Every Broadcast is a Remote with Bob Page
By Kirk Harnack [TWiRT] on Sep 8, 2014 10:51:00 AM
Meet Bob Page, the studio manager with two studios and no transmitter. With a revolving door for the on-air talent. And for whom every single broadcast shift is a “remote.” Bob manages the Radio Broadcast Center at Universal Studios, Florida. He and Jason Mercurio manage, train, facilitate, troubleshoot, connect, and do whatever else is needed to get from 2 to 5 broadcasts on the air each day from these spectacular studios.
We experienced some tech difficulties during the broadcast. Naturally, the high-speed Internet link checked out perfectly before the broadcast. But, it went dead and we had to use a backup Internet connection. Quality wasn’t so good, but Bob Page’s interview, along with Chris Tobin’s comments, are worth watching or listening to.
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Recorder: "This Week in Radio Tech," episode 225, is brought to you by the Telos Z/IP ONE, automatic IP audio codec. Easy to use, and it's automatic. And by Lawo, maker of the new crystalCLEAR virtual radio console. Intuitive, progressive, and focused. crystalCLEAR is the radio console with a multi-touch touchscreen interface.
And by Axia, consoles, mixing engines, intercoms, phones, audio processors-only Axia connects you to so much, so easily.
Hey, meet Bob Page, studio manager at the Radio Broadcast Center at Universal Studios, Florida. Quite possibly the man with the coolest job in radio.
Kirk Harnack: Hey, welcome in, it's "This Week in Radio Tech." I'm Kirk Harnack, your host. Glad you're here. This is the show where we talk about broadcasting technology, audio, radio tech-anything from the microphone to the bulb at the top of the tower.
This is our guest, Bob Page. We're going to introduce Bob in just a second. I want to bring in first of all though typically, maybe not today, the best dressed engineer in radio, and that's Chris Tobin. Hey, Chris, welcome in.
Chris Tobin: Thanks, Kirk. You know when you're on the beach, you're best dressed for a very comfort feeling, so that's what I'm doing today. I'm also reading my copy of "TVB Europe," because you never know when you need to know what's going on around the world.
And it's out here on the Jersey Shore. Behind me is not a green screen as some people might think. This is actually the view of the Atlantic Ocean and a sand dune as I step out of view of the camera.
Kirk Harnack: How lovely.
Chris Tobin: Yeah, it's been a very nice time. I've been on holiday this week, enjoying some downtime, some seagulls and some fish and things. It's been good.
Kirk Harnack: Awesome, awesome. Well, our show is brought to you by-this is "This Week in Radio Tech," by the way. It's our 225th episode, and Chris Tobin is on the Jersey Shore, and I'm in Orlando.
Chris Tobin: In Orlando, enjoying . . .
Kirk Harnack: Yeah. I am enjoying, yeah. We're just about to go see the Harry Potter, the new big Harry Potter thing. What's it called, Diagon Alley?
Bob Page: Diagon Alley.
Kirk Harnack: Yeah, Diagon Alley. I just figured that out a little while ago.
Bob Page: Yeah, it's beautiful.
Kirk Harnack: Yeah. "Diagonally." I just-yeah.
Bob Page: Well, they do have Horizon Alley inside Diagon Alley. For real.
Kirk Harnack: So hey, you'll excuse me, I'm coughing with just the very tail end of a cold here. I'll try not to give it to Bob. This is Bob Page. Bob is our guest today, and Bob, you are the studio engineer?
Bob Page: Sort of. My background is not engineering, but I've been here at the radio broadcast center at Universal Orlando Resort for 18, 19 years? We're just cranking out broadcasts.
Kirk Harnack: He says he's not an engineer. Could've fooled me.
Bob Page: Officially, my title would be Radio Broadcast Specialist.
Kirk Harnack: Okay, cool. Well, we're going to talk about the broadcast studios here at Universal. Mostly Chris Tobin and Bob are going to talk to each other. Also Jason Mercurio's going to jump in here with us in a few minutes, but first I want to let you know that our show is brought to you in part by Telos Systems, and the Telos Z/IP ONE IP audio codec.
I've got to tell you, folks, this thing is really cool. They've got one here at the Universal Radio Studios. I've got like five of them at my office and lab. I'm kind of a Z/IP hog. The Z/IP ONE connects to an Internet connection. It can be public Internet, it can be a private WAN, it can be a point-to-point like a T1 or an IP radio link.
But the whole idea of the Telos Z/IP ONE being an IP audio codec, of course it encodes your audio. It encodes it into a stream, and you can choose from all different codecs that are in there. Even no codec at all, just linear PCM audio if you have the bandwidth to do that.
But the key about the Z/IP ONE, it's got a couple things. Number one, it's really easy to use, because if you send it on remote, when you hook to the Internet, it automatically connects to the Telos Z/IP server. Then you get a list of the friendly names of the studios that you want to call. If you want to call your main control room, or your WAXY Studio Five-whatever it may be-you don't have to know IP addresses. You don't have to know port numbers.
In fact in most cases, you don't even have to do port forwarding for the Z/IP ONE to work. Your operator plugs it in, gets an Internet connection, highlights the studio they want to call, you push "auto," and away you go. It connects. Usually within ten seconds, you've got a connection between two Z/IP ONEs. High quality audio in both directions.
Some of the codecs in there, if you've got just a small bandwidth connection, you can choose one of the most sophisticated codecs ever. It's called AAC-ELD. That's AAC Enhanced Low Delay. Top speed it does is 64 kilobits, and it sounds pretty good at 64 kilobits. It's actually pretty amazing. Stereo audio, 20 kilohertz. The folks at Fraunhofer really outdid themselves with AAC-ELD.
The LD means "low delay," so you can have a quick two-way conversation with that codec as well. But if you want to do MPEG layer 2 for compatibility with some older devices, or if you want to do full AAC, or AAC Low Delay, those are all built in. So is HEAAC, those are all built in as well.
