Radio's Local Future with Tom Churchill
By Kirk Harnack [TWiRT] on Aug 28, 2015 11:08:00 AM
Tom Churchill believes that radio’s future must include localism, customization, and that connection of familiarity with listeners. Lower budgets and smaller on-air staffs can reduce localism, but Tom offers ideas and services that maintain localism around the clock. Chris Tobin joins Kirk Harnack talking with Tom Churchill of Virtual Voice Technologies.
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Kirk Harnack: This Week in Radio Tech, Episode 271, is brought to you by Lawo and the crystalCLEAR virtual radio console. CrystalCLEAR is the console with the multi-touch touch screen interface. By the family of Z/IPStream audio processors and stream encoders, including the astounding Z/IPStream 9X/2. And by Axia Audio consoles, six console models with thousands of options. Join the largest AoIP console family on Earth.
Tom Churchill believes that radio's future must include localism, customization, and that connection of familiarity with listeners. Lower budgets and smaller on-air staffs can reduce localism, but Tom offers ideas and services that maintain localism around the clock. Chris Tobin joins me, Kirk Harnack, talking with Tom Churchill of Virtual Voice Technologies.
Hey, welcome in to This Week in Radio Tech. I'm Kirk Harnack, your host. Glad to be here and yeah, I'm in a different place than usual, not in my usual office. I'm in a studio here with a very strange man next to me. I'll introduce him to you in just a minute. Let's first get a weather report from Chris Tobin, who is at an undisclosed balcony in Manhattan. Hey Chris, how are you doing?
Chris Tobin: Well, hello. Weather report? Sure, it's blue skies, nice puffy clouds, humidity, dew point's around I think 50, is that right? No, 45, it's the low end. It's very dry, it's very nice. There's a nice westerly breeze at the moment, I'm sorry, northerly breeze, so it's nice and cool, around about five miles an hour. It's a perfect night to be bistro dining and then taking a walk in the park afterwards. It's perfect for that.
Kirk: That sounds... I would love to do some bistro dining. I don't think they have that here. Bistro dining.
Tom: There's places with crickets that do bistro dining, I found.
Kirk: Yeah. Like they're closed.
Tom: Yeah, really. Seriously.
Kirk: Yeah, yeah. Well, we are, Tom and I...
Chris: Where is there?
Kirk: Yeah, I tell you, a good question. Tom and I are coming to you from the studios of Delta Radio in Greenville, Mississippi. Greenville is not exactly a hip and happening town. Oh, there's interesting people here, for sure. But it's an agricultural community, and as such, with Big Farm, not Big Pharma, but Big Farm has kind of reduced the number, I suppose, of family farms. It used to be the third largest city in Mississippi, Greenville, Mississippi, but it's probably not anymore. So that's where we are.
But we're trying to make a life with radio here in Greenville. I'm at the studios of Delta Radio. They have four stations under this roof.
If you've been watching the show at all or watching any of my YouTube activity or catching any updates on the YouTube channel for one of our sponsors, the Telos Alliance, then you've seen some of the interior shots of this building and our construction of this facility about a year ago. It's an all-Axia Livewire facility here.
So that's where we're doing the show from. I guess we'll end up talking a bit about Audio over IP through the course of the show.
And so Tom, Tom Churchill is here with us. Tom, we're going to go to commercials in a second, but give us a little taste of why we should listen in to Tom Churchill over the next hour.
Tom: You know, there's so many interesting things going on with Internet radio and I've had so many interesting discussions on the web, and it's really gotten me to thinking with the software that we write, to automate things for people, what's the future? I set up a radio station, an Internet radio station, but it's more than my MP3 player. We're trying to find ways that we can actually move radio into the future, because I'm getting too old, unlike Kirk, to climb towers and stick my hands in transmitters anymore. So we've got the solution for that.
Kirk: So we'll have some websites to go to and you can see some of Tom's work. Tom's been a software writer and weather guy for a long, long time, since, you know... you just got started early. We're about the same age, you got started when you were what, four?
Tom: Thirteen, 1974. So I'm at 42 years now.
Kirk: In radio, and television, too.
Kirk: All right. So that's all coming up on This Week in Radio Tech, Episode 271. Our show is brought to you in part by the folks at Lawo, L-A-W-O, Lawo. They make audio consoles, and they make some pretty sophisticated audio consoles indeed.
I want to tell you about the console that they're very proud of, and my friend Mike Dosch, who is in charge of their Virtual Radio Projects, what he's in charge of. It's the crystalCLEAR console.
Now if you've been tuning in to the show, you probably know all about it. But I've got to tell you, think about the possibilities. When you have an audio console whose control surface isn't a piece of hardware, it's a multi-touch touch screen monitor. And that's what crystalCLEAR is. They take their crystal mixing engine, which is used for some other consoles that they make, for radio, and to this crystal mixing engine, which has all your ins and outs, your mic preamps and your analog ins and outs, and AES plus network ins and outs. So it's got RAVENNA and AES67 for Audio over IP standards.
You take that engine, put it anywhere in the broadcast facility that you want to, because it's networked. I'd probably put it close to where my microphones are since you don't want the cables to be too awfully long. Then you bring the network to it. But then, anywhere else on the IP network, you place this PC. It's a PC with a built-in, multi-touch touch screen monitor.
And on that PC runs this app that is a console, or at least it looks like a console. It think really it's an app that looks like a console but it's really kind of like a mouse. And you can touch the faders, you can touch buttons, move them up and down. You can put all 10 fingers on at once, if you're that dexterous, and move faders up and down and buttons.
One of the cool things is because the console is entirely written in software, you are not presented with options that don't apply to you when you touch a button. So when you touch a button, it's totally context sensitive, contextual. So you push a button that has to do with mic processing or the mic level or the override effects that a mic can have so if you're the big El Jefe host, you can override the other guests, for example, in a cluster of microphones.
These options are all software driven and they're all just exactly what you need. They're contextual. You don't have to look at a bunch of stuff that doesn't apply. And you don't have to go menu levels deep to find stuff. The stuff you need is right there.
Now I keep saying "stuff." Look, if you're a board operator, if you're running this console, you're probably not going to use these things anyway. But if you're the engineer, you're going to set these things up. And if you're a board operator who needs to change a mic level but you don't want to go find the mic preamp somewhere, no problem. You don't have to.
You touch a button on the console and you find the mic gain and you just run it up or down. And it's really that easy. And it goes and touches the mic preamp gain elsewhere.
You get Mix-minus on every channel, you get talk-back on every channel that can be talked back to, whether it's somebody at the other end of a satellite feed or on the phone or a Codec, or even somebody that's just in the next room, wearing some headphones, you have instant talk-back capabilities.
Of course, it keeps time, it syncs to an NTP time server and all that kind of stuff, as you might expect. Dual power supplies are available, very reliable.
If this concept is intriguing to you, I would go check this out. Go to the Lawo website. It's spelled L-A-W-O, Lawo.com, and look for Radio Products, and look for the crystalCLEAR radio mixing console.
Finally, there's a 10-minute video there where Mike Dosch explains and gives a complete demonstration of how this console works. Really interesting, it's very popular. Check it out at Lawo.com, and thanks to Lawo for sponsoring This Week in Radio Tech.
