Summertime provides boundless opportunities for radio stations to do live remote broadcasts. What made a recent remote from Nisswa Minnesota’s KBLB -B93.3 a bit different is that they used Zetta2GO to broadcast from a boat in the middle of a lake. As B93.3 morning personality Bill Satre explains, it was a logical choice. “We were doing the music for a 4th of July fireworks display over a lake. Since most of our listeners would be in boats, we figured we should be in a boat too. So we loaded up a pontoon craft with our remote gear, banners, flyers, lots of tee-shirts and other free stuff to give away and headed out.”
Satre’s remote setup included a classic RE-20 mic on a boom, a laptop with Zetta2GO, his Audio 2000 mixer and a Nady wireless mic AC power was supplied by an inverter connected to the boat’s 12-volt battery supply.
Before doing the remote, Satre did a trial run with the remote gear from his own boat offshore from his cabin. The wireless connections worked, and he was ready for the Fourth.
Since Satre was incorporating interviews into the remote, he opted to do voice tracking, rather than broadcasting live, in order to have better control over the situation. He edited the interviews on his laptop using Audacity, and imported the completed audio file into the log on Zetta2GO.
It all came off without a hitch, although he cautions there are a few issues to be aware of when voice tracking a remote. “Be sure to allow sufficient time for files to upload. I tried to stay at least 5 minutes ahead. Files that were a bit too long did have issues with dropouts. When planning these remotes, it’s essential to check that you have solid wi-fi, cellular and internet signals at the location.”
Satre notes that Zetta2GO is a complete game changer for remote broadcasts. “Doing a remote the old way, there would be more bulky gear to lug around, and I’d be coordinating with a board op back at the studio, which doesn’t always go smoothly. Zetta2GO gives me control of everything on site. I am my own board op.”
Zetta2GO is the ultimate remote broadcasting tool. This mobile playout management system enables you to go live from anywhere you have a mobile connection, see the logs, adjust segues and record voice tracks that can be dropped directly into the log. It’s also cross-platform compatible with any smartphone or tablet.
The success of the July 4th broadcast leaves Satre contemplating future remotes. Central Minnesota is a resort area with countless lakes, so there are lots of aquatic possibilities. “There’s the Governor’s Fishing Opener in the spring, and the ice fishing extravaganza during the winter, where we have 20,000 people fishing in a tournament.” He adds that he is also looking forward to doing his first live remote with Zetta2GO.
A number of things go in to making RCS software the great product that it is. An amazing team of software developers working in state-of-the-art facilities, feedback and suggestions from our worldwide customer base, along with a company-wide commitment to never be satisfied with the status quo.
A less-known aspect of software development is the need for good beta testers. An evaluation by someone with a fresh pair of eyes or different expectations about what the software should do can push it closer to perfection. And the best part is that you can be one of those people.
The RCS Beta program is a win-win partnership between us and the user. The Beta program provides a structured, controlled, and formal live environment test of new releases. Participating sites will receive hand-held assistance, including training, dedicated support and an open conduit of communication. Plus there is just the added coolness of being the among the first to try out our new software.
We benefit from the Beta program as well. Participants need to send RCS detailed and timely announcements of any issues, including supporting information from participating sites. This will help RCS to troubleshoot issues as they happen, and gives us the quality check points to know the software will perform as expected once it is released to the our customer base.
All versions of our software undergo extensive internal testing to ensure that the code is field-ready. By accepting the invitation to participate in the Beta program and agreeing to the expectations and program details, participating sites are accepting any risks associated with testing Beta software. Thus, RCS expects that participating sites do not roll back to previous code versions if an issue occurs at the site.
For more information, or to sign your station up for a Beta program, contact email@example.com
BroadcastAsia is the region’s must-attend international convention for media, entertainment and technology professionals. This year, the event was held alongside CommunicAsia and the new NXTAsia under the ConnecTechAsia brand umbrella. BroadcastAsia was held June 18-20 at the also-new Suntec city venue in Singapore. Over 17,000 were in attendance, and it goes without saying that RCS was in the thick of it.
The RCS 40th birthday party, which began in April at NAB, continued at BroadcastAsia. Combined with the traditional RCS ‘Happy Hour’, the celebration included fellowship and conversations, beer on tap, lots of snacks and balloons.
And speaking of balloons, a trial balloon of sorts was launched at BroadcastAsia 2019. A media student with an interest in radio joined the RCS team at the show and acted as an assistant. Think of it as a short-term paid internship.
Competition for the position was intense, and the winner was a second-year communications student at Singapore’s Temasek Polytechnic College, Joey Lim. Joey made a great impression on the RCS team and visitors to our booth during the three days of the conference. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Joey actually is actually a Zetta user, since she is one of the on-air team at Temasek’s campus radio station, Radio Active.