Something else cool about the Z/IP ONE is it auto-throttles. In other words, it's always measuring the bandwidth that you have available. It's looking for lost packets and late packets at each receive end, and it'll automatically adjust its buffer size, and it'll automatically adjust the send rate of the far unit in case your bandwidth gets bad.
It'll keep you on the air at a reduced bit rate, and then when your bandwidth gets available again, it'll speed back up to a higher quality connection. It does all this pretty seamlessly. Occasionally you'll hear a little glitch as it's moving around, finding the right thing. But hey, once it's locked in and stable, it is really a cool device.
Folks are using it for their STLs, they're using it for remote broadcasts. You have one of the Z/IP ONEs here at Universal Studios. So check it out on the web. If you need to get audio from here to there, and you've just got Internet or some IP connection to do it, I would encourage you to check out the Z/IP ONE.
We use it all the time at our radio stations. And a lot of stations-right here in Florida, I know of at least 60 of them right now that are on the air, providing audio between radio stations and central studio locations. Yeah, 60 of them, right here in Florida.
Go to the web, telos-systems.com, and look for the Z/IP ONE. Telos-systems.com.
All right, Bob. Let's get right into the show.
Bob Page: Sure.
Kirk Harnack: So why are these radio studios at Universal? What's the deal?
Bob Page: We built the radio studios about 18 years ago as a promotional tool for the theme parks. Last year we had 253 different radio stations come through these studios and broadcast live back to wherever home is. It's all part of the promotion. They go into the market before hand, and there'll be paid commercials.
It's all, nobody actually spends any money. It's just hands shaking hands. We put spots in the market, and then it all [inaudible 00:07:15] off, the promotional contest or whatever, and they give away a prize. They do the live broadcast from here.
Kirk Harnack: Got you. So it's fun for a radio station.
Bob Page: Amazing for a radio station.
Kirk Harnack: And of course, you're buying ads on the station . . .
Bob Page: Yeah.
Kirk Harnack: . . . and then they get to come here, the disc jockeys get to have fun here at Universal, and broadcast live.
Bob Page: Yeah, that's pretty much the deal. I mean when a radio station comes down here, they're doing half the work, because half of it's still being done back there. It's like they're on vacation. Sounds amazing on the air, and they get to talk about Universal, and we get the promotion out of it.
Kirk Harnack: Now, I've got to tell you guys where we are here We're right across the street from the "Terminator," the T2 show, and the new Harry Potter thing is just walking distance from here. The Transformers, we just went through that ride earlier today.
Bob, I've got to tell you, if this Telos thing doesn't work out for me, can I come work for you?
Bob Page: I can't tell you how many radio guys are like, "You have the best gig ever in radio." I'm like yeah, I get to come in and play radio every single day without really being in radio. My format changes three or four times a day, sometimes.
Kirk Harnack: Hey, Chris Tobin, when you were engineering with radio stations full-time, any of your friends get to come down here?
Chris Tobin: Oh yeah, we did a couple of Universal Orlando studio set-ups. They've been cool, and very hospitable. It's been great opportunities every time. The jocks loved it, and as Bob points out, the spots and stuff back in the market we were coming from, the response was really nice. The park folks were great, both in the broadcast facility and throughout the theme park itself.
Kirk Harnack: I guess without a lot of further ado, we ought to at least take a verbally spoken tour of the facilities.
Bob Page: Sure.
Kirk Harnack: Now I was here years ago, and you had a lot of Harris audio consoles, right?
Bob Page: Correct.
Kirk Harnack: Which Harris consoles were those?
Bob Page: We went through two different versions. We had the old BM Harris . . .
Kirk Harnack: The Pacific ones?
Bob Page: Pacific Recorders, yeah, yeah.
Kirk Harnack: Yeah, PR&E console.
Bob Page: Exactly. PR&E consoles, and then we went to BMX digitals. Then we just recently upgraded to the Elements, and they are stunning.
Kirk Harnack: Cool, cool.
Bob Page: It's one of the cool things about the theme park, is that all the attractions are state of the art and cutting edge. We felt like the radio studio had to be the same exact model. So we go out and try to find the absolute state of the art, cutting edge equipment, so when jocks come here it's like they get to go test drive Ferraris.
Kirk Harnack: Well I was talking to a lady who was on the air from one of your studios about an hour ago, and I said, "So what do you think of this Axia console?" She says, "It's just like the one I use at my radio station." So great, cool. Awesome.
Now, so you have two studios here. Tell me how they're the same or different. How are they equipped?
Bob Page: They're equipped very similar. We have the Element consoles, and we run BSI's Op-X automation. Mostly not so much that we're running a full log as a radio station would, but it's touchscreen, it's super-cool, we have the hot keys. There are tons of drops and elements that the station can play with.
Because that's what we want them to do when they're here, is just have some fun.
Kirk Harnack: Now when a station comes in here, typically aren't they playing the music and commercials back home?
Bob Page: 90% of the time, everything's played back home, or VPN'ing into their station and controlling it from here.
Kirk Harnack: Oh, yeah, okay. There doesn't necessarily have to be somebody back at the station.
Bob Page: Yeah, just somebody who can turn them on and walk in four hours later and turn them off.
Kirk Harnack: Okay, all right, so that's a pretty common practice, huh?
Bob Page: It happens occasionally, depending on the market. It happens every once in a while.
Kirk Harnack: As the technology, does remoting-I do that all the time, Remote Desktop in. Does it tend to be speedy enough for people to hit something and the music plays?
Bob Page: Yeah, pretty much. We haven't had any real complaints. It seems to be fine.
Kirk Harnack: Now if a station wants to bring a full complement of talent in here, you've got multiple mics in these rooms.
