audiofile speaks to Peter Verhoeven who is a Begian radio host/producer living in Los Angeles. He hosted his weekly live radio show ‘#PeterQSA’ out of LA for listeners in Belgium.

Can you tell me some background about yourself and how you got started in the industry?

I’ve been in radio for over 35 years now. I started off at a very small local radio station in Belgium which reached just up until the next small town community. At that point it was just playing around and learning from the many mistakes, but I still remember friends in school talking about this ‘new guy’ at the radio station they loved. Nobody knew it was me at the time because I wasn’t using my real name on-air. I loved the anonymity of it and hearing people talk about me without them knowing my real face had a real kick to it. Nowadays that’s almost impossible to do. Popular radio in times of social media needs to go with a real face in order for the brand to succeed. The whole theatre-of-the-mind idea has been pushed to the back.

You worked as a radio host in Belgium for 35 years, what made you make the decision to move to Los Angeles? This was a very brave step.

I have always been a fan of Los Angeles. As from the first trip I made with a friend of mine back in 1998 I was hooked on the climate, the people, the openness and the way of thinking in terms of possibility instead of limitations. For over 20 years I consistently kept the idea of moving here in the back of my mind, but I was repeatedly influenced by the pessimistic and panicky reactions in my immediate environment of people scared of failure. In 2013 my boss started an informal conversation with me about my love for LA. At the time I was working as a freelancer for a Belgian company as a radio host for 17 years. He offered me the chance to move to LA and do a show from out here on the condition that I would pay for it myself. That meant getting a work visa on my own, figuring out all the ins and outs of moving to a different continent and basically resetting my life as I knew it. I also had to invest in a brand new radio and TV studio and assess all the intricate details of doing a live realtime show with audio and video over a distance of 5,600 miles. Fortunately it all fell together nicely 5 years ago.

Visual Radio is becoming increasingly popular, can you tell me about your live broadcast?

For the first 3 years in LA I was doing a weekend show on Saturday and Sunday which focussed on new music, weekend vibes and life in the biggest entertainment capital of the world. I invited artists over for interviews, captured and broadcast a few mini-concerts on the roof terrace of my apartment building, had music sets from popular DJ’s and collected stories from fans and listeners from all over the world with live Skype. Thinking about doing a live video interview from LA with a fan who’s jogging in Portugal for Belgian viewers and listeners still gives me happy chills. The weekend show was very labour intensive considering I had no outside assistance. Simultaneously I was a show runner, a producer, a music scheduler, a researcher and content producer, a video and audio editor, a studio technician, a video switcher and a smiling on-air host (haha). We also did a few Oscar party specials on the night of the awards. I had 70 guests over in my apartment and made a live show around it. It was tough and mentally draining, but it was the most fun I had in years! And I’m doing it from my own studio in my LA apartment.

Since 2018 I’ve been doing a daily morning show and a Saturday night show on a sister station under the same company umbrella. The 9-hour time difference between LA and Europe makes it a 7 days on 7 working schedule and much more arduous and demanding keeping in mind I’m wearing all these job hats at the same time. So we cut back on the TV part and focus more on the radio part now, doing only special TV shows for exceptional events or on occasions like a Top 2000 for example like we did a few weeks ago.

Moving on to your radio studio what piece of equipment could you not live without and why?

That’s a tedious question and very hard to answer, because all the different pieces of equipment have their own specific purpose in the broadcast chain. If I had to choose the two most important ones for me it’s going to be the microphone and the headphones. I think for every on-air radio host these are very personal choices. The way a microphone sounds is very particular and everyone has his or her preference. The same goes for the sound of a pair of headphones. If I don’t like the way I sound through a mike or headphones I will certainly besmirch the quality of the show involuntarily. In other words I will mess it up unwillingly!

You use OmniPlayer to play music, why did you opt for this software package?

I think OmniPlayer is one of the most intuitive and no nonsense pieces of radio assist software out there. From the point of view of a radio host or on-air technician I think it is important not to be distracted by complexity and things on the computer screen that don’t need to be there. You have to be able to work quickly and detailed without compromising on possibilities or programming architecture behind the curtain and for me that’s OmniPlayer. It took the guys from OmniPlayer only 2 hours to install the software remotely on my studio PC and it hasn’t failed me since.

In relation to your video studio you selected Blackmagic Design’s ATEM 2 M/E Production Studio 4K camera switcher. I have to say this was a superb choice, this means that you can switch to Ultra HD at any time.

