WheatNews June 2019

WHEAT:NEWS JUNE 2019  Volume 10, Number 6

Sound Check: Dan Patrick’s Mancave

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“Danette” Seton’s work space with the LXE three-fader wedge on the left and Prophet Systems’ screen in the middle left, next to the WheatNet-IP audio network control screen in the middle, right. Through the window is Dan Patrick’s announcer station and in a separate studio through a door off to the left is the LXE console used by “Two-A-Days” for live production.  

Click the above image for a gallery.

By Dee McVicker

Jim Hibbard is as close as this industry gets to a studio whisperer. So, when he told me about the latest Mancave for The Dan Patrick Show, I wondered how he handled the inevitable noise rattling around inside and outside that big space. 

Built into a 18,000-square-foot warehouse, the new Mancave for Dan Patrick’s syndicated show happens to be situated next to not only a Milford, Connecticut, fire station but an AM tower as well. 

This is the latest Mancave for Patrick, where he conducts a live radio and television broadcast every weekday; the show is switched and uplinked in Los Angeles with radio syndication on the Premiere network. It is easily the coolest studio in sports media today with a football field, ping pong table, basketball court, putting green and a $150,000 golf simulator. 

It’s also one of our more impressive WheatNet-IP audio networked studios in action, with “Two-A-Days” producing and mixing the show on our LXE console surface in a side studio and one of the “Danettes” adding local playbacks, bumpers, and sounders from an LXE Wedge next door as an extension of the board, complete with mirrored faders between the two. 

But, was Jim able to get a decent sound from this big, cavernous space? 

Curious, I put on a pair of headphones and listened to the first Dan Patrick Show to originate from the new Mancave. The sound wasn’t at all cave-like and instead, there was that unmistakable warm vocal presence that makes people want to sit at the feet of whoever is talking, and just listen.

I caught up with Jim a few days later while he was between gigs, and he gave me an earful on the mic processing that went into the project. 

Breaking the Rules 

If there’s a rulebook for mic processing, Jim breaks just about every rule in it. He says he boosts all the frequencies “that people cringe at” and uses a higher compression ratio but very little of it. He generally starts with a 4:1 compression ratio and can go up to 6:1 or 8:1, compared to the standard 2:1 ratio. 

In fact, Jim essentially turns conventional wisdom upside down. He adds “a boatload of low end. I roll off the low 30 cycles, and I boost where the junk is.” But what about mic proximity effect, low frequency bass overpowering the vocal range, and all those adverse effects associated with turning up the “junk”? His response: “The downward expansion in the M4IP-USBs is how I get away with a lot of what I get away with.”

The M4IP-USB is a four-channel mic processor that has an Ethernet connection for networking into the WheatNet-IP audio network. Jim uses the M4IP-USB’s downward expander both for its intended purpose (suppress room noise) as well as to help push the envelope for those warm vocals he’s known for (“I slow down the release until it sounds ‘right.’”). Another trademark Jim-ism for warmer vocals: high-pass filtering or bass roll-off starting at 30 Hz in conjunction with boosting starting at, say, 50Hz. “A lot of guys boost at 100 cycles, but I like to bring up the low-end harmonics,” he explained.   

When it comes to presets, his M.O. is predictably different from the norm. Instead of presets for each individual guest, he has a few in his toolbox labeled Cabin 1, Cabin 2, Cabin 3, and so on. 

In most cases, he can pull up a preset for an unknown guest and run it as is with little more than a gain adjustment. His presets were hard-won and came out of a productive weekend with the M4IP and an assortment of gear at his cabin in northern California. He walked away from that weekend with a few bulletproof mic processor presets that sounded good even in his cabin, with its ceiling-to-floor glass, hardwood walls, rock fireplace, and a 15’ angled ceiling. 

Jim won’t reveal the secret sauce the goes into those presets. But we expect that if Jim can produce a warm, clean sound here, in what is every acoustic engineer’s architectural nightmare, he can pretty much get it to sound good anywhere. 

Jim Hibbard has an extensive background in live recording. He started Pacific Mobile Recorders, a 48-track mobile recording rig, more than 30 years ago. He’s built more than his share of recording studios and broadcast studios over the years, more recently as the owner of Studio Builders in Carmichael, California. He stopped counting studio builds at 700. Jim can be reached at Jim@studiobuilders.com.

