The Empire State Building is not only one of the most iconic buildings in the world, it’s capped by one of the most significant technological innovations in broadcasting – the Alford antenna, the master FM antenna that was erected nearly 50 years ago to serve the area’s broadcast market – the largest in the United States by audience size.
As the Audio Engineering Society recognizes this milestone with a special 50th Anniversary celebration at the Building on October 29, a rare honor will in turn be bestowed on the AES, as the building is lit in the signature AES blue and white to acknowledge the opening of the 139th International AES Convention and its remarkable members, engineers and audio experts who continue to innovate.
On Thursday, October 29, from 6:30 – 9:30 pm, the special celebration will take place in the Empire State Building’s 67th Floor conference room, jointly produced by the AES and the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE). David Bialik, chairman of the 139th AES Convention broadcast and streaming program, and Scott Fybush, Broadcast Tower aficionado and an expert on the site, will host a presentation covering the technology behind the Alford antenna and moderate a broadcast industry all-star panel of innovators, engineers and radio station personnel who serve the millions of listeners in the New York Tri-State region.
The presentations will focus on the Empire State Building's Master FM antenna from design concept with Andy Alford and Kear and Kennedy through to today's remarkable FM Empire State Buiding systems that now include 19 FM stations. “The installation of the Alford antenna in 1965 was one of the most significant milestones in broadcasting history, and we are proud to present this distinguished panel and to be honored with the lighting of the Empire State Building on October 29 in the emblematic blue and white AES colors also commemorating the start of the 139th Audio Engineering Society Convention,” said David Bialik, Broadcast and Streaming Media Track Chair.
Before the Alford antenna ringing the Empire State Building’s 102nd floor observation gallery went into service on December 9, 1965, only one station at a time could broadcast from one antenna at a time. The invention of the combined master antenna system embodied in the Alford antenna allowed multiple radio stations to broadcast from a single antenna array, saving space and cost and marking a revolution in FM broadcast technology. Today’s combining systems have improved over the last 50 years and now accomplish superior propagation of radio signals to the largest listening audience in the US.
The Alford antenna was the model for subsequent master antenna sites in Toronto, St. Louis, Houston and Minneapolis-St. Paul, and eventually even back at the Empire State Building, where a new master antenna system was commissioned in the 1980s. The original 1965 Alford antenna continues to serve as a backup and was pressed into service after 9/11 to provide emergency replacement antenna capacity for stations that were displaced from their World Trade Center sites. Today, the new Master FM antenna systems reach the most listeners anywhere in the world, and is the largest sophisticated FM combiner in the western hemisphere.
Because of space limitations, reservations to the event are required and will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets will be available for registered AES attendees on Wednesday, October 28 (3:00 – 7:00 pm), and Thursday, October 29 (8:00 am – 1:00 pm), only on-site at the Tech Tours desk at the 139th AES Convention in the Jacob Javits Center.
“The Accelerating Pace of Change in TV Audio” Forum
The ways in which people watch TV have fundamentally changed with the move toward streaming content over mobile devices – and the impacts of mobile and fixed streaming services have been greater and more far-reaching than previously predicted. At the 139th AES International Convention, the DTV Audio Group (DTVAG) will ask the question: will the pace of change continue… or accelerate?
The DTVAG AES Forum, “The Accelerating Pace of Change in Television Audio,” will be held on Friday, October 30 (1:00 – 5:00 pm), at this year’s 139th AES International Convention, October 29 – November 1, 2015, at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City. The Forum will be led by keynote speaker Tom Sahara, Vice President, Operations and Technology of Turner Sports and the Chairman of the Sports Video Group.
“This forum will bring together the top technology leaders and thinkers in broadcast audio,” said DTVAG Executive Director Roger Charlesworth. “These key people have not only helped to shape the emerging future of digital broadcast, but are also working on the issues all of us are going to be facing tomorrow – sooner rather than later.”
Other broadcast-oriented discussion topics will include the following:
- A look at the wireless spectrum roadmap in light of the FCC’s recent rule-making release around the 600 MHz incentive auction and wireless microphone use.
- An examination of what capabilities to expect from the next-generation ATSC 3.0 broadcast television audio standard.
- Microphone metadata and network control, and the potential of networked wireless and native IP microphones to streamline identification and control of multiple sources in complex mixing environments.
- Console metadata authoring: as console mixing functions become virtualized over the production WAN, best practices and standards need to keep pace with the demand for real-time exportable metadata. Where is the industry today?
- Recent advances in audio coding and real-time processing have made the application of Higher-Order Ambisonics capture and encoding techniques much more practical – but what are the implications of applying HOA techniques to real-time production?
