and forth a bit, and then he gave his final stamp of approval to the whole thing when we done. The point is, as I said, lots and lots of changes.
Kirk: I want to point out to our audience who may not be familiar with you. Skip is an accomplished writer for many years and a magazine editor and, otherwise, content editor. Here's a book that a Steve Church wrote along with Skip Pizzi called "Audio over IP: Building Pro AoIP Systems from Livewire". The company I work for, the sponsor of the show, Telos, Omnia, Axia, this is our bible. We hand this out to folks and encourage other folks to buy it.
And so, Skip, the title says a lot "A Broadcast Engineering Tutorial for Non-Engineers." Why is this book important? Why is it needed?
Skip: Well, as you say, it's somewhat self-explanatory from the title. It's really an attempt to try to make the technology of broadcasting, which has always been important, particularly for engineers. It's even more important to the non-engineers in the industry nowadays, for a number of reasons. One of which, let's face it, engineering is becoming a little bit of an endangered species in this world as we kind of payroll compression algorithms, shall we say, to a lot of businesses. So the engineers aren't present as much as they used to be, at least not on a day-to-day basis where you can just run down the hall and say, "Hey, this isn't working" or, "Explain how this works to me." So there's a need for the non-engineers at our facilities to be able to be a little more sort of DIY, a little more sort of self-sufficient. So that's one reason to get this book in the hands of the folks who need it.
The other is that things change fast, and so folks that might've been current with technology few years ago might need to get up to speed. That's one of the big changes in this fourth edition is that it really deals with the Internet, which wasn't much of a factor back in the third edition.
Skip: And in fact, the third edition came out when we were still broadcasting in NTSC and in the simulcast period with DTV.
Skip: Now, this is the first edition to be in the pure digital era for television and an increasingly digital environment for radio with HD radio. So we talk about that, and also we talk about international things a little more, because it is becoming a bit of a one world. Particularly in the Internet, which knows really very few global boundaries. We're trying to present it that way.
I guess there's a final element, which is radio folks that might want to learn about TV or vice versa for their extended versatility. And that applies even to engineers who might want to learn. You know, us old radio guys, TV is just that, you know, radio with pictures. "How do them pictures work?" Well, this might be helpful for them as well as for students. A lot of teachers have been using this book since back in the third edition, or even before, as a text in RTF type departments where it's not an engineering curriculum, but folks want to learn a little bit about how the technology works.
Kirk: I just realized, this book is a bit like a Wikipedia summary of every subject in modern broadcast. So Skip, at our SBE meetings here in Nashville, the TV engineers all kind of sit together and their conversation seems to always involve the phase "PSIP generator." Here, I look in your book and on page 174 is PSIP generator.
Kirk: Now, this is great for me. I can look at this and at least understand what they're talking about.
Skip: Yeah. There you go. Without the embarrassment of having to ask what an acronym stands for, in public, right? It's a great use of the book right there. But we talk about, I should mention, of course, both radio and TV. In every case, radio is always first, and then television follows. The book is structured kind of in a way that you could, if you wanted to, read it from front to back.
It starts very high-level talking about just the whole concept of broadcasting, and then it drills into studio equipment and systems, and then goes into transmission equipment and systems. Really, because when you think about it, broadcasting is a two-part business. In the early days, we didn't really think about where one ended and the other began. But nowadays, there really are two separate industries that we're working in because that's the way our competitors have come about, to be more or less in one or the other.
Skip: So, it's really important to think about those separately. And as I say, in each case, we talk about radio and we talk about television for all of those environments.
Kirk: It's been said, in radio, for years that a smart radio station manager will take a couple hours and go with the engineer to the transmitter site, so he can understand what's going on out there and what condition it's in and what the engineer might need. This is a great book for a CEO, for a regional manager to read, or a local manager, so he can better understand the challenges and the possibilities.
Think of about the days when RDS was coming into play, RBDS in the U.S., and engineers like myself were trying to explain to managers why we ought to have this. Invariably, I'll tell you, the managers that I worked with said, "Well, who's got a radio to pick us up?" "Well, nobody yet, but." "Well, then, never mind, don't bother me with it." Well, then, ten years later, the manager goes and buys a car, a new Jaguar, right?
Kirk: And he turns on the radio and the competitor's call letters are on there, but not ours. And he runs to me and he says, "How come our call letters aren't on the radio?"
Kirk: "Well, because ten years ago I asked you to buy this piece." And he goes, "Well, get it. I don't care what it costs. Get it."
Skip: Right. Yeah.
Kirk: Maybe this can avoid that kind of stuff.
