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The Louisville Colorado Fire January 2022

January 12, 2022
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Below is a story written by George Emmett of what he went through and witnessed during and after the Marshall Fire.

Some of you may know that there is a radio station in Louisville in Boulder County. I wondered if the station had been impacted by the catastrophic Marshall Fire in Boulder County on December 30.  I contacted George Emmett at KLEP and he replied back with the following information

We had no significant damage that we can determine so far.  First, here is some background information.  95.3 FM KLEP-LP is a Low Power FM radio station licensed to the City of Louisville as authorized under 47 CFR Part 73, Section G.  The specific rule authorizing our Public Safety radio station is 73.853(a)(2).  The ERP of KLEP is 100 Watts Horizontal and 100 Watts Vertical.  Essentially all of Louisville is within the 60dB Contour.  

KLEP first went on air September 22, 2017, running under Automatic Program Test Authority and received its Grant of the Cover to License on October 5, 2017.  KLEP is operated by the Louisville Police Department and airs Public Safety Information 24 hours a day every day. Chief of Police Dave Hayes and myself paired up as a team to complete the Construction Permit of KLEP after the previous Police Chief retired.  The FCC Construction Permit for KLEP was applied for during the second Open Filing Window for LPFM stations in 2013 before Chief Hayes and I were involved.  We also had some gracious assistance from Cris Alexander at Crawford Broadcasting.

I am a long time SMPTE member, now a Life Member, and a former Manager of the Rocky Mountain Section, and still active in our SMPTE-SBE48 Denver area group. My wife and I have lived in Louisville for almost 35 years.

The catastrophic Marshall Fire occurred on Thursday, December 30, 2021. Amazingly KLEP sustained no known damage to the “Studio/Control Point” located in the Louisville Police Building and no known damage to the Transmitter Site in a different part of the city.  I was at the Police Building when the fire started, and eventually, we did lose power in the Police Building. Not too long after that, Chief Hayes told the three of us left in the building to evacuate from the building.  I left the building in a cloud of swirling smoke and smoke dust with fires all around the general area. On the north side of the Police Building across the street, the terrain slope increases, running all the way to the flat top of Davidson Mesa.  That slope area was built with many two and three story large houses.  The fire had not reached those houses when I evacuated from the Police Building. 

The next morning when I went to check on the condition of the building and the KLEP Studio/Control Point inside, I was stunned to see all of the houses were gone except one lonesome and lost looking house.  All had burned into a pile of ashes … many, many, many houses … all there the day before.  There was no apparent damage to the Police Building but piles of dirty smokey particles and fine dust in drift piles against the building several inches high.  The double set of lobby doors into the building at two locations were also both filled with a couple of inches of the dirty particles and dust in a similar drift pattern.  The winds were so strong and sustained that it blew that much dirty particles through the tiny spaces around the doors.  Inside the building there appeared to be a dirty fine dust on everything.

The KLEP Transmitter Site never lost power and an automatic start audio loop begin running on air when the STL transport stream was lost.  Xcel Energy restored the electrical power to the Police Building on Saturday morning according to one of our equipment logs.  All air chain equipment did come up, air audio started automatically as configured, and all readings of every piece of equipment in the air chain continue showing normal readings and remain stable.

At our house in Louisville, we never lost electrical power or had the gas service turned off.  Our neighborhood apparently is in the only area in the city that was untouched by the wildfire except for a smokey smell.  We are so grateful for no significant damage to our house of many years. We did have to evacuate on the afternoon of the fire and spent one night away from home at one of our son’s house in another part of Boulder County.

If you are outside of the limited coverage range 95.3 FM KLEP, you might take a listen to the station’s Web stream at:

http://bit.ly/953FMLouisvilleCO

KLEP has some special information on the Web stream that is different from the station air audio due to the aftermath of the Marshall Fire catastrophe.  Normally the on air and Web stream have the same audio.  Also, there are two other lower power radio stations in the Denver region that also broadcast on 95.3 FM which can get confusing for listeners as they get into a signal overlap area.

