Maintaining a 24 hour radio service takes a fair bit of technology and configuration to deliver. In order to ensure our station remains on the air for the patients we’ve got a fairly impressive setup, most of which depends on technology. Below is some of the technology we’ve invested in to make Bay Trust Radio work and sound the way it does.
Studio 1 Mixing Desk: The heart of any studio is the mixing desk. We have a Sonifex mixer in our studio 1.
Studio 2 Mixing Desk: Allen & Heath XB-14-2 Compact Broadcast Mixer.
Audio Processing: We use an Audessence ALPS-1 audio processor to make sure that the audio and speech is of the highest quality.
Telephone System: We take a lot of calls at Bay Trust Radio. In fact we have 5 incoming lines. 2 trust extensions, 1 direct line from Hospedia, a private line for volunteers and an IP line. To handle all these lines we have Cisco IP telephone system which manages our calls and allows calls from any of our lines. Calls can be picked up in the studios or office and sent directly to the desk for broadcast if required. All callers get our station output as their music on hold whilst waiting.
Servers: We use Apple Mac Mini servers to maintain our service our primary file server stores all the music and files for the play-out systems. These are replicated in real time so if we have a failure on one hard drive we can immediately switch to the other. We use parallels for mac to operate our Windows server.
Uninterruptible Power: Being in a hospital environment there are always things which can affect our power supply, generator tests or pre planned maintenance for example. All essential equipment is maintained by UPS. These can keep the station running for at least 30 minutes with no power at all or until the main power is restored. Our UPS’s are fed by the generator which means the equipment stays online the whole time.
Automation Automatic Play out: Being a small charity we can’t provide live programming 24 hours a day so when we’re not around we let the computer do it for us. We have invested in software from Psquared called Myriad. Myriad allows our programs to go out when we’re not there. We can tell the system exactly what we want to play or it’s even smart enough to pick the music for us based on rules we set.
Silence Detection: Sometimes things go wrong and if they do the station can fall silent. We use software to detect if there is silence for more than two minutes. If that happens an automated failsafe service will start playing and an email alert will be sent to various people to alert them of the fault. The email also contains screen shots of the automation play out system showing the last thing it was doing before it went silent.
R.O.T (Record of Transmission): We use P Squared Myriad v4 Powerlog which records all output for 42 days in a mp3 file so in the event of a complaint we can supply a copy of the audio.
Live Assist: We don’t use records at Bay Trust Radio, in fact we rarely use CD’s or Minidiscs. Our Myriad system provides us with what we call the ‘Audio wall’. This is a huge database of music, categorised by decade and searchable by numerous fields. If a patient phones the studio for a request, we can tell them if we have the song whilst they’re on the phone and it can be next song to come on the air
Software: Our list of software is endless Myriad v4 play out, Myriad v4 auto track pro, Myriad v4 local voice tracking, Myriad v4 remote voice tracking, Myriad v4 news capture & Myriad v4 news edit, Myriad v4 OCP+ (online content processor).
News on the Hour: Listeners to Bay Trust Radio can keep up to date with national and international news courtesy of the Sky News service which we subscribe to. SKY provides a 2 minute news bulletin on the hour, every hour. This is delivered to our studio live from London via a special satellite receiver and the automated system can bring the news in automatically when we’re not around.
Listen Online: Our service is primarily for the patients, staff and visitors of The Westmorland General Hospital & the Royal Lancaster Infirmary. The reason for making our programs available online is that patients of the hospital, some who had been in hospital for a long time would enjoy our service but never had the opportunity to listen after they left the hospital. We now offer listeners the chance to take ‘Bay Trust Radio Home’ via a free media stream right here on our website or by downloading the free iPhone app. Of course, anyone else is very welcome to tune in and enjoy the service.
Listen on PC (staff): Hospital staff form a large part of our audience on a daily basis. Since 2010 we’ve offered staff working in the hospital the opportunity to listen to our service via their computer on an internal stream. Using the Trust’s internal network anyone inside the hospital with a set of speakers and a windows computer can tune into Bay Trust Radio by going to facilities and then click BTR logo – and they do in their masses.
Webcams: There are 3 webcams watching Bay Trust Radio 24 hours a day. We have one in studio one, in our training centre & one in the BTR office. The cameras take a snapshot every 30 seconds and upload to our external web server.
VPN (Virtual Private Network): To allow our volunteers access to our internal network and for outside broadcasts to work we have a fully secure VPN. This means that once dialed in, volunteer’s home computers appear as part of our internal network. They can then use our intranet, take remote control of our computers or perform other functions such as remote voice tracking without having to physically come to the studio.
Broadband: We use fibre optic broadband, offering super-fast download speeds. It uses technology known as ‘Fibre to the Cabinet’ (or FTTC), which connects telephone exchanges to street cabinets using fibre optic links. This means that we offer the best speeds to our members while doing show prep and also so that they can connect to our VPN (Virtual Private Network) when working from home or when we are doing outside broadcasts back to the studio.
Barix Instreamer: This is what we have installed in Bay Trust Radio transmitting rack its an IP encoder with line level analog input (stereo), and it encodes in MP3.
Barix Exstreamer: We have this installed at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary which recieves our audio over the IP this is then fed into the Hospedia system so that the listener can receive our broadcast.
Skype: We have the facility using Skype to interview guests over this technology which we can record in to our Myriad system and use at a later date.
ipDTL: Another way that we can do ‘LIVE’ outside broadcasts is via ipDTL this is great when we have a large event that we need reporters out in the field.
Audio TX: When we do our broadcasting to our sister station Auckland Hospital Radio we use Audio TX this means the delay is very small all of 5 milliseconds so we can use it to do two way broadcasting.
Comrex Access: We use Comrex Access to do live outside broadcasting in the studio we have a Comrex Access rack mount unit, a portable access unit and also a sip address so that smartphones can connect and broadcast breaking news live to air. This equipment was made possible by the Big Lottery Fund.
V3X – Intelligent 3G Booster: The V3X Intelligent 3G Antenna is the ideal partner for any device that needs to stream audio or video using a 3G mobile connection. Using a patented intelligent multi-beam antenna array, V3X extends the range and throughput of a 3G mobile network’s data connectivity, bringing stable connection speeds of typically 2Mbps in most 3G locations without difficulty. Compared with the small aerials built into 3G dongles and PC cards, the V3X provides some 20dB additional gain with excellent stability. The 3G SIM is plugged into the unit which scans the airwaves with its multi-beam array to check available signal strengths and available download speeds – so important in streaming applications such as audio/video codecs – and selects the link which provides the best available connection (not necessarily the closest base station), with LED indicators providing status. Once connected, it continues to monitor the quality of the other links to maintain the best possible connection with the 3G network. This equipment was made possible by the Big Lottery Fund.
We pride ourselves on having the most sophisticated technology to keep Bay Trust Radio ahead of the competition and we are always keeping our eye on the ball for innovated products that will enhance the service we offer to the listener.