Neuhoff Media Consolidates Multiple Markets with Gateway
Kerri Cawley is IT Director/Contract Engineer for Neuhoff Media with a diverse engineering background in radio and TV facilities, and experience in IT. Kerri recently streamlined operations by consolidating 3 markets and 12 stations into one backend facility in Springfield, IL.
I recently designed new centralized network operations for Neuhoff Media with 4 stations in Springfield, 5 stations in Decatur, and 3 stations in Bloomington. These markets cover most of central Illinois. Tieline Gateway codecs, Nexgen automation and Wheatstone AoIP are integral components of the setup.
We purchased Tieline’s Gateway 16 channel codec with a WheatNet-IP card for the studio to interface with our AoIP network. Its main purpose is to provide audio feeds for two of our markets – either direct to STLs, or to processing at the remote transmitter sites. We also installed a Gateway 8 channel codec at one of our transmitter sites in Decatur, which feeds our various RF STL feeds to the other sites. Backup Bridge-IT units at each site offer fail-over if the main site goes down.
The Gateway codec’s high channel density was helpful in saving rack space and being able to integrate directly into our WheatNet AoIP network was a factor in deciding what codec to use. Having direct WheatNet routing from the codecs makes it much more efficient for studio connections and routing.
A Genie Distribution codec with a WheatNet-IP interface card was repurposed for incoming remote/sports feeds from codecs or Report-IT app connections. This replaces some of our ageing G3 units for each market.
I’ve handled most of the install and network design and integration of the codecs was fairly straightforward. Jacob and the Tieline crew in Indianapolis have been helpful when I had any questions. Overall, I’m pleased with the performance and reliability of the Tieline codecs and system generally.
At our studio we use a Comcast EDI fiber with secondary EPL connections to each market for feeding Wheatnet AoIP to remote studios. For the transmitter site feeds, DSL and wireless is used in our Bloomington market, as well as a couple of our sites in Decatur along with Comcast Business HFC connections. At a few of our transmitter sites internet connectivity can be an issue, but we have recently added an AirFiber link to our Bloomington market as our primary connection to the transmitter sites and Tieline codecs as a backup.
Our fiber connections are very stable, as are the HFC connections. DSL and wireless can be a bit sketchy, which is why we opted for a Gateway and STL direct feeds from one of our main towers with a robust IP connection, with backup LTE. IP brings the flexibility of sending audio anywhere I need it, compared to RF STL systems, where you’re limited by distance or obstructions. In this project, I combine the two technologies to make the path as reliable as possible. Without it this project wouldn’t be possible.
I usually run AAC-LD 44k/256kbps with auto jitter buffering. It seemed to be the most reliable and low delay. I like to keep our feed delays to a minimum without having buffer underruns.
Tieline’s Toolbox Web-GUI is ideal for configuration and control of codecs. It’s also convenient for doing firmware updates. All feeds are inside the network over site-to-site VPN for security, so nothing is exposed to the outside. I also use the Cloud Codec Controller, but haven’t set it up yet with all the sites. It nice to manage multiple codecs with one software program instead of opening a bunch of browser links.
The pandemic didn’t affect me as I work remotely for the most part from my home studio, but I still came in to get installation started. Workstations are accessible to our staff remotely as needed. That’s probably the most critical thing, instead of someone having to drive in. With AoIP it’s easier since you can route around with a few clicks. Tieline’s Toolbox Web-GUI, the Cloud Codec Controller, and the Report-IT Enterprise app for live streaming, were also helpful to me and our staff who have had to work and broadcast remotely.
The thing the pandemic did affect was getting equipment and parts for this project, which I started just as the pandemic hit, so we did run into some delays.
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(Neuhoff Consolidates with Gateway, was first published in Radio World in September, 2021)