WGBH: Green in Boston

March 1, 2009

Radio Control 2 is dedicated to music post production.<br />
<em>Photo courtesy of Andy Washnik of Corpricom</em>

Radio Control 2 is dedicated to music post production.
Photo courtesy of Andy Washnik of Corpricom

WGBH-FM is one of the largest providers of programming for public radio stations across the United States. This includes a global news and public affairs show, The World, co-produced by WGBH Radio, BBC and Public Radio International (broadcast nationally to more than 230 public stations), production of live performances, and programming featuring classical, jazz and Celtic music.

In 2002, WGBH Television and Radio announced plans to move to a new location in Boston's Brighton Landing that would feature new broadcast studios and a 200-seat theater. The new facility would also have a 40'-by-30' video mural featuring light-emitting diodes that can be seen from the Massachusetts Turnpike.

WGBH's new Brighton complex is officially green, with LEED certification granted by the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. The green designation features construction from recycled steel, motion-sensitive office lighting, UV-filtering glass and motorized sunshades, water-conserving features, solar panels generating 100kW of power, and a “green roof.”

Making connections

WGBH-FM General Manager John Voci said, “One of the design criteria was to increase our visibility within the institution. We were kind of hidden away in the old facilities, and you could have walked by us and not realized that a radio station was there. Today we have two high-profile studios [Fraser Performance Recording Studio and The World news complex] sitting on both ends of the new building. It is pretty hard to ignore us right now.”

For the new studios, Janson Design Group created floor-to-ceiling windows in The World and Fraser studio that look out on Boston streets. The glass windows weigh three tons and have three layers of special glass. Voci said, “It is kind of nice to go from a subterranean environment to where you have some visual connection with the outside world.”

The new WGBH radio facility is comprised of two on-air control rooms, four production control rooms, five studios, two digital mix rooms, a 34-desk newsroom and a radio master control room. A striking focal point of the new facility is the recording studio.

Fraser studio

The Fraser Performance Recording Studio is a 2,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art recording and live FM broadcast studio with a 28' acoustically isolated ceiling, 5.1 surround sound control room, three isolation rooms and a green room.

The 2,000 square foot Fraser Performance Recording Studio  broadcasts live events.<br>
<em>Photo courtesy of Andy Washnik of Corpricom</em>

The 2,000 square foot Fraser Performance Recording Studio broadcasts live events.
Photo courtesy of Andy Washnik of Corpricom

The studio opened in September 2007. Acoustical features include double-wall construction around the studio on spring-isolated, floating concrete floors. RPG Quadratic Diffusors are installed on the lower half of the walls, with 2”-thick, fabric-wrapped panels attached to the upper-half of the studio walls. Ceiling panels are RPG Skyline 3-D diffusors, and corner bass traps are built in.

Some 150 live-to-air radio performances are produced every year in the studio that showcases local, national and international artists.

Voci said if the Fraser studio is the centerpiece of the station, then Solid State Logic's (SSL) digital HD music production console is the heart of the Fraser studio, “Everyone loved our old SSL analog console. The new SSL digital console simulates or duplicates all those traditional analog controls and so much more.”

The Fraser studio (Radio Control 1) is equipped with the SSL C200 HD console. The C200 is SSL's 64-channel, digital recording console, capable of mixing up to 128 sources. WGBH's C-200 is also equipped with a Solid State Logic 48-channel stage box. The stage box allows producers to connect 48 microphones to the C200 through a fiber optic link.

In addition, Radio Control 1 features a 48-channel Steinberg Nuendo digital audio workstation, ATC mains, and an Aviom Pro 16-channel headphone mix/monitoring to supplement a proprietary headphone/cue system and a TC electronics System 6000 reverb and mastering system.

<em>The World</em> newsroom holds 34 reporters and producers.<br>
 <em>Photo courtesy of Andy Washnik of Corpricom</em>

The World newsroom holds 34 reporters and producers.
Photo courtesy of Andy Washnik of Corpricom

Chris Gefken of The Systems Group, project integrator, said, "From a radio standpoint, there is nothing standard about the Fraser studio. It's a classic film scoring sound stage with an orchestra-sized live room. It's a large format recording studio environment."

Radio Control 2 is used for music postproduction. It is built around the Euphonics MC controller, a Steinberg Nuendo digital audio workstation, and the TC electronics System 6000 reverb and mastering system. Both Radio Control 1 and 2 are equipped for stereo and 5.1 surround sound.

According to Studio Designer Dennis Janson, "First and foremost, the acoustic design of the studio and the elements that you see on the walls and ceilings are all there for very specific reasons — to provide a uniform sound decay rate (RT60) in the room."

