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Altered Images refresh Coventry University’s digital radio studios

New system delivers fully-integrated news workflow from creation to on-air

Leading technology provider and expert in workflow system design, Altered Images, has upgraded the digital radio studio at Coventry University to provide an end-to-end fully integrated news workflow, from story creation to on-air presentation. The refurbishment follows the successful upgrade of the university’s TV studio, which included a full newsroom computer system (NRCS) using the Ross Inception News system.

Coventry University’s Media and Performing Arts Campus has a long-sustained reputation for innovation and is enjoying a rapidly-rising profile. Its TV and radio studios are used for teaching both production and journalism courses; whilst the recently-upgraded TV studio includes a full NRCS, there was no radio newsroom system and journalism was a very manual and non-integrated operation. Coventry University decided that its two radio studios needed to be upgraded with a digital radio newsroom solution, replicating what’s used in the wider industry.

A digital radio newsroom ideal for education

Working in conjunction with RCS, a leading manufacturer of radio production software and computerised music scheduling, Altered Images implemented the latest digital radio automation system, RCS Zetta, along with the RSC GSelector multi-station scheduling system. RSC has special agreements for education to help HE customers manage project budgets, with a low monthly software cost that includes 24-hour telephone support direct with the manufacturers.

“It’s essential for students to have the opportunity to use and be familiar with specific hardware and software that’s used in the commercial radio broadcast industry,” comments Craig Goddard, Senior AV & Media Services Technician at Coventry University. “We had been researching suitable kit to upgrade our digital radio studio – having an association with Altered Images through our television studio installation a couple of years ago, we discussed our requirements with them and they came back with a great solution which incorporated Studer, RCS Zetta, RCS GSelector and Burli Newsroom.”

Key requirements for the new radio facility were to schedule, playout, present and voice-track programmes, both locally and remotely. Coventry University teaches both outside broadcast and studio journalism, so it was useful that the latest version of the RCS remote software allows simple live voice insertion from anywhere. With full remote control of the system, technicians and lecturers can carry out any task from wherever they may be. Everything that’s implemented via the remote software updates live to an installed HP media server.

Another HP server was supplied and installed to run the Burli Newsroom system – the industry-standard NRCS for radio news. Burli Newsroom is equipped with great text and audio editing tools, plus a variety of ways of sharing stories with a team. The system allows the University to automatically ingest multiple incoming news feeds, stories and clips. Journalism students can write their stories and then gather and edit audio clips ready for playout. Burli is now also being deployed in the analogue radio studio; as a result, either studio can be used for live presentation or recording of news bulletins. Altered Images’s network design also incorporated links to and from each studio to achieve full integration and maximise the potential of the facilities.

Industry-standard hardware 

The operation of the studio is based around a Studer On-Air 1500 12-fader split console, commonly used by the BBC plus many other broadcasters around the world. This is one of the modern generation of digital radio production consoles from Studer – a renowned and highly-respected manufacturer of broadcast audio products. Students who gain experience in operating this console will stand in good stead when applying for a variety of both technical and operational production jobs throughout both the radio and TV industries. Studer also provided excellent advice and assistance throughout the installation, particularly with regard to any intricate or complicated configuration issues.

Altered Images also specified and supplied more industry-standard equipment to complement the console, including Audio Technica AT4033 microphones, Beyer DT770 PRO headphones and Yellowtec M!ka microphone arms. These mic arms have individual tally lights so everyone knows exactly when their microphone is live. Altered’s technical teams integrated the broadcast console and the control software to make these function, with the result warmly welcomed by university staff – it was a huge improvement over their old cue light system. Outboard equipment for external play-in included Denon’s professional CD and solid-state recorder/players. These allow playback from any source, including CDs, USB devices and SD cards.

Studio connection via IP

One challenge that Altered Images faced was to find a way of linking the refreshed digital radio studio to the TV studio. The two studios are in different buildings, with no physical cable infrastructure between them. However, since Altered had already provided various IP interfaces when it built the TV studio, this was the most logical solution to connecting the facilities. Adding a level of ‘visual radio’ to the studio only required one additional piece of equipment: a Quicklink video over IP server.

Altered Images installed three small Datavideo HD cameras in the radio studio, connected to a Blackmagic Design vision mixer that had the capability to accept audio and embed it into its SDI stream. This output was then fed to a small distribution amplifier, which in turn fed two separate encoders. Craig Goddard adds, “The new system included a few HD cameras, a switcher and AV streaming devices, which has greatly expanded the possibilities of what can be achieved”.

Live streaming capabilities

Part of the brief was to include live streaming services, including broadcasting to YouTube Live and Facebook Live Audio. Ultimately, this was achieved via the use of two video encoders: a Teradek VidiU Pro to stream to YouTube plus a second Quicklink video over IP server.

Audio streaming was facilitated by a dedicated PC in the radio studio. This was equipped with an AES card in order to add digital audio I/O to the device for the highest possible quality of audio play-in, recording and streaming.

During project planning meetings with university staff, an additional request was made – was there a way of duplicating the screens in front of the main presenter so they could be viewed by more students during teaching sessions? So Altered Images designed a solution where the source for each screen is available on a small switcher, which feeds a 55-inch TV located in the studio. Using a small remote control, the lecturer can be anywhere in the room and can call up any of the technical screens to the large monitor for instructional purposes.

“The new radio studios, together with the integration with our existing TV studio, have already made a significant difference to how and what is taught,” concludes Craig Goddard. “With access to the latest hardware, software and live streaming technology, we’re allowing our students to broaden their skill-set using industry-standard tools. It’s essential real-world experience.”

About Altered Images

Altered Images is a leading expert in workflow system design and a major technology solutions provider for the broadcast, television production, education and corporate communications industry. Its highly-skilled team understands visual communication technology, offering everything from a single product to a complete turnkey solution. From consultancy and system design, through to sales, installation and support, Altered Images offers a fully-specified service for production and broadcast professionals. For further information, please visit alteredimagesltd.com.

About Coventry University

Coventry University is a dynamic university that provides high quality education to students, reinforced by the fact that they were awarded Gold rating in the Teaching Excellence Framework (2017). The university continues to invest in its staff, students and facilities as part of its goal to become one of the UK’s leading universities. Our ethos is one of support, trust, integrity and respect, while valuing diversity. For further information, please visit www.coventry.ac.uk.