Skip: There you go. Yeah. We try not to be too far out there, blue sky. We're talking about pretty much current stuff. But we do talk a little about what we see as next gen. as well. So hopefully, it'll last for a while, because we don't want to have to do another edition of this within a year or two. It'd be nice to let it have a little bit longer on the shelves before the next edition.
But you're right. That's really exactly the target, or one of the targets that we're thinking about, is that manager to say, "How could I apply this?" Today, that's really the kind of agility that we need in broadcasting on a much higher degree than we've had in the past.
Our revision cycles within our own services, including things like metadata, and things that other services, competing services, have had already since day one. What we can now incrementally add are important, and the idea that, in fact, we may have one studio, but we may send content from that studio out over multiple transmission or delivery platforms. That's another thing that the book addresses in some detail, about the fact that you're not just feeding that one transmitter with that one studio anymore, it's a much bigger ecosystem.
Kirk: I'm paging through here. I bought this book at the NAB. So I've it for a few months, but hadn't taken a good look at yet. Now I'm paging through it and saying, these are the basic things that I wish my colleagues, at stations that I've done engineering for, I wish that they knew. A lot of things that I've explained to them. So, wow, this really does a nice job. Now, the video part of this. Radio stations, there are still plenty of radio stations that are all analog inside...
Kirk: . . . and transmitting analog. But TV stations, if you go to TV stations in the U.S., will you still find NTSC equipment?
Skip: Not really. I mean you may find a couple of old tape machines, just in case they have to pull something out of the archives.
Skip: But other than that, it's pretty much digital signal chain and it kind of has to be. In fact, you can hardly buy any of that analog stuff much anymore. In some other countries, yeah, but not so much in the U.S., not readily available. Nevertheless, that said, there are still a lot of formats and updates and things in digital world that folks are continuing to upgrade as they go along. We're about to see that, particularly in backhaul, and that's a moving target, as it always is, and it's also in radio.
We're about to see another new generation of coding come into play in the TV world, the so-called HEVC, the next gen. from MPEG, or in the IT world, they call it H.265. The first products are coming in on that right now. So that's another thing that the TV guys are going to have to get used to. There's something in the book about that.
As you said, I think you hit on a good point. A lot of this stuff, we've had to pick up as we went along, from any number of sources, wherever you catch as catch can to get new input. And of course, the Internet and a search engine helps a lot and "just-in-time" training, as we call it. But this book, we attempted to try to put it all into one stop, you know, a one-stop shopping exercise for anything that you need. It can be a desk reference or it can be something like, say, that you read from cover to cover, or just a teacher can apply sections or chapters of it to the class for whatever needs they have, whether it's radio or television, whether it's production or transmission.
Kirk: Wow. Yeah. Any engineer who needs to brush up his skills a little bit, this is certainly the way to go. In the radio business, there's been a lot of talk about the disappearance of ISDN.
Kirk: Not as much in other countries, although some countries skipped ISDN altogether. I was in Poland about eight or nine years ago. I was told by a broadcaster, they were moving from one place to another and at the new place, this was eight years ago = they couldn't get POTS or ISDN service at the new place at all. It was only IP.
Kirk: And that was this many years ago. How is the book addressing the disappearance of some technologies?
Skip: We keep a lot of stuff in there for historical reasons, because some of it is just of interest to the sort of classics, a little bit, still, about NTSC in there for that reason, and early digital technologies, things are pretty much obsolete now. But we wanted to keep a little bit in there for the historical record.
Mostly, we're talking a lot about IP and the transition to that, both in the studio and probably in the next gen., for example, the next gen. TV broadcast system. In this country, we're calling it ATSC 3.0, although that spec won't be done probably for at least another year or so, and then the products beyond that. They've already made the decision that it's going to be an IP based system. So, it's going to be IP broadcasting, which is something that we don't really do, yet, in this country, in either radio or TV, even digital radio and digital television, we're not putting out IP. We're putting out transport stream of one form or another.
Skip: And this movement to IP is going to be literally end-to-end. We think that'll help also broadcasting be a little more easily integrated with some of these other so-called competitive technologies, that are all out there and make it simpler and cheaper for consumer equipment, to at least share some of that "stack", as we call it. In terms of at least some pieces of the system that won't be super broadcast specific, as much as they can share that incredible economy and scale that IP has brought to, pretty much, the entire telecommunications world.
Kirk: If you visit any number of television stations and you get a tour of the rack rooms and the facilities and of the ingest equipment and the studio transmitter links, at more than one station an engineer has pointed to a box to me and said, "And this is the most important box in the TV station."
Kirk: "Really? What is it? Is that your STL, some kind of encoder?" "No. This is the box that carries our signal over to the cable company's head end across town."
