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Mixing Consoles—Beyond the Capture

 

Globosat used Lawo’s mc²96 production console to deliver Dolby Atmos audio for the 2019 Rock in Rio music festival. (Image credit: Lawo)
Globosat used Lawo’s mc²96 production console to deliver Dolby Atmos audio for the 2019 Rock in Rio music festival. (Image credit: Lawo)

With all the utilitarian advances in digital mixing console technology, there is no doubt that the digital mixing desk should be the audio control center in the modern television studio and OB van. In the long run, a versatile mixing desk saves everyone money because today’s digital mixing desk is capable of the sound management of the entire studio and OB van—from I/Os for routers, recorders, transmission points, pre-hears, to speaker feeds and headset feeds—essentially all things audio will probably pass through the mixing desk.

The digital mixing desk consolidates the processing and routing of audio signals, and with dense channel audio formats like MADI and AES67, along with fewer and cheaper connectors, the digital audio mixing console saves time in the installation (copper and connector costs + labor) and saves money in the operation of an OB van simply because of the reduction in weight from less permanent cable and connectivity.

Hearing It—Believing It

Soft patching through the mixing desk facilitates an easier and faster setup for the operators and fewer interruptions for the sound supervisor/sound mixer. From a retired OB sound mixer, for me an unheralded aspect of a digital mixing console is that only the control surface needs to be in the audio mix room. This not only saves space in the audio room, but the noisy CPU fans and other electronics can be located elsewhere in the OB van and away from the ears of the mixer.

As studio complexes expand and remote broadcasts swell, the need for equipment to be able interconnect and exchange digital audio and data has never been greater. A significant development for digital equipment and particularly the digital mixing console was a protocol that established a standard language for audio transport work over IP. The standard is codified under AES67 and ensures and simplifies interconnectivity between different manufacturers of equipment.

IP interoperability has been a major effort of Philipp Lawo through one of his brands, Ravenna, which along with AES, Dante, Q-Sys, Livewire+ and WheatNet-Ip from Wheatstone share in the 2020 Technical and Engineering Emmy Award for the development of synchronized multichannel uncompressed audio transport over IP networks.

Lawo and Wheatstone digital mixing desks manage I/Os through an IP network, which has become a common platform for resource sharing when operations have to scale up and down or change over to another show within minutes. There is no doubt that high-performance IP interoperability will affect all engineering technologies in television.

 

TECHNOLOGY SHIFT

The audio and broadcast industry is witnessing a technology and operational shift with the next generation of digital mixing consoles coming online. When first-gen digital consoles rolled out, they somewhat mimicked the analog architecture, flow and format that digital was replacing. Eight-buss architecture was never an issue until the broadcast format went to immersive sound.

The interest in and production of immersive sound had been gaining traction during the time that console manufacturers were slowly working on next-gen digital mixing consoles, even while some immersive sound productions were underway. Now it seems the stars have aligned and the major console manufacturers have made true immersive sound a reality.

Localization using the concentric 5.1 method of immersive sound production has proven adequate for some sports and entertainment productions, but precise localization is only possible with three-dimensional panning. A significant creative aspect of advanced mixing console technology is that the live mixers can spatially pan 3D audio in the horizontal and finally vertical axis, also known as XYZ panning, something Christian Struck, senior product manager at Lawo already offers.

“Lawo can offer XYZ Panning on up to 128 channel strips, supporting various channel-based mixing formats including 5.1.4 and 22.2,” Struck said.

 

USE OF PLUG-INS

Precise localization is the basic foundation of immersive spatialization; however, beyond panning is advanced processing, which can be applied to audio signals within the console through plug-ins, a specialized code for an audio task or processor that can function in the mixing console’s operating system. Plug-ins are usually developed by third-party developers and are both inexpensive and beneficial to the audio industry. These programs have been useful for up-processing, spatialization and other sonic applications that are not native to the mixing desk such as volume, routing, panorama, equalization and dynamics.

Plug-ins save time and money. For example, at the Grammy Awards, the artist comes into the audio OB van and gives John Harris and Jay Vicari a USB stick with the plug-in settings of virtually every single channel and instrument. This is obviously a significant time saver, and with instant recall, the turnaround time for musical acts is little more than the time for a commercial.

Sports has seen an increase in the use of plug-ins because often production music for bumpers, features, billboards and breaks comes to the venue, OB van or studio in stereo and needs to be up-processed to surround and immersive formats. I have seen this done more often on a laptop that feeds the mixing console, although there is no reason this application cannot be done in the mixing console.

