Maintaining CALM on Jerry Springer, Maury

Robert Alexander, a seasoned veteran of the broadcast industry, has been working for NBCUniversal for about the last decade.

Technically a free lancer, Alexander spends his days working at the Stamford Media Center, a wholly owned subsidiary of NBCUniversal, located in Stamford, CT. The facility recently installed a Solid State Logic C100 HDS digital broadcast console. Alexander spoke about his work on a variety of NBCUniversal programs, including "The Jerry Springer Show," "Maury," "Trisha Goddard," and "The Steve Wilkos Show."

Broadcast Engineering: How did you get in the industry?

Rob Alexander: "I graduated from The State University Of New York At Fredonia in 1981. The university had a good audio engineering department; the discipline was called the Tonemeister Studies Program. After graduation I worked at a recording studio in Queens, NY and taught at Five Towns College on Long Island for two years. I’ve been in the television industry since 1984."

BE: How long have you been working for NBCUniversal?

RA: “I started working with Maury nearly 10 years ago. The show was being shot in Manhattan at the time. As you know, NBCUniversal owns all of the shows we work on, and they decided to consolidate operations into one facility. This is our fourth season in the Stamford facility.”

BE: Please describe the audio studio set up.

RA: “We work out of a permanent truck that’s parked next to the building. The truck was a Super Shooter 8 which we bought from NET; it had been all over the place. There wasn’t enough room for a control room, so the truck was integrated into the building. A hallway connects us to the rest of the facility.”

BE: Were you involved in the decision to install the SSL C100 in your truck?

RA: “I was. I used to sub at the Food Network, and that room had a C100, so I was very familiar with the console. I also like the sound of the 8000-NEP Penn Studios had one of these consoles, and we mixed the first four years of The Maury Show at that studio. The sound of the C100 is beautiful, and the console has an excellent dynamics package that our shows put to the test.

“We go from whispering, emotional moments to heated exchanges with people screaming at the top of their lungs, sometimes very quickly. Other than opera, I can’t think of any situation that’s more challenging from a dynamics perspective. And there are rehearsals before an opera is performed before a live audience.

“We’re well aware of the CALM Act, and are mindful of the need to comply with it. We’ve installed new metering which displays LKFS, and we make sure that all of audio we distribute is within regulations.

“The SSL allowed us to dispose of a rack of dbx 160 compressors. We also have a TC Electronic Finalizer in line.

BE: What are some of the challenges that working on programming like The Jerry Springer Show, Maury, Trisha Goddard, and The Steve Wilkos Show bring?

RA: “All of these programs are fast paced. On a day when we’re taping Jerry Springer, we might 40 guests lined up across three shows. I have two assistants who work very hard miking guests. Jerry gets physical, so we have to make sure that the microphones stay on them!

“One of the challenges of doing a show with a live, boisterous audience is that the PA mix has to be kept loud, to keep the audience involved. However, the level of the board mix can’t raise to the point where it interferes with the audio in the broadcast room.

“Producers want the room loud. There are about 200 people in the audience, so we’re constantly balancing the desire to engage the live audience with the need to maintain a clean audio path in the booth. Maury’s show is the loudest, by the way. He’s like a rock star to his fans!”