Yes, but that means I have to invest in a few new Ultra HD cameras as well and since I’m financing everything myself that could take a while (laughs). When I started the show in LA back in 2014 I decided to go with the most economically interesting and most common format at the time for TV broadcast in Europe which was still HD1080i. So all the 7 cameras I use now are still in an HD format. They are being switched automatically or manually by a bunch of JustMacros scripts that act as a remote for the ATEM. In 5 years time the technology has evolved exponentially and it is getting harder to stay future proof on a tight budget. But I’m very happy my modus operandi still holds perfectly.”

How did you manage to get the audio and video signal in real time to Belgium so that it was good enough quality to broadcast?

In this digital age of people listening online or in Europe on DAB+ I believe it’s very important for a listener not to hear any difference between a locally produced show in Belgium or my remote broadcast coming from LA. Since a radio signal is being squashed by several compressed and digitized ‘hammers’ in the audio signal chain before it reaches someone’s ears it’s important that the source audio is as pure as possible. That is why for my show I prefer to send full WAV audio in 24 bit over the internet using a full duplex audio codec without any quality loss. So what arrives in the studio in Belgium is basically of the same quality than what my colleagues use as source audio. I can take over the signal flow from LA to Belgium remotely. It means that no one has to be physically present in the studio in Belgium while I’m doing my show live. I’m taking over the mixing board in Belgium from my colleague before me from out here and give control of the board back to them when I’m done with my show. Nobody has to press any button. I’m doing it all from here remotely. For the video I use a WMT SL-25 from Mobile Viewpoint, a rackmount encoder to send broadcast quality full HD footage over ethernet. The SL-25 is being fed over HD-SDI by the ATEM Production 4K camera switcher. And we use plain broadband internet for everything.”

So what are your future plans?

Where can I buy a crystal ball please (laughs)? At the time I didn’t realise this, but a journalist once told me that there’s nobody else in the entire world that does what I do using those limited resources and on top of that doing it all by himself. That shocked me a little bit. But I was flattered at the same time. Up until that point I didn’t believe I was doing something special here in LA. I was just having fun with my job. But now I’m still having the time of my life doing what I do, pushing some boundaries and proving the non-believers wrong, creating a dream with my bear hands and having some joy along the way. I would love to go on for a few years in Los Angeles. I love it here, covering new trends, sharing people’s stories and discovering new music and along the way inspire peers and a whole other generation who have new technology at their disposal to do the same. I believe radio needs to reinvent itself. It has to have the audacity to take risks. It has a whole new future up ahead, maybe in a brand-new form and through different advanced mediums, but we need to embrace it and as radio producers force ourselves to keep it interesting.

Can you tell me some background about yourself and how you got started in the industry?

I’ve been in radio for over 35 years now. I started off at a very small local radio station in Belgium which reached just up until the next small town community. At that point it was just playing around and learning from the many mistakes, but I still remember friends in school talking about this ‘new guy’ at the radio station they loved. Nobody knew it was me at the time because I wasn’t using my real name on-air. I loved the anonymity of it and hearing people talk about me without them knowing my real face had a real kick to it. Nowadays that’s almost impossible to do. Popular radio in times of social media needs to go with a real face in order for the brand to succeed. The whole theatre-of-the-mind idea has been pushed to the back.

You worked as a radio host in Belgium for 35 years, what made you make the decision to move to Los Angeles? This was a very brave step.

I have always been a fan of Los Angeles. As from the first trip I made with a friend of mine back in 1998 I was hooked on the climate, the people, the openness and the way of thinking in terms of possibility instead of limitations. For over 20 years I consistently kept the idea of moving here in the back of my mind, but I was repeatedly influenced by the pessimistic and panicky reactions in my immediate environment of people scared of failure. In 2013 my boss started an informal conversation with me about my love for LA. At the time I was working as a freelancer for a Belgian company as a radio host for 17 years. He offered me the chance to move to LA and do a show from out here on the condition that I would pay for it myself. That meant getting a work visa on my own, figuring out all the ins and outs of moving to a different continent and basically resetting my life as I knew it. I also had to invest in a brand new radio and TV studio and assess all the intricate details of doing a live realtime show with audio and video over a distance of 5,600 miles. Fortunately it all fell together nicely 5 years ago.

Visual Radio is becoming increasingly popular, can you tell me about your live broadcast?

For the first 3 years in LA I was doing a weekend show on Saturday and Sunday which focussed on new music, weekend vibes and life in the biggest entertainment capital of the world. I invited artists over for interviews, captured and broadcast a few mini-concerts on the roof terrace of my apartment building, had music sets from popular DJ’s and collected stories from fans and listeners from all over the world with live Skype. Thinking about doing a live video interview from LA with a fan who’s jogging in Portugal for Belgian viewers and listeners still gives me happy chills. The weekend show was very labour intensive considering I had no outside assistance. Simultaneously I was a show runner, a producer, a music scheduler, a researcher and content producer, a video and audio editor, a studio technician, a video switcher and a smiling on-air host (haha). We also did a few Oscar party specials on the night of the awards. I had 70 guests over in my apartment and made a live show around it. It was tough and mentally draining, but it was the most fun I had in years! And I’m doing it from my own studio in my LA apartment.