Bob Page: Yeah, we've had some large morning shows where they've taken over both studios and used the studio that we're in now, which will be transformers, and used it as a news room. We had the whole show in there, and then we have an office with a call screener, so they can screen calls in the office.
Kirk Harnack: Oh, I saw that call screener position. Okay, cool. Wow. So would a station typically-I'm sorry to get into the tech here . . .
Bob Page: Sure, sure.
Kirk Harnack: Would a station typically forward their call-in numbers down to here, or would they give out new call-in numbers?
Bob Page: We only have one radio station that will forward the calls. It's a local FM talk station. Everybody else just uses our 800 number, or 888 number in the other studio. Honestly, I know that we've had a lot of conversations with program directors and they're like, "I don't want to use that number," but the minute they give it out, all nine lines light right up.
Kirk Harnack: Oh wow.
Bob Page: Then the jocks are like, "I only have three lines at home. How do I get nine?"
Kirk Harnack: Oh gee. What are some of the other interesting features about the studios? I mean furniture is gorgeous. Seems like you've had the opportunity to lay these studios out in a sexy, good-looking fashion.
Bob Page: Yeah. We really just try to make it as user-friendly as possible. If I were a jock, how would I want my studio laid out? When these studios were designed, that's realistically how it was. When I first started to work here, for instance in this studio, the console's directly behind us, and your co-host mics are directly on the other side of the console.
It was originally built with the console to your right-hand side, and your co-hosts were over your shoulder. So when we rebuilt the studio, I had the opportunity to redesign it, and we just changed some things around. Made it user-friendly and comfortable.
The other studio's on hydraulics. It goes up and down.
Kirk Harnack: What? Oh my goodness. I had no idea.
Bob Page: Yeah, that's important. It makes you sound better.
Kirk Harnack: Now you bring something up that's pretty interesting. Hydraulics.
Bob Page: Sure.
Kirk Harnack: Now, my wife and son and I, this morning, just rode the Transformers ride. Oh my goodness, there's some hydraulics involved with that.
Bob Page: Absolutely. Elevators, yeah.
Kirk Harnack: So you have engineers here who understand moving big stuff around.
Bob Page: Sure.
Kirk Harnack: What resources are available to you through the engineers here at Universal? Or artists, graphics?
Bob Page: Yeah. Most of that stuff would be as far as creative and building elements that really have nothing to do with the broadcast. It's just look good stuff. So not as much as you would think.
Kirk Harnack: Now when I came in today, you said, "Kirk, I'm sorry, we don't have our usual decorations up."
Bob Page: No, we don't.
Kirk Harnack: You used to have a Terminator head coming down-was it here or in the other room?
Bob Page: It would be in the other studio, yeah. We had a big T-1000 melting out of the ceiling.
Kirk Harnack: Oh, geez, it was crazy looking.
Bob Page: Yeah, and this studio had a huge giant shark, and it was racing . . .
Chris Tobin: Uh-oh. Sounds like we've got a bandwidth issue for Kirk and Bob Page in Orlando Studios. So you're watching "This Week in Radio Tech." You're listening to "This Week in Radio Tech," episode 225.
I'm Chris Tobin, co-hosting with Kirk Harnack, with Bob Page, our special guest, who's right now in Orlando at Universal Studios, talking about their hydraulic control stages and the T2 special effects, and a few other things you can enjoy when you're down there at a broadcast station, promoting the theme park as well as putting your show on the road which is something that's very popular and people enjoy.
You can participate. So I'm on the road today as well, so what's behind me is the New Jersey shore. For those of you who are familiar with that, this is not the TV show, "The Jersey Shore," this is just the New Jersey shore. All natural in its splendor, and the vista is just what you see, the nice blue sky, and the comfortable temperatures around 82 degrees.
The dew point, which makes it more comfortable, is about 67% so it's really nice. While we try to reconnect with Kirk and the boys, let's talk about IP technologies for remotes. Since remoting is something we've been doing and looking to do this fall, a lot of folks enjoy the fact that they can now take advantage of IP.
How do you take advantage of IP? Well, one example would be the Z/IP codec. Another example could be using a T1 or better yet a [inaudible 00:15:19]. Excellent. These are things you consider. We'll talk more about it later on, but let's go back to Kirk and Bob in Orlando.
Kirk Harnack: And Chris Tobin, the king of vamping. Thank you, sir. I don't know what happened to the video. Oh well. So we were chatting about redecorating the studios. Transformers here . . .
Bob Page: Minion Mayhem.
Kirk Harnack: Oh gosh, Minion Mayhem over there.
Bob Page: Yeah, the Minions apparently are taking over the world. That's what I've been told anyway. It's from the "Despicable Me" movies. We have the "Despicable Me" attraction here at the theme park. Kids seem to love it. It's widely popular, so that's what they went with.
Kirk Harnack: Okay, so Chris Tobin, while he was covering for our lack of video, he was talking about the ways that people connect back to their studios. Obviously every broadcast you do from here is a remote.
Bob Page: Absolutely.
Kirk Harnack: You don't do any broadcasts that aren't remotes.
Bob Page: Nope.
Kirk Harnack: So what are the popular ways that people get home?
Bob Page: When I first started, we were on a three line extender. We'd go satellite to New York City...
Kirk Harnack: Wait a minute, three POTS lines that give you about seven kilohertz of audio, to New York City, and then what?
Bob Page: Satellite up to the bird, and then the radio station would go up to the bird and pick it up and pull it back down. Then ISDN became very popular, and we still do a lot, probably 80% of our broadcasts on ISDN. But more and more stations are moving, and they're no longer able to get ISDN, and IP is starting to pop up pretty heavy as well.
Kirk Harnack: I noticed you have a Comrex . . .
Bob Page: ACCESS.
Kirk Harnack: ACCESS here. Now somebody was on a POTS line with that earlier today.