The World newsroom andproduction facilities

The World covers 4,500 square feet of floor space in the new facility, including: a news room that holds about 34 reporters and producers; a control room that broadcasts the Monday-Friday news program; a studio for the program host, a small production room built around a digital work station featuring a Sadie DAW; and a small announce booth.

<em>The World</em> control room broadcasts news  five days a week.<br>
<em>Photo courtesy of Andy Washnik of Corpricom</em>

The World control room broadcasts news five days a week.
Photo courtesy of Andy Washnik of Corpricom

The critical phase in moving for The World was closing the show out on a Friday afternoon and making sure that on Monday morning the production team could walk into the new facility and start producing at 7:30 a.m. Voci said, "Fortunately, Friday was a slow news day, and we were able to wind up the show relatively early."

Facility flexibility

According to Voci the move was not only an opportunity to make the conversion from analog to digital, but to fulfill a wide range of needs for the station's programming.

"We took a look at all of the of things that we do here. We're not just a radio station that has broadcast and production facilities. We also do the national news program, and we record live performances," Voci said.

Master Control provides monitoring for various network feeds and automation systems.

Master Control provides monitoring for various network feeds and automation systems.

Voci's goals for the station's new technology included reliability, usability, flexibility and redundancy. Voci said, "We're doing six feeds a day for The World and we need to make sure that everything is there. We also needed to have flexibility built into the system so that projects can be transferred anywhere."

Voci's team went with Broadcast Electronics' Audio Vault AV2 playout and control systems (upgrades) and a Wheatstone Router System to address those needs. The Wheatstone Bridge Router, along with their G3-9 series and D9 model control surfaces, were chosen to span the generational gap from old (analog) to new (digital). The Wheatstone system consists of 10 router frames, two redundant routing hubs and control surfaces.

The five Audio Vault AV2 servers and workstations are responsible for the station's live audio playback/recording and production (including its Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard affiliates, WNAN-FM 91.1, WCAI-FM 90.1), as well as audio production and playout for The World.

Equipment accessibility and usability

"Accessibility was a big part of their criteria," Gefken said. "Everyone has their own level of technological comfort, and we had to tailor things accordingly, from the on-air operators to their advanced classical recordists."

Gefken also said that a considerable effort went into the ergonomics and design of the custom furniture (Time Base Consoles). "We went through an extensive design phase with the staff to give them such things as a table top console that lifts to expose a turntable underneath or keyboard tray that slips and travels the underside of the counters as needed. The keyboards can also slide up and down and left to right. It is pretty cool.:

The reviews are in

According to Janson, the feedback on the Fraser Performance Recording Studio has been terrific, "From a technical point, it is one of the best studios in New England. The room was originally intended to be used only for music, but with the ambiance, acoustics and overall feeling in the room, it is now being used for fundraising events." (Note: The Fraser Studio is also wired for high-definition television with feeds to the WGBH TV production group.)

Voci agrees, "The real wow to our facility is the Fraser Performance Recording Studio. It is a beautiful space. It allows us to do things that we that could have only dreamt of in the past in terms of accommodating ensembles of different sizes, bringing in audiences for live performances and being able to do commercial work for recording (new revenue stream)."

In regard to the whole relocation process, Voci said, "We held meetings with the engineering staff from the beginning. Everyone was invested in the design, and that created a real sense of ownership."

The design team includes Dennis Corriea, Thomas Devlin, Jon Frank, Miles Smith and John Voci from WGBH Radio; Chris Gefken and Scott Griffin from The Systems Group; and Dennis Janson of Janson Design Group.

Broo is a freelance writer based in Cincinnati.

Partial Equipment List

360 Systems Short Cut
ADC connectors
Audio Accessories patch bays
Belden wire and cable
Benchmark Media Systems System 1000, headphone amps, microphone preamps
Broadcast Electronics Audio Vault
Broadcast Tools SS8.1ii, DAS8.4 Plus, ACMS 8.2Plus, AVR8
Comrex DH-20, STAC12
Denon DN-C635 CDP
Dorrough 40A2, 280-D
Dynaudio Air 15
Genelec 8020, 8040
Harris Intraplex codecs
Henry Engineering Digimatch 2×6, Matchbox HD, Henry Super relay
Lucid DA9624
Marantz PMD570
Middle Atlantic racks
Musicam CDQ Prima220
Neutrik connectors
OC White mic booms
OMT Technologies Imedialogger
Orban Otimod 8500
Quested VS2108
Raritan P2-UMT1664M- 64×16 KVM router
Sadie PCM-4
Solid State Logic digital HD
Steinberg Nuendo
Tascam DV-RA100
Telex RTS Adam CS
Telos 1+1, Zephyr Xstream
Timebase Consoles custom millwork design/installation
Wheatstone Bridge, D9, G4, G9

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