On arrival at National Public Radio West in Culver City, CA, the
building is reminiscent of an old manufacturing facility, but once
inside the building is open and inviting. The roof of the building is
constructed with wood trusses that span almost the entire building.
This provides an interior that is open and spacious. Skylights in the
roof provide lots of natural light during the day. Though the building
maintains its factory feel throughout, its design provides a nice
contrast to the high-tech surroundings of the studios.
The control room has three positions behind the board operator for a
show's producer, director and other personnel. Photo by Edward Colver,
courtesy of Studio Bau:ton.
Studio B is used for The Tavis Smiley Show. Four independent tables on
wheels and umbilical cords allow for the room to be reconfigured. Photo
by Edward Colver, courtesy of Studio Bau:ton.
Studio B. Photo by Kent Kramer.
Studio C has positions for two hosts and two guests. The Control Room
is visible from all positions. Photo by Edward Colver, courtesy of
The main audio switching station provides direct access to all the
audio sources and destinations. Photo by Kent Kramer.
The technical operations console routes programming between the
studios, the Dalet system and the Washington studios. This room is also
used for scheduled program feed recording and technical-support calls.
Photo by Kent Kramer.
The past tenant, an Internet video production firm, left the
building with a technical infrastructure that most engineers can only
dream about: a high-capacity electrical service with a matching
generator transfer switch, a large UPS and a large number of items that
could be modified for NPR's use with little effort.
Offices flank the outside wall on one side of the building and a
large, open area outside the offices, filled with cubicles for
programming and production staffs, allow for comfortable working spaces
for everyone. Centered in the building and directly inside the lobby is
a kitchen and lounge that provide a comfortable place for everyone to
take a break from their desks while remaining close to their offices.
The common areas also benefit from skylights that provide natural light
to the office spaces.
The studio area occupies the other side of the building. When
planning began on the facility, NPR was determined that the building
should provide redundant facilities, similar to the Washington, D.C.,
operation. This was also NPR's chance to enhance its West Coast
presence. The overall plans also included room for additional growth.
Studio A was left open and undeveloped with tentative plans to build a
studio capable of being used as a large performance and recording
facility. Plans also included an associated control room.
Both main and backup
Because this is NPR's second-largest facility, it has the duty of
providing backup to the network operations. After the events of the
past few years, plans were included that would keep the network active
and on schedule should the Washington facility become unavailable.
Nearly 5 terabytes (TB) of RAID-5 storage provide plenty of linear
audio storage. The Los Angeles facility was built from the ground up
with the plan to operate with linear audio. Plans to convert the
Washington facility to linear audio are in place now as well.
A technical operations center (TOC) provides the central control
point for the facility. From this point, technicians are able to
control the Dalet audio system and the Klotz Vadis control surfaces in
each room. All of the computers in the facility are on Raritan Computer
KVM switches. With the KVM switches, the person manning the TOC can
bring up any terminal in the facility to aid in troubleshooting or to
answer operational questions by users without the need to make a trip
outside the TOC. The TOC also acts as a central recording facility for
Situated around the TOC are five edit suites. The edit suites are
housed in prefabricated sound booths built by Wenger. Each suite is
centered around a four-fader Vadis console and a Dalet 5.1 workstation.
Sony DAT machines and Neumann U-87 microphones complement the rooms.
Edit 4 and 5 are also outfitted with Telos Zephyr Xstream ISDN codecs
to enable a direct connection to Washington should the need arise.
Denon CD and minidisc players are also available in each room. As in
all the studios, all analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog conversion
is done by the Klotz system.
Control Room B with its associated Studio B plays host to The
Tavis Smiley Show, which provided many challenges during the
construction. Because of the host's considerable commitments to his
charitable foundation, Smiley originates his show from his offices in
the Crenshaw District of Los Angeles. A T1 circuit ties his studio to
the NPR facility and Control B. The challenges came when allowing for
the amount of information needed to be shared between the facilities
during the show. Some of that is computer-level data.
For the show to run smoothly, Smiley has to have all of the same
indicators available to him as he would if he were in the NPR facility.
Mic tally, IFB, time code and the “Hey, Tavis” light were
just a few of the items that are duplicated between the facilities
across the T1. CDQ Primas on each end of the T1 provide the
connectivity. For better control over the microphone gain, NPR uses
Aphex remote-control mic preamps over an IP link.
Because redundancy is a primary mission within the facility, the
control rooms operate with redundant Dalet workstations. The GPIs are
linked to keep the systems operating in sync. Dalet Navigator is used
for playback and the Surfer 4 wave editor is used for on-the-fly
editing. A Telos 1×6 telephone interface provides a link to the
listeners while a Telos Zephyr Xstream provides the link to other
studios and serves as a backup link to the network. An Airtools 6100
profanity delay is also used. Because we live in the information age,
each control room is equipped with a Panasonic wide-screen plasma
display to bring outside news sources to the talent.
To keep the Klotz mainframes close to the control rooms, but out of
the rooms themselves, each control room has a Klotz room. The Klotz
room is nothing more than a small room outside the entrance to the
control room that houses two equipment racks. The racks hold the Klotz
mainframes and the computers for each room that are on the office
Studio B is a simple room with four small tables that have recessed
openings for CRTs. Each table is on wheels to simplify reconfiguring
the room. Studio C features a table that has a provision for two hosts
facing Control C and has room for several guests on the other side.
In several places around the studios the system integrators, TGS,
custom built panels to provide connectivity into and out of the rooms.
Connectors for telephone, headphones, Ethernet, speakers and
microphones, as well as various other connections are neatly and
clearly pres-ented on an engraved panel.
A main terminal room holds several IBM servers used for the Dalet
system. With T3 connectivity for phone, data and audio between
Washington and Los Angeles, users in both facilities have drag-and-drop
capabilities for sharing files between facilities. Each of the studios
uses a CDQ Prima on the T3 for transmitting and receiving audio to and
from Washington. Telephone extensions from Washington are piped to Los
Angeles providing the employees intercom capabilities to co-workers in
With the spacious, new, state-of-the-art facility, NPR has ensured
that it is ready for growth in the future. At completion, the facility
was tested under fire. Completed just days prior to last year's fall
elections, the facility passed with high marks.
Servers and Mass Storage Integration Champion Solutions
Group; Boca Raton, FL
Network Integration and Cisco Hardware Networking Concepts;
Architects Studio bau:ton; Los Angeles, CA
System IntegratorTGS; Chantilly, VA
|ADC patch bays
Audio Technologies (ATI)
AES distribution amplifiers
Dalet Advanced Radio Suite v5.1
Deneke timer displays
Denon DN-C680 CD
Denon DN-M991R minidsc
IBM servers and mass storage
Klotz Vadis DC II
Klotz Vadis 880
Klotz Vadis 501 LCD button controllers
Mackie Designs HR-824
Musicam USA Prima LT+
Raritan Computer KVM routers and extenders
Sony CDP-XE270 CD player
Sony DTC-ZE700 DAT
Sony MDS-JE470 minidisc
Sony PCM-R500 DAT
Sony STR-DE185 receiver
Sony TC-WE475 cassette
Studio Technology furniture
Tascam RW-2000 CD recorder
Telos Systems One hybrid
Telos Systems Zephyr Xstream
Wohler Technologies VMDA-4
Kramer is chief engineer of Liberman Broadcasting, Los Angeles