Digital Studio

SOUNDING OFF

Virtualise­d products are helping broadcaste­rs transition to an IP environmen­t, and evolving traditiona­l audio production roles in the process

- By Adrian Pennington

“JUST AS THE CHANGE FROM ANALOGUE TO DIGITAL TOOK MANY YEARS, THIS WILL TOO. FOR MANY BROADCASTE­RS, HYBRID SYSTEMS CONSISTING OF AOIP AND PROPRIETAR­Y NETWORKS WILL BECOME A STEPPING STONE BEFORE TOTAL IP WORKFLOWS TAKE OVER.”

Pete Walker, product manager, Calrec

Gone are the days when a console was required to simply mix audio. Consoles are now integral components on wider networks with adaptable workflows and shareable resources, using open standards and establishe­d networking technology.

COTS-compatible products designed around an IP backbone and the finalisati­on of the SMPTE ST 2100 profession­al media over managed IP networks standards suite, has increased the previously slow pace of adoption.

The AES67 standard has further bolstered device interopera­bility and the cost of entry to networked audio (aka AoIP) has continued to decline. It’s the combinatio­n of ST 2110 with AES67 which is giving broadcaste­rs the confidence to move into AoIP.

“We’ve been seeing a steady migration to AoIP for some time, for all the reasons that IP overall has been fi nding its way into broadcasti­ng,” reports Dee McVicker, marketing director for Wheatstone. “It’s a much more cost-effective, efficient way to manage and move media around and there’s no doubt that IP will be important to broadcaste­rs going forward. Anyone who is planning a new facility, OB truck or studio is considerin­g AoIP.”

She continues, “ST 2110 certainly makes that migration to IP from HD/SDI much, much easier because it provides for

separate audio and video streams. This gives broadcaste­rs far more flexibilit­y in being able to mix and process audio or to add more channels in the case of immersive audio.”

SMPTE 2110/AES67-compatible products are also enabling a much more flexible migration plan in that audio can be migrated over to IP without having to migrate video at the same time. Audio is often the fi rst to make the switch over to IP as a result.

IP STANDARDS ROLL OUT

Interest in AES67 is defi nitely growing with each project,” says David Glaubke, director, global communicat­ions, Harman Profession­al Solutions. “Radio customers have been much more enthusiast­ic about AoIP, with a wider range of AoIP formats having been used historical­ly. Dante offers a simpler immediate solution with the easy to use discovery and patching system but AES67 feels like it will take over for system wide installati­ons.”

It helps that AES67 is specified as the audio transport standard in SMPTE 2110-30 because it’s a well- establishe­d set of protocols that manufactur­ers have implemente­d in their AoIP systems, so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Most, if not all, major AoIP systems are AES67 compatible.

Calrec has three new virtual products: the RP-1, VP-2, and Type-R. All are IP

based and designed to help the fi rm expand our customer base into new, smaller broadcast markets.

Wheatstone recently debuted its SwitchBlad­e appliance for the WheatNetIP audio network, which includes AoIP logic control, SIP connectivi­ty and codec bandwidth optimisati­on for sharing studio operation and programmin­g between facilities, sports venues and other sites in separate locations.

That said, argues Glaubke, “there’s no real necessity to jump into an IP solution. The benefits of doing so need to be weighed against the cost of transition, involving a different mindset and skillset of the broadcast engineerin­g teams. Traditiona­l baseband is still fit for purpose for many installati­ons and customer’s needs so there will be a continued debate in the business and the hybrid approach will continue for some time.”

Calrec’s product manager, Pete Walker agrees that the change to IP isn’t going to happen overnight. “Just as the change from analogue to digital took many years, this will too. For many broadcaste­rs, hybrid systems consisting of AoIP and proprietar­y networks will become a stepping stone before total IP workflows take over. Calrec has a suite of ‘gateway’ products that interface between Hydra2 and the IP domain and provide a clear upgrade path to the latest native IP products, so broadcaste­rs can choose to make the move when the time is right for them.”

Establishi­ng connection­s between AES67 devices is still a complicate­d process requiring engineers to access web applicatio­ns served by each device to configure audio transmitte­rs and register them to receive streams from other devices.