I have been amazed at the little use of plug-ins by broadcast sports mixers, but my most recent survey of live mixers showed that in the last two years there has been a modest increase in the use of plug-ins—particularly as the age demographics tick down with new and younger mixers.

I also think that the up-and-coming generation of audio mixers have better listening facilities in the OB van and studio than ever before and are motivated to work on the nuances and sonic quality of their sound.

Finally, sound management of multiple audio formats and speaker systems is necessary for a successful dimensional production. You have to be able to hear what you are mixing across all the channel and speaker formats you are supporting.

The live audio world needs a mixing desk that is affordable, has a modest footprint, versatile control surface and lots of capacity to tame the demanding world of immersive sound. Oh, and did I say easy to operate? I think we are getting there.

Decades ago, I had the opportunity to mix The Talladega 500 for CBS on a 32-channel Ward Beck console with a 12-channel vertically racked side mixer for tape machine playback. Many years later I asked my friend Fred Aldous, long-time mixer, sound designer and Emmy winner for Fox Sports, how many channels of audio he averaged on a NASCAR race. He shook his head and said “Hundreds.”

It just makes my analog head hurt thinking about it.

Dennis Baxter has spent over 35 years in live broadcasting contributing to hundreds of live events including sound design for nine Olympic Games. He has earned multiple Emmy awards and is the author of “A Practical Guide to Television Sound Engineering,” published in English and Chinese, and is currently working on a book about immersive sound practices and production.

He can be reached at dbaxter@dennisbaxtersound.com or at www.dennisbaxtersound.com.

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Sennheiser Launches SpeechLine Multi-Channel Receiver

 

Expanding its range of network-enabled AV equipment, Sennheiser is launching the SpeechLine Multi-Channel Receiver.
Expanding its range of network-enabled AV equipment, Sennheiser is launching the SpeechLine Multi-Channel Receiver.

Wedemar, Germany (April 7, 2020)—Expanding its range of network-enabled AV equipment, Sennheiser is launching the SpeechLine Multi-Channel Receiver, available from Q2 2020 in both a two-channel and a four-channel version.

Aimed at use in higher education facilities and corporations, the compact receiver is intended for use in modern IT infrastructures, using license-free 1.9 GHz technology and can be centrally software controlled through Sennheiser Control Cockpit

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The SpeechLine Multi-Channel receiver accommodates up to four receiving channels and an auto-mixer – no additional antenna is needed, and only one cable is required for PoE, control data and the Dante stream for which redundant sockets are provided. A 3-pin terminal connector is available for infrastructures that need an analog output. The multi-channel receiver complies with common network security standards.

The receiver can be wall- or ceiling-mounted using the included wall-mount adapter. For an on-site check, the receiver features status LEDs for the audio channels; otherwise it is configured and controlled via Sennheiser Control Cockpit software or via Sennheiser’s open SSC protocol for third-party solutions. Sennheiser Control Cockpit allows centralized remote control, monitoring and maintenance of campus- and company-wide audio installations from anywhere in a network. Besides SpeechLine Digital Wireless, the software also supports evolution wireless G3 and G4 as well as the TeamConnect Ceiling 2 microphone.

For lecturers and speakers, SpeechLine offers a choice of wireless handheld, headset, lavalier or even boundary and table microphones. SpeechLine Digital Wireless works in the license-free 1.9 GHz range, and features both auto-frequency management and auto-interference management. The system uses 256-bit AES encryption.

Sennheiser • www.sennheiser.com

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NEP Updates OB Truck Monitors

Pittsburgh, PA (April 7, 2020)—NEP Group, which has long used TSL MPA1 units as its audio monitoring solution of choice for live broadcasts, was the first to integrate TSL’s updated MPA1-MIX MADI-V audio monitor, installing it in two of the company’s OB trucks.

“We are always looking for ways to enhance the workflow of operators within our OB trucks,” says Michael Naugle, design engineer for NEP’s U.S. Broadcast Services team. “The newly designed TSL MPA1-MIX MADI-V units feature an extremely intuitive layout. The left to right ascending order of the knobs is very user-friendly as the operator can find the channel they need, without having to look directly at the panel. The ‘V’ pattern also has a nice aesthetic look to it.”

Broadcasters Prep for Live Immersive Content

Since integrating the new TSL MPA1-MIX MADI-V units, Naugle has received positive feedback from the operators. “Operator feedback has been great – they enjoy the look of the new V Series, as well as the ease of use that comes with having the updated control layout. Also, the sound quality is amazing, which we have come to expect from all TSL solutions.”