All right, Chris Tobin, I'm going to ask a couple questions of Tom first and you just jump in wherever you want to. Tom's a friendly guy and won't mind it at all. And you'll probably have ideas that I haven't thought to ask him yet. So Tom, firstly, you don't, it doesn't matter, but you don't live in the U.S., do you? You're kind of outside the U.S.
Tom: No, actually I've been a Dominican citizen for years now. So I live in the Dominican Republic.
Kirk: And this has given you an extra perspective on broadcasting, hasn't it?
Tom: Yeah, I mean, it's amazing to me, the things that broadcasters do and have done year after year after year. But when you try to export that someplace else, you start to ask questions about why do we do it that way. Why should we do it that way, are there better ways to do it?
When you can step away sometimes from being in the daily grind of doing things the same way you've always done them, just because it's easy and it's comfortable, there's a whole world of possibilities, I think, that really point to what the future of radio is going to be.
Kirk: Okay. Now that's kind of nebulous talk.
Kirk: I'm not sure exactly what it means.
Tom: And you can vote for me in the upcoming election, and I guarantee...
Kirk: So you've got a radio station that's streaming now. What is that station called?
Tom: It's Radio Beach Sosúa at RadioBeachSosua.com.
Kirk: Sosúa, that's the name of a town that's near you, right?
Tom: It's one of the tourist destinations on the north coast between Puerto Plata and Cabarete, and we serve all those communities.
Kirk: So RadioBeachSosua.com. Now I've been to this radio station site, and it's a nice graphic design, it's a nice flat design, which is popular nowadays. You've got moving video behind. What makes your station, RadioBeachSosua.com, different from so many other Internet radio stations?
Tom: Well, it depends on what your definition of radio is. There's plenty of Internet forums you can talk to people about what they do on radio. What you find is a lot of folks that are basically streaming their MP3 player on the web and saying, "I've got a radio station." No, you don't have a radio station.
What Larry is doing here, what Kirk does here in Greenville, the hometown radio stations, these are the people that have been my clients for years and years and years. So we find ways to do things for them from automating weather to importing things to make their life easier. But what they do in the community is they serve the people that are here.
A radio station isn't just music. But see, I come from the ownership end, so mostly my goal, because I don't know much better, is to put something on the air as far as music, that doesn't make people's ears bleed.
If I can achieve that and they like the music, then we're good to go. Because I think that the way we serve that community is through news, through remotes, through even the commercials.
Where I'm from, a commercial isn't just an interruption in the music, it's an essential part of what we do. Where I'm from, and there's no English-speaking, English-language newspaper for gringos who come down here and live part time.
The commercial allows them to find out where the new stores are, to connect with native Dominicans and native Dominican businesses in a way that, if they had to sell something, they'd have to putting a message up on a supermarket board, literally, to be able to advertise. So it becomes a place for the whole community to visit.
But the idea of the Internet allows me now to take this radio station in Sosúa and when the people who live there six months out of the year go back home to Britain or go back home to Canada, they listen in and they are attuned to the city.
Because they're tied together not by an antenna that broadcasts to a geographical area, they're broadcasting to people who have an interest in that area. They live here, they vacation there. When they go away, they know that they can keep up with what's going on in town. I think that's an idea that needs to be kept forefront when you're talking about Internet radio stations.
But going back to the MP3 player types on the web, the idea of a radio station still has to be homogenous somehow. There has to be something that ties this together, and perhaps we're getting a bit ahead of ourselves. You can do this geographically.
can say that because we have a station in Greenville and you can listen to us on a stream instead of just from the tower, when I'm going on a vacation from Greenville to Hawaii or I'm driving up to Chicago or Minneapolis, I can still listen to my morning show, I can still listen to all the people I invite into my home every morning when I'm listening to it on the radio here. Okay?
Kirk: Yeah, yeah.
Tom: But instead of being geographically, I think that as, over time, transmitters and towers and electrical bills and all those things go away and we start going to just digital delivery, that it doesn't have to be a geographical tie.
I think you're going to start seeing radio stations that do the same thing that a regular radio station does with music and DJs and hosts and talk shows that are centered around an idea, whether it's a fan-ship for a sports franchise, whether it's the knitting radio station, or a channel that involves people who enjoy bass fishing. You can't do that in a local market with a broadcast antenna because there's not enough of a market for it.
Tom: However, if you're broadcasting to the whole country, then you have enough people to be able to listen to and do this. What people miss, who do streaming music on the Internet, is that radio isn't necessarily just about that music mix. It's about having a group of people that you invite into your home every day on a daily basis.
You do TV, and you have morning television shows, and the morning newscast, people turn on the TV to see those people joking with each other, telling you about what's going on. And they become your friends, just like your friends that you meet when you walk out on the street.
Kirk: Yeah, I go out on the street and people recognize me from television say, "Hey, Kirk," and they don't know me and they call me by my first name.
Tom: Yes, exactly. It gets a bit unnerving when you're in radio and to walk into the post office and have somebody you don't know saying, "Here's your mail, Tom."
That translates to an important point about radio, and that is that you have a great power to influence people in this way that you don't have just by playing music. You get the response back lots of times from people saying well, radio is dead because you can go on the Internet and see where the hurricane is going, or you can go on the Internet and see the news.
not the point. They want to hear Kirk tell you what the weather is because they're watching Kirk on TV all the time or they're listening to him on the radio and he's your friend. So to lose that just in favor of playing music, it doesn't have to be that way, that you can take everything that goes on here and put in on the Internet and have a much broader audience.
Kirk: You know, you make a really good point. A few years ago, I worked at the TV station, Fox 17 in Nashville, and we had a lady who delivered the news. At that time, the news wasn't such a big part of the morning show, it was more variety and talk. But her name was Brooke Austin. Now I just saw her a few weeks ago at a party that my wife had.
And whenever we'd have bad weather, Brooke Austin would deliver that information either on television in the morning or she also worked at a big radio station in Nashville, and my wife would always tune into Brooke. Why? Especially tornado warnings out. My wife has been through a tornado in a house that was hit by a tornado while she was in it. It didn't destroy the house, it didn't move it off of its foundation. So my wife is a little nervous about tornadoes.
She tunes into Brooke, she seeks out Brooke, she's no longer on the air, unfortunately, but she would seek out Brooke's voice because she trusted Brooke. And she felt like she knew Brooke. So now I really get what you're talking about, about the connection to people who are your friends on the radio.
And so you're taking that concept and applying that to, okay, now we live in this world where we have the Internet, too. Of course, we have all these start-ups, we have all these little services that do what you said. It's somebody's MP3 player in their basement. And you're saying that it can be so much more than that, especially for a broadcast facility that already has the talent and the facilities.
Tom: Well, I think as a natural order of things, transmitters are going to go away. Everything's become digital. The door locks, the show that we're on right now, the audio in this console behind us. There's no cables, it's all digital.
The transmitters will go away, but that doesn't mean that radio is dead. It simply means that people have to remember what radio was, at least in my day, what makes it successful, and it's the people that are here in radio that make it successful.
If radio stations in the future, as we go forward, lose the expenses that are involved with transmitters and antennas and all of the rest of this, I would hope at least,we will, be putting that money back into doing things like we used to do, which is hiring a news director, hiring interns to run around the town to make a presence in the community and serve the community that you have. Now we'll have the money to go back and do some of those things and make it worthwhile for people in town.