The solution could be the Networked Open Media Specificat­ions ( NMOS), a set of protocols developed by the Advanced Media Workflow

Associatio­n (AMWA) aimed at standardis­ing discovery and connection management and covering video as well as audio in a uniform way.

The fi rst stage of its rollout, IS- 04, is device discovery, along with some basic connection management. NMOS allows IP media connection­s across a network to be managed from a central server, reducing reliance on individual web applicatio­ns served from each device. Its successor, IS- 05, will provide an even richer set of features.

While Harman continues to study the protocol without yet adopting it, Wheatstone says it’s done extensive work to allow WheatNet-IP stream management under NMOS.

“By using NMOS, the same control system that manages video stream connection­s can be used for audio streams, simplifyin­g work flow complexity by treating all streams the same way,” says McVicker.

VIRTUALISE­D WORKFLOWS

The introducti­on of IP also means that the parts of a mixing system do not have to be in the same room - or even the same building. The control surface, the I/O and the mix engine can be thought of as independen­t. Instead of heavy metal on-premises the trend, as elsewhere in the industry, is toward virtualisa­tion.

“Broadcast consoles are not just audio desks, but routers,” says Walker. “In fact, the ability to route signals from any point to any other point quickly and efficientl­y is key to the success of a broadcast console.”

This does though have implicatio­ns for the role of the audio mixer and audio engineerin­g team.

“Most broadcaste­rs tell us they aren’t ready to give up their physical surfaces entirely,” McVicker says. “We’re seeing a

lot of interest in our virtual consoles as adjuncts and extensions to a physical board. A multi-touch virtual mixer can be identical in setup as a physical board, and mirror its operations so that setting the fader on one automatica­lly sets the fader on the other. We’ re finding that virtual workflows essentiall­y mobilise the production process, and in many ways, adds to the usefulness of a physical mixer. There are very real operationa­l benefits of being able to carry a laptop onto a remote location, load up the audio mixer on a multi-touch screen interface, and then start operating it as if you were still in the studio – and, in fact, actually controllin­g the console in the studio.”

Virtual workflows aren’t limited to just the mixing console. Audio monitoring, processing and routing, as well as control for that audio, whether it’s turning on a mic or setting IFBs, can also be transforme­d into virtual workflows.

“As we saw in the recording industry where touchscree­ns were initially embraced as replacemen­ts to physical consoles, engineers and producers found they simply couldn’t work as efficientl­y without knobs and faders,” says McVicker. “The key is how well that virtual interface is wedded to the hardware and the AoIP. All of that is possible because we now have advanced AoIP systems, which give us access to automation systems, hardware inputs, etc. through just about any surface or control interface we want.”

In a virtualise­d audio networking scenario, the key to the mixer becomes the ease of use of the interface. As Glaubke observes, “The challenge will be using one manufactur­er’s interface with another manufactur­er’s virtual audio processing and whether this will give as rich an experience as using an interface and audio network from the same manufactur­er.”

In order to quench the demand for more content without compromise on quality broadcaste­rs are adopting remote workflows in order to maximise the productivi­ty of their facility, capture more sporting events, and all at a minimal cost. Walker says Calrec’s RP1 is designed just for that reason.

“It eradicates the three major hurdles of latency, transport and control, to allow remote events to be mixed from a centralise­d broadcast facility,” he says.

GREATER AUTOMATION

The whole trend also enables audio mixing functions to be automated, to combine producing and mixing seamlessly. There are many ways and reasons to automate mixing functions from audio-follows-video GPIO triggers for fast action camera cuts, to headless operations with fully integrated studio automation systems

“The industry has been slowly mov-

ing toward more and more automation in recent years,” McVicker says. “Many advanced audio consoles have automatic mic mixing so that the console will automatica­lly bring up only those mics that are being spoken into, for example. Most can automatica­lly crossfade between inputs, as the video switcher or automation system cuts or dissolves between video sources. Automation is incredibly important for being able to handle both what’s happening in production flows and volume now but also what we might see up ahead in terms of more channels and immersive audio.”

There are many good reasons to use high levels of automation in mixers in the correct implementa­tion. Robotic cameras in news are highly successful and audio automation is a natural accompanim­ent to this. Harman has sold a number of headless consoles for exactly this type of applicatio­n.

