Free app keeps remote hosts and producers connected

By Marshall Rice
Engineering Director
Hubbard Radio St. Louis

This piece was originally published in Radio World. To read it on their website, click here.

As the engineering director for Hubbard Radio St. Louis, I handle demands for five different stations. When COVID-19 hit in March, we were caught somewhat by surprise. We received very short notice that the offices would be closed, and so we had to scramble to get everything in place to enable our staff to work from home.

Comrex FieldTapWe’d already put a little bit of thought into it because we had drawn up disaster recovery plans years ago, and we could adapt them for this particular emergency. So we had some ideas, but still had to improvise somewhat.

Right away, we needed to set up 23 hosts and producers with equipment so that they could begin broadcasting from home. We were fortunate in that we already had a number of Comrex Access, Opal and BRIC-Link units. Because we had that equipment available, we were able to get people operating from home on fairly short notice.

We built kits, and because of isolation, we had to drop them off at the homes of our staff, and train them over the phone. But we didn’t have enough portable units for everybody.

For those who didn’t get Access or BRIC-Link units, we began using FieldTap immediately. FieldTap is a free mobile app for iOS and Android that allows users to connect to Comrex IP audio codecs from their mobile devices. Our people could begin using it right away — all they had to do was download it onto their phone. Many of our staff have been using FieldTap to communicate with the studio, and to go live.

We originally began using FieldTap when it first came out. In our experience, FieldTap has been very simple for our staff to use without much help from engineering. All they have to do is enter an IP address, press the “connect” button, and they’re live.

Our producers don’t only work off-air — they’re also periodically on-air as part of their shows. FieldTap lets them monitor the audio, but also jump in as part of the program if they need to. They’re getting excellent quality when using FieldTap over a cellular network.

We’re planning to continue using FieldTap with iRigs after all of our staff have returned to the office. Our staff has become addicted to it, and many of our field reporters have been surprised by how much they like using it. They’ve found it to be easy to use and reliable — even when cell service is shoddy.

Because FieldTap is free, the barrier to entry is very low. Our program directors have embraced it because the audio quality is high, and our talent has embraced it because it’s so simple. It’s really saved us during this whole crisis.