COVID-19 has changed daily life for everyone, especially those of us in the workforce. And while many jobs in today’s economy are relatively easy to do remotely, thanks to advanced technology, others are more challenging – including broadcasting.
In late February, station staff began working with our engineering and information technology teams to better facilitate employees working from home, as part of a tiered response plan to the coronavirus. The swift progression of the situation in mid-March though still left us scrambling to figure out how to run a radio station almost entirely remotely.
Production and Operations Manager Don Weaver worked long hours in the studio to adapt our software to allow remote broadcast capability, and after several weeks of stressful days and some hiccups, we’ve worked out new ways of connecting our home studios to the radio station, and the radio station to you.
A word on those home studios for a moment. One of the things that makes our new broadcast center such a great place to work is the care and attention that went into acoustics. That means both sound isolation, or blocking out unwanted sounds. This walls, thick acoustic glass, and sound rated doors all help to block out outside sounds from our studio broadcasts. There’s also the related issue of acoustic treatments, or techniques and materials that help determine how the desired sounds in a studio are captured by the microphone. In our case usually means trying to reduce unwanted reverberations or “echo” which can make a recording or a live broadcast sound “hollow.” For those of you who have been in our studios, you may have noticed that none of the walls meet at 90 degree angles. From a plan view, all of the studios are shaped like polygons. This is not for aesthetics – it’s for acoustics. Odd angles allow sounds to bounce off a wall and away from microphones, not right back to them, which causes that “hollow” sound.
Of course, all of this is quite literally out the window when it comes to broadcasting at home. Our homes aren’t designed with double-thickness walls, 1000 lb steel doors that block out unwanted sounds, from lawnmowers to antsy toddlers. Likewise, our home studios are usually in homes with rooms with LOTS of right angles, again making it difficult to achieve broadcast-quality sound in the home setting. On top of that, when broadcasting at home, we don’t have access to the state-of-the-art microphones that we normally use in our studios. All of this combines to make “radio from home” a challenging proposition. Some of our staff have tried using blankets, pillows, and other soft materials to dampen especially challenging rooms, others have even resorted to recording segments inside their closets – all the get the best possible sound.
We all eagerly await the return to our normal offices and broadcast studios. Unfortunately we don’t know when that will be, but until then, rest assured that we are working hard to bring you the best possible programming, despite all these challenges. Just don’t be surprised if you hear an unexpected barking dog or garbage truck rolling down the street while you’re listening to your favorite program.