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FDA’s New Rivage Desk Rolls with COVID Times

Originally intended for producing live interview events, the FDA’s new Yamaha Rivage PM10 is still put to good use.

Chad Heupel, director of the FDA's studio, with its new Yamaha Rivage PM10 digital mixing console.
Chad Heupel, director of the FDA’s studio, with its new Yamaha Rivage PM10 digital mixing console.

Washington, D.C. (July 8, 2020)—When the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) studio recently purchased a Yamaha Rivage PM10 digital mixing console, the aim was to put it to use in producing the organization’s large-scale live and recorded programming.

“The FDA studio has always supported public meetings and presentations, usually held in a hotel ballroom using a portable field studio set-up,” said Chad Heupel said. Heupel manages the FDA’s television studio—one of the largest operated by a government organization in the Washington, D.C. area—used to create employee training courses and public service announcements. The studio also produces live and recorded programming to support various initiatives with other federal agencies in the drug and medical devices industries.

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“Since COVID hit, all our meetings have gone virtual,” he said. “We’re still doing the public webcasts, but they’re no longer in a ballroom with remote-controlled cameras and 25 panelists sitting around a U-shaped table. Now we have a dozen channels of Skype that we feed mix-minuses to and bring in independent audio signals from each source. And, where we used to set up 20 microphones in the studio, now it’s 20 different mix-minus channels and 20 different audio sources. The studio control room is still running the audio board, but instead of the images coming in on camera, they’re coming in on dedicated Skype channels.”

As a result, the Rivage desk has been assigned to new uses in a COVID-19 world. The console arrived in June, 2020, when Washington, D.C. and the rest of the world was in lockdown. Heupel and team haven’t had a chance to use the PM10 yet for traditional in-studio productions. Instead, it’s been adapted for remote and online production.

The PM10’s Dante support also contributes to the studio’s new capabilities. “This console combined with Dante gives us infinite flexibility,” he said. “With the COVID shutdown, the ability to handle 144 channels in and out on a single network cable was exactly what we needed to keep us functioning.”

The studio used a Yamaha MC7L console for years and had no issues with that board.  However, when considering future growth, expanding production requirements and elevating the FDA’s perception, Heupel and team landed on the PM10. They worked with Austin Wydrzynski of Washington Professional Systems, a Yamaha dealer, to configure the console and make sure it would be expandable for the future. Now, while not handling live sound for an in-house audience, the desk still contributes to the quality of the FDA’s productions. “Higher-quality equipment is going to give us higher-quality content,” Heupel said. “That will, in turn, add credibility to the FDA’s message. Reliability is also key. We’re often delivering critical public information, live, so any type of system failure would erode confidence in our ability to protect and monitor public health and safety. For the production workload handled by the FDA studio, the PM10 is a perfect fit in every way.”

Yamaha Professional Audio •