Kirk: I want to hear Chris Tobin's thought about this, because Chris, for some time now, stations have been cutting back and cutting back and consolidating traffic and weather to somebody in, oh, northern Kentucky.
Boy, Tom just said we might actually shut off the transmitters and not have capital expenses with towers and antennas and coax and electricity, and maybe be able to put some of that money back into programming. That sound utopian. Do you think that will happen?
Chris: Not in our lifetime, no. Because those expenses are... those expenses you can work out. The problem we have today is people have become gun shy and don't remember how, as Tom pointed out, radio started and why radio became famous.
If you go back in the annals of history of broadcast sales and stations that were bought and sold and things were done in the last 30 years, back in the '80s when it became a commodity to buy a radio station and take on debt, you'll discover that people were buying radio stations that were at the top of their game, because they're at the top of their game.
After they purchased them, they gut them because they can't afford the debt they just incurred because that's just the way it goes. "So sorry, we have to do this. It's the way business works." A year later, that same station that was at the top of the game is now gone, and people are crying, "Whoa, whoa, I don't know what to do anymore."
So unless we get an influx of new talent, of managers or owners that think the way Tom is thinking, and you're absolutely right, that would be utopian. But it's actually, the reason radio and TV were so successful is the word credibility. Once you lose credibility, whether it's in radio, TV, or another business, you're done.
If you're a local merchant, say you're a hardware store, right, in a local community, whether it's new in New York City, there's one around the corner from this building, or if you're in a smaller town somewhere in the suburbs, if you've lost credibility with the community for what you do, say a hardware store providing information for tools and parts or whatever else, you're dead.
It doesn't matter what you do. You can try anything you want. You can walk around in a suit and a costume, whatever. It won't matter. You lost your creds.
what's happened to the business. The reason Tom's radio station does well is twofold. One, he provides a service, it's perishable information, but people can rely on it because it's credible and two, it's accessible once they leave, like he said. We're down for vacation or holiday, and then we leave and go back home, we can still tune in and stay part of the community.
worked for many a radio group where we've had, where we first were doing the streaming, we'll call it that, and we put the radio stations, the terrestrial signal... I'll use that phrase that people hate, put that on the stream and the Internet, and the first thing that management and the ownership, the corporation fathers would say is, "Well, you know, but the problem we have is goes way beyond our coverage area." And you sit there and go, "Yeah, so?"
So now we've extended our signal to the community that travels out of our area for, say, holiday in the summertime, notice when the ratings drop, and then they come back during the fall for their work and everything else and the ratings go back up. How cool is it that if I travel to, say, Aruba and I want to tune in to my community station and find out what's happening back in New York City, I can now do that.
Thirty, 40 years ago, I couldn't. I would just have to hope for the best, maybe find a newspaper that may have been flown in, and find out the news a week later. And yet there are broadcast groups today that can't even get that concept. Instead, they think it's a bad thing. So you've got geotagging that doesn't work or you've got IP addresses that aren't permitted because well, we just can't afford it.
Well, what if you promote it like as if, as Tom pointed out, "Hey, you're here for the holiday, great, we're all together as a community, let's have a great time. But you've got to go, that's okay, you can take us along for the ride." And now all of a sudden you can promote that. You could probably make money off that if you had to, to pay the bills.
That's why I think Tom's approach, as Kirk, you pointed, utopian thinking, will only happen when you get a whole new crop of folks. Take the ones that are out there right now with the major groups, toss them. Just get out. Take your retirement and go. Bring in some new people that are willing to try stuff and are creative and know better. That's my opinion. It could be wrong, but that's my opinion.
Tom: No, I agree with that. I guess the thing that I would... we were having a discussion on the way up about low power FM wanting to become more like real FM stations. The people that talked about, well, if they do that and they're selling commercials, they should have all the same licensing requirements and things."
I look at it a little bit differently. My concern is that the reason for LPFM, part of it, is that it makes it easier for people to get into LPFM. They don't have to go through all of the hoops to get a regular license. They may be just playing at it, and a lot of them are, but it gives you that ease of entry into the market.
I don't necessarily believe that WCBS, or any other station, has to be the ones that drive the streaming. I can do that where I'm at. Somebody else who has an interest in something else can go out and buy a $100 Dell, put in a Rivendell automation system for free, and go out and start selling and creating a radio station and become credible at that. You can do a good job.
Sure, there are going to be a lot of people that don't know radio and don't know how to do it. It would be nice to see local broadcasters understand what he just said, which is that you're broadcasting to a group of people, not people that are chained to an area simply because of limitations in the transmitter, or how far the signal goes. But it's a group of people.
Even in this market, for instance. You have people that like your station and there are other people that like the other station, so you're still broadcasting to a segment because they empathize with what you do, they like what you do, they like listening to you. So the concept is really just the same. It doesn't matter, it's not a geographical thing, really. They want to know about what's going on here.
In the Dominican Republic, when I set this up, it started out as just a way to help friends, so that I understood Rivendell and the systems that we decided you know what, we can do something with this. I started with the idea in my head that I'd have to go out and buy a license from a Dominican who had a license because they don't make any more there, they just kind of trade them around.
And then I got to thinking I'm getting too old. Unlike Kirk, I don't like climbing towers. I don't want to stick my hands in transmitters anymore. I was limited by that. I was thinking well, this is not going to be a real station, it's going to be a hobby.
But then I got to realize that the people who I'm trying to reach, who come down on vacation, they don't have a radio in their house. I don't have a radio in my house. I have one in the car, but most of the time we're listening to the cell phone with Bluetooth playing through the radio anyway. And so are all the surfers and all the other kids that are out and around.
So it's really not as much of a limitation as people think, just in old brains like mine that have been around radio for a long time, thinking that hey, we've got to have a transmitter or we're not a real radio station.
Kirk: Tom, you've mentioned a couple of times you've been doing this a long time, and I want to introduce our audience to a couple of the other projects that you've done over the years. First, to take the credibility, weren't you doing weather on "Good Morning America"?
Tom: I used to... see, Kirk and I go back and forth about this. He used to use green screens. When I was on network television at ABC, they gave me grease pencils and a little plastic map. However, they were John Coleman's grease pencils.
Tom: But yeah, we did "Good Morning America" and used to do "The Tomorrow Show" with Ton Snyder.
Kirk: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.
Tom: That was a lot of fun. Worked at KRON in San Francisco over the years doing fill-in weather every summer when they went on vacation.
Kirk: So you have some weather education, you worked in some big markets doing weather. You did a lot of radio weather, too.
Kirk: What was it, 15, 18, 20 years ago, you came up with some software that gives radio stations the opportunity to have real-time local weather forecasts delivered in a natural voice. Tell me about Digital Weatherman.
Tom: Amazingly, this goes back even, it's pre-Internet days. We started this in about 1989, 1990, and it's been going ever since. The technology is still pretty much unduplicated and has been going strong ever since. You and I both know that over the years, as radio cut down and took people out of the system, it wasn't as much fun anymore to do live radio because there wasn't anybody there that you could talk with and have a good time with. So it kind of got to the point that I got tired of getting up at 3:00 in the morning.
