Iraqi Media Network (IMN) will soon deploy a turnkey, fully automated radio solution at its headquarters in Baghdad to launch four new radio channels. The turnkey US $2 million project, which is built primarily around Studer's ON-AIR 3000 digital consoles, Digimedia's automation software and Digidesign's Pro tools solution, has been assembled and integrated by Sony Professional Solutions Middle East at its warehouse in Jebel Ali, Dubai. The IMN team will be in Dubai for the acceptance before the entire solution is shipped to Baghdad.
Highlights of the project include work for the installation of four on-air production studios, backup studios, announcer booths, a central apparatus room (CAR), a master control room and a post-production facility. As part of the project, Sony has also put in place a Telos telephone hybrid system for eight incoming lines, an Intercom and talkback system between all studios and the CAR.
"The entire system has been cabled, labelled and documented at our warehouse in Jebel Ali," says Unni Krishnan, project manager, Sony Professional Solutions. "The acceptance will be done here in Dubai. All the IMN team will have to do when they take it to Baghdad will be to literally plug and play the whole system.
The system architecture at IMN is centered on Studer's ON-AIR 3000 and compact SCore frames. SCore, which is at the core of the system, provides full redundancy and interconnectivity between the four studios and the backup studios. The routing is achieved here and the final on-air output goes out to a profanity delay unit for control.
There are also four remote feeds coming into the patch in the CAR, which gives the customer full flexibility. The final output then passes through a Digimedia Automation system into the transmission patch. There are multiple audio machines provided for ingest and monitoring of the stations is done at various stages.
Four on-air studios have been developed to broadcast IMN's four independent radio channels. Each studio has been designed with a control room and two announcer booths. At the heart of the control room is an ON-AIR 3000 digital mixing console and a Digimedia playout software.
The fixed frame ON-AIR 3000 is a completely modular unit equipped with three fader modules that have six fader channels, each with five illuminated keys, LED input metre, LED gain reduction metre, and alphanumeric display. Other features include a fader assign module with configurable buttons for internal console functions such as routing and snapshot recall, or external functions like GPIO control; rotary module comprising a 6x4 array of rotary controllers with an LED ring; rotary assign module that enables predefined functions to be quickly recalled and accessed directly via rotary modules; monitoring and talkback module; main screen module including a central 12" TFT touch screen as well as a studio box for talkback with announcers in the announcer booth.
A theoretical total of 64 modules may be connected, each one being up to 50m away from its distribution point.
"The idea behind this is to provide complete flexibility to the user," explains Krishnan.
The control room also has multiple audio machines for ingesting and playing material. These include a TASCAM CD recorder, MD player and MARANTZ CD players as well as a Telos call screening software. A Telos Assistant Producer for Windows allows producers and talent to manage callers while maintaining constant communication with each other in an easy-to-use Windows environment.
Each of the announcer booths is equipped with microphones from Neumann and AKG as well as headphones from Beyerdynamic for the DJ and the guests.
The four production/backup studios have been designed to produce programmes. However, they are also capable of taking over the on-air studio in case of an emergency. The core infrastructure here, therefore, remains the same as the on air studios with the ONAIR 3000 digital mixing console and the Digimedia software for playout and production.
However, unlike the main studio section, the backup studios will only have one announcer booth each. These include Neumann microphones for the DJ and AKG microphones for guests. These smaller booths have acoustic round tables.
A quick look at the hardware for the central apparatus room reveals 10 Argosy racks with MDUs and UPS for all equipment. The Studer D21 I/O frames and the compact SCore DSP are located here. To extend the inputs for mics and other ancillary devices to the studios, Sony has provided a D21 stage box to the control room. This is connected via a MADI optical cable.
"To ensure full flexibility, all remote sources have been patched and run through the DA. The majority of the data flow is through CAT6 cables on the gigabit network. The network is layered and Sony has provided enough network switches for redundancy," says Krishnan.
The compact SCore and the D21 I/O units connected to the console will be located in the master control room. Audio monitoring in the on-air studio will be via the monitoring and talkback module connected on ADAT optical to the SCore.
