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AUCKLAND, New Zealand — At MediaWorks all markets use Tieline codecs for a variety of flexible applications. We extensively use Merlin, Merlin PLUS, Merlin PLUS WheatNet, ViA and the older Commander G3 rack and field units.
Applications vary from remote client recording in a market like Tauranga, to a commercial production hub in Auckland, to using ViA for bigger network brand OBs, and even the Report-IT app for pop-up broadcasts and crosses.
The ViA is at the heart of all our live event and sports commentary setups and has been of great use during the pandemic for remote workflows. As ISDN is being phased out, we use fibre at a venue or engage dual 4G cellular connections configured for redundant streaming for OBs.
We recently held a station event, Rock 2000, where listeners of “The Rock” voted for their favorite songs played from the top 2000 over a few weeks. This culminated in a live event over six hours from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at a major arena in downtown Auckland, to announce the number one song. The event included bands and acts streamed live over the Rock network. It was our biggest online event ever, with 360,000 people live streaming it! This is huge considering the population of New Zealand, and Tieline ViA was pivotal.
The ViA is a great piece of equipment. It’s portable and flexible, with the reliability and quality of a rackload of equipment. Having battery power and dual redundant streaming delivers reliability and redundancy. The ViA supports large broadcasts with multiple announcers on-air in several locations — all hubbed back to the station. For me, this brings the “very cool” factor to the airwaves.
The unit was easy to use at this event and the on-air sound was fantastic. We had never broadcasted live from this venue before and IP data connectivity was a potential issue. Large crowds definitely impacted the availability of 4G data, and this is where SmartStream PLUS dual redundant streaming was priceless. It contributed to maintaining solid streaming throughout.
The content teams were over the moon with the results at the event and are already planning the next event. The bar keeps getting set higher every time we broadcast with Tieline. In fact, the ViA recently allowed us to sell a nationwide tour of regional pubs to encourage people to travel around the country after the coronavirus had been contained in New Zealand. We broadcasted live every night of the week from 7 p.m. to midnight from a different pub. We streamed using a 4G router with each pub’s Wi-Fi as a backup.
With the pandemic, on air staff with other health issues were evacuated from their respective buildings as soon as it started to ramp up. We deployed six remote kits in a couple of hours. They all stayed away from their studios as we relocated buildings in the meantime. From a listener perspective, they had no idea.
Contributors on our talk network, MagicTalk, used Report-IT instead of being on site. Poor mobile coverage caused latency to start with, but we are still using it for regular contributors, which has reduced our spend, as we don’t pay them to come to the station anymore. It’s a remote from home.
Overall, the ViA and Tieline products in general were an absolute game changer in allowing us to access voice talent from home. The touchscreen is very straightforward, and we can walk a user through matrix changes or changing IP settings from memory alone.
We still have multiple hosts contributing to both network and local stations remotely. In addition, clients are remotely recording ads, and corporate talent is recording station imaging from home etc.
Typically, we connect in mono for voice-only connections and stereo as required using the Tieline Music PLUS algorithm at either 128 kbps or 256 kbps with auto-jitter settings. Occasionally, we configure a dedicated communications channel with discrete communications. We also use the XLR outputs to feed audio from the studio to PA systems for events at OBs.
On the Studio Side
We use a mix of Lawo and Wheatnet in our studios across the group. The WheatNet enabled Tielines are integrated with the soft LIO, which we are using with Nexgen to remotely connect to a market or studio, so where we have limited content or operations staff, an office manager can walk into a studio, hit a button on the Nexgen Button Bar and a client in market is talking to a production engineer at a commercial hub.
We are working on the same for the Lawo markets, they tend to have more local resources staffwise, so this functionality is a work in progress where we will use the GPIO interface for this same ease of connectivity.
Blake Beale is the Radio Engineering Manager at MediaWorks Radio NZ Ltd. He oversees the team that builds and maintains studio operations.