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Audio Over IP Brings Flexibility and Savings for Content Creators

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

The transition to AoIP networking helped pick up the pace in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, spurring the development of new hardware, software and hybrid solutions as manufacturers responded to the sudden need for remote workflows.

“AoIP is moving along at more of a fast sprint than a slow march these days,” said Phil Owens, senior sales engineer at Wheatstone. “There’s not much you can do beyond the walls of the studio without IP, and certainly IP audio networking plays into all those changes we’re seeing as far as remotes and virtual mixers and even emerging developments such as immersive mixing.” 

TRANSPORT PROTOCOLS

Manufacturers support a variety of transport protocols, such as Dante, AES67, SMPTE ST 2110-30 and the nascent IPMX. “However, solutions have to be cost-effective,” Berny Carpenter, TSL Products’ audio product manager, said. “The ability to provide 1 Gig/E device deployment within ST 2110 networks, alongside a deep understanding of control protocols and integration, is vital for audio monitors.”

Simon Browne, vice president of product management, Clear-Com, said, “Broadcast installations are finding flexibility and savings in an all-IP structure with our V-Series panels, and FreeSpeak wireless intercom based on the AES67 standard with additional third-party audio, for example cameras, over SMPTE 2110-30 is gaining pace. There has been some interest in AV also taking this approach with the expectation that compressed video and surround audio will find a home in the SMPTE standard or something akin to it in IPMX.”

Why This Matters

The media and entertainment industry’s transition to AoIP workflows was already underway when the coronavirus pandemic arrived. Manufacturers of software-based platforms responded, rolling out new products or expanding existing models to enable the implementation of remote operations and workflows for broadcasters, live event and sports venues.

“While shifting to IP can be expensive initially, it could prove more cost-effective in the long run and may be the preferred choice for new-build facilities,” TSL’s Carpenter said. With 4K UHD delivery, for instance, “Upgrading to 12G-SDI allows existing SDI-based facilities to provide UHD content without requiring a full refresh of existing infrastructure.”

A couple of manufacturers have introduced cloud-based audio solutions since COVID-19 hit. For others, Carpenter noted, the lines are blurring between traditional I/O-led products and software-focused solutions. 

REMOTE MANAGEMENT

With the uptick in pandemic-induced remote productions, “Centralized remote management of audio monitoring platforms and tools is a necessary requirement,” Carpenter said. “Content creators need to be able to easily reconfigure devices for use across events, large studio productions and sports to keep to a tight production schedule.”

Wheatstone’s Owens agreed: “We have virtual mixers that are used as standalone consoles in a remote venue or as mirrors of the hardware console at the studio; and we also now have a hybrid software/hardware combination of both.” Wheatstone’s new 32-fader Tekton console, a tactile surface with soft controls, offers the best of both worlds, he added. “You can move faders and cue events on the surface, yet pinch and drag EQ settings from the touchscreen.”

Browne said Clear-Com is launching its new Arcadia Central Station, a smart box that marries AoIP standards with conventional wired and wireless comms with one overall management system. Many Clear-Com products rely on standard internet or cellular data networks and are also suited to remote operations, he said. “The new Station-IC for PC and Mac, based on the I.V. Core technology, is finding use in this COVID-19 era as a desktop intercom station for remote workers.”

Wheatstone’s WheatNet-IP has grown into an AoIP network environment offering audio codecs, processing, mixing, routing, control, OS and AES67, NMOS and ST 2110 support. “This year we have added audio codecs like Opus, MP3 and AAC natively as part of the network for streaming between the station studio and home or remote locations,” Owens said.

As for the future of AoIP, he concluded, “We are not far from cloud-based apps that will give us the ability to dial up from the cloud encoding, IFB, routing, mixing, playback and even the kind of console needed for a given show or operator skill level.” © NAB 2021