Kirk: And I said, "Well, that's more important than the transmitter?""Absolutely. The transmitter can go off and we lose 18% of audience."
Kirk: "This goes off and we lose the other, what is it, 72% of our audience." Talk to me about surprising things in, let's say, TV stations that we didn't know were so important.
Skip: Originally, of course, cable head ends, and even to some extent, direct satellite broadcasting, took their feeds of their local live broadcast television services off the air, and then retransmitted it onto their cable plant. With digital, particularly, that's a pretty good way to go, but there's still some transcoding that has to happen and additional compression, unfortunately, that sometimes happens. There's even this weird thing that we just learned about, the danger of putting signals freely out to the air like we do, it's part of our DNA as broadcasters. And then a company like ARIO can come along and say, "Well, you know what, we're going to make a business model out of that."Which, of course, is what cable and satellite does, but under regulations and bilateral agreements that compensate the broadcaster for it, and ARIO was saying, "We don't have to do that. This stuff is free to air. We're just giving you more eyeballs and putting it on the Internet for you and charging our customers to build our business on your backs"
So, there's a lot of issues about this whole idea of what the free to air transmission gives us, both pro and con. So, that's a lesson that broadcasters are learning and thinking about, what new systems we might need for security, for securing our still free-to-air content. This is an area that broadcasters really have never had to deal with, never wanted to deal with, really, because it is free-to-air, that's our motto, right?
Nevertheless, we're looking like we need some sort of protection, content protection. So this is an area that we find, when we start talking about it, there is no homegrown experience, and we've got to go to outside parties and we're all trying to study up on the whole idea of adding encryption to signals.
The other nice thing about that is it could open up opportunities for additional business models that, typically, broadcasters haven't done. But if you had a TV or radio service where you put multicasts up, three or four different programs, one of them could be a subscription channel. You know, you could do your whole long tail thing on your own multiplex where your most popular stuff is free to air and your less popular things are either on-demand, protected, or even live but encrypted. Those get fewer users, but those users who are bad into it might be willing to pay for it and you have a way to do that. So lots of new things on the plate.
Kirk: I wonder if you might end up with a model that is a bit like C-band satellite became, where stuff you don't really want to watch, like all the shopping channels and Dr. Jean Scott, or whoever it was... and people who don't care how many eyeballs watch and don't care to be compensated directly for those eyeballs, that's free to air. But if you want to watch the new episode of "Law and Order," that's going to cost you.
Kirk: That would be an interesting model. And then, where would we go with this notion of the public airwaves? You know, broadcasters perhaps charging money using the public airwaves. Does it feel like maybe someday we won't have an over-the-air model anymore?
Skip: I don't think so. I think there is always going to be a need for the over-the-air model. It's an American thing, the sort egalitarian, open, free-to-everyone, you know, it's part of our democracy, that sort of free public forum, for airing of issues and ideas, at the very least. But there's also good business in it because it's what we now call infinitely scalable. It's like, we didn't know we were infinitely scalable, but now that's a new cocktail-party word that we can use as broadcasters and say,
"You realize, of course, that we're infinitely scalable."
That was one of those things we always were but never knew there was advantage to it until, compared to what. It's like, when they wrote the old history books about World War I, they didn't call it World War I because World War II hadn't come along yet and they had to change the name after the fact.
Skip: So, same thing like that, we're infinitely scalable. There is a need for that. If nothing else besides emergency alerting and other kinds of really crisis, important things, where everybody comes to the service at once. When you've got a non-scalable or a limited scalability service, like everything is basically, on any kind of network, Internet included. You're always going to have a limit to capacity. You're either going to slow down the service or crash it or have other non-optimal experiences for the consumer. Whereas broadcasters never will have that problem. Never.
It's one thing to say 99%. We can say with absolute impunity, we will never have a problem serving as many people, truly is infinite. There's not a lot of things you can say that about in today's technology. So that's one thing, one reason alone.
Plus there are some other, I think, good business reasons, regulatory reasons, even legal reasons, to have that free-to-air broadcast service continue. Yeah, there's going to be continuing number of new competitors, but broadcasting can, as a secondary business, get into a lot of those other businesses.
Broadcasters are the only ones who can be both places. Right? Free-to-air, infinitely scalable as well as other services that, you know, your economy is still having the means of production and studios and people and all that, all those assets brought together. An archive. You know, the things that broadcasters all have at their fingertips that can be pulled together and repurposed to send out other kinds of streams that are online, on-demand, and so forth. Broadcasters are the only ones who can be in all those places.
As I like to say, it's a broadcasters' game to lose going forward in the future because you have that license to the scarce resource of free-to-air, and you also can play in these other environments, new media, as we say, and having the best of both worlds there is, I think, a pretty good recipe for continued success.