Bob Page: Yeah.
Kirk Harnack: Okay, but that'll also do IP.
Bob Page: It will.
Kirk Harnack: Okay, and then you have a Telos Z/IP ONE here.
Bob Page: We do.
Kirk Harnack: Okay, so folks can use that.
Bob Page: I'll be using it tomorrow.
Kirk Harnack: It's interesting how this is playing out with regard to standards. Because you can get a Comrex ACCESS and a Z/IP ONE to talk [inaudible 00:17:13].
Bob Page: Correct.
Kirk Harnack: And it's not necessarily using the codec that you would prefer. They'll negotiate it and work it out or not, and you have to pick the lowest common denominator codec. Do you see a technology that would assist that, or does every station just need to buy a Comrex and buy a Telos and buy a T1 line?
Bob Page: Well, I think every station is going to buy what they need to buy for them. I am in a unique position where I'm going to have to get everything so I can accommodate everybody else.
Kirk Harnack: Yeah, and you've got two studios, so you need two of everything.
Bob Page: Yeah. So that's the situation I've run into. We've even run into some issues where radio stations have some Comrex gear, just smaller bricks, and I have an ACCESS, and try to get the compatibility between those two takes some serious work.
It's just a matter-there's always a way. You can always make it work.
Kirk Harnack: Yeah, yeah. Sometimes "always the way" is a G72 tubing, the lowest common denominator.
Bob Page: Yeah, exactly.
Kirk Harnack: Yeah, that's [inaudible 00:18:14] pike though. There's going to be more of a blending or more of a merging of phone audio and IP codec audio. So the folks at Comrex have done this, Telos is doing this, we've already got some of it done now on the market where you can get a G722 call through a Telos on-air phone system.
Bob Page: Right.
Kirk Harnack: Yeah, and same thing with the guys at Comrex can do this now too. We're going to end up at some point having 20 kilohertz codecs in phone systems. "Oh, it's the Orlando Studios on line five," and you'll put them on the air and they'll be high quality for the whole show.
Bob Page: [inaudible 00:18:56]
Kirk Harnack: . . . Universal Orlando. We're also here with Chris Tobin, who is on the Jersey shore, and we're going to take a break really quick here and hear from the folks at Lawo. If you give me just a second to bring up my [inaudible 00:19:14].
Lawo is one of our sponsors, and you may know that Lawo is [inaudible 00:19:24] for broadcasters. One of those consoles is the crystalCLEAR console from Lawo. It's a virtual radio mixing console. What does virtual mean? Well, like many consoles, it's got a rack mount device that your audio inputs and outputs connect to.
Then the console itself, the part that you touch, is another computer with a touchscreen. It's a multi-touch, gorgeous touchscreen, just gorgeous graphics. It's the crystalCLEAR from Lawo. It's a multi-touch touchscreen, so you can move multiple fingers at once. It's very context sensitive, so if you need some help with a button, you can push that button and get some help.
Or you can push the button and have it pop up just the options that that button will handle for you. It's aware of what you're trying to do. It has programmable scene presets, you can recall every detail, mic processing, and mic levels and where all the faders are laid out.
It has a large time of day clock. It's synchronizeable to NTP time, of course. You can have 24 sources available, and 8 of them can be simultaneously on the console. Which for most folks, that's all you need. Eight is going to be plenty for you for a lot of complex shows.
Let's see, it's got advanced DSP for microphones and external sources. So if you need some mic processing to make that mic sound better, then you can certainly do that with the Lawo crystalCLEAR. Let me encourage you to check it out. The website is lawo.com, but let me spell that for you. It's L-A-W-O. [inaudible 00:20:54]
Chris Tobin: Uh-oh, looks like we've lost Kirk. Little bit of bandwidth issues there at Orlando. It's a very busy theme park today. This is the time of year that it's really crazy. So we're talking about Lawo consoles and crystalCLEAR and the virtual touch. That's something to think about.
It's a flat screen, it's glass top, and you're able to manipulate it just like a console but you can do multi-touch, so you can use all five fingers and do various things. That's Lawo, L-A-W-O.com. CrystalCLEAR, something you should consider and think about, because why? The crystalCLEAR surface, work surface, can be one place. The engine that takes in all the I/Os could be in another place.
I'll give this example we did once before early on in the "Appetizing" series. That is, what if you're doing a remote broadcast, outside broadcast, and it's a concert venue. But you don't want to send the entire studio crew out to do it.
What you do is you send out the truck, you send out the frame that goes in the truck, and all the I/Os go into that frame. That frame connects back via IP to your crystalCLEAR console, back in the studio, where it's quiet and you can control it. And your producers now can produce something that makes sense, and not be confused or be distracted by the events around them.
Think about that. That's one way of looking at it. Another way would be to do the same thing on a larger scale, so you'll have several studios, different radio stations within your group, and you want to control various shows that you're doing, morning shows, you can do the same.
So yeah, give it some thought. It's all about your imagination and where you can go with it. That's Lawo, L-A-W-O.com. Lawo.com. So let's go to Orlando, to Bob Page and Kirk Harnack at Universal Studios. Gentlemen, welcome back to the program.
Kirk Harnack: You must be the IT expert, Chris Tobin.
Chris Tobin: How's that? Because I'm not disconnecting?
Kirk Harnack: No, you're connected. You're connected.
Chris Tobin: It's just a mere cable modem in a shared home, with many, many things going on around me.
Kirk Harnack: We have an interesting IT situation here. There is IT all around us, and the IT department here hasn't quite gotten around to getting the high connectivity into this studio yet. Now they have reliable connectivity for the IP codecs. Of course they have ISDN or POTS-is it POTS or ISDN?
Bob Page: Both.
Kirk Harnack: Both. Obviously for the Zephyr, Zephyr Extremes and other ISDN codecs. But they don't actually have that many people that want to walk in here and want to use a high bandwidth connection on their laptop. They want to get their email.