Naugle plans to continue with the units for projects going forward. “In addition to the two trucks that currently have the updated TSL MPA1 V units, we are building several other trucks in the U.S. this year that will also be equipped with the MPA1-MIX MADI-V. Also, in our newer IP trucks, we have been installing the TSL PAM2-IP units, which are extremely useful tools when working with audio in an IP infrastructure.”

The new MPA1-MIX-V range has reportedly been developed to specifically address the challenges of live production. In direct response to customer feedback, TSL’s MPA1-MIX-V features a re-designed user interface available in SDI, DANTE/AES67, MADI, AES and Analogue input formats.

TSL Products • www.tslproducts.com

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Funktion-One F5 and SB8 Loudspeakers Launched

New York, NY (April 7, 2020)—Funktion-One has launched two compact loudspeaker models – the Funktion-One F5 speaker and the SB8 bass unit.

According to the brand, the Funktion-One F5 offers a balanced and natural sound quality, and is intended to be used for range of applications, including distributed public address systems, bars and restaurants, as well as domestic applications, such as home cinemas, desktop monitoring and home music systems.

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The Funktion-One F5 features a five-inch driver, an integrated high pass filter for low frequency protection, angled cabinet design for desktop use and a 3/8-inch microphone stand mount.

Meanwhile, the Funktion-One SB8 is a compact bass unit, aimed for applications where a conventionally-sized subwoofer would be too large or obtrusive, such as in bars, restaurants, retail and galleries, as well as domestic applications. It features a high-sensitivity eight-inch bass driver and requires no EQ or controller, only crossover filters. A self-powered version will be available soon.

Funktion-One founder Tony Andrews said, “We’re very happy to introduce the F5 and SB8. Though they are small in size, they are capable of the high-performance standards that we demand from all of our loudspeaker innovations.”

Funktion-One • www.funktion-one.com

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Syracuse U Networks with Rupert Neve Designs

Kevin Muldoon, recording engineer at Setnor School of Music.
Kevin Muldoon, recording engineer at Setnor School of Music.

Syracuse, NY (April 6, 2020)—Syracuse University’s Setnor School of Music has integrated three Rupert Neve Designs RMP-D8 Dante-connected microphone preamps and converters provided by Sweetwater Sound to provide recording capabilities across the entire Syracuse University campus.

“We don’t have to worry about 200 feet of analog copper running upstairs from the closet,” says Kevin Muldoon, recording engineer at Setnor. “We can run all our microphone inputs through it, and we’ll have the ability to send signal to the live board, to the recording, to the stream, everything.”

With the three RMP-D8s providing a total of 24 channels of class-A microphone preamplification and 24-bit/192 kHz conversion, they will be used as the school’s primary microphone preamps for every application. “The Dante system will be able to go to our entire campus network, so we can have things to go another studio off-site; we have a jazz building off in a different spot, we have our Belfer Recording Studio in a different spot. In the future, this will allow pretty seamless integration between all of them.”

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Muldoon adds, “Dante is the future. At a professional modern recording studio or school of music, this should be the backbone of the recording that goes on.”

“Over the last few years, network audio has really taken over,” reports Brian Loney, senior sales engineer at Sweetwater Sound, “and we’re starting to see more and more products with Dante capability. There’s a real shortage though of high-end, quality pieces, certainly those of the quality of a Rupert Neve product. Any type of multi-room facility that needs to have network integration, top-shelf sound quality…the Rupert Neve RMP-D8 is the perfect solution for that.”

Rupert Neve Designs • www.rupertneve.com

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New Clark City Stadium Outfitted with Outline Stadia

Capas, Tarlac, Philippines (April 6, 2020)—The Philippines’ New Clark City Athletics Stadium has hosted the Southeast Asian Games as well as opening and closing ceremonies for the 2020 ASEAN Para Games, packing fans into its 20,000 seats. Now those attendees will be hearing events via a sizable new Outline Stadia PA system.

The Athletics Stadium features a hinged roof, which takes inspiration from the crater of the country’s Mount Pinatubo volcano. Hanging from that roof now are 30 Stadia loudspeaker enclosures powered by eight Outline GTA Otto Dante-controlled power amps, all installed by Amigo Entertainment Technologies, Inc., Outline’s distributor for the Philippines. Adjacent to the stadium is the facility’s aquatics center, and it, too, now has an Outline Stadia PA as well.

