British Forces Broadcasting Service Upgrades with Multiple Studer OnAir 1500 Audio Consoles

The Services Sound and Vision Corporation (SSVC), which provides entertainment, information and welfare to Britain’s Armed Forces around the world, maintains a global chain of smaller British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) radio stations.

For its new studios, SSVC was looking for a compact and fully featured audio mixing platform for its chain of BFBS stations. After much testing, SSVC selected seven Studer OnAir 1500 hybrid broadcast and production consoles from Harman. The console features a 12-channel/12-fader control surface and will be installed at SSVC locations in the UK, followed by Germany and Gibraltar.

At the heart of the BFBS Radio operation are three core music and speech radio networks heard in over 23 countries worldwide via 70 FM transmitters, via satellite reception and Internet streaming. These are supplemented by a network of local BFBS stations in eight overseas locations and a further ten community radio stations on UK military bases, where many of the OnAir 1500s are destined.

The Corporation’s TV and Radio services are multiplexed and uplinked from Chalfont to four DVB-S2 satellites covering 16 time zones, that are either received direct or rebroadcast through TV and radio distribution technology.

Quentin Howard, SSCV Director of Television & Technology, a former commercial radio CTO and DAB executive, said his goal for BFBS was to create a cutting edge broadcast infrastructure by moving to IP based production platforms. Having arrived at SSVC four years ago, Howard and his executive team—including broadcast engineers Jonathan Blacknell and Martin Bowd, and regional general manager Nick Beer—were granted a contract to deliver the armed forces radio and TV services.

“The capex enabled us to refresh the studios as our radio facilities were way behind the curve,” he said. “We now have a leading global network of digital studios and can broadcast from anywhere to anywhere, responding to fast-changing military and civil situations by making use of the latest desk-top and field production tools.”

The IP route was Howard’s preferred option, due to the flexibi9lity of the technology and its ability to connect all of the different locations easily over the Internet. 

The Studer OnAir 1500 console offers a small footprint, variety of features, flexibility and everything plugs in with a single RJ45 connector.

The Studer OnAir 1500 console offers a small footprint, variety of features, flexibility and everything plugs in with a single RJ45 connector.

“Up to now, we’ve relied on ISDN links and fixed X-21 circuits which are getting harder to support as ISDN is withdrawn,” he said. “AOIP was the obvious answer and by creating what is effectively a big AOIP cloud around the world, accessible at each location, we have the ultimate in flexibility and have achieved what we set out to do.”

Howard said they liked the design of the Studer OnAir 1500 console, with its small footprint, variety of features, flexibility and durability. “And everything plugs in with a single RJ45 [connector],” he said.

Complete with Studer NANO SCore digital signal processing, the On Air 1500 consoles provide flexible capacity for analogue and AES audio ins and outs, and a generous number of GPIOs. Another key factor was Studer’s compatibility with SSVC’s extensive Livewire AOIP core.

The first six Studer consoles have been deployed on military bases at two studios in Shorncliffe (Folkestone) for BFBS Gurkha Radio, two in Germany and two in Gibraltar. Howard expects the initial order of seven consoles to increase to 12-15 over the next year or so as they complete their worldwide studio refurbishment initiative. Also, by ordering the same console for all SSVC locations, Howard and his team can ensure that veteran employees and new hires won't have to relearn the desk.

The consoles are linked together in pairs for simple I/O sharing via Studer RELINK, and are easily switchable from studio to air without the need for a central switching matrix.

The Studer console is also popular with SSVC’s on-air talent, who like its sleek profile and ergonomics. The technical team also appreciates the console’s ability to store desk snapshots, making recalling a configuration better suited to a voice tracking session very easy. Also important in the console’s ability to lock down features like EQ or channel compression, which, Howard said, can get in the way, “especially in the hands of less experienced presenters.”

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