Bob Page: Yeah, for most people at a theme park, they just want to post pictures to Instagram, look at their Facebook quickly, and then go ride all the rides and see the attractions and shows.
Kirk Harnack: Yeah, exactly.
Bob Page: Get off your phone and enjoy yourself.
Kirk Harnack: Thanks Chris Tobin for filling-where'd you lose us? During the Lawo spot?
Chris Tobin: Yes, yes. I took care; I added some more insight to the Lawo and the product line.
Kirk Harnack: All right, good for you. Thanks a lot. Appreciate that. So, okay, Bob, what were we going to talk about next? We've got the consoles, you've got phone systems here. Do you have any routing system to route which studio goes to which ISDN codec, or is each room fully independent?
Bob Page: Each room currently right now is fully independent. I mean, through the consoles, we can swap ISDN lines or access and put wherever we need to whatever we want to do. If I have ISDN one in this studio-for instance, today would be a great example. We had a POTS line connected in this studio, and I had back-to-back shows in my other studio, so I pulled the ISDN two from this studio into that studio. We just did it right through the Element.
Kirk Harnack: Wow. It occurred to me, people do morning shows from here. Morning drive, early morning.
Bob Page: Lots of them.
Kirk Harnack: Morning shows.
Bob Page: I'll be here tomorrow morning.
Kirk Harnack: At what time?
Bob Page: I get in at 4:00 a.m.
Kirk Harnack: Holy cow.
Bob Page: That's morning radio.
Kirk Harnack: Do you hear that, engineers?
Bob Page: That's what you do.
Kirk Harnack: Wow.
Bob Page: Well, somebody's got to get them connected, show them where the on button is.
Kirk Harnack: That's true. Yeah, unlock the building
Bob Page: Yeah, exactly.
Kirk Harnack: Wow. Oh my goodness. So sometimes you show up at 4:00 in the morning with a station that's going to go on, what, at 5:00?
Bob Page: Yeah, 5:00 or 6:00 typically.
Kirk Harnack: What if it's a station that's never been here before? What do you have to find out from them, or have you already tested their connection by that point?
Bob Page: Yeah, well in advance, I will have spoken to the engineer and gotten all their information, and conducted a connectivity test to make sure that we're good, and that their engineer actually has spoken to whoever's going to be the board op at the studio to make sure they know.
Because more often than not, I'm on the phone talking to a board op at 6:00 in the morning, and trying to figure out what console they have and where the remote comes up, and trying to figure it out. I really try to get the engineers to work with me, but sometimes it doesn't happen. They're busy, or they're out at the tower.
Kirk Harnack: Engineers at the transmitter, yeah. Yeah.
Bob Page: But yeah, that's most of my job. Just getting them connected, getting them up on the air. Then once a station comes in, just making sure they're absolutely comfortable here. Because if the jock behind the mic is completely comfortable and feels at home, per se, the product on the air's going to be the best. It's also going to be the best promotion for Universal Orlando, and that's our goal.
Kirk Harnack: Yeah, I'm sure some people jump in and they're just-they're okay in a new situation.
Bob Page: Sure.
Kirk Harnack: Others are probably not so okay in the new situation. What is the biggest thing, what's the most common place where people need some hand-holding or some assurance, or "let me show you where your mic" . . . What's the most common thing you do to help people?
Bob Page: Most jocks that come in, typical A personality, "I got this, I know how I can do this, don't worry about it." And that's fine. I'm there to help them along the way, answer questions, whatever they need.
Some shows are different. Some shows, they come in, they're doing their three, four breaks an hour, they're reading a couple liners, they're plugging Universal. Other shows are like, "Oh you've got touchscreen, you have all these toys. I need to incorporate all this into my show," and it becomes a full-blown thing.
Some people, you need to hold their hand more, some people you don't.
Kirk Harnack: Got you. Wow. Do you have a lot of return stations that have been here before?
Bob Page: Yeah. Typically, I mean, we do so many remotes a year that we do end up doing a lot of repeat stations. That's the amazing thing, is because they walk in the door and they go, "What do you have new? What's new here?" We get to show them whatever we ended up coming up with to wow them some more.
Kirk Harnack: From a technical point of view, you look pretty set here, but do you have any expansion or plans for different gear or more things to help people do a morning show or whatever.
Bob Page: With the way social media's going and all that, I think the next phase, the next jump, is we're going to need to start doing some form of videos that they can put on the web.
Kirk Harnack: Oh, okay, okay.
Bob Page: Yeah, that's the next step. And [inaudible 00:27:44] . . .
Kirk Harnack: Well you know, stations of course now, they might have lipstick cameras around the studio. There are now systems that switch cameras automatically depending on who's talking in the mic. One of my stations, one of them in American Samoa, we started doing this five years ago. We just hired an extra morning guy to come in and switch a little four-switcher, four camera switcher. It goes on the local cable company.
That's not streamed because it's Samoa, there's very little streaming available there. But boy, if you did that, if you had a camera system here, I guess you'd have to get the video streamed probably back to the station to do whatever they do with it for it to go out on the web.
Bob Page: Right. Or at the very least it could be recorded, and they can put it up on YouTube and go from there.
Kirk Harnack: Oh there is that, yeah. Hey, Chris Tobin, you've done some work in this video streaming for radio stations, right?
Chris Tobin: Sorry, I was keeping the mic off so you didn't have to hear all the wind.
Kirk Harnack: Oh, no worries. Hey, Chris, you've done some work with video streaming.
Chris Tobin: Yeah, no, we've done video streaming.
Kirk Harnack: So if a station normally streamed out of their studio, would it be that if they came down here and had a video stream available, would they send it from here to the web, or would they need to probably send it back to the studio first to get inserted however they normally do it there?