Kirk: It seems like your next ought to be more on the subject of what we're talking about now, the ideas and philosophy of our broadcasting model and where things are going. I mean, just as a consumer, I'm a little bit worried. I'm not a prize-fighting fan, but if I was. You know, it's been years since I could watch a free-to-air heavyweight boxing match. Right?
Kirk: I've got to pay for that now.
Kirk: Major league baseball, I'm not a big sports fan, but if I was, I'll bet you I would probably need to subscribe to some things in order to watch the games that I wanted. Didn't used to have that, but also didn't used to have much choice either. Whatever my local affiliates were carrying is what I could watch.
Kirk: So maybe that hasn't changed a whole lot in real terms. But during this debate over the ARIO decision, there was so a lot of back-and-forth on Internet forums and Facebook about, "Well, hey, broadcasters actually are coming to a point where they may make more money if people don't see a free over the air, but they see it through some subscription service."
ABC television had an app that I could watch "Castle" from the night before. I can't do that anymore unless I subscribe to cable now. I have to tell ABC's app who my cable provider." And I bring this up because it hits home. I live right in Nashville, Tennessee. I can pick up over the air, every affiliate that there is except the ABC affiliate. Their tower is four miles behind my house, but I gonna knife edge ridge between my house... and a spectrum analyzer proves I can't pick them up unless I put a 100-foot tower, and I think the city of Oak Hill is not going to like that. So I can't pick up free over-the-air. I can't watch "Castle" for free. I can't watch "Nashville" for free. Cannot. I have to subscribe to Comcast or a direct broadcast satellite service, Dish or Direct in order to watch it. I used to watch with ABC's app, now I can't.
So as a consumer, I feel little bit put-out here about where the model is going. We're far afield here from this fantastic book, but maybe you have some thoughts on . . . You know, I don't feel like broadcasters are serving me because I can't watch it anymore.
Skip: Yeah. You're touching on one of the issues that broadcasters are in this sort of post-ARIO environment looking at with a pretty strong focus right now, because, in fact, they were looking at it before, but so many things were sort of saying, "Okay, we gotta wait and see what happens with this case."
Skip: Now that we know that, we're moving on. There are some technologies that a number of broadcasters are all looking at. Some of them are looking at one versus another, and the question is whether there's going to be uniformity amongst them. But as you've already seen, ABC does it one way, NBC does it another, and CBS is maybe doing another, those kinds of things. Those are networks versus how their local affiliates carry. So it's a pretty important and big and involved ecosystem that has some great traditions to it.
Kirk: Yes. Definitely.
Skip: How do you maintain the best of those traditions but also expand the capabilities? For consumers to have better services, particularly today, in a world where they would like to have more "content portability", as its called, being able to take the content with you, view it on demand any time, any device. This is, I think, if not issue one, one of the top few on most television broadcasters' horizon right now. There is a lot of hard work. It's behind the curtain, mostly. A lot of hard work is being done, I can tell you, on trying to figure out how to not have the kind of bad consumer experience you're talking about there, and it's also enabled other consumers to have even more capability to consume and enjoy the content in as many different environments as possible. Whether it's live and in real-time or the next day off-line and portable from one device to another.
A lot of it is about what we're calling "authentication". It's tough to say because this isn't really a technology problem as much as it is a content rights issue.
Skip: There are so many contracts and agreements that go all the way up the chain, even beyond the networks, upstream from there. All of those, again, there's a lot of traditions involved. Some of those may change. But it's really about how you can honor the rights that are in place and how you can then try to extend them, or revise them, the next time the agreement comes up for renegotiation.
Kirk: Sure. And those agreements were written at a time when your coverage area was defined by your signal area.
Kirk: If you put something on the Internet, yes, you can do some reasonably effective geographical restrictions, but there's going to be somebody who's going to get around if they want to.
I would love it if my local ABC affiliate, just like radio stations stream themselves, I would love it if my local ABC affiliate would stream itself. Even if I had to, somehow, reasonably prove that I was a Nashville resident or a resident of their DMA, that would be fine with me, I don't want to watch the ABC affiliate in Dubuque.
Kirk: I want to watch the ABC affiliate right here in Nashville.
Kirk: I can't, unless I subscribe to cable. The problem, for me, with subscribing to cable, then I've got to pay for all the things I don't want, you know, all the shopping channels and the sports channels and all the stuff that I have absolutely no interest in whatsoever. I was just tired of a $230 cable bill for Internet and basic stuff.
Skip: Yeah, and certainly, the cable industry hears that. They hear it loud and clear from a lot of different venues, both above and below.