I got tired of having to deal with thunderstorm warnings and tornado warnings to radio stations when you call in and say, "I've got a tornado warning," and the part-timer on the air said, "Can you call back in half an hour? I'm busy now." That doesn't work real well. So we wanted a solution that would preserve what the owners had, which was a presence in the market.
The way that we achieved that at the time was to record just about everything you could possibly say in a weathercast, 30,000 audio cuts, different inflections, different tones, put them in a computer system, and let the computer figure out how to splice those together. At the time we actually used big honking satellite dishes, so we sold a computer that went to the radio station with a big satellite dish to get the weather information from the EMWIN stream.
Kirk: This is textual, is it a...
Kirk: ...satellite stream...
Kirk: ...that was filled with text.
Tom: It would take the text, and then the computer at the radio station would figure out if it's going to say sunny and cloudy and whatever else the forecast was, and at the end we'd add temperature sensors to it. So right at the station we'd say, "And at the station now, it's 78 degrees."
Tom: I don't know if I ever told you this, but the first iteration of this, we kind of mixed it. We had the computer doing the current conditions at the end, just the current conditions. And then I would record the base part of the weather forecast in the morning and we'd feed that off by modem. Which worked fine all the time, until I got a cold. Then it was like, "I'm Tom Churchill and here's your weather today. It's going to be cloudy and it's 76 degrees outside right now."
Kirk: Oh yeah, yeah.
Tom: So over the years now, we've...
Kirk: So let me just kind of...
Tom: Go ahead.
Kirk: ...reiterate this for a second, because you and I are familiar with the concept of how it works. But you recorded 30,000 audio cuts and different inflections, all the things that a national weather service forecast would possibly say.
Kirk: Everything. And you would read what each temperature lots of different ways, and also different timings. So as I recall when we've had a Digital Weatherman system, an early one, and I'm sure you still do this, but it was a local computer. In our case, we came along late enough to be hooked to the Internet, just barely. We were early on the Internet, but we didn't have the big EMWIN satellite dish.So you would get the textual forecast in, it would parse that into the phrases, it would assemble the audio cuts, and if I wanted a 24.5-second weather forecast, your computer program would assemble these cuts into a 24.5-second weather forecast.
Tom: Exactly timed.
Kirk: Yeah. If I wanted a 38-second weather forecast, it would do that, too. And so you throw a little music bed behind it, and we would get postcards from people saying, "Doesn't Tom ever go on vacation? Don't you ever let him sleep?"
Tom: How mean you are, making me work 24 hours a day.
Kirk: So this Digital Weatherman, it worked like that, until the Internet became really reliable and maybe a local computer to local station not as reliable. So now you put these forecasts together for your clients in the Cloud, right?
Kirk: And they just download a wav file that already, every hour, has their updated forecasts and conditions and things like that. They play it, it's Tom Churchill, it's not the Drunken Swede of the National Weather Service. It's you.
Tom: No, it's a real voice, it's my voice, and we have other people's voices in the system, too. So you can choose who you want, you can schedule it. You can say at 9:00 at night I want Tom on and we'll give him a break at midnight and put Jolene on the air. You have complete control over it. So in fact, it's to the point that if, as the system is reading the forecast, it says it's going to be raining today and it's absolutely bright and sunny outside and you don't like that, you can go right to a web page from your cell phone and change what Tom or Jolene is saying.
Say, "No, Tom, say that it's going to be 95 today," and instead of saying 86, instantly, back on the air, the next time it plays, it's going to say the temperatures. You can even change the words that I'm saying. You can make me sound like an idiot. It's 96 degrees and I'm saying it's snowing outside, and it's...
Kirk: Now, I didn't bring that all up for the purpose of a commercial, although a lot of folks haven't heard about Digital Weatherman. It's DigitalWeatherman.com, very interesting stuff. You can get a... can you play a demo there on the website?
Tom: Actually, there's a YouTube channel you can go to.
Kirk: Oh, really?
Tom: Look for Virtual Voice on YouTube and there's a channel with some videos that show you how that works and you can hear the voices.
Kirk: So your company's called Virtual Voice.
Kirk: And one of the products is Digital Weatherman. Now I bring that up to get back to this idea of localism. So we've used your Digital Weatherman product for years. We have up-to-date local weather forecasts. Some radio stations are playing the same forecast on Sunday evening that the disc jockey recorded on Friday evening, and we and your other clients have up-to-date forecasts.
Tom: Well, yeah, not to be self-promoting, but the idea is, and everything that I've done over the years has been a way to help local stations sound local with less people. Whether it's writing things like Web Gopher, the continuity software that we're writing now for traffic, or the Virtual Weatherman, it's been amazing to me to come down here.
Because see, I've never been to Greenville before. This is the first time I've... I haven't been in the United States in 16 years. And I'm a celebrity here. I've been on the air for 25 years. I can open my mouth and everybody says that voice, I know you. You're Tom Churchill, aren't you? You know.
Kirk: Yeah, yeah.
Tom: It's a computer, folks. It's been a computer for 25 years. And people think that I'm actually sitting here at this radio station doing weather forecasts. But that helps the radio station. I'm one of the most known personalities at this radio station and probably 600 other radio stations, and each one of those radio stations, people there have an extra voice that they recognize and know as the voice of that radio station, and that's how radio stations become successful.
Kirk: We're going to take a break here in just a minute, but I wanted to point out one more thing that your technology does for local radio is the Virtual Weatherman can also create EAS alerts. What, can it be a source to your EAS gear?
Tom: Over the years, we started off, because I'm big on warnings, that gets back to what we were talking about, credibility in the market?
Tom: I don't like, as a broadcaster, to farm that off to the TV guy. Sorry, Kirk. But you're giving away something that you can do. Radio is important because you listen to it. You can be doing other things. You can be driving your car, you can be doing your homework, you can be eating breakfast. TV is all-encompassing. It takes your attention. You have to sit in front of this because it's visual, you're listening, everything is done for you.
But radio is always on the background. So you have a natural advantage in radio, but you've got to make use of it. If you put on the air a commercial that says that you're using the TV guy for your weather, well, you've given away that advantage.
Now what happens when the severe weather comes in, the people are going to turn off your radio station and go listen to the TV guy. I get back to that because we were having problems getting these bulletins on the air, and that's why we built this this way. In the day, all we had to do was put a relay in and it kind of chopped the audio off. Now everybody's required to have an EAS box.
Tom: So when EAS standard came out, we wrote software in that actually creates that header burst. If you took that header burst and put it into your EAS, it says exactly what the bulletin is. We changed one thing, which is the originator code, so that you can distinguish ours from the ones that come from the weather service.
So if you take the audio out of our system and put it into your EAS box, the EAS box will trigger when the bulletin comes in and you can say "ignore Perfect Paul," if that's still on the air here?
Kirk: Oh yeah.
Tom: And you'll get me doing your weather broadcast.
Kirk: So instead you get the same content but you get a natural voice, not Perfect Paul or the Drunken Swede, and it's just as quick, right...
Kirk: ...as from the NOAA weather radio or other EAS sources.