Based on the success of this experiment, we may make it a regular thing at future trade shows. We’d love to team up with college media departments and seek out bright and talented students interested in a career in radio broadcasting.
The observant among you may have noticed that we added an additional stripe to the design we have long used at the back of our booth at international trade shows. The new stripe is green – and shows Revma (our new streaming service) as a fifth major product category. For the extra observant, the colors run in order of the RCS logo (which features the colors of the rainbow, of course). So there are two colors still available for future ideas: red and indigo!
Radio Znad Wilii, better known as Radio ZW FM is the Polish-language station in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. Wilia is the Polish name for the Neris river which flows through the city of Vilnius.
This state is one of Poland’s neighbors, and the Polish population in Vilnius numbers about 16%. In suburbia that number rises to 52%. Radio ZW delivers two signals, an FM channel at 103.8, which serves Vilnius and its suburbs, and an internet stream. This stream is an educational project for Polish-speaking students in Vilnius.
Although Lithuania is normally covered by the RCS Scandinavia office, Radio ZW works with the Warsaw office since, it is more familiar with installing software and training customers in the Polish language.
Radio ZW FM started working with RCS in the summer of 2016, when it purchased GSelector to do the music scheduling. The station’s discontent with their current automation system led them to request a demonstration of Zetta. Following a skillful presentation by RCS field engineer Bartek Kubacki, the decision was made to make a purchase, and Kubacki also did the training and installation.
Over three days, he installed Zetta on five of the station’s machines. The station also uses Zetta2GO for newsroom operations. This suite of applications enables you to control your Zetta Automation/Playout system from a smartphone or tablet. Best of all, you can manipulate what’s on the air from any place with an Internet connection.
In addition to the software install, the project involved interfacing the station’s Lyra mixing console and Advantech I/O card to communicate with Zetta. Upcoming work at the station includes adding the time announcement feature.
Response from the station was enthusiastic. One staffer commented, “The project was a lot of work, but it was worth it. We’re very happy to have Zetta, this software is fantastic!”
No matter where in the world you live, RCS is legendary for its Field Technical Services (FTS) teams who perform our on-site support and training. While all of them deliver an outstanding level of service, the way they go about it often varies considerably.
In order to perform their jobs, the members of our field service teams have to be multi-talented. They need to have an extensive knowledge of the Windows platform and network topology. A thorough understanding of radio station operations, preferably gained through hands-on experience is also important. Many of our global field service team members have ‘paid their dues’ behind the microphone as program directors or production managers.
And it goes without saying that FTS team members also need a thorough understanding of both current and legacy RCS software, from installation/setup to usage scenarios.
Just as important to a successful field service engineer as an abundance of tech savvy, are ‘soft skills’. At the end of the day, the job is about making the customer happy and leaving a positive impression of RCS. That isn’t always easy. Customers may be stressed out and anxious about changing to new software.
The ideal stance is a friendly, patient approach. All field service engineers are willing to go that extra mile for customers, and often work out of hours to achieve this, whether on call or not.
Brian Willard, FTS Manager for North America notes, “The ability to manage your own time while working independently to complete a project is key. Also patience, patience and more patience.”
Spending too much time on the road, and living in hotels can be hazardous to one’s mental health. FTS managers try to strike a balance for their team between office time and on-site visits. FTS offices in China and Taiwan try to limit the duration of on-site visits to two weeks.
At RCS Australia, General Manager Mike Crothers says, “We’ve had a busy couple of years with some back-to-back installs, but ideally each install should be at least two weeks apart.”
The policy for North America, as explained by Brian Willard is, “Two to three weeks on the road, followed by one to two weeks at home, seems to keep everyone happy and sane.”
Technology never stands still, and continuing education is a part of the field service team’s job. Many members will do this on their own due to a personal interest in technology. Additionally, the Support Manager and Operations Manager may identify areas of training that are required due to changes in technology. Some offices set aside a weekly training hour. Each session covers a different topic, with the responsibility for presentation rotating between team members. Exchanging information with the client’s engineering/IT teams can also be informative.
Mike Crothers adds, “We keep up-to-date regularly with globally renowned press releases, read publications such as MIT Technology Review, TechCrunch, VentureBeat and Fast Company. For broadcast industry news, it’s essential to read RadioInfo and RadioToday. Listening to customers is vital. A lot of the time, clients will tell us about a new technology project or things they have seen, and it’s in our best interest to consider these moving forward, and ponder how they benefit our products. Finally, looking at demos of products that are readily available in the Radio/Software space, and thinking about any uses they may have in our applications.”
At the latest NAB Show, RCS formally introduced Zetta Cloud, a new product enabling customers to minimize the amount of software and equipment they need to have on-side, and also take a huge step forward with disaster recovery. How will the rollout of Zetta Cloud affect FTS operations?