Skip: They know they're dealing with that. There's their whole push towards a la carte, or unbundling.
Skip: I think where you'll see it end up happening is probably not to a pure a la carte where you literally buy each channel by itself, because nobody is going to like the way those are priced either if they have to go that way.
Skip: What you're seeing is more and more smaller tiers, and where it used to be basic and premium, and that was it. Now, you have a lot of different tiers and you're seeing more and more slices and packages. So they're working on it from that direction.
The other direction is how you authenticate as a broadcast user like you're saying. While some of the broadcasters are looking at a cable solution, and that's what the so-called TV Everywhere, where you use the cable authentication, which just basically was built originally for premium cable content, but just to now use it for any channel.
There's another approach that's a little more broadcast centric, which is called "SyncBack". We talked about it a little bit in the book. It's a system that is, as I say, more optimized for broadcast over the air to be able to authenticate, not to be as a customer, a paying customer like cable is concerned, but really, just to say, "Where are you?" It's a geo-fencing kind of a mechanism. Do you remember that term? You sort of alluded to it. This idea that says, "Yes, I am a customer, a bona fide customer, of this TV channel just by the nature of where I live as my primary residence. And if I'm in a certain ZIP code or whatever or geographic area, I am qualified to get that content."
So now, it's a matter of that technology which is already out there being deployed, implemented, and it's not expensive to do. Then, it's a matter of, and this is the tougher part, the broadcaster saying, "Okay, now we have this mechanism for saying yes with great robustness. We're only serving, even though we might be streaming something out on the Internet, we're still only serving that same geographically limited market. And we can do that and we can say that with really high confidence that we're only going to be serving that same population, even if we're not doing it over the air but doing it through some sort of IP distribution mechanism. "And that's the part, now, that has to kind of percolate through the rights environment to say, "Yeah, we trust that. We trust that just as much as we know that your transmitter signal is going to run out at some point, at some radius away from the tower."
Kirk: Wow. Skip, that's very interesting and I would love to see that happen. I mean, for my own selfish reasons too, I can't watch the two most popular shows I want to watch right now, unless I pay a whole lot of money to people I don't want to pay money to, and it's technological restriction. I mean, I would have loved an ARIO-type service, but I understand the problems that broadcasters had with that.
Maybe the broadcaster will be able to stream and respect the rights of the content creators who deserve to be paid for their work and the royalties. The more successful their work is, then the more they paid.
Skip: Yeah. It's a big food chain, as you say.
Skip: That's something that broadcasters couldn't even do themselves, as you said, like TV broadcasters can't do what radio stations do, which is, by and large, stream their content full-time. If stations couldn't do it, how should some third party be able to do it and actually monetize it on their backs? Not only not paying, violating the rights of the broadcasters themselves, but also all those people upstream from the broadcasters who have content. Because they weren't even doing the compulsory license. I don't want to geek out too much on this whole legal thing, but it's really been . . .
The best thing about the ARIO process was it really got some discussions going, at a realistic level, throughout the industry. Not just broadcasting, but certainly, within broadcasting, which were things that needed to be talked about but were being kind of swept aside or just curtailed because, "Well, we can't go there because we don't have the rights, and so it's not even worth looking at," and so on. So now, that discussion is really at a high pace, and we're looking for some kind of, really, consumer benefit, in the pretty near future, for addressing this in a way that makes sense to all the stakeholders involved. Including the consumer and their need for and desire for great flexibility and convenience.
Kirk: Got you. Skip, even the ideas in the last few minutes you've been talking about, which are not necessarily addressed directly in the book, the technology behind them is addressed in this book.
Skip: Right. Yeah.
Kirk: Highly recommended for engineers who want to know about their counterparts and know more about their own job, maybe they kind of were behind the door when the PSIP was being talked about, and for managers and other non-engineers. A great book to have. I'm glad I got my copy, and I will begin to read it now. This is available, I guess, at Amazon.
Skip: Yeah. And through the publisher, Focal Press, who NAB works with on a number of books, including this one. But you can get it at any online bookseller as well. It's available in hardback and softbound.
Skip: And also, as an e-book on Kindle, on the Apple platform, and on a number of other sort of educationally focused e-book platforms from the academic community.
Kirk: I've gotta believe this is an awesome reference. If you are in school and you're interested in broadcasting and engineering, whether you're a talent behind the scenes, production work, or you're going to do engineering, this is information you need to have.
Skip: Right. Thanks. I appreciate that, and I think it's true more and more, nowadays, folks who are even on the pure creative side need to know as much as they can about the technology they're working with.
Kirk: Good deal. Skip, thanks for your time. I appreciate you coming on and spending the time with us to explain the things that you have, and enlightening us. Thanks for taking the effort to write the book, too.