Tom: And so people can actually hear it and can understand it and again, it ties into what we're talking about with local radio, because you've now taken this person that you're listening to all day doing your weather forecasts and now he's on the air. And it doesn't matter whether it's your disc jockeys or your sports guy, and this is why I'm so enthused with being able to do this in Sosúa and in the Dominican Republic, because we're going to put those people out in the field and we'll have personalities, too, that people will know and recognize so that when they turn on the radio or turn on their Bluetooth, they know.
Kirk: We're going to get some more of Chris Tobin's thoughts about turning off the transmitter in just a little bit. But first let me tell you about one of our sponsors, and it has to do with streaming.
It is the Z/IPStream from Telos Omnia, actually the Telos Alliance. Z/IPStream is a new mark, if you will, a new brand of the Telos Alliance. Let me tell you about the Z/IPStream 9X/2. That's a lot of letters and numbers in there. But we have a couple of products that are in this category. There's the Z/IPStream X/2, and that is a software-based audio processor and streaming encoder.
Then there's the big brother, if you will, the upgrade if you want to do that, pay for it. It's the Z/IPStream 9X/2. The 9X/2 replaces the three-band audio processor that comes with the Z/IPStream X/2, and it gives you Omnia.9 processing by Leif Claesson. Now, you guys know Leif Claesson. This guy has the stereo tools software and, I'm sorry, breakaway, and just does fantastic audio processing.
Well, you can get that exact same audio processing with the Undo and the de-clipping technology to clean up audio that sounds ratty in the first place from the record company if it's clipped. Then do all the multiband processing you want, do stereo expansion if you want that, and do look-ahead limiting for your stream. Really fantastic processing that Leif Claesson has written. And put that in front of your streaming encoder.
Now, what about streaming encoding? Well, my goodness, the possibilities here are just amazing for what you can do with this one piece of software. First of all, the way it's licensed, this is kind of interesting. It's not licensed on a per-output basis, it's licensed on a per-input basis.
So you can pay for one license for Z/IPStream X/2 or Z/IPStream 9X/2, pay for one license, take your one program, and you can process it and then you can encode it in as many different Codecs as you want.
You could do AAC at 256 kilobits per second. You can do high efficiency AAC at 96 kilobits. You can do HE-AAC v2 at a low bit rate, like 48 kilobits per second, which by the way, still sounds pretty fantastic. And then you can take each of these streams and you can send them each to multiple destinations. So you've got a main server, maybe in Florida or a content distribution network.
Maybe you can send another one, you've got listeners, hey, in, who knows, Africa, and you have a streaming partner in Africa. Send one stream over to Africa and let them distribute it from there.
You can do it all from the same software. So you can send it also to back to a SHOUTcast server or even to, for your own monitoring purposes, to check your stream before it gets to a CDN somewhere. So there's a lot of possibilities just even with one license.
Now let's say you want to run three or four different programs. Well, buy three or four licenses, and with each of those you can encode and send to as many places as you want. Well, up to the CPU limits of the computer. What would those be?
Well, just to give you an idea, I took a pretty good gaming type PC and I installed this software, and I created 20 streams and 40 destinations, so a total of 40 outputs from it. And it worked fine, absolutely fine. It was taxing the processor about 60%. So you can do a lot with this software on a PC. Check it out, if you would, on the web.
Go to TelosAlliance.com and look for the Z/IPStream, either the X/2 or the 9X/2, and realize that the difference there is just the audio processing that comes with it. You can use the three band that comes with the X/2, that's been around for a long time. Very clean processing.
It's what we do on some of our streams here at Delta Radio. And then the 9X/2 is really hyped up. It's Leif Claesson's fantastic processing, and we use that on a couple of our streams here as well.
Thanks a lot to Z/IPStream for sponsoring This Week in Radio Tech. I hope you'll check it out. And again, this is a software solution that runs in Windows as a service, so it's not an app. It's very reliable, it runs at a low level in Windows as a service, and it'll run on virtually any version of Windows that's been out in the last 15 years.
All right, thanks a lot. We're back, you're watching This Week in Radio Tech, Episode number 271. I'm Kirk Harnack along with Tom Churchill here in studio and Chris Tobin in Manhattan, New York. Chris, we talked earlier, Tom alluded to turning off the transmitter. And you know, I'll give you my thought on this, Chris, and then you can tell me where I'm wrong.
I used to think that hey, when cable penetration reaches 89%, 90%, 92%, 95% in a given market, well, why would you need to pay to keep the TV transmitters going at that point? You're paying hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe a million dollars a year, to reach what is essentially 4%, 5%, 6% of your audience. I just wonder, where does that equation make sense to turn the transmitter off?
By the way, I know the current laws are not friendly to that, you've got to be on the air to have must-carry on the cable system, so I get that. But at what point does it make sense to free up spectrum and make TV all Internet and cable?
Chris: Well, I'm not sure. That's a difficult question, because my fear is, and I've gone through it several times in the last 15 years, if everything goes let's say wired or is no longer over the air broadcast, what happens when there's times of trouble? Whether it's a hurricane or a monsoon or a bad, stormy weather, whatever you want to call it, thunderstorms of that sort, and suddenly the method by which you receive your favorite broadcast, for that credibility factor, all of a sudden Tom Churchill can't be heard.
The cable that comes to my building was severed because the manhole cover that was filled up with water from the flood that occurred through the storm surge that happened before the thunderstorm that rolled in.
But only a year earlier, if I had my over-the-air television method or radio, I would be able to hear this because the broadcast would make every effort to make sure that the signal could be heard or carried on whatever method needed to be heard. So I'm torn.
I understand from a financial, from a business standpoint, does it make sense to spend a million dollars a year for a transmitter when 95% of the signal is carried on cable? On the surface, the short-term answer, sure, turn it off.
Long term or what is it you're trying to accomplish, because once you no longer have that difference in, how would you say? Perception of what you are, you're no different than Showtime, HBO, or TNT on the cable. So if the cable goes out, "Oh well, cable's out, I'll deal with it." It comes back.
But if you're a local affiliate of a network or your station is local, maybe you're not a network affiliate, you're just a local station that does local things, but you're on a cable service that just went down, because it's not held to the same standards that you have been held to for the last 100 years, then what do you do for a business model?
Because TNT and Showtime and HBO, at 5:00, they're done. Their shows are in the can and they put it on the network and if it goes out, so be it. If it doesn't, well, their subscribers pay for their service, they're okay. It's not for you. And if you're not transmitting, your must-carry goes away, you now become just another service that you have to fight for access on the cable.
Chris: Just food for thought.
Kirk: I was trying to make some sort of analogy to at what point, if ever, does it make sense to turn radio transmitters off, or have fewer of them, or have maybe more of a DAB model where you have hopefully overall less expense with a few ensemble transmitters transmitting carriers [inaudible 00:39:09] cable.
Chris: The DAB model was attempted with Eureka-147 and the broadcasters through their stupidity knocked it down, and that probably will never come back in that method. I know what you're saying, multiplexing carriers would be a great idea.
I think the first thing that has to happen is the industry has to get back up on its feet and create something compelling so they can justify turning off the transmitter and say okay, we now have our product going elsewhere through a different means and we're going to fight to make it work.
Because right now, you turn off your transmitter because you want to save money and think that using the Internet as a delivery method makes sense, you'll be ...yeah, you'll be dead within six months. Because you're at the mercy of other people.
