Remotes and the Internet
Scope: There are numerous Codec devices on the market. This paper will deal with the Comrex Access, Portable Access, Bric, Luci Live Lite, Luci Live, Skype, Barix 500 and Barix Instreamer 100.
Comrex: Access Rack, Portable and Bric. The Comrex family of Codecs are the best products on the market for establishing a remote connection or an STL. We have numerous Access Rack $2,500.00, Bric $1,500.00 and Portable Access $3,500.00 in operation daily. I like the Access Rack because it has the light meters to show what is happening at all times. I like to see that I am receiving audio and on what channel as well as sending audio by just glancing at the unit. The Bric operates mostly the same except with less visual metering. The Access Rack is best for the studio and the Bric is best for the Transmitter site. Bric to Bric is the most cost effective for STL use. I like the Access Rack for the studio to connect to other Access Racks, Brics, Luci Live and Lite. Both the Access Rack and the Bric have excellent software to monitor the connection. The Portable Access has some limitations in monitoring to conserve resources. The Portable Access does present some challenges in connecting from public areas such as hotels. Frequently it is necessary to get the hotel IT person involved and sometimes that can be a problem during weekends. The Portable Access is definately a great product and
occasionally I think it is too good. Luci Lite and Luci Live are generally easier to connect from a hotel. One of the principle differences between the Comrex products and Luci products are that Comrex is a stand alone unit, while the Luci products require a computer for their software. The Comrex products have a great deal of built in corrective components for the software to deal with finicky Internet connections. For the far end of the Remote I always suggest the Comrex Portable Access if it’s available and you can negotiate a connection.
A new preferred app is available for free on Android and iTunes that has been tested to work with Comrex codecs. This app, LinPhone, uses the Opus audio algorithm; a newer, high quality, low delay choice which has been included in Comrex codecs starting with firmware 3.0. LinPhone is a good choice because it doesn’t require registration and can dial directly to the IP address of your codec. It’s also very easy to set up and use. See our Technote on LinPhone for details on how to set it up for Comrex compatibility.
Luci Live Lite ($35.00 US), is only mono G.722, but is bi-directional. It uses very few resources, so it’s good for remotes. The audio quality is just like ISDN and perfect for remotes. You can load it right now to your computer or your phone, Yes, it works on IPhone and Android as well as PC’s. You can actually go live now with one keystroke. Remember, as with any internet connection you are always at the mercy of your local connection. If you are using your phone try to get your phone on WIFI at least. Yes, the old hard wire connection was more reliable as was the ISDN connection but, using Luci is “instantly” available just about anywhere. I strongly recommend going to the remote location in advance and be sure there is a good connection available. I use an AT&T Mobile Hotspot that generally works very well for both the Phone and PC Connection. If you need stereo you will need to purchase the Lici Live for about $400.00. This product gives you numerous algorithms and a recorder so you can record an interview, then send it to the studio.
Skype: Works generally the same way as Luci Lite. With Skype you have less control of the connection. I find Luci Lite is generally better for remotes. Since Microsoft purchased Skype it has become much better. Skype requires a computer just as Luci. The same goes for this product I strongly suggest a dedicated computer for reliable service.
Barix 500: The Barix 500 is another cost effective way to do a remote and perfect for an STL. This is a standalone unit with XLR cable for in and outputs, perfect for Broadcasting. The Barix 500 wants to connect to another Barix 500. You can set them to push or pull. I set up my studio 500 with a static IP, then the remote unit to pull from the studio 500. The total package cost less than $1,000.00 for both units. The beauty of this setup is there is no separate computer required, however if the Barix 500 fails you are out of luck unless you have a spare. As we say in our business, “if it can happen, it will happen”, and like the Boy Scouts say, “always be prepared”.
STL: Here is another must for an STL. You should always have at least two internet connections at each end with an automatic fallover.
Remotes: Here again, if your remote is a high stakes event where there is a considerable about of money at risk, a backup internet connection is a must as well.
Case in point: One of our clients was doing a fundraising event for a week. They did it from the Knights of Columbus Hall using Bric to Bric. They used the existing internet connection that was shared with other people in the building. Several times during the 5 day event the system went down. Once, because someone in the building was downloading a movie and other times because the connection was also shared with a WIFI router. With numerous people using the WIFI the pipe became overloaded.
Bottom LIne: They raised $225,000 during the 5 day event. You would think they would have spent $125.00 for a dedicated Comcast 50/10 connection?
Today's’ technology is a dream come true for us older engineers (I’m 74). The improvements do come with a set of rules that must be followed. You MUST have a good solid internet connection prior to the broadcast or your are treading on thin ice. Always check out the internet connection at the same time and day you are planning your remote, or perhaps the week prior. Internet connections are time and day sensitive. Just because it works fine at 9 AM on Monday does not mean it will work well Friday at 4 PM.