Skip: Well, thank you. I appreciate it, Kirk. Good luck and good to see you.
Kirk: All right.
Chris: Well, look at that. I want to make sure I'm back here. Okay. I think you can hear me okay.
Well, those of you watching, Skip Pizzi and Kirk Harnack convincing about things of what we're doing in broadcasting. So let's recap.
Basically, the world has changed, as we know it. Broadcasting started out as something very simple, straightforward. We created a program, put a signal on a link out to the transmitter, and off it went to the radio ether, and then our radios received it, whether it be on a Walkman, you know, Walkman brand, that is, or a car radio, or even at home on a stereo consolette, as it used to be known.
Things have changed. Now you can use something as simple as this, I'm showing a picture, I'm actually showing a Smartphone that has the ability to receive data wirelessly. And now, all of a sudden, I can listen to my favorite radio station and even maybe watch my favorite TV show unlike Kirk, who says it's great. You can't really watch everything, because broadcasters have become somewhat goofy about how to do stuff.
In any case, it's food for thought. The book that they're talking about, let's see if I wrote that down. "A Broadcast Engineering Tutorial for Non-Engineers." The industry has changed. We've become a do-it-yourself type society. I've said this before on the program many times.
I think it's time for us, as engineers, to start realizing we need to learn more than just simply Ohm's Law, Kirchhoff's law, and a few other laws that are out there regarding electronics and where things go and how they work. I think it's time to understand more of the workflow. That's my favorite term these days is "workflow understanding."
I will say this, today I was at a meeting with a couple of people who are not technical at all. Actually, it was a chief financial officer of an organization and one of the board members of the organization's board of trustees. Talking about their needs. First [inaudible 00:46:45] in talking about intercom systems based on IP. Then we started talking some more and discovered that their real need was not in the intercom world, it was actually distributing video throughout their facility for training purposes.
Right now, they're currently using hard-wired cable distribution. They're actually using DirecTV and a few other satellite services to bring in some of the outside video. Then they have a couple of channels they modulate on their system for internal.
We talked about over-the-top technology, and they're like, "Well, if we do this. If we do that." I said, "No. Think about it, you could do a lot. You get metrics. You can use controlled access, so when somebody logs in, their login determines what they can access or not." So now, all of a sudden, we went from the $300, $400 television drop in each room or office or conference center, to something where they could take a set-top box with an Ethernet connection, plug it into any spigot in their facility, and now, all of the sudden, with the person's login, they can access what they need.
Take that that to the next level, now that IP link could be brought outside the building and now, they can take two campuses and bring them together. Again, through that simple, I'm just doing this very simple stuff, you now have an extension of what you're doing with your programming. So why, then, would a television or broadcasters put their content in the hands of a third party? Why didn't they do it themselves?
Things to think about.
In order for you to think about it and understand it, you have to sort of read about where we're going and what's happening. I think this video was great. Check it out on the website once we get everything posted after this show, you should watch it some more.
The book is worth the investment. Skip Pizzi is well educated in this area. He knows a lot of us. We've all talked. We've had seminars. We'd sit at the bar and talk about, "Boy, wouldn't it be nice if . . ." Then what he has done now working with the NAB, he's taken it to next level. He's put it in print. He's going on the road to talk to people about it.
So I think this is the time now. This is the year, 2014, to start thinking about what if. What if I could do this? How about that? Why not this? It's "think out of the box" is the old saying that's been touted about. So that's my two cents to the previous video that you saw.
But before we get any farther into the two cents that I have to offer throughout This Week in Radio Tech, Episode 221 with the ability for me, Kirk, Tom and Chris, all of us to be able to talk to you and be in this one-on-one and enjoy our weekly get-togethers.
Sometimes we get to meet at the NAB or CCBE or AES or SBE Regional Conventions. Our sponsors help us. All right, advertising, whatever you want to call it. But basically, people who are of the thought or the mindset, that what we're doing and what we're trying to do makes sense and it's worth investing. So they're willing to give us a couple of bucks to make what you see possible. It does cost us bandwidth and studio time and other things. So I'm going to get into it with our next sponsor.
The first sponsor you heard already. I won't repeat it just to be fair to the upcoming sponsor we have, and I misplaced a few things here, so let's be careful now.
So the sponsor we have for this portion of the broadcast, or netcast I should say, is Telos, and it's a Telos Hybrid. I'm going to mention a few names of Telos hybrid model numbers you should remember - Telos 10, Telos 100, how about the 100 Delta, remember those? And then there's the perennial Telos 1. Come on, everyone remembers the Telos 1.
