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KPCC Talks Among Themselves

PASADENA, CA—In 2010, Southern California Public Radio (SCPR) network flagship member station KPCC 89.3 FM, moved into a new $25 million studio complex.

Clear-Com’s Eclipse Median intercom system facilitates easy communication between KPCC producers and studios, located on separate floors, and with remote reporters in downtown L.A. and in the field. Shown is Studio B.PASADENA, CA—In 2010, Southern California Public Radio (SCPR) network flagship member station KPCC 89.3 FM, moved into a new $25 million studio complex. The facility comprises two 15,000-square-foot floors with Russ Berger Design Group-designed control rooms. Communications within and beyond the facility was enhanced in late 2011.

A new Clear-Com Eclipse Median digital matrix intercom system now connects producers on one floor with the control rooms on another. The Clear-Com system also interconnects the studios with a smaller facility in downtown Los Angeles, and additionally allows staff in the field to communicate remotely via computer.

According to KPCC’s director of broadcasting, Doug Johnson, producers were initially worried about on-the-fly decision-making during live talk and news magazine shows. “Some of them would be working at their desks on the second floor, and the rest of the staff would be on the first floor.” But thanks to the installation of the Clear-Com system, including V-Series 12-pushbutton user panels, he says, “It’s been such a non-issue once we got going, that I’d have to consider it a big success.”

A few items of equipment were brought over from the station’s former facility, on the Pasadena City College campus, to the new all-digital complex. “We thought we might want to have one studio that had a cassette machine and a CD player and a Minidisc, but by the time we took control of the facility none of that seemed important,” Johnson reports. “We found these great global distribution panels that have a lot of connectivity on them, like a glorified patchbay, so we just put those in every room. If we need to bring in any piece of gear we can interface it into our system, and it doesn’t take up rack space.”

Axia IP-based digital consoles are used throughout the facility. While KPCC handled broadcast integration, with assistance from Minnesota Public Radio, says Johnson, “We used an IT integrator that did phones and data and much of the backbone for our Axia system, a company called Pinnacle, in Burbank. There was probably way more integration on that front than for the broadcast gear.”

SCPR also added an adjacent auditorium, the 4,000-square-foot Crawford Family Forum. During live-forum broadcasts, telephone screening is handled in the main complex rather than by the onsite audio engineer, in order to eliminate any distractions. “Using headsets, the Clear-Com system allows us to communicate back and forth and take the calls, but on a low level of awareness by the [forum] participants,” explains Johnson.

Three V-Series panels are also installed in downtown L.A., allowing communication between the Pasadena complex and its remote reporting staff. “They connect over a high-capacity T1 line. We’re able to seamlessly communicate with those people and even go on the air down there, but we don’t have to do it over the phone. We can use it as a remote studio, even though it’s about 20 miles away; it’s as though it’s right next door,” he says.

Johnson reports that the ability to page between one set of 12 connections and another—there are eight page views available—has been a valuable tool for KPCC’s staff. The system is set up with the most common connections on page one, he elaborates. “But page two might be all the mix positions, and page three might be all the host positions, and page four might be all the producer positions. So if somebody isn’t sure who they want to talk to, they can go to a page view where it’s all the producers, say. It takes all the guesswork out of it for the less technical people, which we have, as you might imagine.”

The broadcaster also bought five Clear-Com’s Concert series licenses, primarily for remote use. “Their software allows you to use a laptop as an interface to the system. We can go in the field and tap into our intercom system with a laptop on the field. It could work as a wireless system, but we’ve had best success using it wired.”

“They told us, we’ll come in and do the setup, but we guarantee you’ll want a day’s worth of help from us after you’ve used the system for a month. I’m glad we paid for that up front as part of the package.”

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