Broadcasting From Home and Hotels: an Improvised National Studio

7/5/2017 9:32:00 AM

In Australia, Trevor Long is a radio presenter, doing a regular radio show across Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. However, he almost never goes into the station’s studios, instead broadcasting live from his home and from locations around the world.

“Talking Lifestyle,” a brand new style of talk radio with lifestyle content. The breakfast shows, seven days a week, provide news and information and a large amount of cross-promotion for the many other lifestyle shows across the week: covering everything from finance and travel to technology. It broadcasts from studios in Pyrmont, a picturesque coastal suburb of Sydney just a mile or so away from the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Trevor’s show, Talking Technology, is available in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney on AM and DAB+, as well as online. The program, anchored by Nick Bennett, airs weekdays 8–9 p.m. Using Omny Studio, the show is also available as a podcast, too. But Trevor’s commute is normally as simple as walking into his home office.

“I have three kids,” he told Radio magazine via email. “Family and work balance is critical — so when the management at Talking Lifestyle asked me to do the nightly show, we made the decision to allow me to host it remotely to ensure I could still see my family as much as possible. Adam Lang and Michael Thompson the senior management team at Talking Lifestyle have been extremely supportive of that, and it's meant I can give the show 100% with almost no distractions.”

His studio at home was built as a podcast studio: the Two Blokes Talking Tech podcast with Stephen Fenech has been recorded there for over 300 episodes, and he also produces the Your Tech Life podcast. He installed a Behringer analog mixer and installed three microphone positions, using Shure SM7B microphones. The walls are coated with acoustic foam.

He replaced his mixer with a Mackie DL806 digital unit, which he’s enthusiastic about. “This thing is the bee’s knees. Any iPad or iPhone on my Wi-Fi network with the app installed can control any fader or input and output. This means a guest mic position can have audio controls, and I can put the mixer off to the side and simply use an iPad in front of me when recording. It's the best thing I've ever bought.”

“Using my iMac, I have an IP phone connection, and use a USB to analog converter to feed that into the mixer allowing me to use my computer as a phone hybrid for taking and making calls — as my Your Tech Life podcast is essentially a pre-recorded talkback show.”

The studio itself cost around US$7,500 to build, and the only additional work to achieve his radio studio is a Comrex Access unit and an additional cable internet service to keep a separate connection from his home network. He’s hopeful that the NBN, Australia’s high-speed broadband network, will reduce the need for this additional internet connection.

A home studio is one thing, but Trevor is a busy technology commentator, broadcasting nationally on Channel 9’s “Today Show” and “A Current Affair;” and he runs his own online men’s lifestyle magazine EFTM.com.au, which covers tech, cars and lifestyle. As a result, he’s often traveling — and the show still needs to broadcast.

“I travel with a 4G modem, and ethernet and Wi-Fi connections for the Comrex. I've found that an Ethernet connection is by far and away the most reliable way to connect, though Wi-Fi in hotels is normally OK, with perhaps two or three "blips" an hour. Using a Netgear Nighthawk M1 I can connect to the mobile network, but also have an Ethernet into the Comrex, this is my preferred approach when traveling in Australia.”

As any traveler will tell you, hotel Wi-Fi networks often pose special issues. Trevor has found a tip. “Most hotel Wi-Fi networks require a web page login. The Comrex Access has a very old web browser and fails in most cases. In these circumstances, hotel IT support can normally add the Comrex to their network using the MAC address which works seamlessly.”

Since the program is multi-platform and doesn’t just air on AM radio, audio quality has been important. “I’m not an audiophile,” Trevor says, “but I do notice when someone is using a crappy microphone. That's been my main concern, buying the Shure SM7B's lifted my podcast quality to a new level, and ensures my radio work is now on par with the studio.”

“It's the one reason you can tell when I'm on the road, because I use a Beyer Dymanic DT 109 headset and microphone in my travel kit. I will probably switch to something else for a more studio like sound.”

For Talking Lifestyle, the small team looking after the program makes everything work flawlessly, he says. “We have a team working on the show, our EP Sam coordinates everything with assistance from our AP Andy, and it's all technically co-ordinated by studio producer John.” They use shared Google Docs to ensure that the entire team can see the notes for the program.

And it clearly works. “Some of my industry colleagues who are audiophiles haven't noticed I was broadcasting from home.”

Trevor believes that more radio will happen this way in future. “With this technology getting smaller, and cheaper by the year, it's only going to increase.” 

 

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