Standardizing Audio Monitoring

NEP Visions has more than 25 years of experience in covering the world’s premier events. From being host broadcaster for The Royal Wedding in 2011 to providing HD fly-packs in Kazakhstan, we’ve distinguished ourselves as a leading OB provider.

The Visions’ OB fleet is equipped with the latest remote and mobile production options; and needs to be available anywhere in the world. With this in mind, plus the fact that 80% of our productions are live, every piece of kit that we choose must go through a rigorous evaluation process.

It was at IBC in 2009 when TSL introduced us to the PAM2 Precision Audio Monitoring unit. We were looking for a simpler way to monitor Dolby-encoded and discrete multichannel audio for our very first 3G truck. The PAM2s appeared to fit the bill.

At first, we installed a couple of PAM2s in our fly-away packs. They were very well-received by our engineering crew. They found it incredibly useful to see a visual representation of 16 audio channels via the unit’s two OLED displays; including bar graphs, video, setup, loudness and metadata displays.

The PAM2 also provided flexibility in terms of user-selectable scales; the range of standard input/output signals supported; and the ability to dissect and monitor any multichannel audio signal structure from mixed mono, stereo and 5.1. Collectively, these factors convinced us to install PAM2s in all of our new vehicles.

Three years on, we now rely on the PAM2 as our standard ‘go-to’ audio monitoring tool for embedded audio for our entire fleet of 3G trucks. We now have a total of ten HD vehicles, and every time we build a new truck, we install PAM2s in 3G 16 channel mode.

The PAM2s are normally fed from a router destination within the truck. So we use the units as check/’go-to’ devices for AES and embedding monitoring, as well as for analogue inputs.

All signals that leave the 3G vehicles are now embedded. The PAM2 lets us easily check that what we’re embedding for the output is correct.

We’re still using Dolby E embedded stream for 5.1 transmissions. So we also use the PAM2s to check that this is working correctly.

We’ve taken full advantage of TSL’s ‘free for life’ software upgrades. Enhancements since the initial installations include improved loudness measurement capability, user-assignable input matrix for non-SMPTE channel order, lip sync audio delay capability, and improved data reporting.

The PAM2 also helps us address loudness measurement with a set of tools that provide constant analysis and instant feedback to NEP Vision’s engineers.

The PAM2's loudness functionality anticipates the EBU and ATSC recommendations. It gives us the power to configure our own target and measurement parameters when we need them, while supporting reports such as time-versus-level histograms and ‘over-target’ alarms.

Although we have loudness measurement in our mixing consoles, the PAM2s are valuable for checking audio that may not be transmitted live, such as recorded material. It allows us to support long-term compliance tracking with loudness regulations.

Over the last year, our vehicles have been sending signals -- including Dolby Digital -- directly to cinemas. These are for National Theatre shows and opera, so that consumers can experience live events in HD and Dolby Surround. Most of these signals don’t go through a traditional transmission stream: They literally uplink directly to the cinemas. The PAM2s play an important role in ensuring that the Dolby Digital signals are being coded correctly before they are uplinked.

We’ve found the TSL Professional Products team to be very supportive. Advice and comprehensive training was given to all of our operators; and they also had an opportunity to contribute ideas on where the product roadmap should lead.

PAM2 is an easy-to-use, reliable package. It gives NEP Visions the confidence that the audio streams from our OB vehicles will arrive at their destinations on the right channels, with the correct coding and the correct loudness.

Paul Fournier has been Head of Sound at NEP Visions since 1992.