Universal Studios Radio is All About the Wow

November 1, 2012


When you visit a theme park, you want to be wowed. The rides and attractions are all designed to not only entertain you, but overstimulate your senses with motion, color and sound. For Universal Studios Orlando, this attention to the wow factor is apparent everywhere you go. Every experience at the park is intended to go beyond the visitor's expectations. While the latest addition to the park is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, even established items are regularly updated. This includes the radio studios at the park.

The T-2 studio

Radio magazine has profiled the radio studios twice before in an online feature in 1998 and in the August 2002 issue. The last major update was in 2002, but there have been ongoing updates over the years. For example, the studio once had Mini-disc and DAT machines, which were popular formats at the time. As technology advanced, the studios saw incremental updates as well. After 10 years, it was time to update the consoles and routing system. The existing consoles worked just fine, but to keep pace with the effort of wowing the 250+ visiting radio stations each year, the plan was made to update the centerpiece of the studios.

Variations on a theme

There are two studios in the facility. The larger studio has a T-2 (Terminator) theme and the smaller studio has a Jaws theme. This includes a moveable T-2 head coming down from the ceiling and a swimmer being pursued by a shark. And while the park no longer has a Jaws attraction, the movie is still a well-known classic.

The studio furniture, while 10 years old, has held up well and still looks good. There was no need to replace it. It's Harris Hydraflex and can be adjusted from 30" to 38" in height. This allows visiting talent to find their comfortable height.

A Corian collar was added to accommodate the smaller consoles. T-2 is still looking at you.

A Corian collar was added to accommodate the smaller consoles. T-2 is still looking at you.


Over the last year or so, the engineers replaced the mics and mic arms. Neumann BCM 104 mics were mounted on Yellowtec Mika booms. The Mika arms include the lighted ring to show the mic is live. Again, this fits with the intent to wow visitors.

To update the consoles, Bob Page of the Universal Studios Radio Broadcast Center, called on Broadcasters General Store, who called in Axia. The new system would include two Axia Element console surfaces with PowerStation cores and some Axia Nodes. The first step was to be prepared for the new consoles. The Elements are smaller than the previous consoles, so the in-counter hole needed to be covered. The mechanical shop at Universal stepped in and fabricated several collars (as they are now called) made of Corian to cover the openings for the consoles and the headphone and mic control panels for the guests. The Corian color accents the existing furniture.

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Quick turnaround

The entire console swap was completed over a long weekend. On a Friday afternoon, Bob Page was joined by Jim Armstrong and Jim Kuzman of Axia and the Telos Alliance, Buck Waters from BGS, and some local Orlando engineers got to work pulling the old consoles out. The previous consoles had all discrete wiring, so that was removed as well. Then the collars were installed.

Once the old wiring was removed, a new CAT-5 cable was run between each studio and the rack room. This simplified installation and made it possible to complete the project over the weekend.

The Jaws Studio

The Jaws Studio


The old mic processors had been removed earlier, but they were not replaced because the Axia has built-in processing on board.

On Monday, Jeff McGinley came in to help tie down some loose ends and have the studio ready for use on Tuesday. The new studios were first used on Sept. 6, 2012.

Another addition was the BSI Op-X automation system. While it's not expected a visiting station will run a full show from the studio with music from a playlist, it is possible. The Op-X replaced a cartwall audio player, and in doing so provides greater flexibility to visiting stations.

Outside connections

When stations visit the park, most of them use ISDN to connect back to their home stations. A few have used a POTS codec, and a few have used an IP codec.

But visiting stations are not confined to the studios. While spending extended time outside in the hot Florida sun is seldom preferred over and air-conditioned studio with a catered green room, the Comrex Bric and Access allow for remote feeds anywhere on the park property. An aircard gives complete portability as needed. Some events are held in the Hard Rock Hotel, and audio is shipped back via the Bric.

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Step into the radio studios

Step into the radio studios


The radio studios at Universal Studios Orlando continue to provide visiting radio stations with top-notch studio facilities that provide an experience beyond expectations. The most recent upgrade maintains the showcase look and feel that wows both park visitors and stations.


Partial Equipment List

American Recorder adapters
Axia Element, PowerStation, Nodes
Broadcasters General Store
BSI Op-X
Comrex Access, Bric
Harris Hydraflex
Neumann BCM 104
Omnia One
Telos Zephyr Xstream
Yellowtec Mika mic booms with lighted ring, iXm


The Tech Team

Bob Page
Jeff McGinley
Jim Kuzman
Buck Waters
Jim Armstrong
and local Orlando engineers


Photos by Jm Kuzman of the Telos Alliance.



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