Digispot® II Visual Radio

What is Visual Radio?

Digispot® II Visual Radio is a technology for visualization of radio, which means creation of visuals that accompany audio tracks that, in turn, form the main program of a radio station.

What does a listener see?

A listener sees images captured by one of the cameras installed in the studio, or a video clips (music video, video background, recorded programs (coverage, recording of a live show), played back on a broadcasting station. Various kinds of information can be added on top of these images , such as logos (of the radio station or a program), text (hot news, currency exchange rates, weather forecast), as well as plates with additional information about what is happening on the air (track and artist names, names of the host and guest(s), the topic of discussion, various messages), and additional graphical information (pictures) that accompany the news, weather forecast messages, street traffic reports, etc., as well as background or context ads).

Visual Radio

What are the benefits for a radio station?

  • Additional way to attract listeners.
    Experiments and experience gathered at some Moscow-based radio stations confirmed that the listeners are interested in seeing the faces of their favorite DJs and guests, they also enjoy music videos and on-the-spot live reportages.
  • Extra advertising space.
    Visual ads are not limited to commercial blocks. In fact, they can be placed at any moment, whether tied to a program (context ads) or independently (background ads).

The Concept of Visual Radio

Visual Radio is first and foremost a form of radio. The main idea is to preserve the leading role of the radio program. The solution based on Digispot® II Visual Radio media management and automation system is unique in that it allows preserving the concept of radio as it is without infringing on the main technological process. Thus, the radio does not turn television and you don’t need to inflate the staff or budget of the radio station. The technical solution provides visualization of what’s happening in the studio and broadcasting of the video in parallel with the audio, most of the processes being completely automated.

Another, no less important principle is economic feasibility. Usually the budget of a radio station is significantly smaller than that of a television. Therefore, a visualization of radio should not mean creation of a full-blown TV channel. It is rather a search for a compromise between a full automation of the bulk of the processes involved in the creation of visuals (such as video broadcasting start, switching between cameras, layering of graphics) and live, creative broadcasting with the participation of the staff. Thanks to Digispot® II Visual Radio system the visual part of your radio program becomes entertaining and informative, while not being expensive.

What constitutes Visual Radio?

The Digispot® II Visual Radio system is an add-on to a classic studio complex of a radio station (fig. 1).

From a technical standpoint, this includes:

  • a set of cameras;
  • a set of lighting fixtures and grip system;
  • system for automatic management of program creation;
  • broadcasting station that includes Digispot® II DJin: Air-X Live VR with video support;
  • system of graphics decor for the program;
  • video mixer and other video hardware;
  • system for monitoring of video signal;
  • system for monitoring activity of microphones;
  • system for an internet streaming;
  • system for recording and storing of video programs (optional);
  • mounting solutions (fixtures, hangers and so on).

 Schematic diagram of radio visualization technology

Fig. 1. Schematic diagram of radio visualization technology

Let’s look at the main components of visual radio in more detail.

Camera set

We recommend using remotely controlled motorized cameras (PTZ cameras*). This will give you maximum possibilities at an affordable price.
PTZ — from panorama–tilt–zoom. PTZ cameras are controlled along horizontal and vertical axis and are equipped with variable focal distance lens (they can perform zoom in and zoom out).

We do not recommend using IP cameras because they:

  1. almost never allow synchronization of incoming video with audio received from microphones;
  2. immediately encode video signal using maximum compression, which will significantly reduce image quality (compressed streaming video needs decoding before it can be fed to video mixer to be used in a program).

You can also use simple “home class” cameras. However, these are much less convenient because, apart from the obvious problems with manual setting of the orientation and focus, they tend to suddenly enter the standby mode, lose signal or even switch off without visible reasons (and you won’t be able to switch it on again remotely, so you’ll have to use a ladder directly during a live air).

Cameras with remote control have a big advantage – they can switch between preset views of each camera quickly, during live air. As a result, the program becomes more dynamic. You can reach the same dynamic visual effect with regular cameras (including “home class” ones) by increasing the number of static cameras or by using the services of cameramen for each camera in the studio.

Lighting

We recommend using lighting fixtures with minimum energy consumption and heat emission because radio studios usually don’t have that much of a reserve in terms of these characteristics. The best solution is using modern LED fixtures that, apart its power-saving properties and smaller heat emission, is also durable which will help you save on spare parts.

System of automatic management of program creation

The principle of operation (fig. 2) of this system is the following. Each camera (or a group of cameras) in the studio has its own microphone (or a group thereof) attached to it and each camera is focused on the person who uses this camera’s microphone. The system defines active microphones, which means microphones that someone currently speaks into. When a microphone becomes activate (someone starts speaking into it) and after a short delay the image from a camera attached to that microphone is fed into the program.

The on/off commands for the videoswither’s inputs or a program formed by Digispot® II Software, as well as layering of graphical events (titles, logos, etc.) can be tied to broadcasting schedule elements and executed automatically at respective moments. For example, two commands can be tied to the moment of starting of a music video:

  • “apply broadcasting station signal to air”
  • “layer titles with music video name and artist name”

The set logic of camera switching driven by microphones or schedule elements allows creating a visual image that is identical to that created in a traditional way (by cameramen, operators and video director). You can switch the system to manual mode and back to automatic mode at any time.