Brian Willard comments, “Just as with any new RCS product/version or other new technology, the team will be ready to adapt to the changing landscape. It may mean less onsite visits and more teleconferences. It could be trips to data centers or more centralized operations to assist with non-traditional hardware installations. The knowledge and experience that this team has in every aspect of radio/audio delivery operation and the industry itself is what makes them unique. The way the job is done and the tools to do the job may change but the goal will remain the same and this team we always have an important role one way or another.”
Max Davies, Managing Director of RCS New Zealand adds, “Whilst the nature of work may change, I expect that volume of sales, training and specialist config/consultancy will remain as it is. Of course, the option for online training/videos etc. might reduce on-site visits, but that is already an option for us, regardless of the Cloud.”
“The main difference will be that support arising from hardware suitability and architecture should be reduced. Also, I assume that the mechanism for software updates will change fundamentally – and this should also reduce workload, so long as it is done properly – otherwise the reverse will be true as I think ALL cloud subscribers will be updated simultaneously.”
All RCS FTS engineers are road warriors. Most have developed their own strategies for making the best use of their time in the air and at hotels. Mike Crothers advises, “Prepare a balance of work and recreation during your travel time with Office 365. This makes the ability to store your offline work easy so that you can continue the second that seatbelt sign is off, but it’s also essential to constructively balance that with recreation. Setting aside some time for specific tasks and then use the rest to watch that documentary you have been itching to see is ultimately the best way.”
From Mag Hsieh, Manager of RCS Taiwan, the advice is, “Organize and discuss issues with clients ahead of time to make sure everyone and everything is ready when we arrive on site.”
Simon Tims, Support Manager for RCS New Zealand adds this checklist. “Work on your own installations of the products you’ll be installing or training, in case there are new nuances in later releases you haven’t had time to try yet.
“Continue to work on support issues as usual, if they can be tested or investigated online. Watch the latest RCS product videos. Take online courses. Get to know the local area, so you can better connect with clients in future conversations. Spend time with clients outside of their work environment if possible, to build relationships. Don’t forget to bring all necessary chargers, adaptors and cables – and make sure they’re in your carry-on luggage!”
No matter how much organization and advance preparation goes into a project, RCS FTS engineers must always expect the unexpected. Sometimes the surprises are humorous, sometimes frustrating and occasionally a bit of both.
From Australia, Mike Crothers shares his favorite story: “We were doing an install for NG Media, which is about 1,100 kilometres from the nearest computer store. The night before we were scheduled to go live, we discovered that there were no XLR cables to plug into the audio card. This had become necessary because the ‘Bush Bus’’ that we planned on using was stuck on a muddy Outback road due to the wet season. Finally, we resorted to cutting up XLR cables with scissors and soldering them ourselves.”
And this from RCS China Manager, Alex Meng: “Our strangest project was at Radio Lanzhou. We were a subcontractor of a large project, and did not know what had been promised by the company who signed the contract with radio station. After arriving on site to do the installation, we had to renegotiate what our responsibilities were, and what would be handled by the main contractor. We were very happy to put that one behind us.”
Simon Tims has a few more stories to share: “I once arrived on site for an all-day, five-person training session. Two people turned up, one of whom had left the station, but came back just to see the training. Another time, I discovered that a customer had more than 80 staff to train inside three days – all of them were volunteers with very little radio experience!”
Another problem he recalls involved hardware. “Once I replaced an A-serv, expecting to move a network card over, only to discover the outgoing machine had a server class motherboard with four onboard NICs. Then I noticed an NIC in a dead machine standing right next to it. More of a strange solution than a strange problem. I could have driven to the computer shop down the road, but this was far more interesting.”
Every onsite install is really a team effort between FTS engineers and the management and staff of the client’s station. Our field service teams from around the globe shared some ideas on the kinds of things that customers can do to make the project go smoothly.
Mike Crothers: “Our most successful client visits are driven by them. They entail regular client meetings leading up to the visits, so that all planning and structural issues can be informed, and time can be allocated to tasks ahead of schedule.”
Brian Willard adds: “It is essential that they are prepared and really invested in the project. We are only one small piece of the puzzle, it is the customer who ultimately determines if the installation is a success for them.”
Simon Tims shares this checklist from the New Zealand office: “Support from the client’s management team is essential. Customers need to provide timely and accurate responses to advance requests for workflow information and for data. They also should ensure that hardware is installed and checked out in advance of our arrival. All relevant third-party and the customer’s own engineers and technical staff should be available and/or contactable. Management needs to notify all staff of training sessions, and ensure that they attend. And finally, they need to come to the table with a willingness to learn and accept change.”