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Amigo was established in 1979 under the name First Audio Resources & Management Corporation, providing audio and visual technology for commercial and industrial applications. Today headed by chairman/CEO Amando Nieva Zamora, the company works on ongoing projects for the SM Group of Companies, Okada Casino Resort Hotel, Alloy MTD Philippines, Department of Tourism Philippines.

The stadium’s PA system is formed by Outline Stadia 100 LA enclosures, a range that comprises three two-way loudspeaker modules with similar dimensions, identical horizontal directivity (100°) and either 10°, 20° or 30° vertical dispersion. “To handle this key project, which featured some challenging aspects, such as the fact that the building consists almost entirely in acoustically reflective products such as steel and glass, we decided to install an Outline rig,” said Zamora

Outline • stadia.outline.it

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Wild Rice Theater Company Grows with Clear-Com

Singapore performance group W!ld Rice has created its own theater, two decades in the making, with intercoms handled by Clear-Com systems.
Singapore performance group Wild Rice has created its own theater, two decades in the making, with intercoms handled by Clear-Com systems.

Singapore (April 6, 2020)—As a bustling city that prides itself on being as modern as possible, Singapore has multiple dedicated performance spaces for the arts, but there’s only one that is fully designed, managed and programmed by a theater company — Wild Rice. The group’s new venue incorporates a number of new technologies, including a Clear-Com communications system, installed throughout the 18,000-plus square foot facility.

Founded in 2000, W!ld Rice puts on original works, interpretations of classics, charitable and corporate events, and while more than one million people have seen its performances, it’s only recently that the organization got its own permanent home after nearly two decades of using rented spaces.

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The new Wild Rice facility was recently completed and is located in the Funan Mall within the heart of Singapore’s Civic and Cultural district. The new space features over 18,000 square feet of performance space and a 380-seat theater.

Once they had the resources to handle a more rigorous schedule of productions and events of all sizes, the Wild Rice team was able to act on their plan for an for an enhanced communications for production crews. Key requirements were a two-channel system at the stage manager’s desk and the ability to expand to keep pace with future growth.

The new system, introduced by consultant, Radian Acoustics, includes a Clear-Com HelixNet All-Digital Networked Partyline Intercom System combined with the FreeSpeak II Wireless and Encore Analog Partyline Intercom Systems.

“We’ve been able to secure a Clear-Com solution suited to our needs and unique challenges,” said Wild Rice technical director, David Sagaya. “FreeSpeak II provides the performance and reliability we require for our caliber of productions, and HelixNet is easily scalable to whatever communications need arises.”

Clear-Com • www.clearcom.com

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Sommer Cable Launches Transit MC 1101 Cable

 

Transit MC 1101 is a new single cable for long-distance UHD-SDI video, data and sound.
Transit MC 1101 is a new single cable for long-distance UHD-SDI video, data and sound.

Santa Rose, CA (April 6, 2020)—Germany’s Sommer Cable has launched its new Transit MC 1101 hybrid cable for long-distance UHD-SDI transmission of video, data and audio signals. The new hybrid cable is built for use in high-speed Cat 7 networking.

Designed for operation in outdoor conditions, the new Transit MC 1101 performance package features a notch-proof, weather-resistant drummable PUR jacket with a 19.6 mm / 0.77 inch diameter.

The cable features extensive shielding, aiming to guarantee extremely low attenuation values for failure-free long-distance transmission. The cable is intended for uses such as OB van applications at sports meetings and large events, and for connecting UHD monitors, control desks and broadcast cameras, both indoor and outdoor.

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Sommer Cable Germany is a development and manufacturing company of cable, connector and electronic products for the Studio, A/V Installation, Live Sound, Broadcast, Video, Music, IT and HiFi markets, with business partners in more than 50 countries. In 2015, Sommer Cable America, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Sommer Cable Germany, was established in Santa Rosa, CA. Jed Larson is COO of the new company, which supplies the North American markets with Sommer’s range of products.

Sommer Cable • sommercable.com/en

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CNN’s Daily Coronavirus Podcast Beats Production Challenges

When CNN announced its Coronavirus: Fact or Fiction podcast on February 29, there were only 22 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States. That afternoon, President Trump confirmed the country’s first coronavirus-related casualty in a press conference.

Two days later, when the Dr. Sanjay Gupta-hosted podcast debuted its first episode, hand sanitzer and disinfectant wipes were beginning to fly off store shelves nationwide. Seattle, where the first cases were found, was still the country’s outbreak hotspot. The newly formed CNN Audio team was still producing podcasts at its studios in New York, Atlanta and Washington, D.C.

