Friday Night Delivery

Publish date:

Friday Night Delivery

Dec 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Steven Orr and Tony St. James

Paramount Broadcasting stations KFLP-AM/FM broadcast country music (25kW FM) and agricultural news (250W AM) from their studios in Floydada, TX. The station's most popular offering on the FM is the weekly syndicated program West Texas Friday Night Scoreboard Show, which airs Friday nights from 10 p.m. to midnight throughout the high school football season. The weekly show reports highlights and scores from 150 Friday-night high school football games played in West Texas. Six employees support the live program, including the host/producer, main talent, a scoreboard writer, production engineer and two phone reporters.

When KFLP started gathering its affiliate audience, the station chose satellite services to distribute the show. Shortages in receiver supply and scheduling conflicts within the provider's distribution network created challenges at the affiliate level. Technical difficulties piled on top of the other challenges, as the station was forced to rely on third party engineers to address problematic feeds and troubleshoot the issues.

Rate increases were the final straw. Last year, KFLP opted to explore other distribution platforms that were less expensive and without the many technical issues of satellite. The goal was to establish a system that used identical technology at each affiliate and allowed KFLP to take complete ownership of the solution, including the engineering aspect.

The station implemented a low-latency audio over IP system within its existing radio broadcast workflow to distribute the program live to 35 affiliated stations. Based on Barix audio over IP encoding and decoding hardware and a backend streaming infrastructure from Stream Guys for Internet distribution, the approach provides a highly robust and reliable multipoint platform for audio distribution that maintains the superior audio quality required for professionally broadcast, syndicated programming.

The workflow

The broadcast workflow for West Texas Friday Night Scoreboard begins at KFLP headquarters, a 24'�24' building comprised of three production studios connected to a master control center for on-air operations. KFLP's strategy is to use technically strong, operationally simple equipment that fits into the modest budget of a small-market station. Much of the station's equipment is consumer grade as a result, although there is a strong emphasis on maintaining high quality content and well-engineered broadcasts.

West Texas Friday Night Scoreboard is produced in Studio A, a 9'�9' studio featuring a Yamaha MG124c mixer with eight hard-wired, unbalanced input sources to produce the live broadcast. On-air sources include an Electro-Voice PL-20 microphone (host) and a Sennheiser MD-421U auxiliary mic for guests; a Telos Zephyr Xstream ISDN unit, two Dell computers with BSI Simian automation, an Optimus CD-8400 compact disc player, and a Realistic utility switch for toggling between AM and FM feeds. The Dell computers are labeled as CPU 1, which triggers commercials and recorded interviews during the show; and CPU 2, used to update the KFLP website and maintain contact with stringers who electronically submit scores to the program.

Image placeholder title

Pre-recorded interviews for WTFNSS are produced in Studio B.

Reporters begin calling in from the field about 10 p.m. Central Time to provide play-by-play highlights and game recaps. An AT&T 944/964 four-line telephone system is the anchor that supports the on-air reports. The audio to the telephone is sent through the Yamaha mixer, utilizing its mix/minus feature to emphasize or reduce caller audio in the mix. An Excalibur Handi-Coupler acts as an interface between the mixer and telephone so the producer can split the send and receive audio from the phone line, and provide exceptionally clean audio at a lower cost than investment in a hybrid unit. The Telos Zephyr Xstream (ISDN) allows KFLP to originate or receive ISDN calls, which the station can also use to produce very clean sounding POTS calls in tandem with a Lucent ISDN 970 phone.

1 2 3 Next

Friday Night Delivery

Dec 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Steven Orr and Tony St. James

The Yamaha mixer includes a variety of outputs, including two �" aux busses: Aux 1 feeds the Telos Xstream ISDN codec, and Aux 2 feeds the regular telephone. The ISDN line is mostly used to provide consistent, clean audio for daily guests of KFLP's agricultural programming who call in from across the United States. The aux bus outputs are critical to the mix/minus capability employed for West Texas Friday Night Scoreboard.

Other Studio A mixer outputs include monitor out to STAV-3870 amplifiers, which power two Realistic Nova-16 speakers for live program monitoring; and a record out that feeds a CPU 2 audio card for recording into the BSI Simian automation system. More importantly, the main XLR and �" outputs are reserved for Behringer Multicom Pro XL processors, which represent the only true audio processing within the end-to-end chain.

These feed the CPU 1 audio card for recording to Simian (XLR) and a Barix Instreamer IP audio encoder (�"). All output feeds are sent through a distribution amplifier to the master control center, the final destination point prior to local broadcast and distribution to the affiliate stations.

The distribution channel

The Barix Instreamer is the first piece of the puzzle in the Internet distribution platform from Floydada to 35 locations. The Instreamer encodes the audio as MPEG-2 stereo with a sample rate of 22.095kHz, which results in a stream rate of 48kb/s, and transports it into a Stream Guys Internet streaming platform for distribution to affiliates.