Free FM, Welcome to the Club! 

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Photos courtesy of Marcus Bekker with Southern Broadcast, Auckland, who partnered with Free FM on the new studio.

Click on above photo for a gallery.

We welcome Free FM to the Stations with Big Aspirations and Small Budgets club! Free FM is a community access station in the Waikato region of North Island, New Zealand, that just updated from a ‘90s analog console to our IP-12 console surface – their first entry into AoIP. 

The IP-12 is our most popular entry-level AoIP console that gives stations with big aspirations and small budgets full access into the WheatNet-IP ecosystem of devices, software and third-party products. We wish the staff and volunteers of Free FM continued success!

Audio Processing Tip from the Lab

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Let's Talk Clippers

Clipping can be like hot sauce. You want just enough to get the job done and not a smidge more. One of the main reasons why processors can’t push the clipper harder is because of the pre-emphasized higher end frequencies. At 15kHz, you have seven times the energy than at 400Hz, which clippers can turn into intermodulation distortion that comes out sounding “spitty” if pushed too hard. This is exacerbated by the limiting stage that precedes clipping. 

Solving the limitations of FM clipping on pre-emphasized content has long been viewed as the critical stage in the audio processor that can finally break through the “sound barrier”  or, that barrier to dynamic, robust audio programming (read clean and loud). We’ve spent a lot of time in our audio processing lab (and even more time in our home labs and in the field) experimenting with different FM clipper techniques, and each new processor we design gets progressively better. Our new X5 FM/HD audio processor effectively breaks that sound barrier with an innovative approach we call the LIMITLESS  Clipper, a high-frequency distortion canceling technology that passes the highs without the spit. Pass the hot sauce, please. 

This tip is brought to you from the Wheatstone Lab by Jeff Keith, CPBE, NCE, Senior Product Development Engineer and Mike Erickson, audio processing field engineer. The Wheatstone Lab has a wide range of music and program content sources that can be routed through more than 37 audio processors, ranging from early vintage 1970s models to the very latest FM audio processor (our X5), plus a half-dozen microphones, three transmitters, and audio display monitors of all types.

ScreenBuilder Scripter's Forum

ScreenBuilderRebuild

Are you a ScreenBuilder or ConsoleBuilder power user? Register and log onto our Scripters Forum. This is a new meeting place for anyone interested in developing new screens and workflows for our WheatNet-IP audio network. Share scripts, screen shots and ideas with others also developing virtual news desks, control panels, and signal monitors.You’ll find documents, starter scripts and a whole knowledge base available to you for making customized screens like those pictured.

Click to register for our Scripters Forum (it's free)

5 Trends in TV Audio Consoles 

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  • Console as a gateway to IP. For many television studios, a new audio console is the gateway into IP workflows. Often, they gain access to mixing, routing and processing resources across a network without uprooting existing infrastructure entirely. Our WheatNet-IP audio network, for example, has MADI units for bridging into an existing intercom or TDM system and HD/SDI units for de-embedding audio from an HD/SDI audio/video signal. 
  • More or less onboard: AoIP makes it so much easier to prioritize what you put on the surface and what you might occasionally need on the network. This translates to a much smaller, more useful mixing console today compared to years ago. There’s also so much more UI technology that goes into today’s console surface -OLED displays are a good example -which also brings down size and cost. These types of advancements make it possible for us to build affordable, compact AoIP consoles like the Strata 32, which is a 64-channel console in a 40-inch linear frame for under US$75,000. 
  • Virtual for real. There’s also a growing interest in virtual mixers on tablets and other glass surfaces. Many broadcasters tell us they aren’t ready to give up their physical surfaces entirely, but we are seeing a lot of interest in our virtual consoles as adjuncts and extensions to a physical board. A multi-touch virtual mixer such as our Virtual Dimension Three can be identical in setup as its physical counterpart, right down to the fader on one automatically setting the fader on the other. 
  • Mobile is in. You can now arrive at a remote location, load up the audio mixer on a multi-touch screen interface, and then immediately start operating it as if you were still in the studio. Virtual workflows aren’t limited to just the mixing console, either. Audio monitoring, processing and routing, as well as control for that audio, whether it’s turning on a mic or setting IFBs, can also be mobilized through the AoIP network for a much faster, easier remote setup. 
  • Going far and wide. You can now move programming around the studio via audio drivers and control various elements using software and hardware logic controllers built into the IP audio network. You can trigger mics on or off, set their levels, and in the case of WheatNet-IP, sum, split, EQ and control audio from anywhere in the network and in all the ways that are unique and important to a broadcast operation. What’s more, that kind of control no longer stops at the studio walls. One new AoIP appliance in particular, SwitchBlade, extends AoIP control across the ether along with SIP connectivity and codec bandwidth optimization for full studio operation between sites.  With this appliance, you can now remotely control a console, mic or automation system from a sports venue halfway across the globe.  

