RTBF fills state-of-the-art radio studio with Lawo Crystal, VisTool
With the development of its FlexiProd project, the Belgian RTBF is preparing for the future of radio. Described as “an evolution towards digital hybrid smart radio” by RTBF general manager Francis Goffin, the project places 25 Lawo crystal mixing consoles at its heart.
The program includes the construction of eight broadcast studios and 14 production/editing rooms, as well as the construction of two OB vehicles. It also requires a complete reorganization and updating of the broadcaster’s work process, with studios, control rooms and staff to be ready by September 2015.
“Flexible production is what FlexiProd represents”, explains Laurent Finet, director of radio production and digital innovation at RTBF. He plans to eliminate the separate roles of presenter, production and technical exploitation: “Ideally, everyone should be able to present a radio show,” he says.
“As a state broadcaster, we face major challenges when it comes to the evolution of radio, – visual radio, social media, streaming and podcasting. We need to reorganize to enable our employees to think and work differently, and also adapt the tools accordingly.
“The radio department described the functional project, we wrote the calls for tenders, tested and purchased various consoles or peripherals, and designed the studio furniture”, explains Hélène Ronveaux, head of the Radio and Television Audio Equipment team at the Directorate General for Technologies and RTBF. Operations, which oversees the project. “We also took care of the supplier contacts, established the plans and configured the equipment.
Where a traditional radio studio setup may be beyond an untrained user, RTBF aims to use automation and user-friendliness to enable operation by non-technical personnel. After testing consoles from different manufacturers, RTBF opted for Lawo’s crystal.
Based in Lint, Belgium, LDM Audiovisual Systems serves commercial audio and video operators, distributing Lawo, LSB and DirectOut Technologies. In collaboration with its partner Studiotech, LDM provided the mixers that met the rigorous requirements of the RTBF in terms of durability. With Ravenna/AES67 and VisTool touchscreen PC software, Lawo’s Crystal offers audio over IP solutions as well as state-of-the-art visualization. The console offers high-end features while remaining extremely cost effective.
“We developed a new concept with RTBF, which built a completely new user interface into our software,” says Dirk Sykora, Technical Director at LDM. “We were asked to create a sort of virtual console – usable on a touch screen but offering the same functionalities. We proposed a solution based on Crystal hardware but designed for touch screen operation. »
RTBF opted for the best of both worlds, equipping each studio with a 4-fader Lawo crystal console and VisTool operation which offers 16 sources via a touch screen. “And there’s the Automix feature, which lets you control live studio interviews or panel discussions from the touchscreen. Automix adjusts the level of active and inactive mics and manages mic mixing so the presenter doesn’t have to worry about overloading or attenuation,” says Sykora.
RTBF engineers have fine-tuned the Lawo consoles according to the needs of each studio. Being a Netia user for 15 years, this included installing the Netia RadioAssist 8 software suite (with Air-DDO) as the radio automation system. In addition, each of the Crystal consoles and Lawo displays can be used and accessed remotely, eliminating on-site operating costs.
According to Finet, FlexiProd is the gateway to smart radio. “Smart radio brings the best possible signal to the listener,” he says. “Tomorrow’s radio will be produced by professionals who excel in their craft and go beyond radio.