The best laid plans

February 1, 2005

In most cases, the plans are set and followed with minor variations because of challenges. In the case of Journal's Omaha stations, just finalizing the plan was the challenge.

In the 90s, Journal acquired the eight stations it now owns in Omaha. The stations occupied two facilities, so it would seem that consolidating their operations would not be difficult. The two locations were on opposite sides of town: John Galt Blvd to the south and 72nd Street to the north. Journal also acquired the tower adjacent to the north facility.

The KKCD studio layout is typical of most of the on-air studios, but each is customized for the individual stations' needs.

The KEZO studio was a conference room before the remodeling.

The height of the KEZO studio furniture can be adjusted with a push-button control system.

The KOMJ studio has a live morning show. At other times during the day, the station is automated and the studio is offline so it can be used for production.

The co-host position has access to the Scott Studios automation system and an Internet computer.

The production studios have small consoles because all the signal manipulation and mixdown is done in the DAW software.

KHLP is the other AM station studio that can be used offline for production during automated segments.

The tech center has two rows of racks. Instead of a wiring wall, trunk cables for each studio terminate in the racks.

The vestibule connecting the business building to the studio building leads to a small lobby that can be used as a meeting room.

Six stations were housed at John Galt. Unfortunately, moving the northern two stations to the southern facility was not practical because of space limitations. In addition, the northern facility also had limited space — about 10,000 square feet — but a solid 20-year lease made it too expensive to abandon the 72nd Street facility. Likewise, subletting the space was proving to be a challenge. The lease on the John Galt facility was not as tight.

With these limitations in place, an initial plan was developed in 1999 to move the studio operations to the northern 72nd Street space and to move the business operations to the southern John Galt Blvd. space. This process was begun at a gradual pace, but in 2002, the plans were drastically changed. The owner of the 72nd Street building sold the property to Journal.

Recognizing an opportunity, the plans were reviewed. It would be better to have all the station operations and business offices in one place. To do this, additional space was needed on 72nd Street.

An additional building was planned to house all the studios. The stations' studios would move into the new building. The existing building would be gutted and remodeled for the business offices.

While the existing studios on 72nd Street were not perfect, the company realized that there was a substantial investment already in place with the current facility. Instead of scrapping everything but the shell, the plan was revised once more. The existing studio building would house the studios and operations staff, and the new building would house the business offices.

On the clock

Once the final plan was set, a new challenge arose: The lease on the southern facility was due to expire in July 2004. With less than two years to complete the project, the clock was ticking fast.

The building on 72nd Street had seven existing studios. While two stations were already housed here, these stations would also move into updated studios before the other six would move in. Now that it is completed, the studio building holds 11 studios for the eight stations: six full-time on-air studios, three production studios, two AM studios for automated stations that can be used offline for production.

An added benefit to staying on 72nd Street is that Journal owns a tower about 1,000' from the studios. This tower supports three of the company's FM stations. The tower site is also used as the distribution point for all the STLs, bit wired and wireless. The stations plan to install IBOC equipment over the coming months, and the STLs are designed to carry the digital audio and data.

Transition from old to new

While a good deal of equipment was reused from the previous installations, two significant changes in operations were made. The first concerned the audio storage and playback. The DOS-based Computer Concepts Maestro, which was supplemented on-air with CD players and other local sources, was replaced by a Scott Studios SS32. Except for mics, remotes and other live feeds, and telephone calls, all audio is stored on the automation system. Once installed, the stations will also edit phone calls on the computer with Scott's Lazer Blade.

The other major change was from discrete consoles and multi-pair wiring to a centralized audio engine and digital wiring plan. Logitek Audio Engines and console surfaces handle the routing, while a Radio Systems Studio Hub+ handles the infrastructure. The Audio Engines are connected with fiber optic cable. An additional Engine at the tower is connected via fiber, and a backup fiber link runs on a Sundance Systems Fibox to provide eight stereo paths and an AES clock sync.

Studio layout

The general design goal for the studios was to place a production studio between each air studio whenever possible. This is mainly to accommodate any possible future needs of expansion. It also allows the production studios and offline AM studios to support the active air studios.

The center core of the studio building housed the original seven studios. These studios remained in place, and additional studios were built for the new stations. All the studios except one remain in the center core. The exception is the KEZO studio, which was previously a conference room. While the studios on the interior do not have an outside wall, windows were placed so that every studio could see to the outside in some way.

The previous studio design had lots of windows in each room, which made the rooms live. One of the first efforts was to remove most of the windows, which not only improved isolation, but reduced the highly reflective surfaces.

