By Mark Wittkoski, Contract Engineer
I’ve been in the broadcast business my entire life. As a combination DJ and engineer I began working with the Big Rapids Radio Network over 25 years ago. Yes cart decks and turntables were the equipment of the day – but were slowly being phased out by hard drive computer controlled playout systems. Setting up for a live broadcast was much more complicated and uncertain than it is with today’s technology; the engineering changes I’ve worked through have given me a range of experience few others can match. In 1995 I joined Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan as a Maintenance Engineer with their Television and Radio Stations and I remain one of their engineers today. In addition I own a contracting business, Ameko Group, LLC, where I maintain the studio and transmitter sites for a few select clients in Western Michigan.
Mark Wittkoski (left) with
Tieline’s Jacob Daniluck
I first introduced the Big Rapids Radio Network to the Tieline Commander G3 Rack Unit and Tieline i-Mix G3. Later we added the Tieline Commander G3 Field Unit along with the Report-IT app. The station primarily covers high school sports and also they also do station remotes. Cumulus Muskegon started small by purchasing a Bridge-IT codec and the Report-IT app about six years ago. In the summer of 2017 they upgraded by purchasing Tieline’s ViA remote codec and they primarily use it for play-by-play sports coverage. I also volunteer with the student internet station at Grand Valley State University. They purchased the Commander G3 Rack Unit and Tieline i-Mix G3 to cover non-club sports.
At Cumulus we generally use the ViA and connect to a Bridge-IT to cover sports and other station remotes. Typically we attach a Verizon USB AirCard to the USB port on the codec, or a Cradlepoint mobile router to a LAN port. We haven’t had the opportunity to connect over a fixed LAN connection.
I have tried the ViA codec’s built-in Wi-Fi and it works superbly. It’s very simple to connect to an access point with the codec’s touch screen portal browser. Our engineering and commentary teams are very comfortable using the USB AirCard, so we generally stick with that. We have found the end-to-end latency of Tieline’s Music and Music PLUS encoding is very low. We typically keep the ViA connected to power, but rely on the battery as a “backup” in case of a power loss.
The performance of the ViA is great and has simplified the way Cumulus does remotes.
I received minimal calls during the first month after the ViA was put into service and it’s now rare to get calls when it is being used. I haven’t used the configurable digital outputs yet but I can see many useful ways we could utilize them.
Cumulus Muskegon used the ViA to broadcast the Division 3 MHSAA State Football Finals from Ford Field in Detroit Michigan in November, 2017. The broadcast went flawlessly and the audio quality was great. We were a little nervous going into the venue as we had heard that another station the night before had numerous problems with their broadcast from the same venue, and admittedly we have no idea what equipment they were using. This concerned us a little, however we didn’t need to worry and experienced no issues whatsoever using the ViA.
In summary, as a contract engineer the ViA has made my life so much easier. The ease of setup for the announcers means a lot fewer calls to the engineer! In addition, clients have commented to me about how good the audio quality has been on our sports broadcasts, and that’s always nice to hear.
For more information about ViA and other Tieline codecs, visit http://www.tieline.com