"This D21 I/O system is based on a 19" 3U rack and is equipped with three DSP boards that allow up to 192 bi-directional audio channels to be interconnected between all four SCores. This provides a total of 768 channels of bi-directional audio routing internally between all SCore frames," explains Krishnan.
Each high density (HD) card here can carry up to 96 channels. The system is designed to automatically detect newly inserted audio cards and assign the required number of audio channels to them when the system is reconfigured, either by pressing the front panel "reconfig" button or remotely. All functions and configurations of the D21m are controllable remotely from the associated console or a workstation.
"The main advantage of this kind of a configuration is that it is possible to route any input from any core to any mixer and any studio, thereby giving a total of four on-air studios and four on-air back-up studios. This ensures that no particular core is fixed as a backup to another and, therefore, provides complete flexibility in case of failure at any point. Additionally, there is no concept of a central router, since each SCore is independently connected to each other; the question of redundancy for the router doesn't arise.
Confidence monitoring has also been provided at three different stages to ensure that problems are detected quickly and accurately, states Krishnan.
The input for the monitoring comes into an 8X8 Network digital router with an X/Y panel for user selection. The selected input is displayed on a Wohler AMP1-S8DA, eight-channel analogue & AES/EBU digital audio monitor with channel summing.
"This provides premium quality eight-channel analogue and AES/EBU digital multi-channel audio monitoring. The unit contains four high-powered transducers driven by three power amplifiers. It features eight 26-segment, high-resolution tri-colour LED level metres showing simultaneous VU and PPM for superior level metering," adds Krishnan.
One of the main aspects of this installation is a Digimedia automation system. Krishnan says DigiMedia's biggest selling point is that its system is built on an open architecture.
"This ensures that software designers as well as customers can respond in the quickest possible way to new user demands. Remote operation, Dynamic DRS and internet radio are some developments that have resulted from this," he says.
The studio control rooms have been fitted with dual screens for the operator to view clips going on air as well work on other applications simultaneously. In addition to regular live-assist, Digimedia also permits automated operation that is capable, for example, of running a programme with presenter, news feed and external source input automatically.
The split controller gives Digimedia fully automated control over regionalised programming.
All of the workstations in the network have been equipped with Audio Mixtreme 192 and VX222 sound cards for record and playback. These cards are capable of recording stereo quality sound (AES/EBU or S/PDIF). The backbone of the automation is the Gigabit network and this reduces the amount of standard cabling required.
Sony has also fitting the IMN system with six news preparation workstations for editing news feeds. The news server equipped with an eight-port serial card receives news from APTN, Reuters, etc and feeds to the workstation via Microsoft Exchange/Outlook.
The clients can edit using the single track editing software provided. Once the news is composed, these can be saved into the database for playout.
The post production area uses ProTools on an Apple Macintosh Quad-pro with Mbox2. This comes with 32 simultaneous audio tracks that are expandable to 48 in the future. It includes fully integrated MIDI sequencing with 256 simultaneous MIDI tracks.
Sony is also responsible for putting in the talkback facility, which is available with the on-air and backup studios and is extended to post-production, the ingest and newsroom units. Additional talkback units provide communication from any point to any point in the set-up depending on the configuration demanded by IMN.
Although the project has been completed in Dubai, visa issues and the war have delayed the Iraqi team's arrival in Dubai. Training for the IMN team along with other vendors such as Studer will be provided before the system is shipped to Iraq.
"Operators will be trained to use Studer's digital mixing console as well as the Digimedia software that covers OnAir operation and the Digimedia editing software. Sony will also provide an overall systems training to ensure that IMN staff understand the workflow of the entire operation," explains Krishnan.
Studer D21 Frame
Tascam CD Recorders and MD Players
BEL Digital Profanity delay
Neumann DJ microphone
AKG guest microphone
Rane HC6 headphone amplifier
Central apparatus room
Studer Score frames
Wharton clock system
Sonifex digital distribution amplifier
Wholer audio monitor