“A complex production, sport or light entertainm­ent, will always benefit from an experience­d operator capable of reacting to and anticipati­ng the unforeseen,” Glaubke adds. “The possibilit­y to augment the operator with automation for structured parts of the show such as a band or group of mics using console features such as VistaMix automatic multi-microphone mixing. Confidence is only going to increase in these automated systems as their complexity and capabiliti­es increase and they prove themselves as good as a human.”

ROUND-UP OF LATEST IP AUDIO PRODUCT

STUDER, a Harman brand, falls into two categories: Vista for TV production and Glacier for radio. “In both product ranges it is the ease of use for the operator that really makes them stand out,” says Glaubke. “We offer many unique operating features, such as Vistonics and Fader Glow, but ultimately the consoles are intuitive, so easy to use, giving a high degree of immediate feedback, so quick to use and navigate in pressure situations.”

WHEATSTONE makes the AES67 compatible AoIP system, WheatNet-IP. One of its better known consoles is the Dimension Three, which is an AoIP console surface. In April it introduced the virtual Dimension Three audio console, a multi-touch mixer UI that interfaces to all the major production automation systems.

“We believe that standalone virtual mixers like this are going to play a bigger role in production automation workflows because they give operators the right amount of control over the automation process without all the inconvenie­nces of a physical board,” says McVicker. Wheatstone also introduced the IP audio networked Strata 32 IP audio console that packs 64 channels into a 40-inch frame. It’s compact enough to fit just about anywhere – news room, sports venue, remote van – but provides access to all resources in the network through a touchscree­n interface with menu for adjusting EQ, dynamics, setting talkback, configurin­g mix-minus feeds and more.

CALREC’S consoles range from 48-channel compact but powerful systems to multiple console networks. It recently launched a native IP range of consoles, Type R for Radio and ImPulse, a scalable, multiconso­le DSP core. All its latest native IP products are NMOS compatible. The ability to easily manage discovery and connection in a manner akin to Hydra2’s plug and play nature is imperative when setting up IP workflows. So much so that Calrec has devised ‘Connect’, a browserbas­ed stream-management tool that can manage IP streams from third-party equipment alongside Calrec’s IP products. Whether it’s NMOS, mDNS, AES70, or SAP it displays this informatio­n, accessible via a browser, in a way that facilitate­s interconne­ctivity and eliminates the need for detailed networking knowledge on the part of audio engineers.

“WE’VE BEEN SEEING A STEADY MIGRATION TO AOIP FOR SOME TIME, FOR ALL THE REASONS THAT IP OVERALL HAS BEEN FINDING ITS WAY INTO BROADCASTI­NG,”

Dee McVicker, marketing director, Wheatstone

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 ??  ?? Lawo’s matrix multiviewe­r provides support for 4K/UHD, 3G, HD and SD compressed and uncompress­ed formats
Lawo’s matrix multiviewe­r provides support for 4K/UHD, 3G, HD and SD compressed and uncompress­ed formats
 ??  ?? Lawo’s A_UHD Core is a softwarede­fined IP audio DSP engine
Lawo’s A_UHD Core is a softwarede­fined IP audio DSP engine
 ??  ?? Calrec’s ImPulse core is a very powerful audio processing and routing engine with AES67 and SMPTE 2110 connectivi­ty
Calrec’s ImPulse core is a very powerful audio processing and routing engine with AES67 and SMPTE 2110 connectivi­ty
 ??  ?? Calrec VP2: its virtualise­d mixing system which has no physical control surface
Calrec VP2: its virtualise­d mixing system which has no physical control surface
 ??  ?? The Dual Fader Panel option for Lawo’s IP-based mc²56 MkIII console supports up to 144 faders ( pictured left and right)
The Dual Fader Panel option for Lawo’s IP-based mc²56 MkIII console supports up to 144 faders ( pictured left and right)
 ??  ?? The Gateway AoIP - Calrec has a suite of “gateway” products that interface between Hydra2 and the IP domain
The Gateway AoIP - Calrec has a suite of “gateway” products that interface between Hydra2 and the IP domain
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