 

The Dan Good Column January 2022

January 12, 2022
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The Dan Good Column

By Daniel Hyatt, Principal
DNAV Inc, Technology Solutions
daniel@dnavinc.com

 

2022 is off to a running start and I’ve already checked five states off in my travels to solve the problems of the broadcast industry.  With more flexibility to travel and put my ears on problems in person, the common theme of improving broadcast audio is again front and center.  Podcasts, broadcasts and tik tok style recording with an iPhone all present challenges with source audio, but when the entire air-chain sounds subpar, it’s time to take an adventure through the catacombs of wiring past to solve the riddle of the earworm.

Recently, I spent a week in the presence of a dynamic engineering team and highly regarded programming team to assist in uncovering the challenge of poor audio on an FM radio station in a major market.  Much like an itch that’s just a few inches from the reach of a hand, the audio malefactor was slightly over the horizon of collective resolution.

The first stop on the audio voyage was source audio.  A rapid interrogation of the programming team and production gurus showed a consistency in loading audio tracks for all stations in the cluster.  All studio sources were consistent in their ingestion into the audio over IP system.  Voice track studios were shared by staff of the station in question and other stations that sounded great.   With no “ah-ha” moment, it was time to expand the expedition.

Working from the output of the AoIP system to the input of the STL was a curious unraveling of patches previously applied by the forefathers of the current engineering team.  Sample rate inconsistencies, coupled with patches in and out of sample rate converters, AES splitters, gain structure distortion and various watermark enhancement devices were like a 1970’s gelatin, filled with salmon, hot dogs and vegetables – nothing was right.

Like a superhero with confounding strength and the curse of insomnia, I watched the moon rise and set two times as I forthrightly removed the malignancy of audio misdeeds. My assistant best described the feat as, “we drank a lot of coffee and pulled out a ton of wires and other stuff out.”

A Nucleus audio routing engine by SAS was installed prior to the STL and stream breakout.  Within the Nucleus, a gated AGC processing chain was applied to protect output overshoot curing the gain inconsistencies.  Sample rate conversion is automatic within the box and brought a consistency to audio looped through encoders.   The Nucleus has a great encoding pre-processing element that proved to be more effective at lighting up the fancy green encoding bars than using outboard PPM enhancement devices.  There was a gained element of separation and elimination of a metallic sound thought to be caused by a PPM device that was previously in-line.  I highly recommend adding the Nucleus to your troubleshooting toolkit.

With smiles from programming and engineering, along with between one and four pats on the back, I was set to ride into the sunset, until the Program Director exclaimed “something still isn’t right!”  With a quick tune of the radio dial, I could hear something in the mid and high frequencies that was now completely wrong!

Diving into the Gates Air IP200 STL software, I verified the equipment to be passing linear audio with no dropped packets.  The wiring at the transmitter site was in good repair, yet the audio feeding into the audio processor was brittle.  The question was no longer where the problem arose, but how.

How is the IP data stream transported to the transmitter site?  If you guessed it traveled over a 3rd party wireless data provider, you win!  With a phone call to the microwave data provider, a reflash of firmware and numerous wireless network switch considerations, the audio came back to life! The packets were being stripped in the transport layer!

This story is a tale of troubleshooting steps that could greatly improve your facility.  How long has it been since a systems assessment has been done from microphone to antenna?  Are you managing your own layer 3 transport or using a third-party provider?   Is your facility using the latest in technology to perfect the audio stream?  For stations using PPM encoding, are your methods the best and up-to-date or could you be driving listeners with fatiguing ringing sounds from older enhancement technologies?

Today is a great time to allocate time to be bigger, louder and cleaner in the new year for you and your listeners.

I always welcome your email and look forward to continuing to help the broadcast, audio, visual and production industry solve problems and create solutions to propel each to another milestone of great significance.

Happy New Year.