Cable connections between studios and the tech center are via CAT-6 cable. A contractor terminated all the CAT-6 cables on each end to RJ45 patch bays. Likewise, the cables in the tech center were terminated into RJ45 patch bays in the racks. A wiring wall was not built as part of the installation. As a further time savings, the Studio Hub installation hastened equipment interconnection faster by using prefabricated RJ45 cable assemblies instead of requiring cables to be cut to length and with connectors being attached.

Coaxial cable was not run to any studio. To supply television feeds, an ATI video card with TV tuner capability was installed in each studio computer. Controlled by KVM extenders, the computer-supplied video helped reduce the clutter of another piece of equipment. It also removed the challenge of wiring the TV audio into the console.

Each studio was built to house as little equipment was necessary. Because of the central router approach and audio storage system, the need for copious sources in each room was drastically reduced. This not only provides a cleaner look in each studio, it also removed almost every possible source of noise.

Locating all the computers in the tech center presented a challenge for the production studios. CD burners are used regularly and needed to be located in these studios. Because the rooms are now so quiet, these burners are now the noticeable noise source.

Whenever possible, audio sources are delivered via AES-3. Audio on the automation system is stored in a linear format. Even productions are kept digital through their creation. Once created in Adobe Audition, the file is mixed down to stereo with Audition and saved as a WAV file. The file is then opened in Scott TLC (Trim, Label and Convert) to trim the file as needed and provide the necessary labeling for the SS32.

Built-in backup

Production 2 serves as the main backup air studio. In addition, each studio can be bypassed so that the SS32 directly feeds the STL through the Audio Engine. A studio is bypassed using the soft keys on a console surface. An operator presses and holds one button while selecting another to activate a studio. This prevents someone from accidentally placing a studio on the air or taking it off. The same operation is used for the AM studios that are used offline during the day.

Each studio's Internet computer also provides backup audio. These computers can access the SS32 network and audio files. The computer's sound card is attached to the Logitek network. An operator can play a file with a media player and enable the Internet computer as a console source. Each studio has two CD players, although they rarely see any use.

As an added backup, the retired Maestro computers will be upgraded and used as local sources at each transmitter site.

Additional audio connectivity is provided in the announcer prep area. The computers located here have access to the SS32 network. Audio cuts can be loaded, trimmed and labeled from these workstations. While not an ideal acoustic environment, voice tracking could be enabled from these desks if needed.

The division of the on-air and business operations allows each side to function without distracting the other, but their close proximity provides the convenience of easy communication when needed. While not an expansive space, the eight stations have sufficient room to operate without being cramped, providing a natural workflow for each station to excel in serving its audience.


Feb 2003   Started plans with architect for new building
Aug 2003   Broke ground
July 2004   Lease on John Galt expires, extended by one month
Aug 2004   All stations in new facility
Sep 2004   John Galt site is empty

The Journal Stations in Omaha

KBBX-FM - Radio Lobo
KEZO-FM - Z-92
KHLP-AM - K-Help
KKCD-FM - CD105.9
KOMJ-AM - Magic 590
KOSR-AM - Fox Sports Radio
KQCH-FM - Channel 94.1
KSRZ-FM - Star 104.5

Equipment List

360 Systems Shortcut
Adobe Audition 1.5
Airtools 6100
AKG C414
ATI TV Wonder
Audiometrics CD-10
Audioscience 6114
Avocent Longview KVM
Belden wire and cable
Broadcast Tools SCR32
Broadcast Tools Silence Monitor III
Broadcast Tools SS8.2
Burk ARC-16
Burk EAS
Burk RX4
Comrex Hotline
Comrex Nexus
Conex AS-101
Crown D-40
Crown D-75
Dell PCs
Denon DN951-FA
Denon DN970-FA
Denon TU-1500R
Electronic Metalform racks
Electro-Voice RE27
Electro-Voice Sentry 100
Gentner TS612
JBL monitors, various models
Logitek Audio Engine
Logitek Remora consoles
Lucid CLKx6 clock DA
Lucid GENx6-96 word clock generator
Marti Smarti
Metro Networks Metro Source
O.C. White mic booms
Powerware UPS
Radio Systems Breakout Box (BOB)
Radio Systems Studio Hub +
RAM Systems furniture
Rane HC-6
Sage Endec
Scott Studios Lazer Blade
Scott Studios SS32
Scott Studios TLC
Sennheiser MD421
Shure SM-7B
Sundance Systems IMS-Tx/IMS-Rx
Symetrix 528
Symetrix 528E
Telos Direct Interface
Telos One+One
TFT 911

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