 

Schematic diagram of automatic camera switching system

Fig. 2. Schematic diagram of automatic camera switching system

For implementation of automatic switching between cameras we suggest using the microphone activity detector system ТР-330.

System of microphone activity monitoring.

The ТР-330 is a low-noise (can be used in a studio) hardware block with a 1U height with four symmetrical microphone inputs and special, pre-installed Digispot® II Active Microphone Detector software. The device analyses microphone activity and creates commands for automatic switching between cameras. Using ТР-330 gives you the possibility to broadcast videoprograms 24/7 without the participation of cameramen or a video producer.

While working with digital mixing consoles by Axia, information about microphone activity can be received directly from LiveWire network. In this case, Digispot® II Active Microphone Detector can be installed on any workstation connected to LiveWire.

Digispot® II DJin: Air-X Live VR with video support

The broadcasting station has an expanded version of Digispot® II DJin: Air-X Live VR installed, that supports working with video, plus video card (Matrox, Blackmagic). Remote control of a video mixing devices (Blackmagic, ORAD, Skylark) is also supported by means of a specialized module. Also available remote control of graphic design systems (MagicSoft CG software, ORAD 3DPlay, Skaylark CG) with the possibility of custom configuration of buttons in Digispot® II DJin control interface to activate selected graphic elements. You can also quickly add or change the text of titles from Digispot® II DJin, as well as display them using a preset template. These are the control modes: automatic, manual and combined automatic / manual.

System of graphic design for the program

You can use third-party software for these goals. For example, the MagicSoft CG graphic system allows creating graphic elements of any complexity and feeding them to video mixing console input:

  • dynamic and static logos (of radio station or/and a program);
  • scrolling text (hot news, currency exchange rates, weather forecast);
  • clock (“analog” or “digital”);
  • plates containing additional information about what’s happening on air (track and artist name, names of the host and guests, additional information about the topic of conversation, various messages);
  • additional graphic information (pictures that accompany the news, messages about the weather, traffic jams, etc.);
  • background and context ads.

MagicSoft CG software is integrated with Digispot® II Media Management and Automation System. Control commands can be tied to schedule elements and sent automatically to CG system. You can also send preset commands manually from a special panel of Digispot® II interface.

Video mixer and other video hardware

Video mixer/switcher serves for creation of the final program by using the mixing and/or switching of signals from cameras and the other sources, as well as for adding graphic elements and titles from the CG. The optimal solution is using the Blackmagic Design mixers of ATEM series (2 M/E, 1 M/E or Studio). Apart from mixing, the listed models allow for a multi-display control of input and output signals.

Video signal monitoring

For monitoring of video signals you can use both professional monitors with SDI interface connection, and computer monitors or TV panels with HDMI interface connection.

Internet streaming

The station of internet streaming captures video and audio from the output of the video mixer and creates a single-program stream in a needed format that is sent to a public access point of own or rented CDN.

System of recording and storing of video programs

Optionally, you can install a video server to record and store fully-formed programs for further processing, editing and internet uploads.

Mounting solutions

Installing the cameras and lighting fixtures in a fully-functional studio without interrupting the broadcasts can become a problem. We offer solutions that require minimal constructional revisions of a studio that bring almost no perceptible changes to its normal layout:

  • We use present wall and hanging ceiling constructions.. Most of lighting equipment is built into the hanging ceiling construction (they replace or cover standard ceiling light blocks). This construction does not reduce the height of ceiling and does not occupy any working space. A small amount of lighting fixtures are attached to the walls (most of them are “drawing” devices designed to provide additional lighting effects).

  • Construction made of light metallic pipes placed along the inner perimeter of the studio.Made individually, installed within a few hours, mounted to the floor and the walls at several points. After that, all cameras and lighting equipment, as well as all the wires are mounted to that construction without producing any extra noise or dust.

What else is needed?

Content

Any radio station that decides “to go video”, should be ready to take on the task of preparing adequate quantities of respective video content:

  • Search for music videos (not all songs have videos readily available that would contain audio fit for a radio station) and copyright solutions. (Bear in mind that a music video may be much more expensive than a simple audio track). On the other hand, the format of the station may not involve the use of music videos; in this case, broadcasting images captured by cameras with the addition of dynamic graphics should more that make up for it;
  • Development of a video version of live air attributes — opening and closing jingles etc.;
  • Development of graphics – logotypes, plates, scrolling text design, etc.

Space

The solution involves installing extra equipment, so you’ll probably have to add more power supplies and increase air conditioning.

Staff

You will most likely have to organize training courses for you staff (first and foremost for technicians).

Radio visualization configurations

Before starting to work on a solution it is important to define the desired “depth” of visualization, depending on radio station’s tasks and its re-fitting possibilities.

Three main visualization configurations can be mentioned (some transitory variants between these three are also possible):

  • minimal — only images captured by cameras installed in the studio;
  • optimal — images from cameras plus graphics;
  • full — includes all the possibilities of visualization: images from cameras in the studio plus graphics plus video content from broadcasting station.