KFLP purchased a total of 37 Barix Exstreamers, including one spare unit. One Exstreamer sits in master control, pulling the live program off the same streaming architecture as the affiliates and decoding it for local playback over the air. The local Exstreamer interfaces with a Broadcast Tools SS8.2 automation switcher to synchronize the local feed with what is being received at the affiliate stations. The BSI automation breaks into the Exstreamer feed with commercial breaks and promos, provided the show remains on exact time. The Exstreamer also feeds the live signal into a pair of Audiovox monitor speakers for real-time monitoring, allowing staff to act immediately in the event of technical problems with the feed itself or any of the equipment in the chain, such as the ISDN/telephone systems.

The Internet streaming workflow is based on the Stream Guys low-latency Internet distribution service, implemented using Barix's Real-Time Protocol (BRTP) to ensure that program delay at the affiliate side is at an absolute minimum. The aggregated server infrastructure from Stream Guys is comprised of a load-balanced Linux server cluster to receive and transport the feed over a robust streaming network that maintains premium audio quality from point to multipoint. Built-in redundancy at every level ensures the stream is playing out live at all times, with secondary and tertiary streams picking up the live streams in the event the main stream momentarily fails.

KFLP loaded each Exstreamer with Barix's specialist Streaming client firmware and then configured each device with an IP address and port number to capture the stream from the Stream Guys server cluster. Each Exstreamer is configured to check for the stream every five seconds. When KFLP begins pre-roll on Friday, the Exstreamer automatically grabs the audio and is ready for the show at 10 p.m. The Exstreamer continues to check for the stream in the event it is lost during the show, and automatically re-acquires it upon return. The Telos Zephyr ISDN serves as another redundancy layer to the live stream, feeding a toll-free service called Teamline that provides low-latency audio.

At the affiliate site, the preconfigured units are plug-and-play, simply requiring power, network and audio output connections to be fully operational. KFLP affiliates are walked through the initial setup process to ensure proper connections and to confirm the device is enabled to receive the stream without intervention.

Previous 1 2 3 Next

Friday Night Delivery

Dec 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Steven Orr and Tony St. James

Back at the local level, the master control center is the final stop before the signal is transported to the transmission facility via and broadcast over-the-air by way of a Harris HT20 FM tube transmitter and an Energy-Onyx Pulsar 250B AM transmitter. The master control center includes similar equipment for both the FM and AM air feeds, including Behringer UBB 1002 mixers, Starguide satellite receivers for external programming, streaming audio computers, and BSI Simian automation workstations for managing on-air playlists.

Master control also ties to Studio B, a 4�6, single-person, backup production studio featuring a Behringer MX 802A mixer; Studio C, a 7'�9' studio currently under construction that will become the hub for the All Ag Network, KFLP-AM's hub for agricultural programs; and the technical engineering room, a modest 3'�3' space featuring a 6' rack with an EAS unit, BSI automation hub, telco equipment, Internet and network hubs. Punch blocks and Belden audio cable provide facility audio routing, and multiple-pair cable pulls are used throughout the entire 24'�24' space.

KFLP's minimalist attitude toward its equipment applies to the quality of the audio signal as well. The station prefers to keep the audio as raw as possible at the central studio and deliver a high-quality, minimally processed signal. This way, affiliates that choose to employ several levels of processing will start with a pure studio feed from KFLP. The final on-air product will not be over-compressed, and will sound similar to the affiliate's normal programming.

In addition to West Texas Friday Night Scoreboard, the station distributes programs from its All Ag Network, including Agriculture Today and the Agri-Business Report, via FTP to affiliates. The shows can be produced from anywhere and uploaded via high-speed Internet to KFLP's servers, where affiliates can download the shows for immediate or later airings.

The 2008-2009 football season marks the second straight season during which KFLP will broadcast the show using Stream Guys low-latency (BRTP) Internet distribution service with Barix Audio over IP hardware devices. The new Audio over IP workflow and Internet distribution system provides a highly cost-efficient and technically reliable platform that outperforms the previous KFLP satellite distribution system in many ways.

Orr is director of affiliate relations, sales manager and on-air host; and St. James is general manager, producer and on-air host at KFLP.

Equipment list

Barix Exstreamer, Instreamer IP
Behringer Multicom Pro XL, MX 802A,UBB 1002
Belden cable
Broadcast Tools SS8.2
BSI Simian
Electro-Voice PL-20
Energy-Onyx Pulsar 250B
Excalibur Handi-Coupler
Harris HT20
Sennheiser MD-421U
Stream Guys Internet streaming
Telos Zephyr Xstream
Yamaha MG124c

Previous 1 2 3