Because of AoIP, you can define the surface you want, whether it’s a standard console surface or a smaller wedge, talent station, control panel or a virtual interface on a multi-touch surface.   

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Key Mic Processor Controls for Studio Noise Management 

Lower Expander

Downward Expander: The expander’s job is to suppress room noise. It does this by reducing the output signal once the input signal has fallen below a predetermined threshold. Most mic processors will give you expander threshold and depth controls for how much downward expansion is permitted and at what point it starts, and a few, such as our M1, M2 and M4IP-USB, will also give you a 'close' control so you can adjust how quickly the expander closes. You will want to pay attention to this last control because the faster the expander closes, the less opportunity there is for noise to pop up after an announcer stops talking, for example.

COMPRESSOR IMAGE

Compressor: The compressor’s main job is to average out mic levels, but it can be useful for noise control as well. Two settings are important for noise control. The first is the ratio, which represents the amount of gain change relative to input and output. A 1:1 ratio results in no compression at all, whereas a 20:1 ratio makes the compressor operate more like a limiter. If you set the compression ratio too high, it can drag up unwanted background noise along with vocals, compressing both together for an overly busy sound. The release setting is also important because this will determine how fast the compressor returns the gain back to normal after chasing an audio peak. A very fast release will exaggerate any reverb in the room and accentuate unwanted background content that would otherwise be inaudible. 

Filtering. Filtering is used to roll off background noise at the upper end or lower end of the spectrum. Attenuate above a certain frequency (low-pass) or below a certain frequency (high-pass) to get rid of obvious noise issues such as traffic rumble or a squeaking computer fan. Rolling off these unwanted frequencies before you apply EQ sculpting allows you to optimize equalization across the remaining frequencies without having to take the unwanted noise into account. 

WheatNet-IP Badges of Honor

We have more than 60 third-party brand products that interface directly into the WheatNet-IP audio network, from playout and production automation systems to camera control and IP audio codec distribution. 

If we don’t have what you need for your WheatNet-IP audio network, we have connections to those who do.  Explore our Badges of Honor partner page for ideas and additions to your WheatNet-IP audio network. 

Partners

 

Video Spotlight: Strata 32 Compact 64-Channel Audio Console

At NAB 2019, we introduced our Strata 32. Featuring a compact footprint with a LOT of power, it's become the number one audio console on a good number of TV facilities' shopping list. 

Here, Phil Owens tells you about some its cool features.

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SMART STRATEGIES AND VIRTUAL TOOLS FOR ADAPTING TO CHANGE

Curious about how the modern studio has evolved in an IP world? Virtualization of the studio is WAY more than tossing a control surface on a touch screen. With today's tools, you can virtualize control over almost ANYTHING you want to do with your audio network. This free e-book illustrates what real-world engineers and radio studios are doing. Pretty amazing stuff.

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TAKING ADVANTAGE OF EMERGING STANDARDS SUCH AS AES67 VIA AUDIO OVER IP TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR BROADCAST FACILITY

Putting together a new studio? Updating an existing studio? This collection of articles, white papers, and brand new material can help you get the most out of your venture. Best of all, it's FREE to download!

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IP Audio for TV Production and Beyond

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MANAGING MORE CHANNELS, MORE MIXES, AND MORE REMOTE VENUES

For this FREE e-book download, we've put together this e-book with fresh info and some of the articles that we've authored for our website, white papers, and news that dives into some of the cool stuff you can do with a modern AoIP network like Wheatstone's WheatNet-IP. 

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