Minimal

The video stream is formed on the basis of video signals received from cameras: the listener sees the studio from various angles – the images are received from cameras directed at hosts or guests or from the general view camera. The cameras are switching automatically depending on microphones activity according to a special algorithm.

This configuration is the cheapest one. It hardly involves any equipment already installed in the studio (the only point of intersection is the ТР-330 microphone activity detection device) or automation system and can be quickly installed at any radio station.

An example of such solution is shown on fig. 3.

Schematic diagram of the minimal configuration of radio visualization (images from studio cameras only)

Fig. 3. Schematic diagram of the minimal configuration of radio visualization (images from studio cameras only)

Optimal

Just as is the case with the minimal configuration, the video stream is formed only on the basis of signals received from cameras. However, the difference is that there are dynamic graphics added with the help of a graphic station: logos, plates with information about host, guests, current track, weather or traffic jams, advertisement-related messages and so on. Graphics insertion is done both automatically (tied to the schedule) or manually (from the air operator’s station). This video sequence is much more attractive for a listener, and the radio station can make use of extra opportunities to actively communicate with their clientele.

Important note: to implement this configuration, the main broadcasting workstation (the one that transmits the program) must run Digispot® II DJin software (any configuration) with versions not older than 2.15.37.х.

This configuration is slightly more expensive than the minimal one but it doesn’t require any significant corrections to the structure and list of existing equipment of a radio station and hardly interferes with its technological process. This option is perfect for all users of Digispot® II Media Management and Automation System.

An example of such solution is shown on fig. 4.

Schematic diagram of the optimal configuration of radio visualization (images from studio cameras plus graphics)

Fig. 4. Schematic diagram of the optimal configuration of radio visualization (images from studio cameras plus graphics).

Full

Video stream is formed on the basis of the signal received from studio cameras, graphic design and video signal from broadcasting workstation.

Important note: the broadcasting workstation must run expanded configuration of Digispot® II DJin: Air-X Live VR software with full video support (v 2.16.х or higher). This allows radio station to visualize the air’s “dress” and broadcast extremely diverse materials from music videos to own video footage.

This option is significantly more expensive than the other two and requires replacing the broadcasting workstation (including auxiliary equipment), updating all automation software and possibly changing the working technology of the radio station (to regularly produce video material you may need to increase the staff). However, it also gives radio station a full-blown visualization instrument and the program will have a quality comparable to that of television.

An example of broadcasting part of such radio complex is shown on fig. 5.

Schematic diagram of full visualization configuration (images from studio cameras plus graphics plus video content from the broadcasting station)

Fig. 5. Schematic diagram of full visualization configuration (images from studio cameras plus graphics plus video content from the broadcasting station)

Typical workstations

Let’s list typical workstations providing visualization of radio:

  1. Broadcasting station with expanded configuration of Digispot® II DJin: Air-X Live VR, with full video support and video card (Matrox, Blackmagic).
  2. Utility workstation of live air operator. Provides analysis of signals from microphones, manual or automatic switching between cameras and video mixing, as well as graphics control.
  3. Graphic station. Intended for creation of graphic design elements and for sending them to video mixing board input. Graphic elements of any complexity are possible: dynamic or static logos, scrolling texts, graphical design of live air, background or context ads.
  4. Station for internet streaming. Captures video and audio program from video mixer’s output and forms stream in needed format for distribution in the internet.

If needed, stations 2, 3 and 4 can be assembled in any combination.

 Possibilities of Digispot® II Visual Radio

  • Synchronous playback of audio and video streams by one single player from one single schedule.
  • Automation of camera switching controlled by video mixer, based on the analysis of signals received from microphones and application of set logic (imitated presence of cameramen and video director).
  • Automatic control of graphics layering tied to broadcasting schedule.
  • Automatic display of alternative (or neutral) video image if no original video content is found for a schedule element.
  • Storage of materials in a shared database.
  • Video broadcasting in SD (576i) and HD (720p, 1080i) formats.
  • Support of H.263, H.264, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, Xvid, DivX and other standards.
  • Support of MKV, AVI, MPG, MXF and other formats.

Advantages of Digispot® II Visual Radio system

  • Implementation of Digispot® II Visual Radio does not break radio production technology. We do not intend turning radio into television but rather create video images that run parallel to audio tracks. The program and working process of a radio station remain almost intact and audio remains a priority, compared to the video.
  • Visualization is completely automated (including switching between cameras by microphone activity). It means that no staff expansion or significant budget increase are needed.
  • Video is played back on the broadcasting workstation. One single player can play back both audio elements and (video + audio) schedule elements, which ensures 100% synchronization of audio and video streams.
  • With Digispot® II Visual Radio system you can realize solutions of varied visualization depth and scale. The system is very flexible and is suitable for both small radio stations with partly live air who want to broadcast video from their studios online and for talk show radio stations with 24h of live air that demands high-quality video coverage. Consequently, the cost may vary widely depending on your needs and requirements.

 

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