Chris Tobin: Well, depending on the CDN, the content delivery network of their choice, they should be able to do it straight from Bob's studio to the CDN. Because that would be the same thing they would be doing from their studios.
The trick then would be producing it on site. How they produce it in the studios currently would dictate how they do it on location. If Bob's studios offer a complete solution, mixing, editing, switching, the whole bit, and all they get is [inaudible 00:29:30] IP video output that's completely produced, yeah, off to the CDN it goes.
Kirk Harnack: Got you, got you. Wow. Chris, doesn't this kind of sound like a dream job to you?
Chris Tobin: Absolutely. A lot of responsibility. 4:00 in the morning tech call makes sense. I've done those broadcasts before. I know what it's like. I have never been at the transmit site at 4:00 a.m. for a remote.
Bob Page: No, those are usually the 2:00 p.m. Friday calls, when I'm calling to check about a remote that's tomorrow morning, Saturday morning, yeah.
Kirk Harnack: Yeah, wow. So you've got a gentleman that works with you-oh, I'm sorry, Chris. Go ahead?
Chris Tobin: I'm just saying, very convenient, 2:00 at the transmitter for a Saturday call.
Bob Page: On a Friday.
Chris Tobin: On a Friday.
Kirk Harnack: "I'll be, the rest of the afternoon, at the transmitter site." No, there's no phone out there. Cell coverage is pretty bad.
Bob Page: It's awful.
Kirk Harnack: Yeah.
Bob Page: It's horrible.
Kirk Harnack: You may not get me. You never pulled that, did you?
Bob Page: No.
Kirk Harnack: Okay. All right.
Bob Page: I'm a gentleman.
Kirk Harnack: I'm sure Chris Tobin never pulled that.
Chris Tobin: No, I didn't. Not true, not true at all.
Kirk Harnack: You've got a gentleman who works with you.
Bob Page: We do.
Kirk Harnack: Jason.
Bob Page: Jason Mercurio.
Kirk Harnack: Yeah, what does Jason do?
Bob Page: He's our marketing coordinator for the radio broadcast center. He's the guy who would coordinate all of the travel for the radio stations and set them up, make sure they have their ticket packages. He also sets them up with all their copy points and content for the show that they may need.
One thing that we do at Universal is we're not going to push anything down anybody's throat. We want radio stations to come in and do their show, and work Universal into their show naturally. We don't want it to sound like a commercial.
Kirk Harnack: Sure, sure.
Bob Page: Most of the time we pull that off very well. That's Jason's job, to make sure that the station has all the tools to do that.
Kirk Harnack: Right, right, got you. If I was in his job, every three-by-five card I give them would just say "Universal" all over it.
Chris Tobin: UniversalOrlando.com. UniversalOrlando.com.
Kirk Harnack: Sorry about my coughing. Chris, you got any questions for Bob? You've seen this facility, you know what this is like.
Chris Tobin: Well, I'm curious, with the folks coming on site nowadays with multimedia, do you get many requests for the multimedia aspect of their shows? Say a morning show? Or is that something that's still foreign to them where they just don't bother?
Bob Page: Most of them at this point don't even bother. The stations that do do it back home usually come down, and it's just not something that's done. I think it's from their end, they're thinking wow, it's going to be kind of a mess to put together on a remote location.
That's why I think our next step is to be able to provide them the ability to do it hassle free.
Chris Tobin: Got you. And one other question I have, and I've done this at other theme parks, do you do any type of remote live insertion for them throughout the park? Say you have a morning show or afternoon show, whatever, a radio show at your studio, and they want to send somebody out on a wireless microphone out to a ride somewhere or . . .
Bob Page: Yeah, both studios have wireless mics and wireless IFB. We also have the Comrex ACCESS BRIC. We also have the Luci Live app on my personal phone, that we can run people out and do stuff.
We also have the ability through the park where I can pull my ISDN lines and have them pop up just about anywhere in the park. While I prefer to do our remotes in studio, because this is Florida and it's ridiculously hot outside, every once in a while we've done remotes from over at the Hard Rock Hotel out at a cabana by the pool. We've done remotes over at Islands of Adventure, by the Spiderman attraction. I mean, when we get some specific requests to do that, we do that, but you're never going to see a "radio row" here outside with a bunch of pop-up tents and rented gear. It's just not something we care to do. We want it to be first class, state of the art all the way.
Chris Tobin: Well you know, I wouldn't expect it to be a "radio row." I'm just thinking in terms of, if I'm a progressive radio show, morning show or afternoon drive show, and audience participation and interaction is key, and I'm at a theme park, if I was program director I definitely would want my guys to be out and about and try to interact.
You know, get the excitement that you'd want from being on location. No, I'm not talking "radio row." I appreciate you not wanting that.
Bob Page: Honestly, some of the biggest complaints we get from program directors is, "Your studio sounds better than our studio, and we don't believe you're on a remote."
Chris Tobin: Yes, I've had that happen.
Bob Page: I take that 100% as a compliment.
Chris Tobin: Yes, I've done many remote broadcasts where the program director calls me on the phone and says, "You guys are not on location. Where are you? You're not outside."
Kirk Harnack: You've got a roller coaster ride behind in the background . . .
Bob Page: Yeah, and we have the ability, if we have enough advance notice, where they have set up coaster mounts, and we can record jocks and stuff on some of the attractions. Not all, because safety's always number one concern, and they want to make sure everybody's going to be okay.
They're not going to just let you grab a wireless mic, hold it in your hand, and try to go through a roller coaster that's pulling Gs and flipping you upside down four or five times.
Kirk Harnack: Although I have done the, held the camera really tight.
Bob Page: Not to say if you don't go on YouTube you're not going to see some Go Pro videos from almost every attraction in the park.
Kirk Harnack: You probably answered the question already about what do you look for next. You said probably video cameras, social media.