Kirk: I may have my facts and figures messed up here, but let me tell you what I think I heard. You've heard of Twitch.tv, I think it was? Yeah?
Chris: Yes, yes, yes.
Kirk: It's a channel where you watch gaming? Yeah?
Kirk: And isn't the revenue on this bigger than the Super Bowl revenue?
Chris: Sure, yeah. There's a lot of things that have long-term revenue than the Super Bowl.
Kirk: So what I'm getting at is I was trying to think of, okay, so audio, there's podcasts, there's people streaming radio, and Tom, you were talking about people in their basement streaming it from their MP3 player, calling it a radio station. I'm thinking well, I wonder when people are going to get into video streaming.
Then I realized well, duh, they already are into video streaming. You've got networks like this one, the GFQ Network. You've got the TWiT network. You've got 5by5 network and others. They're streaming video programs.
Now granted, they're not streaming "NCIS" or whatever, the "The Good Wife" or "Breaking Bad," but when are we going to get to the point where the fragmentation is so great or that over the air is really tough to make any kind of a living at? You'll be all right? You want some water?
Tom: I'm dying here.
Kirk: Okay. I'll see if I can get somebody...
Tom: [Inaudible 00:40:59] .
Chris: The over-the-air problem is just what it is. The content isn't even worth watching. What you just mentioned, Twitch makes more than the Super Bowl. Okay, well, the audience for Twitch is different, is much larger, and has a more compelling and probably active group. Therefore, they put themselves together to make it happen and it works, so they benefit from that.
Super Bowl benefits because the same thing. They're a content of sport and it's just they've built it up so you can't live without it. That's what they create the atmosphere of. But if you're not a sporting nut, you don't give two hoots about Super Bowl. And you know, would you give two hoots about Twitch.
But what you want to do is create something that people want and can't live without. Once you create that demand, whether you're over the air or on a wire or wireless through cellular, it won't matter. They want it, you're going to get it to them, and you're going to make money hand over fist because you're in demand. It's real simple.
The problem is radio and TV have lost sight of that. That's what built it back in the day. If you go back to the, I'll use the names Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, if you will, or Art Linkletter, for those who remember those names. The reason they were popular was because they came out of radio and went to live television, and they just did it. People were like wait a minute, I can't get this anywhere else. Fast forward to today...
Kirk: Ah, yeah, yeah.
Chris: Fast forward to today, and people use the phrase oh, if we're too fragmented, nobody will be out there to listen or watch. That's a load of bunk. If it's something they want, they'll go for it. You just have to create it and make it worthwhile and understand how to bring it to them.
The problem is you've got today broadcasters are using a model, a business model that was perfect 30, 40 years ago because the penetration of the market was where it should be. Today it's changed, but they're still using the same model.
Go look at Cumulus and iHeartMedia and Entercom and the others. They're large groups. They have so much depth because they just believe the bigger they are, they'll just be able to absorb the negatives and be able to get past it and just make do every quarter. It doesn't work that way.
Then you look at Alpha Broadcasting, the people who are smaller and get it and know what they're doing and they go after stuff, or Sage, they're making money. They're profitable, they're doing their thing.
Look at Hubbard. They've got the number one billing FM news station in Washington. Hello. How is that possible? People said news talk was dead. Well, they had a major competitor go up against them and they beat them. So it really is a matter of perspective and business understanding.
I still think Tom's got it right. His model makes total sense. You can extrapolate on that and bring it to other places in the world and do just fine.
Tom: And I think you have to pick your market and you have to understand what it is. In the silly discussions in the silly places on the web talking about these MP3 players, "Well, I'm on the web, you can hear me in Beijing and you can hear me in Rio de Janeiro and in Paris. So I'm all over the world and I can make money at that."
My response, having owned local radio stations, is how? What sponsor do you find that's going to pay you in Beijing and Paris and cares about the 15 people you've got listening in in Buenos Aires? It just doesn't work that way.
It doesn't have to be a geographical location, but you've got to pick, you've got to know what your market, like you're talking about a gaming channel. I'm sorry, I've been out of the country for so long, I have no idea what some of these references are anymore.
But you cater to a group of people that are homogenous in some way, and all the things that local radio stations do, this wonderful medium that we have where we're talking to people and inciting their imagination. On our radio station, we still play old-time radio. I'm pulling up 70-year-old shows, the opening...
Tom: Because people like to listen to that. It's a theater of the mind that the TV and video cameras can't put back together. People lose sight of that and lose sight of the power of the medium that you have in front of you when you've got just a microphone to communicate with people. If people get that back, they'll find ways.
The point that I was going to make about the rest and the big companies doing this, they can do it, not do it, it doesn't concern me. I can put a $90 box on the air and do what I want. And if I know how to work radio and how to create that magic in the audio that goes out, then I will find a way to make money and be a part of the community.
So I like the idea of Internet broadcasting. I'd like my friends who have local radio stations to understand that this isn't just a byproduct that you need to put on and put on a shelf just because we've got to have a stream. That you can actually use it to enhance your product, to actually become, maybe, your main product as time goes by, or at least something that could sell or earn revenue for you at the same time.
But for all the other folks that don't have a license and don't have the ability to go out and get a license and get on the air and want to do the same things, yeah, you can do it too.
Kirk: I want to mention that Chris Tobin, I think you've got to say goodbye to us now and head out the door. Is that right? I think that's right.
Chris: Yes, yes, no sorry. Yes, I do. And Tom, you're absolutely right. The stream should not just be something you do, it should be part of the ecosystem of what you're doing for the radio station if you happen to do it. If you're not an over-the-air broadcaster and you're going to do stream and create content, go for it, and this is the time to do it.
So just to reiterate. Because you're absolutely right, you're spot on, Tom. I've been saying this for years, and Kirk knows.
Kirk: Chris, safe travels. Thanks for being with us. By the way, Chris, next week we're going to be talking about LPFM and what they want to put through the FCC. It's kind of interesting, and makes many traditional broadcasters bristle, but it also may open up people's eyes as to what they could, and should, be doing to keep the audiences they have and maybe even grow them. So we'll see you next week.
Chris: Excellent. [Inaudible 00:46:23]. I love it.
Kirk: We'll see you next week Chris Tobin.
Tom: Have a nice trip.
Chris: All right, Tom. Thanks, Kirk, we'll talk to you later.
Tom: See you.
Kirk: Yep. So the show's continuing, we're talking here on Episode 271 of This Week in Radio Tech. I'm Kirk Harnack, the host of the show, along with our guest, Tom Churchill.
Tom: How do you keep track of that number? I didn't see you write it down anywhere, and . . .
Kirk: It's click one every week.
Tom: See, past 10, I'd be lost.
Kirk: Yeah, I know. Well, sometimes I have to go back to the website and look. How many have we done so far? Oh, okay, it's 270. Last week was a War Stories episode. Every 10 episodes, we do war stories. That time I was at the transmitter, and a lion came to the front door.
Tom: I've got a whole new chapter for my book just from being down here.
Kirk: Okay. So Tom, we can talk about anything, and I do want to make sure we talk about a couple of the other interesting software that you are writing or have written to help broadcasters out.
