AES Section Meeting Reports

Chicago - October 28, 2014

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The October 28, 2014, meeting of the Chicago AES Section was held at CBS Radio's Chicago location at 2 Prudential Plaza. A total of thirty nine members and non-members were able make it downtown to learn about CBS Radio's new Blue Cross Blue Shield Performance Stage and receive a tour of the four floors that hold their seven stations.

The meeting started in the performance studio with Sam Cappas, our host, introducing two of the eleven members of his staff and then giving an overview of his role and responsibilities. Sam has been at CBS for 27 years and currently manages the technical operations for CBS Radio in Chicago, New York, Cleveland, Tampa, and Orlando. In his role, he is responsible for all technical aspects from microphone to transmitter, studio and facility designs for the radio stations, and the implementation of HD radio technologies across the country.

Sam's original idea and concept of building a performance stage was based on '...wanting to offer artists a better space to visit and perform at the station." The goals for creating a performance space for artists included wanting artists to feel like they were in a small venue, creating a space for an intimate experience, enhancing the listener experience (by offering live and/or recorded sessions), and ultimately creating revenue by giving listeners content from the sessions.

Notes from his presentation include:
•The design of the performance stage and room has evolved over the past year by adding four fixed robotic cameras and one shoulder mount camera, LED lighting strips, acoustic wall panels, and updated recording equipment (currently have up to 32 recording tracks that are connected to Pro Tools)
•Over 140 performances on the performance stage have occurred within the past year;
•They typically have agreements with the performers to stream all the recorded audio and video on the web for 24 hours after the artists perform.
•They often have to ask the musicians to turn down their levels to hear the vocals on the stage;
•All of their microphones are wired and some musicians will bring their own PSMs;
•Artists typically expect to see a crammed studio and are very surprised when they first see the size of the performance stage and space;
•As great as the space is... loading in and out of a sky-scraper office building is 'not easy'

CBS Radio, Chicago, has seven stations at their location: WBBM-AM (780), WBBM-FM B96 - Top 40 (96.3), WCFS-FM - News (105.9), WJMK-FM K-Hits - Classic Hits (104.3), WSCR-AM the Score - Sports (670), WUSN-FM US99 - Country (99.5), and WXRT-FM XRT - Adult Alternative (93.1).

Sam and his staff divided the group in half for a tour of the radio stations. Each of three floors hold two stations and a fourth floor contains the seventh station — The Score (670). Each station has two fully equipped studios to provide redundancy in case of unexpected technical issues or to swap for scheduled maintenance. Several of the on-air staff were able to explain their roles and showed the groups how they used the equipment and the systems. Sam explained how he had been a part the equipment upgrades and transitions from using record players and tube amplifiers to today's solid state amplifiers, computers, and servers. An equally impressive part of the tour was when he showed the group the 'walls of gear' that included primary and redundant servers.

The Chicago AES Section would like to extend a special thank you to Sam Cappas for providing such a great overview of his role, the performance stage, and each of stations at CBS Radio.

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AES - Audio Engineering Society