Barely a month ago, life looked entirely different than it does today.

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“When we started the podcast, we were not working from home,” says Dan Kantor, VP of audio at CNN. “At that point, we were thinking about remote guests, but a lot of it was, ‘Hey, we’ve got our studio, we’re all together, and we’re going to approach this the way we’ve been approaching podcasts in the past.’”

That plan changed entirely over the course of a week. With staff now working from their own homes, the CNN Audio team had to pivot quickly to a remote-recording arrangement and develop standards for audio equipment and procedures. But after spinning up the podcast series itself on a similarly tight turnaround in late February, they were prepared.

Over a few days, the podcast’s engineer recreated the CNN studio at his home so Gupta and the guests and producers could dial in through Zoom or Zencastr and patch into the program. Each of the show’s principals has a home recording setup of varying sophistication, and the team has been working to adopt the Electro-Voice RE320 as its standard microphone for podcasting, with redundancy handled locally.

“We’re recording it all at the engineer’s home studio, but we’re also asking that all participants record it themselves so that way we have a backup,” says Kantor.

“We’re saying, ‘Well, you could use your phone if you have to. Maybe use a Bluetooth headset, maybe isolate yourself in a closet or a room that doesn’t echo, and then record yourself. If you could do it on Zoom or Zencastr, great. If not, literally open up your iPhone voice memo and just hit record as you’re talking.’”

Pro Sound News‘ Podcast Pro

One of the most unique aspects of Coronavirus: Fact or Fiction is the format itself. Many podcasts publish on a weekly basis or follow the “season” model by following a topic or story to its conclusion with typically longform episodes. But the CNN Audio team pushes episodes of this podcast live by 6 a.m. every weekday in bite-sized content chunks that listeners can consume quickly.

“We wanted to give [them] information in a shorter period of time so they could go about their lives, as people are taking care of their children, of their parents, of their friends,” says Megan Marcus, executive producer of the podcast. “They don’t necessarily have time to consume 20-30 minutes of content, if not an hour.”

Marcus says the podcasting format enables Coronavirus: Fact or Fiction to have a more intimate connection with its audience and focus on delivering a story in the way it calls for. Much like the early days of FM radio in the 1970s, there are no strong format rules. Producers are free to embrace storytelling in an immersive way that’s impossible in a television news program. In times of crisis, that entails what she describes as “embracing the mess.”

“I think because there’s that personal relationship with the listener, you can be very honest about that dog barking in the background, or the child crying,” she says. “You’re taking somebody into your life. It’s very much a dialogue with the listener, and a conversation, and that’s what we’re doing with this particular podcast.

“The news affects all of us,” Marcus adds. “We’re not immune to what’s going on, and so you’re talking about your own fear of what’s going on in the world, and then you also have the challenge of pulling this off, and also realizing we see this as a public service.”

Coronavirus: Fact or Fiction • www.cnn.com/audio/podcasts/corona-virus

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Stage Tec Upgrades Swiss Parliament

Bern, Switzerland (April 4, 2020)—Stage Tec has upgraded the parliament building in Bern, Switzerland, supplying three On Air flex mixing consoles, two Nexus STAR routers and a Nexus network as part of a modernization project planned by WSDG and executed by Kilchenmann.

The three On Air flex consoles were installed in the National Council Chamber, the Council of States Chamber and in the largest committee room. The mixing consoles are used there for recording debates, sound reinforcement, multi-language operation (German, French, Italian) and for connection to the SRG (Swiss Radio and Television Corporation).

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The original National Council Chamber installation comprised an On Air 24 console and a Nexus network, which had been installed since 2011. The 2011 Nexus network has been completely replaced and now consists of eight Base Devices plus two routers located in different buildings for redundancy.

“The decision was again in favor of Nexus because operational safety and reliability are top priorities for our customer and Nexus fulfills all requirements. Uninterruptible redundancy was one of the main reasons for replacing the audio equipment. Nexus modular design is also very flexible and thanks to Logic Control, all the Parliament’s wishes could be met,” explains Thomas Jud, head of engineering at Kilchenmann.

Nexus MADI connections are used to connect remote broadcasters live or via a control room in Zurich. In addition, broadcasts from the National Council Chamber in three national languages can be followed as live streams on the Internet.

In addition to audio routing, Nexus also performs various control and monitoring tasks. For example, the programmable Logic Control software is used to activate the light rings on live microphones, to report the status of the AMX control system, and to monitor the signal path levels of third-party systems.

Stage Tec • www.stagetec.com

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