Boston’s WGBH stations are among the most active public stations in the country in terms of producing original programming, which includes concert broadcasts of every variety, from classical to jazz to pop to heavy metal, plus public affairs programming. The WGBH mobile unit does all of this work, but only about half of the mobile’s work is connected to the WGBH stations, so the mobile has to scrape and claw for the rest of its business, just like any other commercial enterprise.
Though traditional broadcast work still makes up a large part of the mobile’s business, WGBH has also found new work in the suddenly booming world of Internet audio. Beginning this past spring, WGBH entered an arrangement with DiskJockey.com and the Casino Ballroom in Hampton, New Hampshire, to Webcast 10 concerts there. According to WGBH engineer Antonio Oliart, “So far we treat them like a regular broadcast; we haven’t really been changing anything about what we do to put it on the Web. That end has been handled by DiskJockey.com.”
The first two concerts in the series, by blues guitar phenom Kenny Wayne Shepherd and former Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart and his new band, went off without a hitch. When we spoke to Oliart a few days after the Mickey Hart Band show, he noted that Hart’s regular sound mixer, Tom Flye, also took advantage of the WGBH truck to do multitrack recording for the Hart band’s own purposes, utilizing the unit’s custom Amek Angela console, Sony PCM 800 MDMs (the truck also is equipped with Otari MTR 90-II 24-tracks and a pair of Otari 5050 2-tracks), Lexicon digital reverbs and dbx compressor/limiters. Hart’s band carries its own microphones and ancillary processing. Hart’s RAMU electronic percussion soundstation (described in Mix, December 1998) and Vince Welnick’s electronic keyboards were both DI’d; the other members of the band were miked conventionally.
Oliart notes that a Webcast typically lags more than half a minute behind the actual event, and he says that in this case there was no special provision in the truck for monitoring how the music went out on the Web; any kind of compression adjustments were made by technicians at DiskJockey.com after the signal left the truck. So far it’s an arrangement where everyone is a winner. DiskJockey.com brings increased traffic to its site, the performers get wide exposure on the Web, and WGBH keeps that mobile unit rolling.