We used that in everything possible. I used to use it for intercom system integration so folks could dial in off-site into the intercom system and be part of the party line group, so a very versatile box.
With the internal processing that Steve Church implemented back in the early days, the quality of a Telos Hybrid was second to none. We all know that, so I'm not going to pussyfoot around and give you any of that marketing jargon. You've used it. You know it. It has a reputation. When I mention Telos Hybrids, it's like someone talking to you about a Mercedes, you don't question which Mercedes it is, you just know. When I tell you Telos Hybrids, you know.
So with that comes the Telos 2 family. Do you remember the 2101? It's still out there. It's still in use. I know because I've used it on many occasions recently and I work with folks who still use the 2101.
So now, we move forward. As Skip Pizzi talked about, when is the new media no longer new? When does the technology shift? How do we learn and what do we do? We now come to our newest family, the Telos Hx6. It's a six-line talk show system. Think of it as the new 1 x 6 Telos 1 x 6 on steroids. It gives you more you can do with, and how it would be nice to be able to tell your folks.
Programming is special. Right? You're a talk show station. Maybe you're doing sports. Maybe you're just doing straight talk, local or national, and you're talking to your PD, Program Director, about what you're doing by investing in this Hx6. And he says, "What's the big deal? It's just a phone hybrid. I can get anybody's hybrid. There's several others out there. Whatever. Vinnie Boombatz could sell me something. So what." Here's what you do. You explain to them, say, "Well, are you familiar with Omnia Audio Processor?"
"Absolutely. Who isn't?"
"That makes your market signature. That puts you on the top of the heap. But guess what? Inside every Hx6 Six-Line Talk Show System, there's a little bit of an Omnia in it and there's a spectral processor."
"And why would you do that?"
"Well we all know phone audio - and we'll technical now - well, phone audio is spiky. It's peaky. It has a lot of peaks and valleys because that's the way your phone company audio gets processed. What better way to control peaky audio, and think of it like music, but with a spectral processor. And what better spectral processor to choose than an Omnia engine? Now, of course, it's not a multiband, 12-band Omnia inside your phone hybrid. It's a 3-band spectral processor. That's all you need. Let's be honest.
The spectrum you work with on the phone line is very limited. But if you're using Omnia AGC algorithms and you're using the spectral processing approach from an Omnia in your phone hybrid. That's why you don't have to question. Telos Hybrid. Does it sound good or not? Of course it does. That's why."
So do you want to have an advantage? Do you want to be able to raise your hand in that meeting with the PD and maybe the music director, or maybe other folks, with the jocks, even, a jock man saying, "What's the big deal?" Tell them, "Not only do you get the processing of an Omnia for the main program that everybody loves to hear, but every time there's a phone call, there's a little bit of Omnia in that call. And that's what brings it all together."
Now, what else can you do with it? Well, if you have livewire, you plug a livewire in and you're off to the races, and if you don't. If you don't, it's a standalone hybrid. Two hybrids, one for the guest calls and then the other is for the VIP. Then you can do either ISDN connectivity or POTS. So either way, you could still do traditional POTS or if you're lucky enough, you can take three ISDN lines, put it into the back, because each ISDN line has two numbers, 2, 4, 6, there's your six lines. So either way, it's flexible. Then you could have up to, I believe, it's 12 VSets plug into it. So the VSets are an IP phone headset.
So you're already moving forward and taking advantage of the technology and future-proofing yourself so as you move forward and decide to go with an Axia system, maybe the iQ, maybe it's the Element, maybe it's even beyond, you already have a part of it. Because if your phones are part of your programming and they're crucial to your broadcast day, you're already halfway there. What better way to start?
Again, it's a Telos Hybrid. That's all you have to remember. Just remember this, though. The model number you need to remember is Hx6 Six-Line Talk Show System. Well, there's so many things you could do with it. It's a phone hybrid. It selects calls. It works with the software to screen calls. So call screening is done. Everything you expect. But the best part, the best part you must remember is the audio quality, because at the end of the day, at the end of the conversation, it's what the person heard on the radio.
When you're famous or popular talk show host is talking to a caller, engaging the community, you want to hear the clarity and you want to be able to understand what they say, either agree or disagree or chime in with your opinions, and we all have them, you can do it. You can get up to six opinions per call, per show, per moment because it's a six-line hybrid.
Or, you could do five and have a VIP give his opinion and five community callers from the audience. So either way, everybody gets their two cents in, but with the quality of an Omnia processor, the quality intelligibility that you'd expect from a Telos Hybrid, all in a simple box. It's a 1RU box. Oh yeah, did I mention that? It's 1RU.
