Martin Dyster is Head of Audio at TSL Professional Products. Dyster’s experience in the professional audio and broadcast industries spans a 26-year period. He is a member of the Royal Television Society and the Institute of Broadcast Sound.
1) What major trends, if any, do you see taking place in the audio for broadcast industry?
MD — Audio continues to become more complex as the demand for multi-signal production workflow increases globally. Technology is evolving to keep pace with a world where simple embedded stereo is virtually a thing of the past and 16 channels might be considered the minimum number required to deliver today's television. MADI has seen resurgence, simply because it is a convenient and inexpensive means to transport up to 64 channels of audio throughout the broadcast infrastructure. However, it is a dated technology that can be difficult to integrate between equipment built by different manufacturers and is unlikely to develop beyond its current status.
The future for audio in the longer term must certainly be audio over IP, however, the glut of different formats and latency issues mean that an open and universally adoptable standard, which could become the broadcast audio infrastructure of the future, is some way off.
Loudness control and monitoring remains a hot topic. Broadcasters continue to adopt solutions to safeguard their content from litigation brought about by a failure to meet loudness regulations or delivery criteria, so devices which can control loudness in both real-time and file based environments proliferate. Monitoring and logging solutions provide further peace of mind that a penalty from the regulator or a returned commission isn't about to drop through the door.
The global clamor for multichannel audio within broadcast television and the complexity that handling it brings leads manufacturers inevitably towards more simple to operate or even automated control and monitoring solutions. Audio system infrastructures now rely more on fiber and less copper connectivity whilst less physical hardware is performing much more processing than it ever has before.
2) Is digital technology continuing to shrink the gap between "high" and "low" end audio gear?
MD — It is becoming increasingly difficult to define where low-end audio finishes and high-end audio begins. The market for audio consoles for example has seen a battle being fought for the $50K to $100K price bracket. This is a price band which might be considered to represent the lower-end of the leading brands product portfolio while still marking a considerable expense to the broadcaster. Considered perhaps as the low-end of the same market, audio consoles from the likes of Yamaha which arguably represent a perfectly viable solution rarely cost in excess of $20K.
Many leading broadcasters would never consider investing in a Yamaha console whereas others find them a perfectly acceptable alternative, allowing them to maximize their budget for what they might rightly call high-end.
Ultimately, the defining criteria justifying a high or low end price tag are build quality, sonic performance, specification, features and brand perception. The gap between high and low end audio gear may not be shrinking much but the acceptance of brands which may be considered low-end is increasing as value for money and fiscal austerity are more important to the budget makers than sonic performance is to the engineer.
3) Does TSL have a business strategy in place that will allow the company to continue to offer its customers the ability "to lower costs, generate revenue and streamline operations" over the next five to 10 years?
MD — These three goals are what we strive to do as a business every day, and they're at the forefront of our development roadmap.
If you take our AVM-T-MIX (Touchmix) products, they provide the same functionality as three separate pieces of kit. Effectively, it's a router, mixer and monitor in one unit, which saves money and space in any TV station or OB truck. The Touchmix is also designed with a user interface that is more intuitive for creative operators.
Directors, producers, editors and VT operators have straightforward access to multiple audio sources literally at their fingertips. This streamlines operations as you can simply tap the audio channel you wish to hear, mix together incoming sources and even adjust individual level and balance from the unit's touchscreen or with the Touchmix Pilot desktop remote control panel. For even more convenience, complex configuration snapshots can be loaded or saved using on-board memory locations or via the on-board USB port.
By way of adopting Dolby surround, Dolby E technology, the broadcaster will be looking to generate more revenue to match the demands of the modern viewer, so our Audio product ranges, including Touchmix and PAM2 precision audio monitoring solutions, provide the means to ensure the quality of this new technology is up to scratch. The PAM2 MK2 which we launched at NAB, for example, will be one of the first audio monitoring solutions to feature Dolby's CAT1100 module.
This is a new platform for comprehensive decoding and monitoring of Dolby audio formats that are used throughout the HD broadcast chain (Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Digital and Dolby E). The new module will enable the PAM2 MK2 to perform Dolby E decoding and external speaker monitoring, as well as Dolby Digital Plus with surround descriptive audio and stream mixing, which will evolve to 7.1 as broadcasters adopt the full cinematic experience.
TSL also plans to incorporate into the PAM2 MK2 an array of new features over the course of 2012 to address the future of audio in the broadcast environment, including Dialogue intelligence Loudness Measurement, simultaneous Multichannel and Stereo outputs and selectable error concealment.
4) Are the days when there was a great divide between the personal
computer and its professional counterpart trailing behind us, or will there always be a place for computers designed and dedicated to a single task or a suite of tasks?
MD — We've been improving our user interfaces with each product that is released and if a PC helps that, then great but, all feedback continues to tell us that the user in front of the monitoring station needs something simple, intuitive and unobtrusive. That may mean that the PC is used by the engineer to configure a remote device like the Touchmix Pilot or even our own rackmount solutions.
We continue to listen and learn, to lead the way by paying attention to our customers.