- Recent EBU standards-making efforts around Audio Definition Modeling (ADM) technology and Broadcast Wave File (BWF) extensions encompassing ADM pave the way for standardized object metadata. With the backing of Dolby and others, is interoperable delivery of universal audio files around the corner?
- The DTV Audio Group forum at AES is produced in association with the Sports Video Group and is sponsored by Calrec, Dolby Laboratories, DTS, JBL, Lawo, Linear Acoustic and Studer.
Anyone involved in broadcast audio will want to be in tune with the broadcast and streaming audio-centric events at the 139th AES International Convention, especially the sessions that present in-depth examinations of the sound for The Americans, Nashville, and A Prairie Home Companion. The three sessions will be among the highlights of a full complement of panels and workshops at the 139th AES at the Jacob Javits Center in New York, October 29 – November 1.
“The AES Conventions consistently offer a look into the inner workings of audio production for radio and television, and this year will be no exception,” said Jim Anderson, 139th AES Convention Committee Co-Chair and recording engineer/producer and professor at New York University. “Shows like The Americans and Nashville are perfect examples of the ways that cutting-edge audio can enhance and complete the visual process of storytelling. Along with our panel featuring the production team from A Prairie Home Companion, we’ll be finding out about how all of it is done, directly from the people involved.”
“Production of A Prairie Home Companion” will take place on Friday, October 30, from 1:45 – 3:15 pm and will feature Producer/Technical Director Samuel Hudson, Broadcast/Transmission Engineer Thomas Scheuzger and Nick Kereakos, Vice President of Technology and Operations at American Public Media/Minnesota Public Radio. The panel will be moderated by John Holt.
On the 10th anniversary of A Prairie Home Companion the show opened with the words, “From the control board at the Orpheum, PHC travels via underground phone lines to the tiny Satellite Control Room on the fourth floor of Minnesota Public Radio, from there by cable to MPR’s transmitting dish in a junkyard on the East Side of Saint Paul, and from there 22,300 miles to Western Union’s Westar IV satellite…” That was written more than 30 years ago, and this seminar will present a little history and a lot about how the technology behind the show – intricate, and full of special effects – has changed and how it will continue to change in the production and distribution of the program.
During the Saturday, October 31 “The Americans – Meet the Mixers” session (11:00 am - 12:30 pm), Ken Hahn of New York’s Sync Sound, Inc. and freelance re-recording mixer/sound editor/sound designer James David Redding III will look at some of the many challenges they’ve encountered during the sound design and mixing of this gripping Cold War drama.
Now in its fourth season, the critically acclaimed drama Nashville is notable for its reliance on “live music” performances, where the stars do the singing, as key to its storyline. In the Recording and Mastering Track event “Raw Tracks 2.0 – Anatomy of: On-Set Recording Nashville – Keeping It Real,” Saturday, October 31 (3:45 – 5:15 pm), a panel of professionals including Nashville-based Mike Poole, Glenn Trew and others will reveal the intricacies required to maintain continuity and a convincing sense of reality in each music scene. Moderated by Jim Kaiser of Nashville’s Belmont University, the panel will use audio examples to spotlight the capture of the “musical performance,” the preparation to make sure all pre-production music fits the show’s requirements, and the way the music is developed and recorded to best suit the scene and all format releases including iTunes.
“The Rocket Scientist in the Recording Studio”
Yes, there actually are rocket scientists working in the audio industry, and Saul Walker is one of them. As co-founder and chief engineer of API and creator of the first 500 Series audio modules, among many other achievements, Walker has taken the audio world to greater heights. He will be the presenter at the 139th AES seminar “The Rocket Scientist In the Recording Studio,” to be held on Saturday, October 31, from 12:30 – 2:00 pm at the Jacob Javits Center in New York.
The session – open to all attendees with either FREE Exhibits-Plus or All Access badges – will be moderated by Alex Case, associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and AES Incoming President-Elect. “Everyone in the audio industry – make that everyone who listens to music – owes a huge debt to Saul Walker,” said Case. “He has shaped the sound of modern recording as much as anyone.”
At the seminar, Walker will tell the inside story behind the development of the 500 Series, which literally changed the shape of audio processors with its compact form factor, and included landmark products like the 512 Mic Preamp, the 550A EQ and the 500 Lunchbox. As if that weren’t enough, Walker is the inventor of the 2520 op amp, which paved the way for modern audio technology. His console system designs are still highly sought after even after four decades, and he has created automated film post-production consoles for major film studios worldwide (API stands for “Automated Processes, Inc.”). And yes, Walker was a high-level rocket scientist who designed digitally controlled spectrum analyzers for NASA, the US Navy, and more. Case will help navigate the conversation with the inventor, engineer and educator whose career has had such far-reaching influence, from missiles to mixers, from outer space to rack space.