Bob Page: I think that's probably our next step.
Kirk Harnack: Cool. Well, I can help you out with that.
Bob Page: We'll have to have some discussions.
Kirk Harnack: I got planes from Nashville to Orlando. Glad to help you. We'll do the TWiRT show again from here. Do other theme parks do this kind of stuff?
Bob Page: They certainly do. It's my understanding that they do. I mean obviously we work with a lot of the same radio stations, especially local with the Orlando market. They all go to all the radio stations. It's hard to get mad at them for doing it. It's part of the deal.
I think we do it completely different than any of the other stations, or the other theme parks. Most of those stations, you will be outside, it will be under a tent, it will be rented gear. That's just what they do. They're happy doing it. Good for them.
Kirk Harnack: I think some of the Las Vegas casinos have also done this a little bit. Maybe rented gear in an extra room.
Bob Page: Yeah. And I'm friends with a guy in Iowa, there's an Indian casino up there, and they just built a tiny little studio inside the casino. Yeah, it's starting to happen more and more.
Kirk Harnack: Actually years ago, I built a tiny radio studio in-those casinos that are south of Memphis. Can't remember the name of them right now. Near Robinsonville, Mississippi. Yeah, middle of nowhere. And the studio was teeny tiny.
Bob Page: Yeah. Well, I mean, most jocks will come in here and they're just like, the station that was just in this studio, he's like, "My studio is a third of the size of this studio. It's in the middle of a building and I face a wall. If I want to know it's raining outside I have to look on my computer."
Yeah, but they're on the air, they're doing well. That's the tough part about radio. If you're on the air it's working, right?
Kirk Harnack: Well, now obviously these studios are beautiful. We've gone over that. Both of them are getting a remodel here. From the point of view of usability, we talked about a little bit of difficulty people might have. What do they compliment you on as far as the usability? Does it just seem natural to sit down and just start working at it? What do you get the biggest compliments about?
Bob Page: I think most people compliment us most that it is all brand new equipment, within the last year or so, because that's where we try to keep everything up to date. It's nice to have Neumann microphones and brand new Sennheiser headphones.
Most radio stations don't get to have an unlimited budget for their gear, so.
Kirk Harnack: Yeah, yeah. And your green room is nice too.
Bob Page: Yeah, sure, and most people like free M&Ms and Snickers bars.
Kirk Harnack: Hey, you're watching "This Week in Radio Tech." We're talking with Bob Page. Bob is the director of studio operations here at Universal Orlando. We're talking about his two studios here. They've got a lot of AOIP equipment, some Axia gear, the usual complement of 360 system stuff, a phone system, lots of-he mentioned these beautiful Neumann mics . . . What model are these Neumanns?
Bob Page: That's a BCM104.
Kirk Harnack: Okay. I've never used one until now. Sound great. They sound great. Our show is brought to you in part also by the folks at Axia, and the Axia Element console. Well, lo and behold, we have one right here.
I'm just going to pick this up, because I'm sitting on the desk. Yeah, there we go, look at that. Now there's an Axia Element console. Bob, you have two studios. [inaudible 00:38:36] different sizes.
Bob Page: This one's just a little [inaudible 00:38:40].
Kirk Harnack: Okay. These are equipped-let's see, how many [inaudible 00:38:44] we've got here. Two, four, six, eight. I lost count. About 12 [inaudible 00:38:48]?
Bob Page: Yeah.
Kirk Harnack: Okay. Sorry, it's cough drops. Then you have a phone system here, so you can bring the phone system up and answer phone calls here, same as any other studio. What can you say-do ever have to reprogram these or reconfigure them, or are they pretty good the way they are?
Bob Page: Honestly, we've had the Element console for about two years. We've had almost no problems with them. Some of the problems that we've had were probably our own problems. When we were building Diagon Alley . . .
Kirk Harnack: I've done that before.
Bob Page: Power company was out, and they cut power to the entire park in the middle of the day, and our whole studio just went . . . [inaudible 00:39:32] doesn't like that. It likes to be shut down properly. So we had some problems, [inaudible 00:39:39].
Kirk Harnack: . . . I will go into a tiny amount of detail here. So many pieces of equipment nowadays are, they have a processor in them of some kind. Or in the case of an Axia piece of gear, I think there's a quad core processor in there, running different apps on different cores and different threads and all that.
Well, of course if you have a spinning hard drive, and power goes out, well you can have a problem. You could've been in the middle of a write or something. And could've messed something up.
I know that every piece of gear from the Telos Alliance that's running an operating system, typically it's running on a memory card of some kind, typically a CF card, sometimes an SSD or an SD card. But we use a file system that is nearly impervious to this kind of power bumps.
It can put up with a whole lot of-it's using a lot of military [inaudible 00:40:34] . . .
Chris Tobin: Uh-oh, sounds like we've lost some bits in our bucket for the bit bucket that is using IP to get our connections with Skype, so. That's Kirk Harnack and Bob Page at Universal Studios Orlando on "This Week in Radio Tech," episode 225.
They were talking about the Axia console known as the Element. It was part of our sponsorships, two sponsorships that we have for the show. So the Axia console allows you to do a lot of things. One of the nice things about, they were talking about power outages and power disruption, what happens with newer technologies. Do you have recovery, and how well does it recover?
One of the nice things about the Axia console, the Element console, and I have installed them and used them, so I can speak from experience. They use a real-time application, a real-time operating system for the Linux kernel that's in it. So the use of a memory card, whether it be a CF card or an SSD or SD media, works really well.
I can tell you that I have changed many a card and installed upgrades and changes, and have done the power test, and it does recover very well. Nothing is 100%, so let's all be honest, we all know that. I will say with 99.99% reliability [inaudible 00:41:40] that the Axia system does the job.