Your goal, and this has always been your mantra, is to help broadcasters put out local information, conveniently, with fewer staff, because that's the reality. Do you have a, you have or had some kind of a like a school closing, a snow-day sort of module or something?
Tom: There are so many things you could do, and I don't have time in the day for all of the things that run into my head and write them out. But anything that you could possibly automate with this voice concatenation system for weather, you can do sports. In fact, we had something coming out this summer, I've been sidetracked for a little while here and we'll get back to it, which was the concept of a virtual newsman, which would put your newscasts together for you and allow you to have a fresh newscast every hour.
If you listen to, Radio Beach was supposed to be launching full bore this summer, we're putting together a, we have people out selling it, but we're kind of on hold. But if you go listen, what you'll find is that some of the products that we put together to help people, like at this station, listen to the news. We have news, we have programs, we have weather. All of those things are being done by automated programs that I've written, things like Web Gopher that grabs stuff off the web and puts it on the air automatically.
I don't have to have somebody sitting at that radio station to go out on the web and get all these programs and put them on the air. I don't have to be sitting there to read the weather every hour because I have a program doing that. But it still sounds like we have people there, doing this.
So now I have freed up my resources to pay people to go out and do live remotes, to be in the community. I don't have all of this overhead in the background just to do the basic things that the radio station needs to do.
Now if I can do this on my box, yes, I wrote a lot of this stuff, and we have it... anybody can go out and do this, too. It should be a way to make you - not forget what you're doing in radio - but free your people up, free you up to go out and do other things that you need to do to be in the community.
Kirk: I want to... you've mentioned Web Gopher a couple times, and I want to talk about this, because I have some direct experience with that at this business, this operation in Delta Radio, in Greenville, Mississippi.
Our station, we have four stations right here, and these stations take a lot of programming from FTP sites. We have John Tesh, who does topical stuff daily for us. We have... who's the guy that does the oldies show?
Tom: Goddard? Goddard Gold and some of those?
Kirk: Bart Dickley. No, Dick Bartley.
Tom: Dick Bartley.
Kirk: And so Dick Bartley and...
Tom: Murphy, Sam & Jodi.
Kirk: Oh, Murphy, Sam & Jodi. Yeah, Murphy, Sam & Jodi do a morning show for us here, and that's automated but they sound live, and they almost sound local. They can do some local stuff for us. And we have to download all this stuff.
Now, we used to pay somebody to do that. And unfortunately, we're in a very small market. We had to pay, all we could pay was an embarrassingly small amount of money. So the quality of person that we could hire was commensurate with the embarrassingly small amount of money we could afford to pay. Therefore, my point is it got messed up a lot.
End of message tones, wrong places, mistakes in the file names so stuff wouldn't play. Most automation systems are a little bit ticky about the file name. It's got to be right. It's got to be the right length, and just on and on. It's got to be the right format, it's got to be in the right folder, otherwise it's not going to get imported. Human beings can mess that up pretty well. So you and our partner in the station, Larry, you said hey, I've got this idea.
Tom: Yeah. Larry asked for help and we wrote something.
Kirk: Now I want to point out that right now we're running Rivendell here. Rivendell does have its own program to go out and get stuff off the Internet. But you know what? You have met, with Web Gopher, it seems like you've written this to meet some real-world conditions.
Like the suppliers who supply you shows don't always name their files the right thing. They're not always there when you think they're going to be.
So you have to have a program, a process, that is flexible in what it will take in, and very specific in what it will put out, so that it will work with your automation system.
Sorry for all the preamble, but tell me about Web Gopher and you can tell the audience. Because engineers, hey, if you can use a program like this to solve problems for your employer, for your general manager and your program director, you're going to be a star in their eyes.
We saved about $30,000 a year because we replaced live people who were messing this up with a program that works consistently. Go.
Tom: Well, my goal always is to do no harm. If you're putting something in that's automating things, I don't want it to be messing up, either. In the real world, things do occasionally go. But you have to think about which is the more complicated process.
Having somebody there that you've got to train and instruct and who might leave and you get somebody else in, and that you're paying all the time, versus a computer program that will do all of this, the same way you told it to do it, all the time. So what we did was basically write an upgrade to a lot of the remote get programs that are out there.
The problem with, there are so many ways to get FTP and other things off the net, so many strange FTP servers, so many strange processes. You're going to get HTTP, you've got Dropbox, you've got programs where the... lots of them now... where the file names change every week. It's Thursday or Monday and there's names that have variables in them that change constantly. You can't do that with just a straight batch file.
Kirk: And 9 times out of 10, Thursday may be "Thu," until the intern comes in, then it's "Thur." And then...
Tom: We took a long time to write around those things.
Tom: But we did, so that it's automatic. So whenever I write something, whether it's the Virtual Weatherman or Web Gopher, if Larry calls me up and says, "You know, it would be really neat if it does this." I wrote it, so I go inside and I change it. And that's the fun part for me, because I like inventing things that actually do things in the real world for people.
One of the problems that a lot of stations have is different automation systems. SS32s and old things that are out of date, Windows 95 processors, Rivendell. So we try to write things that will work on all of those platforms. In fact, because we've had 30 years worth of doing the Virtual Weatherman stuff, I've been able to, to be honest, I wrote some of the software for that before the standard for the wav file existed.
The first audio cuts that we did didn't come from a sound card. The Creative Labs Sound Blaster wouldn't come out for a year. It was a temperature sensor card that we used. I used an A to V [sounds like 00:53:36] to chop that audio up and then put it in the system.
Kirk: Oh, wow.
Tom: That's how we got started. So the idea is that with this, since we can control all this audio, we can actually put not only just getting you the audio file, we put metadata inside it so that on your automation system, on your SS32, on your Rivendell, it shows exactly what's there.
That information goes out to your RDS stream, it goes out to your streams on the Internet, all in the same place. So at the same time we've solved the ability to download that, we've now created a way to get that information out to your Internet streams, to the car radios, all of those things at once. Those are the kinds of things I like to do, because it just solves so many problems for people.
Kirk: You mentioned there RDS and your stream and solving a metadata problem. Sometimes your automation system may be set up to spit out a file name or a title or an artist somehow. Anyway, we noticed on our RDS streams, instead of saying "Murphy, Sam & Jodi," it would say "MSJ Hour 1 Cut 5" or some such. And we're thinking ooh, we don't want that on our RDS stream, and you figured out a way to get "Murphy, Sam & Jodi" in there instead of the file name stuff. Make it parse better.
Tom: Well, yeah, we have options in it so that the system, you can have your title for in-house use and then you have your titles and subtitles and artists for the metadata use, and you can put them in a different menu, so that when the system goes out and puts it on the air, it's actually embedded like the header file in wav news, the CartChunk standard. We have the Scott Studios standard.
Any automation system, the way it's written, that has a special header, we can duplicate it very easily. We take a copy of that and put it in and we will fill in all the blanks so that it goes into your automation system properly.
Kirk: Awesome. Wow. So that's called Web Gopher, and that's a product you can buy. Is there a web, Web Gopher...?
Tom: Webgopher.radioguys.net, and all the information there, and there's also some information on, there's a Facebook page for it so you can see all the neat things that it does.
