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04/07/2018

Lawo Supplies Virtual Studio Tech For Kuala Lumpur Station

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Lawo has standardised Kuala Lumpur's Astro Radio with third generation virtual studio technology.

"We had to re-think how a studio broadcast console should be in a rapidly evolving commercial FM radio industry," said Astro Radio Chief Technology Officer, Bala Murali Subramaney.

Astro began operation in 1996 using an audio routing system and digital broadcast consoles custom manufactured to meet its specific technical requirements. By 2006, greater functionality was required to simplify studio workflows and to allow on-air talent to focus on content.

"We took the best features of our first console, analysed common operator mistakes and asked for improvement suggestions, then we condensed this data into a comprehensive document and presented it as our mandate to Lawo – whose response was the Zirkon-2s modular broadcast console," said Mr Subramaney. "The Zirkon-2s was simplicity personified in both form and function. For example, a press of a macro button could simultaneously record telephone calls, edit talksets and run an outside broadcast."

This success has now taken Astro Radio to its third generation of console for new studios in Kuala Lumpur as, in 2017, the operation acquired two new radio stations and needed space for new on-air studios, producer workstations and equipment room – on top of its existing 13 on-air studios, seven news studios, three voice booths, eight audio production studios and edit suites, and six equipment rooms.

"In mid-2016, we had begun sketching out plans for a virtual console, which would challenge the industry perception of a broadcast console," Mr Subramaney recalled. "We wanted to radically re-imagine what an on-air studio would look like, including what to fit inside the studio and what to leave out. The studio environment would impact how the on-air talent uses the technology inside the studio with the new virtual console as its focal point.

"Our mandate to the interior designer was to create designs for three on-air studios that were minimalistic, stunning, functional and meet Noise Criteria (NC) rating 20. We wanted designs that would inspire our on-air talent to deliver compelling content on-air and on-line for today's radio."

The mixing requirements were all met by Lawo's Virtual Console, whose control surface is software, driven by a multi-touch interface on a high-resolution computer display, and which had been successfully the trialed in Astro Radio's news room. Without the limitations of physical knobs, buttons and faders, the screen presents users with only relevant controls and information, hiding anything not needed for the task at hand.

"In addition to the standard Virtual Console control features, Lawo's VisTool-PC also shows all the virtual modules of both touchscreens – a user can control all channels, faders and buttons on the touchscreen from the VisTool-PC interface," Mr Subramaney said.

"Content managers expect new on-air talent to quickly build momentum, and get up to speed with listeners on social media regularly during their shifts – every day. There is very little time for training or familiarisation with the technology in the studio. The Virtual Console, therefore, had to be very simple and intuitive to use for first-timers."

He added: "We are able to develop new features and functionality both for default and user-specific snapshots. We can easily customise the console layout – or skins – re-design and re-size fader and button shapes and colours, incorporate macros and GPIO signalling. This flexibility gives us the freedom to explore new possibilities in console design paradigm. For example, we added more channel faders per screen and moved monitoring controls to a pop-up screen.

"We took a huge risk by implementing fully touchscreen Virtual Consoles, but from the faces of our on-air talent and their content managers, our 'high-stakes' gamble has paid off handsomely."

www.lawo.com
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