Due to the expanded format of the combined Harris Broadcast 2013 Road Show and our SBE Chapter 16 business meeting and luncheon for March, the event was held in the third floor conference/meeting room, located above Wings Cafe, at the Museum of Flight (MoF). As another delightful example of the welcoming environments at the MoF, for the length of the short open walkway from the elevators to the meeting rooms, you are treated to an elevated sneak-preview of some of the over 150 historically important aircraft and spacecraft (including the recently added Shuttle Trainer) that are exhibited throughout the buildings that make up the MoF. Several of the aircraft, all full sized and appearing nearly flight-ready, are suspended from the high ceilings and others are parked on the ground floor level. It is kinda cool to walk past a real SR-71 Blackbird at just about eye level with the “sled driver” cockpit just a few meters away.
Upon gathering at the meeting room, which includes large windows with views of the runways of the King County International Airport/Boeing Field, our SBE Chapter 16 Chairman, Arthur Willetts, opened the joint events at about 9:10AM. A nice continental breakfast buffet was immediately available to those in attendance. Later in the morning, we were treated to a delicious luncheon buffet, not unlike what we might see if we attended some of the meetings at an SBE Conference or an NAB Show. The wonderful food services were provided by McCormick & Schmick’s Catering.
As Chapter members and guests greeted one another, we were all introduced to our hosts from Harris Broadcast. Leading the Harris Broadcast contingent was Garrett Wood, the District Sales Manager – Radio RF & Studio Systems. Garrett, a skilled Radio Engineer, whom also has many years of equipment sales experience, recently relocated to the Seattle area (he is now enjoying life on Vashon Island).
As the Harris Broadcast Road Show (tag line: “Deliver the Moment”) was the opening feature of the day, Garrett introduced his team members: Paul Barzizza – Interplex and PR&E Studio Systems, Tim Anderson – Manager of Strategic Radio Market and Product Development. Joining the Harris Broadcast Road Show was Doug Tharp – SCMS Western US Sales Rep and for former Seattle area resident and UW grad, John Keen – John is a Senior Technologist for NPR Labs – National Public Radio.
First up was Tim Anderson’s presentation: HD Radio™ Broadcast System – 4th Generation – Tim provided an interesting historic overview of the process involved with selecting an appropriate codec for HD, the DexStar product, the “Tomorrow Radio Project”, etc. Tim brought us up through the early formative years, remembering the 2003 Gen III Multicast HD importer/exporters and those expensive early product years around 2006, when an exporter alone could run you $20K. Thankfully, the NAB FastRoad technology advocacy program helped fund R&D that resulted in a product cost reduction to about $10K by 2008.
Fast forwarding to present day technologies, Tim revealed that Harris Broadcast is working on Gen IV architecture, which promises to bring improved hybrid crest factor reductions to improve bandwidth characteristics and better power efficiencies.
In response to a question from Chapter Member Tom McGinley, regarding the life expectancy of new generation HD equipment, Tim responded that the equipment in Gen IV will be “appliance-like” devices that are designed for longevity, rather than quick product launches, which have traditionally been PC based. The FlexStar line will be phased-out over the next three years or so, as the new Flexiva product line begins to lead the way to the future of HD Radio. If your FM facilities are leaning toward installing -10 dBc transmission systems, Tim is recommending waiting for the Gen IV gear. If your HD power levels are staying at -20 dBc or perhaps an intermediate level such as -14 dBc, Gen III equipment will be fully adequate for the near future.
Harris Broadcast has developed a product called MaxxCasting – an FM Booster package contained in a compact outdoor enclosure, replete with equipment capable of generating about 5 kW of ERP (~500 Watts TPO into an outside mounted 10 dB gain, Yagi-Uda antenna system.
Tim wrapped up his presentation stating that we should expect to see these and more transmission system improvements with their planned release of Gen IV in December 2013.
The laptop projector and laser pen was then passed to John Keen. John’s presentation was titled an Overview of MaxxCasting by Geo-Broadcast Solutions.
MaxxCasting is a new approach to applying and fine tuning the sage advice of those of us having analog FM Booster experience – keep the FM Booster antenna heights and power output levels reasonably low and be methodical in choosing transmitter sites and antenna patterns. Exploring the art of minimizing co-channel interference makes one realize that signal time of arrival (TOA) at any given receiver is a major contributor to listener based acceptability of interference. One of the twists in the improvement formula is a dynamic time alignment routine to allow the application of many FM Boosters to serve smaller geographic pockets of higher density population, while minimizing aggregate interference zones.
The propagation modeling portion of the system design relies on terrain sensitive RF signal analysis software. That software draws on data available from the Shuttle Radar Topology Mission (SRTM) terrain database. Signal reception thresholds for analysis were grouped in three ranges: >47 dBu for vehicular/mobile, >65 dBu for indoor reception and >73 dBu for portable radios. With population and other datum overlays, this modeling has been applied to many NPR facilities across the U.S. and has been found to yield very accurate representations of existing station coverage and to illuminate the prospective viability of MaxxCasting FM Booster systems to aid in improving net listener coverage. From a technical perspective, John’s presentation was refreshing in that it was clearly not a commercial pitch and was based in well researched data.
Paul Baraizza was up next, with The Evolution of IP in Broadcast Equipment. – Paul related that Harris Broadcast, as a Gores Portfolio Company, enjoys solid backing, they are self-directing and well-funded…an excellent formula to produce scaled product lines for today’s Broadcast facility needs.
With an overview of Harris Broadcast and Interplex products and performance, Paul start by describing the integration of PR&E into the Harris Broadcast products line and the subsequent development of their line of IP based consoles and Interplex data transport systems. T1/E1 data circuits are still considered high speed connections for most devices and interestingly, the new Interplex HD Link is HD ready for 950 MHz STL transmission paths, with 200/300/500 kHz bandwidths and 1/2/5 Watt output power – no need to add a “foot warmer” outboard PA.
As we entered the late morning switch to lunch, Paul opened the floor to an exciting and vibrant discussion of competing IP console system technologies. The lively exchanges ultimately merged at an awareness of the notion that the industry would be best served with a singular agreement to follow either a manufacturers’ alliance or an AES/IEEE-type standard protocol definition to permit self-identifying equipment to interface seamlessly, regardless of the name of the equipment manufacturer. This debate is likely to continue for some time to come.
For additional information in the subjects discussed, please contact Garrett Wood at: Garrett.Wood@Harris.com or by telephone at 513-720-4315. Garrett will be able to point you in the right direction.
At about 1:15PM, Chairman Willetts opened the official Chapter meeting, thanking our caterers and the entire Harris Road Show Team for their timely presentations.
Member Arne Skoog is reportedly on the mend, gingerly returning to a work schedule as he curtails his medical leave, recovering from “stage 2.5” colon cancer. We are rooting for your continued rapid recovery, Brother.
The meeting was closed at about 1:20PM and the Harris Road Show commenced to “hit the road”.