When I came to NBC in the mid-1980's, individual control rooms were still using analog video and audio, but there was a program in progress to upgrade things to digital. We already had a grid system that shuttled audio and video throughout the plant via a huge 5th floor addressable matrix.
In 2003, an Enco DAD (digital audio delivery) system was purchased for CNBC, NBC's financial cable channel. Since then, Enco Systems have been installed throughout NBC's facilities, with one workstation per control room.
DIGITAL AUDIO BUILDOUT
NBC handles audio as AES in SMPTE track format and this is transcoded only as required. The upgrade program brought much new technology, including all-digital consoles—primarily Calrec—in order to take advantage of their Bluefin software and Hydra routing system. ProTools remains the primary mixing software for our live music shows, but the Enco "DAD's" are the primary non-picture audio sources. All are configurable for 5.1 record/play operations, but the number of virtual decks varies depending on show requirements.
The television network was first to move up to high-definition video and 5.1 audio for shows, with the cable channels following suit. The DAD workstations are in constant use on our cable channels.
In network operations, 5.1 audio is ubiquitous. While live performances on the "Today" show are mixed, broadcast and archived on an Icon with ProTools, a QC copy in surround is recorded on an Enco. It's not uncommon to record live music and play it back immediately as a bumper leading into commercials.
In entertainment programming, Enco systems are used to play back announcer voices and bumpers. They're also the workhorses for any sound effects playout. "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" uses a dual 5.1 DAD workstation for playback of all non-live, non-picture audio. "Saturday Night Live" uses two separate stations, one for music and announcer voices, and four virtual machines. There's also a setup for sound effects involving 10 virtual machines. Sound effects for "SNL" frequently require heavy layering to achieve the requested background and effects overlay, requiring multiple machines. NBC has servers holding more than 100,000 sound effects, and there's also an extensive music library on a separate server. All are accessed frequently during production, with audio auditioned on the server. If a cut is selected it can be "drop-boxed" directly to the desired Enco station for playback.
While we now use only a fraction of the full capability of the Enco Systems we've brought in, high reliability has been a primary goal from the beginning. To date there have been no major failures and the few minor ones that did pop up were immediately addressed and resolved by Enco's tech' service group.
Bill Taylor has worked in broadcasting and recording studios for 41 years and has been an engineer with NBC for the past 23 years. The opinions expressed are those of the author alone. He may be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org.
For additional information, contact Enco Systems at 800-362-6797 or visitwww.enco.com.