If you remember the 2101s, it's several RUs. It's kind of big. It's got a lot of fancy things. Okay. There's a reason for that. But for right now, six lines, 1RU, Livewire enabled, you can do ASEVU [sounds like 00:55:25]. You can do three ISDN, which makes six lines, six numbers.
If you want really great quality, do ISDN interface. Why? ISDN is digital from the central office to the hybrid. The hybrid already is digital DSP-based and has Omnia processing, so you get the best of everything. The worst part is you can't control it if you're caller is using one of those NFL Sports Illustrated football phones. Remember those?
That audio quality, you know, that's to be questioned.
But at least you know once you're connected to the central office, from the phone company to you is digital. From you in the studio to your transmitter is digital. Transmitters out on the HD radio is digital. Your audience is going to get three-quarters of the best signal they can get. That that one quarter they can't control, that's the person calling in. Hopefully, if the person is kept aware with all that intelligence and is willing to speak properly to your host, then you're in great shape. If not, so be it. That's the way it goes.
So Telos Hx6 Six-Line Talk Show System. Give it a try. Check it out. Telos-systems.com. Click on the pulldown menu for phones and select it from there. Real simple and straightforward. All right? There you go. So that's our sponsor for this half of the show, Telos. And the other sponsor you heard in the earlier half.
So back on the show on-demand. You can check out who we spoke with at the opening of the show, just before Skip Pizzi and Kirk talk about where things are going with the industry and how we've shaped up. Well, we're not shaping up. So there you have it.
So now, let's see. How much time do I have left? Oh, look at that. I lost track of my time, I've been trying to help everybody out, and didn't pay attention.
You know, there was something I wanted to show everyone. How many times do you drive past the skyline or a large billboard? You see those lights and the outdoors advertisements, you know, it's definitely an LED panel and it's pretty cool and they can change stuff on the fly. It beats the old days of a guy climbing out on a ladder and unraveling, unfurling a poster, gluing it up, and hoping it stays through the rain. I had a chance yesterday in Manhattan to work on top of a building, a flat rooftop this time, I wasn't hanging off the side. A flat rooftop, alongside a couple of digital signs that illuminate across the Manhattan skyline and one of the technicians was kind enough to show me and actually gave me this...
Unfortunately, for those of you listening to this netcast, you won't be able to see it, so you'll have to watch the video. But I'll describe it to you. It's a small cube. It's a one-inch square cube that I'm holding. But in it, in the epoxy are LEDs. There is about nine of them, and they're red, green and blue. There's more red than blue and the green. And that's what they do, take this in a 4x4 panel, four-foot by four-panel and there's hundreds of these little squares snapped in, and then they create a big illusion of a large digital sign, and they're all connected with this little ribbon cable that I'm showing. It's very straightforward. As you can see, it's four wires - red, green, blue and yellow, yellow being the ground. And then, they select which LEDs get lit up.
I just thought it was pretty cool to show this and talk about it because these are the kinds of things that are happening now in the world of IP, the world of content creation, distribution, and we, in radio, especially have it made, because we have one less component to worry about, the video. I take that back. We do have to worry about the video. That's that web thing now. So engineers, those of us who are learning, those of you who were watching this who are not engineering types, maybe programming types, maybe tinkerers, learn the inner workings.
Understand what makes the light, that fluorescent panel look the way it does for that outdoor sign that looks like it does with the LEDs, as I'm holding the cube up in my hand again. It's pretty cool. I only say it because it helps you think. You know, you sit back and have a cup of coffee and think about these things, and that's the way to go.
With that, let's see, look at the time, now, it's 3:02. I think we started roughly on time. I may have a couple of seconds left. I'll ask Andrew just to Skype text me real quick. In the meantime, those of you are wondering, don't forget, in October, AES in LA. Okay. Got it. Don't forget in Canada, we have CCD coming up in September. There's a lot of events taking place online, so webinars you should check out, and everything we have on the website, you can find out more.
forget, also patronize our other folks here at the GFQ network, because there's a few other shows that you should check out. Okay? "What the Tech" is one of them. And I'll just mention the name, Paul Thurrott. If you know the name, you know what I'm talking about. If you don't know the name, tune in and check it out. All right?
this is going to conclude this week's episode 221, 221 episodes of This Week in Radio Tech. I'm Chris Tobin. I'm an independent consultant. I do a lot of work with folks, both TV and radio, and a lot of IP based stuff. It's fun. So if you want to find out more, you can reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. That's where you'll find me. Otherwise, you can check out what we do here, This Week in Radio Tech.
So with that, I thank you all for tuning in and look forward to catching up with you some time in the future. Let's look forward to next week for another This Week in Radio Tech.
Topics: Broadcast Engineering
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