Since 2018 I’ve been doing a daily morning show and a Saturday night show on a sister station under the same company umbrella. The 9-hour time difference between LA and Europe makes it a 7 days on 7 working schedule and much more arduous and demanding keeping in mind I’m wearing all these job hats at the same time. So we cut back on the TV part and focus more on the radio part now, doing only special TV shows for exceptional events or on occasions like a Top 2000 for example like we did a few weeks ago.

Moving on to your radio studio what piece of equipment could you not live without and why?

That’s a tedious question and very hard to answer, because all the different pieces of equipment have their own specific purpose in the broadcast chain. If I had to choose the two most important ones for me it’s going to be the microphone and the headphones. I think for every on-air radio host these are very personal choices. The way a microphone sounds is very particular and everyone has his or her preference. The same goes for the sound of a pair of headphones. If I don’t like the way I sound through a mike or headphones I will certainly besmirch the quality of the show involuntarily. In other words I will mess it up unwillingly!

You use OmniPlayer to play music, why did you opt for this software package?

I think OmniPlayer is one of the most intuitive and no nonsense pieces of radio assist software out there. From the point of view of a radio host or on-air technician I think it is important not to be distracted by complexity and things on the computer screen that don’t need to be there. You have to be able to work quickly and detailed without compromising on possibilities or programming architecture behind the curtain and for me that’s OmniPlayer. It took the guys from OmniPlayer only 2 hours to install the software remotely on my studio PC and it hasn’t failed me since.

In relation to your video studio you selected Blackmagic Design’s ATEM 2 M/E Production Studio 4K camera switcher. I have to say this was a superb choice, this means that you can switch to Ultra HD at any time.

Yes, but that means I have to invest in a few new Ultra HD cameras as well and since I’m financing everything myself that could take a while (laughs). When I started the show in LA back in 2014 I decided to go with the most economically interesting and most common format at the time for TV broadcast in Europe which was still HD1080i. So all the 7 cameras I use now are still in an HD format. They are being switched automatically or manually by a bunch of JustMacros scripts that act as a remote for the ATEM. In 5 years time the technology has evolved exponentially and it is getting harder to stay future proof on a tight budget. But I’m very happy my modus operandi still holds perfectly.”

How did you manage to get the audio and video signal in real time to Belgium so that it was good enough quality to broadcast?

In this digital age of people listening online or in Europe on DAB+ I believe it’s very important for a listener not to hear any difference between a locally produced show in Belgium or my remote broadcast coming from LA. Since a radio signal is being squashed by several compressed and digitized ‘hammers’ in the audio signal chain before it reaches someone’s ears it’s important that the source audio is as pure as possible. That is why for my show I prefer to send full WAV audio in 24 bit over the internet using a full duplex audio codec without any quality loss. So what arrives in the studio in Belgium is basically of the same quality than what my colleagues use as source audio. I can take over the signal flow from LA to Belgium remotely. It means that no one has to be physically present in the studio in Belgium while I’m doing my show live. I’m taking over the mixing board in Belgium from my colleague before me from out here and give control of the board back to them when I’m done with my show. Nobody has to press any button. I’m doing it all from here remotely. For the video I use a WMT SL-25 from Mobile Viewpoint, a rackmount encoder to send broadcast quality full HD footage over ethernet. The SL-25 is being fed over HD-SDI by the ATEM Production 4K camera switcher. And we use plain broadband internet for everything.”

So what are your future plans?

Where can I buy a crystal ball please (laughs)? At the time I didn’t realise this, but a journalist once told me that there’s nobody else in the entire world that does what I do using those limited resources and on top of that doing it all by himself. That shocked me a little bit. But I was flattered at the same time. Up until that point I didn’t believe I was doing something special here in LA. I was just having fun with my job. But now I’m still having the time of my life doing what I do, pushing some boundaries and proving the non-believers wrong, creating a dream with my bear hands and having some joy along the way. I would love to go on for a few years in Los Angeles. I love it here, covering new trends, sharing people’s stories and discovering new music and along the way inspire peers and a whole other generation who have new technology at their disposal to do the same. I believe radio needs to reinvent itself. It has to have the audacity to take risks. It has a whole new future up ahead, maybe in a brand-new form and through different advanced mediums, but we need to embrace it and as radio producers force ourselves to keep it interesting.