One of the nice things about the Orlando Studios that Bob was talking about, when Kirk was asking, was the fact that the studios themselves are very easy to use. One of the things I've learned over the years, working with program directors a lot, is that is the editorial part of the broadcast. What you're watching and listening to right now is their technical part, but the editorial, the content itself.
The key is if you're a morning show jock, afternoon, mid-days, whatever, maybe a talk show host, one of the things that's most distracting is when the technology gets in the way. When the technology gets in the way, the show just suffers.
To Bob's point, the studio being built with ease and flexibility is key. So those are the things you should take away from that conversation. Let's go back to the bit bucket in Orlando and find out how we're doing with Kirk and Bob.
Kirk Harnack: You know I've noticed is every time we've done a commercial, Skype has said, "Nope, nope, no commercial." Sorry, Skype. We do have to pay for the show.
So let's wrap just by saying Axia, been out there for over 11 years now. Yours truly installed the first installation of an Axia console at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama. Hey, Tom Ray, who is sometimes on our show, he had a very early installation at WOR.
And we tried to get all the bugs worked out before we put them in here. And I've got them at my radio station too, in American Samoa of all places. I've got three Axia consoles. Just installed another one in Greenville, Mississippi.
Boy, watch Facebook. There's Axia consoles every day, people posting pictures on Facebook. All over the world, too. Just had one in-I don't know if it's in Russia or Uzbekistan, or somewhere like that, but there's always one on there.
So hey, thanks to Axia, it's on the web at axiaaudio.com, for being one of the sponsors of "This Week in Radio Tech." Chris, do you have any last minute wrap-up questions for Bob here?
Chris Tobin: No, no, I think he's done a fine job of making it easy. I was mentioning during the bit bucket break that the nice thing about his studios is they're easy to use, and working with a lot of talent. The hardest part is getting past the technology obstacles.
The fact that you make it easy and comfortable is key. I'm glad to hear you guys put some thought into that, just not buying the latest whiz-bang technology, throw it in there and go, "Here you go, use it and get out of my way." No, it's great. You guys did a great job.
Bob Page: Thank you.
Kirk Harnack: Yeah, you look through here, and of course I recognize a lot of Telos and Axia gear, but it's all standard and tested stuff.
Bob Page: Absolutely.
Kirk Harnack: People are going to be comfortable with it
Bob Page: And that's the goal, because like I said earlier, if they come in and are comfortable, they're going to do a great show. Universal Orlando will get a great promotion. And again, that's always the goal for me.
Kirk Harnack: I think a great thing for a broadcast engineer to do, on vacation, come to Orlando, take a few days' vacation here at Universal. Give Bob Page a call and say, "Can I come in and have a look around?" Take some pictures, bring some ideas back to your station, wherever you are, Mr. Engineer, and see what you can put to use.
Bob Page: And honestly, we have a door that's right attached to the theme park. I've had radio station engineers from all over the United States, Canada, Mexico, Spain, Italy, Ireland, just looking in the window like, "Wow, you have a full radio studio. Can I come in and take a look?" Sure, come on in, take some pictures, yeah. Everybody's more than welcome.
Kirk Harnack: Good deal. Good deal.
Bob Page: And we probably have the cleanest bathroom in the park.
Kirk Harnack: Yes, you do. It's the only bathroom my wife will use.
Bob, thanks for being with us. I sure appreciate it.
Bob Page: Thanks for stopping by.
Kirk Harnack: Chris Tobin, thank you for checking in from the Jersey Shore. Are you on vacation?
Chris Tobin: Yes, yes. I'm on a holiday this week, trying to take it easy. It's been tough.
Kirk Harnack: Well, give my love to your family. Have a great rest of it, and thanks for taking some time out for the show today.
Chris Tobin: Oh, no problem. Anytime, man. This is good. It's nice to be able to show it off.
Kirk Harnack: Yeah, yeah. Thanks for filling in during our bit bucket breaks, too.
Chris Tobin: That was good. You couldn't have timed that better.
Kirk Harnack: Also thanks to Andrew Zarian, our show producer, putting up with whatever I throw at him. Andrew just, "Yeah, yeah, no problem. I'll handle it, Kirk. We got it."
Bob Page: That's a good producer.
Kirk Harnack: Andrew, thank you for working with us. I sure appreciate it. By the way, Andrew, I'm on remote again next week. I'll be in Greenville, Mississippi. So we'll do another on the road remote from somewhere.
Our show's been brought to you by the folks at Telos. The Telos Z/IP ONE. Also the folks at Lawo, and the Lawo crystalCLEAR audio console. And the folks at Axia, and the Axia Element audio console. Check them all out.
Be sure you check out-the show gets reposted on the GFQ website just as soon as we get it done for reposting. It's at gfqnetwork.com. You also want to check out the other shows on GFQ that are worth watching. Lots of tech shows, shows about wrestling, and the Friday free-for-all is pretty fun too. So check that out with Andrew and the GFQ Network.
Let's see. Chris Tobin, where can people reach you if they need IP audio solutions?
Chris Tobin: Well, I do IP audio and video solutions and solutions of many kinds for broadcasters. Just firstname.lastname@example.org. I've already got a couple of emails this week, so those questions have been answered.
Kirk Harnack: All right, email support@ipaudio? Or IP, I'm sorry.
Chris Tobin: Ipcodecs.com.
Kirk Harnack: Codecs. Ipcodecs.com. It took me three years to get Mukwonago, Wisconsin correct, so I'll get Ipcodecs.com correct eventually too. Thanks a lot, Chris Tobin. Appreciate you.
Chris Tobin: You're welcome. Thanks, Bob, for being a guest.
Kirk Harnack: All right. Bob Page, thank you very much.
Bob Page: Thank you.
Kirk Harnack: Take care everybody. We'll see you next week. We'll be on the road, and we'll have a guest next week on "This Week in Radio Tech." Bye-bye everybody.
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