Multiple groups, one mission
Like many organizations, NPR has multiple groups under one roof. The audio engineering group is responsible for all audio production and engineering (in connection with news and other content production groups) while distribution is responsible for getting that audio to member stations via satellite.
Lawo hardware is used on the audio engineering side for all audio routing and production. Redundant Lawo 73 HD routers are used at the audio engineering core with redundant I/O frames throughout the facility. IFB and other control functions are handled with Virtual Studio Manager (VSM) hardware and software from LSB. The various feeds from audio engineering are then handed off to an Axia Livewire based system in the NOC for distribution via satellite.
MOPS, SOPS, POCS, NOC
NPR has some unique terminology to describe its studios.
A reporter works in one of the small production booths.
In past years, an audio engineer was almost always present when content was being produced. Now, however, much of that process has been simplified and the news staff can produce pieces with little or no assistance. The small studios that allow this are known as “SOPS” or “Self-Operated” content production studios. There are 10 of these SOPS in the facility (five pairs), each equipped with an eight-channel Lawo Crystal console, which is concealed in the furniture when not in use. Each of these pairs can be operated as two independent studios, or joined for additional functionality. These are the studios used for top of the hour newscasts. In addition to the “SOPS,” there are 6 small “booths” with four-channel Lawo Crystal consoles for basic production such as phone or other remote interviews.
Producer positions in one of the POC control rooms, overlooking the main control position and the studio.
The studio in each POC can accommodate one-on-one interviews, small musical ensembles, or a large number of reporters and guests.
The “POCS” (Program Origination Centers) are larger studios used for producing “news magazine” style programs. At the heart of the POC control room is a Lawo Sapphire 24-channel console and multiple Lawo Nova 17 frames. An audio engineer operates the studio (with additional positions for directors, producers and other production personnel) while the hosts and guests are seated in a separate talk studio. These studios are spacious and can accommodate everything from an intimate one-on-one interview to a small musical ensemble. There are three POCS in the facility.
Overlooking the newsroom from the fourth floor; MOPS and POC 31 are shown on the third floor below.
“MOPS” (Master Operations Production Support) is the heart of the audio engineering and production side of the house. This critical position supports all of the audio content production. Here, all feeds from the field, and from the studios are monitored and routed before heading off to the NOC for distribution. Large video displays show metering information for all critical paths at a glance. Personnel are available to assist news staff with audio production issues 24/7.
The distribution division's NOC supports the Public Radio Satellite System and other commercial satellite clients.
The NOC is the final stage in the chain before the audio heads out to member stations via satellite. Here, the feeds coming from MOPS are checked a final time and monitored during distribution. The NOC is also responsible for other feeds coming from sources outside of NPR to be distributed to member stations.
A unique feature of the NOC, the "Egg Chair" allows some isolation for critical listening.
In the NOC are three workstations for monitoring content distribution, a pair of QC workstations for checking file based content, and a supervisor''s workstation. A large video wall gives access at a glance to all RF uplink and downlink parameters, network traffic, video cameras trained on the rooftop dish farm, audio routing and level metering, automation, and a variety of other systems. One of the most unique features in the NOC, however, is the “egg chair,” which allows some isolation in order to listen critically to audio when necessary regardless of any other noise in the room.
For over 40 years, NPR has pushed the envelope both in technology and content production. The new facility and its flexible design will allow them to continue this tradition for many years to come.