Now that we’ve just started installing the new equipment for KUSP’s “Upgrade 2011″ project, it seemed like the right time to get a couple of photos of our starting place. Many people have visited KUSP in the 30+ years our studios have been at 203 8th Avenue, but far more folks haven’t seen the place. So…. here’s the tour!
This is our main on-air studio. There’s almost always someone sitting in the chair in the foreground; I took the picture on Saturday morning right in the middle of the third half of Car Talk, so we didn’t have to have a person there for a little while. Under the big digital clock is our main audio console, the single most expensive piece of equipment we’ll replace as part of Upgrade 2011. Among other things, you’ll see only one of the four audio level meters still lights up (the bulbs are hard to find and the sockets are problematic). There’s a hole where a yellow “OFF” button should be on the far right end (can’t get the parts).
You can also see our three on-air CD players (dark grey rectangles, one to the left of the console, two to the right) and the two turntables we use to play records (one on each side; the one on the right has our program log book sitting on its plastic cover). The top computer screen shows the status of the digital audio storage system that plays back recorded programs; the bottom one is a general purpose computer where we look up traffic reports, weather forecasts, and so on.
There is exactly one piece of Upgrade 2011 equipment in this “before” picture. In the right-hand rack, between the two pieces of light gray-painted equipment, is a skinny black unit with some blue stickers on it. That’s a Denon CN-F650R professional audio recorder; here is a better look at it (thanks to Denon’s web site):
This is for recording in-studio performances, live interviews, and similar kinds of events. Instead of using tapes or CD’s, this device puts the audio on a removable USB storage device that plugs in the front. We’re hoping this will be more reliable and lower maintenance than the tape and CD recorders it replaces. In the main picture there’s a purple CD recorder above the Denon and a Panasonic DAT (digital audio tape) recorder below it (partially obscured by a taped-up note – you can see that we don’t use DAT tape on the air that much any more!)
Across the hall from the on-air studio is Production Studio 1:
We record most every kind of program we have in here, and we can link this studio to studios anywhere in the world through a couple of different digital audio delivery systems, for either live or recorded programs. The equipment layout is very similar to the on-air studio; this is useful because (1) we can use this as a back-up on-air studio if the main studio is down for maintenance and (2) it makes training our volunteers and new employees easier. No new equipment is visible in this studio yet. We are looking forward to replacing the CRT-type computer monitor and regaining some much-needed counter space!
On the other side of the wall behind Production 1′s computer monitor is Production Studio 2:
“Studio” is kind of overstating the current capability of this room. I’m told it was built in the 1980′s as an announcer’s booth; you can stand in the middle of the room and touch opposite walls in one dimension. After years of disuse we revived it when KUSP Reports ramped up its number of stories in 2009, and now it’s in near-constant use as an editing location during the day. In the picture you can see (left to right) the room’s DAT recorder, a small tabletop CD player, the microphone and a very small audio mixer, and the computer screen for our digital audio editor. This room will be totally overhauled as part of Upgrade 2011.
Our final stop is our satellite receiver rack:
This equipment lets us receive all our nationally and internationally-distributed programs. Some programs (like Morning Edition) are live as you hear them, while others are time-shifted by a few hours (The Diane Rehm Show is an example) or a few days (the Friday night broadcast of This American Life). All of these programs are delivered to the Public Radio Satellite System’s main transmitting uplink station in Washington, DC, and received by the hundreds of local public radio stations across the country. This is an all-digital system and most of the units mounted in the rack are actually specialized small computers running Linux. These devices receive the satellite signal and either turn it back into audio to run live from the studios or route it over to the digital audio storage network.
With this gear, the more green lights that are on, the better.
The receivers in the top of the rack are brand new and will go into service after we finish Upgrade 2011. In the middle of the picture is a “patch bay” for the rack. We move audio feeds now by plugging and unplugging cords in a patch panel that might have been built 70 years ago — with the same parts that were used in telephone switchboards for decades…
Hope you liked the tour – as we get more stuff installed, I’ll have more posts.