Tim Dench is the Station Manager and Radio and TV Instructor at Jeffersonville High School (JHS) in Clark County, situated at the southern tip of Indiana. He has taught for 43 years at schools in both Kentucky and Indiana and was the project designer and project manager for equipment installation at high school radio station WJHI.
When I first moved to Jeffersonville High School 3 years ago there was no radio and TV studio, or formal broadcasting. Superintendent of the Greater Clark County Schools, Dr. Andrew Melin, had a vision to build a professional style, radio and TV educational program at Jefferson high school. I came on board after recognizing a great opportunity to create a brand new state-of-the-art studio setup and was tasked with designing and overseeing construction from scratch.
Indiana is a highly competitive broadcast radio market, so I wanted our TV and radio station to be as flexible as possible in creating interesting and relevant content for our local community. I wanted to put WJHI on the map and be capable of something different.
Selecting Remote Radio Equipment for 98.5 WJHI-LP
Jeffersonville High is closely tied to the community and radio is a great way to engage with them. In Indiana basketball is king, therefore live sports remotes were a key consideration when selecting remote radio equipment. Our sports gym seats 5,000 spectators and listeners are keen to follow our team, the Jeffersonville Red Devils.
I have tried lots of audio codecs and found that many are unreliable. I researched audio codecs heavily during planning and heard about Tieline’s ViA remote codec before it was released. From the day I saw it I said that’s the one! It appeared to have many of the features on my check-list; flexibility, top notch design, and most importantly, high-end quality and performance.
At the studio we chose to install several Wheatstone LX-24 consoles, so it made sense to partner Tieline’s Merlin PLUS with WheatNet-IP codec to interface into our Wheatstone IP88 BLADEs. This rack mounted codec receives incoming IP streams from our ViA codec and allows us to seamlessly route them using WheatNet-IP NAVIGATOR software. Our installer, Dave Dreyer from Enterprise Technical Solutions, found the set up and installation to be easy and intuitive.
The Merlin PLUS accepts up to 6 concurrent connections and this was important as we wanted to be able to integrate multiple simultaneous remotes and cross between each one. To facilitate these additional remotes, we purchased a 10 pack of Tieline’s Report-IT Enterprise. This allows students to do live reports directly from their smartphones, either Android or iOS. They can do this directly using the native mic on the phone, or attach external XLR adapter cables to use a professional hand mike.
Studios Spring to Life
The studios sprouted literally from an empty hall. We pulled a wall out at one end of the gym, installed all the new equipment and added glass walls overlooking the gym and auditorium. To my knowledge there is no better- integrated, equipped, or more uniquely designed high school studio in the USA. Our work flows are incredible!
We commenced broadcasting in January 2016, and although we have a low power FM license, we cover a population of around 2 million people. The studios are named in memory Ted Throckmorton, who was a 1946 Jeffersonville grad, and who served as the local professional radio voice of the Red Devils from 1962 until he passed away in 2015.
On-Air Remotes with ViA
Our broadcasts are extremely popular so the equipment has to be super reliable – it simply has to work and not fail. Students create all their own content and we broadcast around 10-15 hours of live remotes during quiet weeks and around 20 to 25 hours during busy sports seasons. We call most school sports including basketball, football, baseball, softball, volleyball and wrestling. We are also looking to expand into swimming and track and field coverage. Weekends are particularly busy times.
For sports remotes with the ViA codec we usually have 3 announcers for play-by-play, color commentary, and stats coverage. We also use the USB and line in inputs on the codec for digital playback of pre-recorded interviews, announcements and sponsorship messages. These come from a PC or standalone digital playback device.
We usually connect over a LAN or use the built-in Wi-Fi feature to connect to local access points. The integrated web-browser makes it simple to enter Wi-Fi network credentials if required. We also regularly use AT&T cell-phones to broadcast using Wi-Fi hotspots.
Other events we broadcast from with ViA include outdoor concerts, local festivals, live shows at businesses, school board meetings, and we’re also looking into doing city meetings. We also do live “man on the street interviews” to feature a slice of everyday community life. We usually use a Wi-Fi hot spot connection with a cell phone for these broadcasts and have found the internal battery lasts for hours. I was going to buy a second battery as a backup but have found there’s no need.
I have tried all of the high quality algorithms and they all sound great. We usually encode audio in stereo with Tieline’s Music PLUS algorithm at 256kbps. We also use Tieline’s automatic jitter buffer settings. It’s the best remote sound I have ever heard and sounds like you’re right next door – it’s crystal clear. We’ve never had any issue with latency and our competitors want to know what we’re using because it sounds so great! In fact, it’s quite funny that when I explained latency over IP networks to a recent group of students, they didn’t realise there was latency! They hadn’t even noticed.
On the return path we send talkback communications from the studio and we use this all the time. The ViA codec also supports transmitting a mono or stereo program connection, plus a mono IFB circuit. We also use this configuration which allows the students to integrate a dedicated talkback channel during a broadcast.
I think our ViA codec is the greatest thing since sliced bread! It’s very easy to learn and that’s important as we have new kids each year. The students pick it up easily and with ViA I can train them in a single day and they are ready to go live. They love the touchscreen which makes it simple to configure and connect – and so do I. I can even preconfigure recallable setups as “programs” before the students take it out in the field.
We often use ViA for a full-blown sports broadcast and have other students call into the Merlin PLUS with the Report-IT app to do cut-in score updates from other venues. The kids love the fact you can broadcast using an app on their phone as they are so comfortable with smartphone technology. It’s very easy to use and sounds awesome.
Sponsorships are also important for us to cover operating expenses and both ViA and Report-IT allow us to do either a full remote, or a quick cut-in from local businesses that contribute to us staying on air.
There’s no doubt we have a state of the art facility and it wouldn’t be possible without Tieline. We are only just scratching the surface as to the variety of broadcasts the VIA and Tieline systems will let us do in the future. The flexibility provided by the latest technology lets us dream up a new broadcast idea and then just go out and do it.
For more information about ViA and other Tieline codecs, visit http://www.tieline.com