IP-Networked Audio Consoles Gain Steam

LOS ANGELES—This year, as the transition from baseband to IP continues to pick up momentum, audio console vendors have introduced innovative products that address next-generation workflows. These not only include traditional audio mixing consoles at both ends of the size scale, but also hardware and software products that extend IP-networked audio and data control and routing capabilities far beyond the desk, the studio, and even the broadcast plant.

Calrec Artemis Ray

Calrec’s remote broadcast truck clients have been asking for more power and control in a smaller footprint, according to Dave Letson, vice president of sales. In response, the U.K.-based company has rolled out Artemis Ray, which supports 456 fully featured input channels and packs more controls into a reduced surface area thanks to a new fader/monitor panel design.

“The panel—also available on the other Artemis models—is the same width as a standard Artemis fader panel and includes eight full-size faders to give operators even more control, providing a higher fader density in a smaller footprint,” said Letson. “This configuration saves around eight inches when compared to previous Artemis surfaces with the same fader count.”

Like all Calrec consoles, Artemis Ray can interface with AES67, Ravenna and Dante, even receiving in one protocol and sending in another. Calrec’s AES67/Ravenna interface solution is another space saver, handling up to 512 channels per unit in a 1U enclosure.

“Each element of Calrec’s protocol range redundantly connects to Hydra2 to give peace of mind in mission-critical situations and appears like any other I/O resource on the Hydra2 network,” Letson also noted. “This allows for ease of configuration and a shallow learning curve for the operator.”

Calrec’s new RP1, a 2RU unit enabling at-home or REME production, extends the reach of the console at the plant all the way into the field. “The RP1 core can quickly embed audio into existing video-transport mechanisms, while its modular I/O backbone accepts any of Calrec’s I/O cards,” said Letson.

RP1 connects back to the production facility over AES67, Ravenna and Dante, giving the mixer at the home studio direct control over mic gains, aux send/monitor mix levels, and fader levels. Remote I/O resources appear to the operator just like any other local I/O box.

Lawo’s new flagship, the mc²96 Grand Production Console, offers several innovations for next-gen live broadcast workflows and natively supports SMPTE 2110, AES67, Ravenna and Dante. To handle 3D/immersive audio production, the mc²96 provides surround sound mixing tools plus a dedicated elevation controller as standard. The desk includes an Automix level function and AMBIT Upmix stereo-to-surround capabilities and also supports KICK 2.0, Lawo’s automated close-ball mixing solution for football, hockey and basketball.

Jay Tyler, director of sales for Wheatstone

With frame sizes supporting up to 200 faders, Lawo has introduced a “world’s first:” LiveView, which can display real-time video thumbnails at each fader’s mini TFT for channel identification at a glance. “Touching a fader changes the LiveView thumbnail to full-screen mode, providing a more detailed view of that channel’s video source, such as a camera or a replay machine,” said Christian Struck, senior product manager, audio production.

In complex IP production infrastructures, Lawo’s mc²96 employs IP-Share network gain compensation when using shared DALLIS I/Os, to prevent unexpected changes on up to eight networked consoles when individual users adjust their gain settings. “The DALLIS I/O communicates with all networked consoles, and its IP-Share algorithm sets the optimum analog gain for multi-client requirements,” said Struck. IP-Share also applies corresponding gain compensation to the digital gain stages of all consoles when the preamp’s analog gain is adjusted.

Logitek spent a lot of time watching producers and operators as they worked before designing and introducing the company’s new Helix line of consoles, according to Tag Borland, president of the Houston-based company. “Our primary design philosophy behind Helix TV was to bring the convenience of a ‘glass cockpit’ to the TV studio while retaining functions that operators prefer to use in a physical format. While audio in TV stations is largely automated, live operators want to have touch-sensitive faders and large on/off buttons that can be easily used by feel rather than sight.”

Helix is powered by Logitek’s JetStream Plus router/mix engine, which manages analog, digital, SDI and AES67 I/O, has onboard processing, frame delay and automatic mix-minus buses.

Functions including source selection, metering and monitor controls were migrated to touchscreens, introducing familiar smartphone-like operations and gestures. “This allowed us to offer a considerably smaller footprint while still providing full broadcast functionality,” Borland said. “Even more space can be saved by using the page feature to access a large virtual mixer from a small physical one or by using the Helix Studio app on any touchscreen PC.

“Helix TV is positioned to be an integral part of modern, highly efficient TV stations both now and in the future world of IP transport,” he added.

Harman’s Studer, recognizing the challenges of managing the routing of baseband and IP data in the new transitional environments, introduced DIOS at the 2017 NAB Show. The scalable, format-agnostic I/O routing automation software enables various types of data to be routed between multiple diverse products, regardless of the infrastructure, with automated and redundant pathfinding.

“In hybrid baseband/IP infrastructures, DIOS manages the routing through the heterogenous network, an often complex network that is made up of IP and baseband components,” explained Rachelle Potts, marketing strategy manager, Harman Professional Solutions. “Essentially, DIOS enables you to bring different standards and APIs together into one ecosystem and connect third-party equipment that previously operated independently. This opens up an entirely new world of options and significantly expands your routing capabilities.”

Because DIOS manages the transport of both IP and baseband data, Potts added, “You can upgrade your baseband infrastructure to IP gradually. As DIOS connects various systems that have not previously been able to communicate, it brings uniformity and interoperability to your entire infrastructure.”

Earlier this year, Wheatstone demonstrated live remote production using virtualized audio services across a wide-area network via the company’s AES67-compatible WheatNet-IP network. Wheatstone’s I/O BLADEs, or access units, make up the WheatNet-IP and store the virtualized services that enable operators to manage almost any audio function—audio routing, control, mixing and processing—from the network.

“With these and other audio services virtualized on the network as software, rather than as external single-point-of-use hardware devices or as features limited to the console, the WheatNet-IP audio network makes it possible to seamlessly integrate functions between a home studio and a remote event across a WAN,” said Jay Tyler, director of sales for the New Bern, N.C.-based company.

Wheatstone also introduced a new PR&E DMX console line this year that comprises a standalone studio system with console surface and IP audio networking, enabling multiple studios to be linked while operating independently. The DMX AoIP, which doesn’t require an external Ethernet switch, provides 1 GB connectivity and integrates easily into most existing radio automation systems using proven WheatNet-IP automation drivers.

Radio and TV studios are converging to a certain degree with “visual radio,” which can range from a simple one-man operation with some PTZ cameras to a more traditional broadcast setup with camera operators. WheatNet-IP supports camera switching triggered by an active talker, allowing the operator to define the switching delay between cameras, displaying the lower third identifying the talker and even reframing the shot, if necessary.

Steve Harvey began writing for Pro Sound News and Surround Professional in 2000 and is currently senior content producer for Mix and a contributor to TV Tech. He has worked in the pro audio industry—as a touring musician, in live production, installed sound, and equipment sales and marketing—since November 1980.