Kirk: We'll put these things in the show notes. Again, we don't mean to make this an hour-long commercial, but the idea here is to help you do radio better than you're doing it now. And between you and my partner here, Larry Fuss, and your other clients, man, you guys come up with some ways to actually make radio work and sound like people are there when even they can't be.
Tom: I just really enjoy this. I've been out of pocket really for 16 years, I haven't been back here, so it's been a while since I've sat at a radio station. I come here and I observe what people are doing, and I get to see things that they've done, and in the process of writing something that helps you or helps Larry or helps someone else, we have this that we can offer. Because if it works here, other people can make use of it. And for me, that's just fun. That's the most enjoyable thing that I could possibly do.
Kirk: We're going to be back in just a minute. We're going to come up with a tip of the day or tip of the week.
Tom: You didn't tell me I had to come up with a tip of the day.
Kirk: Well, you've got about three minutes to do so. Maybe two.
Tom: To avoid that run-down feeling, look both ways before crossing the street.
Kirk: And I'm going to tell people about our sponsor, Axia, and the Axia Fusion console. Now, if you look behind me here, this is an Axia Element. This is a big, honking Element right here. Well, our fancy producer here is going to show you a picture of a Fusion console. I'm sorry, Fusion. A Radius console. Got too many consoles on the mind here.
Right now, you're listening to this show or you're watching this show, our audio that you're hearing is coming through an Axia Radius console at the GFQ Network. And Andrew Zarian and I just had a great time putting this thing in, hooking it up to some other equipment there in his studio there in Queens, New York. It's so clean and so easy to use.
Here at this facility, we're getting ready to expand, and my guess is... haven't decided for sure... but my guess is it's going to be a Radius console we put into our new studio, because we've got two morning shows now going on at the same time. We've got to get another studio here.
So it'll be a Radius console, it'll plug right in literally one cable from the back of the mix engine... this is called the QOR, either the QOR.16 or the QOR.32... one cable from the back of that from a trunk port on the built-in Ethernet switch, will plug into a switch that's back in the rack room here and bam, that fast, that studio will be connected to the rest of the equipment here at Delta Radio in Greenville, Mississippi. That's the way it works. Literally one Cat-6 cable and you're... I'm not saying you're done...
Tom: No punch blocks?
Kirk: ...but it's just type... no, no punch blocks, no.
Tom: I'd be lost.
Kirk: You know, the only punch block in this place is left over from the phone system.
Tom: Yes, I have noticed it.
Kirk: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But the Radius console, I've got to tell you. It is very affordable. In its minimum configuration, you get a QOR.16, which has two mic inputs, I think it's got about 10 analog line inputs, it's got a few analog line outputs, 4 or 6. It's got an AES input, an AES output. And of course it networks. Now networking, this is cool.
This console is in the neighborhood, I'm sorry I don't have the up-to-date pricing. It's $6,000 or $7,000. It is not expensive. And it's all digital and it's all better than digital, it's all Livewire, Livewire+, which means that soon it'll be speaking AES67 as well, especially when you hook it up with one of our xNodes.
So it's got an Ethernet switch built into it. So if you want to hook some other things into it, for example, a phone like this one right here. This is a Telos VSet 6. This will control a six-line phone system, like an Hx6 or an iQ6. Literally you plug these things in the switch on the back of the QOR.16 or the QOR.32, and not only do you have audio and control, you also have power, because there are four ports that have POE on the back of this guy.
Like I said, mic inputs, line inputs, all built in, line outputs built in. And of course it networks to nodes and other studios, so you've got lots of audio IO that way. And you've got PCs, for example, that are running an IP audio driver. You don't even need any audio cables to connect those to the console, just hook them up from their network interface to the switch on the back of the QOR.16 or the QOR.32. Even Linux computers, in this very room, these Linux computers here, all hooked up with an IP audio driver.
So you want to get into this world of Audio over IP, you can do it affordably, by looking at the Axia Radius console. Check with your dealer, whatever country you're in, go to the Axia website. You can go to AxiaAudio.com or you can go to TelosAlliance.com and click on the Axia button.
You want to find your nearest dealer, just go to the dealers' page and check that out there. I highly encourage you to do this. This is just great stuff. Makes building studios easy and the audio is just clean, clear, fantastic. No degradation at all. Thanks to Axia for sponsoring This Week in Radio Tech with the Radius console.
All right, Tom, sorry to hit you up for a tip, but you know...
Tom: I already, I gave my tip. That was the best I had.
Kirk: You did. What was the tip?
Tom: About crossing the road.
Kirk: Ah. Yeah. Is that it?
Tom: Yeah, that's it.
Kirk: How do you, when you cross the road in the Dominican Republic, do you look right or left? Or both?
Tom: See, even if it's a one-way street, I look the other way.
Kirk: Why would that be, Tom?
Tom: Well, I don't know. Those lines on the street are just kind of suggestions.
Kirk: Well, my tip would be to check out some software that you've written. I've never used that as a tip before on this show. We've done 271 episodes now. So it took 271 episodes for me to get to it. But if you would check out the Digital Weatherman from Virtual Voice Technologies... and I'll put the link in the show notes... well, DigitalWeatherman.com will get you there. So will RadioGuys.net. I think that's your U.S. dealers?
Tom: Yeah, that's Larry's stuff.
Kirk: Yeah. I'll put it in the show notes. This software will absolutely give you weather on all your radio stations, up to date, with warnings and watches and all that stuff. Accurate temperatures and things like that.
Tom: Well, you have to think about it as putting another personality on your air, somebody that can relate to your audience, and you'll do well. Because that's really what radio is about, that's what I like about radio, is having those people there that connect with the community. So you don't think about it as just being a weather service. I don't, and that's not what it was designed originally to be. It was just designed as a way to be able to clone myself.
Kirk: Yeah, yes.
Tom: So I'm enjoying the weather in Samoa right now on the air.
Kirk: That's right, you are on.
Tom: Yes I am.
Kirk: You're on in Samoa. Wow. You're on all over the place.
Tom: It balances out because we have some stations in Canada. Eh, tu?
Kirk: All right, folks, that's going to wrap it up for us on This Week in Radio Tech. Tom, thank you very much for being here. I appreciate it.
Tom: Nice being here.
Kirk: It might be a little while before we get to talk again, I suppose.
Tom: Next time, you can visit me on the beach in the Dominican Republic.
Kirk: Do you have enough Internet down there to do a Skype?
Tom: Oh yeah, yeah.
Kirk: All right. Well, if you didn't, you'd figure out a way to get it, I suppose. This has been This Week in Radio Tech. Our sponsors have been the folks at Lawo and the crystalCLEAR console. Also Z/IPStream and the Z/IPStream X/2 and 9X/2, software for streaming. Stream like you mean it with Z/IPStream. And also Axia and the Axia Radius console.
Thanks so much to Andrew Zarian for providing network facilities on the GFQ Network. Be sure you look at the other programs on the GFQ Network. You're going to like them all, or at least find them intriguing. "Mat Men," or the "Friday Free for All," two of my favorites. And "What the Tech," with Paul Thurott, also on there, where they talk Windows. Yeah. It's always fun to hear Paul talk about that.
And then finally, thanks to SunCast for switching and producing today's show. I really appreciate it, while Andrew is off, having a baby or something. We'll see you next week on This Week in Radio Tech. Bye-bye, everybody.
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