So Drama! Entertainment Upgrades Radio Consoles With Lawo

Virtualization is a hot topic in radio, as more and more broadcasters discover the flexibility, and economy of virtual mixing surfaces. At the same time, physical faders offer the familiarity that presenters rely on during fast-paced programs. In Singapore, So Drama! Entertainment’s Power 98 and Jia 88.3 get all the benefits of both, with an upgrade to Lawo Ruby consoles with VisTool virtual touchscreen controls.

So Drama! is one of Singapore’s most listened-to media companies, with four popular channels – Jia 88.3 FM, Music and Drama Company, PIONEER and Power 98FM – serving Singapore’s population of over 5.5 million. The combination of Lawo physical and virtual radio mixers installed at Power 98 and Jia 88.3 are the first of their kind in Singapore.

“SoDrama! has been a Lawo customer for years, and we are very pleased that they decided to partner with us again to upgrade their facilities,” says Lawo’s Boon Siong TAN, Sales Director, Southeast Asia. “Along with the opportunity to renew the equipment, So Drama! also wanted to re-think and upgrade studio workflows so that show production was smoother and more intuitive for younger presenters. The combination of traditional physical mixing desks with context-sensitive VisTool virtual mixers satisfied everyone’s requirements.”

Included in the project are three Ruby radio consoles, Lawo’s premiere mixing surfaces. With a clean, uncluttered design, Ruby is easy to use and can be configured in sizes from 4 to 60 faders in multiple linked frames that may be surface- or flush-mounted.

Lawo VisTool Unlimited GUI builder software was used to build the virtual mixer interfaces.

Lawo VisTool Unlimited GUI builder software was used to build the virtual mixer interfaces.

Lawo VisTool Unlimited GUI builder software was used to build the virtual mixer interfaces. VisTool Unlimited allows users to design beautiful, intuitive mixing control screens customizable to stations’ individual workflows. Custom vector graphics, faders, buttons and context-sensitive controls can be placed onscreen to control mixing, routing, EQ / dynamics, timers, meters and other console-specific functions.

VisTool can even integrate controls for external programs and devices with HTML control interfaces – putting command of playout systems, codecs, webcams and Visual Radio devices on the same touchscreen as mixing controls. For instance, at Power 98 and Jia 88.3, the custom VisTool screens control the operation of the RCS playout system, provide mixing controls, and can act as a primary mixer should the desk need servicing.

Mixing and audio I/O are provided by a Lawo Nova17 central core. Nova17 is a highly flexible 512x512 digital router capable of aggregating large numbers of analog, Mic, AES3, SD and HD-SDI, and MADI signals via modular I/O cards, plus serial data and GPIO. Signal processing, gain control, a summing matrix and equalization are provided as well, making Nova17 an excellent choice for powering multiple mixing surfaces with a single compact frame.

“One big benefit So Drama! gained from this project was the cost savings realized by upgrading their existing Lawo equipment,” says Tan. “Nova17 is a very flexible engine and can easily be upgraded to current technical standards. Their original investment in Lawo technology is still helping them save, 10 years later.”

For this project, So Drama! expanded their Nova17 with additional I/O cards to handle new external sources, such as bringing phone lines into the routers, and providing external outputs to new IP codecs. They also expanded their monitoring system by combing VisTool on-screen controls and alerting with the silence detection features built into the router; the entire workflow, from studio to transmission, is now automatically monitored and controlled by the Nova17.

The So Drama! studio upgrade was performed by Lawo distributor Broadcast Communications International Ptd Ltd (BCI), who coordinated the rebuild, provided systems integration for codecs, phone systems and other third-party audio equipment, and also supplies technical support services.

“Lawo continually strives to be in the forefront of pioneering new broadcast technologies,” said Tan. “This installation brings a new and flexible workflow to radio operations in Singapore, using virtual mixing to amplify and augment the capabilities of traditional mixers.”

The So Drama! project is the first radio installation in Singapore with virtual mixing technology, and the second such installation in South East Asia. The other is Astro Radio in Malaysia—also a user of Lawo virtual mixing solutions.

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