WNIP: So Easy, An Audio Guy Can Set It Up!

JeffKeithPhotoUPDATEA few months ago, we loaded Jeff Keith up with a few WheatNet-IP BLADEs and some GP button panels, and locked him in a room to build a new audio processing lab. Our only requirement was that he implement AoIP using our WheatNet-IP technology. 

As expected, at first we didn’t hear much activity coming from the new lab. We popped our head in after a few minutes, and found Jeff at his workbench, busily scratching some ideas on paper. We took that to be a good sign, as we had to practically pry Jeff’s fingers loose from the Bridge TDM system he had used in the previous lab and had grown fond of over the years. (His exact words, before we shut the door: “Why can’t I use the Bridge system? It’s rock solid, and besides, we’re really good friends.”)

A little while later, we checked in on Jeff again. This time he had the lab up and running and by now, the network guys weren’t laughing nearly as much. They had to admit he had come up with some useful ideas and clever custom applications for the WheatNet-IP system. Here are a couple of his “Aha!” moments:

Aha #1: Since Jeff is a known audiophile, he needed a way to connect any combination of program audio sources, AGCs, multiband pre-processors and limiters, or even dynamically change the routing around to compare one setup against the other with just the push of button. Was that even possible? It was, once Jeff discovered the WheatNet world of virtual crosspoints, which essentially lets him grab any source or any processor, or activate any logic signal sequence from any button panel. You might find the technique that Jeff created useful for modifying signal routing or program sources in your own plant; no physical audio path is required.

Jeff Keith's Processor Selector Script

Aha #2: Many stations today have a preprocessor in front of the high end processor, and since Jeff was building a test lab, he needed to take that idea one step further and add a selection of favorite preprocessors that could be switched in and out for testing purposes. He started to rummage around for some patch cords to do the job, and then he remembered that each BLADE has two virtual utility mixers, eight channels each. Why not use one of those to switch between preprocessors? Jeff designated the first channel of a utility mixer for program source audio, and used the remaining seven channels to bring the outputs of various preprocessors back into the chain feeding the inputs of the on-air processors. It took him all of 10 minutes to write the “insert this” script that accomplishes this task. Since this script can be triggered by button panels, console buttons or GPIO logic, it can be useful in any studio as a way to quickly substitute one device (or audio path) for another.

Jeff Keith's Pre-Processor Selector Script

Aha #3: It didn’t take long for Jeff to run out of buttons on the GP panels, so he came up with a practical solution. “It occurred to me that by creating a dummy tracking signal, I could create button (press) sequences that were logically larger than the physical number of buttons on a GP panel. By moving this tracking signal around in the virtual matrix, it no longer mattered how many buttons a panel had. It was easy to create a 16-button panel out of two eights or a 24-button panel out of three of them,” explains Jeff. Jeff’s secret formula for putting panels in series was using an unused BLADE headphone signal as the tracking signal. This can come in handy for creating button panels beyond the standard size, or when you need to synchronize multiple button panels in a network. For example, by linking multiple studios together through synchronized panels, it’s easy to switch on-air operation between the two and to monitor the status of each no matter which one you’re at.

Jeff Keith's Sideboard Headphone Selector Sync Script

Aha #4: How to get vintage analog processors to play nice with newer, digital gear in order to conduct eclectic sound tests? No secret here. Jeff knew that BLADEs come with either analog or digital I/O, which makes for easy interfacing to both vintage analog and newer digital processors. And, because the WheatNet-IP system is a transparent transporter of digital audio at 24-bit resolution, there is no signal degradation as signals are handed off from BLADE to BLADE, device to device, or path to path.

Aha #5: What about accessing the main switcher (in Jeff’s case, a Broadcast Tools 16×1) from anywhere in the lab using pairs of eight-button GP panels that had been customized to behave as 16-button panels? Jeff’s solution: create dedicated logic signals in two of the BLADEs, which had GP outputs to control the Broadcast Tools switcher. This can be useful for accessing any other device or element in the studio from one or two BLADEs.

Aha #6: Jeff wanted a way for certain audio signals to be available at the patch panels at his workbench as well as at patch panels elsewhere in the lab. Such signals could be the output of a particular processor, or program source audio, or even the demodulated output of the Belar Wizard. “I decided to use the headphone source in the SideBoard (Wheatstone’s small rack-mount surface),” says Jeff. By using the SideBoard’s signal visibilities option, he programmed it to display only the signals he would really need. Then, by developing another custom script also running on the SideBoard, he was able to keep the audio signals at various patch panels in sync with the SideBoard headphone signal, therefore delivering whatever signal he happened to need at the moment.

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