Taking a high-level look at the audio post production and television broadcast sectors through the eyes of equipment retailers and integrators in New York and Los Angeles, business is great—booming, even.
On the broadcast side, business is being driven in no small part by the fact that this is an Olympics year as well as a presidential election cycle, attracting a lot of ad dollars. “[Broadcasters] have done quite well, I would imagine, this season,” says Tim Finnegan, broadcast sales, Dale Pro Audio in New York.
That said, they are also being frugal. “They have embraced the relatively inexpensive digital mixers,” he says, from the $2,500 Behringer X32 to alternatives from Allen & Heath, Yamaha, Midas and DiGiCo that may cost as much as $20,000. “That’s still a whole lot less than they used to spend, and so much capability and facility in a relatively small footprint,” observes Finnegan.
One technology that is becoming universally adopted is audio over IP.
“As system designers and integrators, we have to figure out what protocol to go with for each client. Dante seems to be the best right now; we’ve had great experience with it,” says Michael Warren, president, MW Audio Visual in Los Angeles. He also notes, “Audio over IP is a massive, emerging part of our business now,” across all segments of the business.
“People are buying boxes whereby they can feed mic pres in the field, for example, and get them over Dante into a console,” adds Joe Prout, senior director, broadcast sales, Dale Pro Audio. “MADI is big in the remote television sports world, so sometimes people have to convert MADI to Dante. We’ve done really well with RedNet. And Symetrix makes a line of boxes with DSP for distribution of Dante and conversion.”
“It’s going to sound funny,” says David Prentice, recording and post production sales, Dale Pro Audio, “but the biggest technology change over the last five years is the move away from tape.” And, as the business transitions to AoIP, “If you’ve got talent and a client or two, you don’t need to be at a facility anymore.”
In New York, new rooms are coming online as companies build, upgrade and acquire other companies, Prentice continues. “The trend is consolidation with video and graphics, to be able to bid on a whole package,” Prentice also observes. “That’s all being driven by budgets; everybody’s budgets are down.”
On the topic of monitoring, Chris Bolitho, post sales representative at Vintage King in Los Angeles, reports, “We’ve found that the idea of treating your speakers and your room as a system and having DSP room correction has now become mainstream.”
That need is tied to another trend, says Bolitho: high-end professionals building pro-level studios of their own. “We’re seeing a lot of guys going out on their own. For a $1,000, $2,000 monthly lease payment, they can have a couple of hundred grand’s worth of equipment in their studio that’s better than any sound stage in town.”
Prentice has a personal favorite among monitors. “Genelec has gotten it right in monitoring with their DSP system and second-generation SAM. As we encounter more and more challenging spaces, manipulating the increased DSP to address those to try to get some semblance of audio is going to rise in importance,” he says.
Another favorite? “The DAD AX32, a router box that can do 1500x1500, with DigiLink, MADI, AES and analog connections. I think that is an absolutely brilliant piece. That can be a real cornerstone piece, because it can link everything,” says Prentice.
On the topic of DAW trends, Bolitho points to Avid’s decision to unbundle Pro Tools software and hardware. “That’s huge. It was a major problem that you couldn’t just buy what they wanted. And an HDX card is now less than a UAD card.”
The inevitable shrinking of available radio frequency spectrum as a result of the FCC’s current Incentive Auction is driving RF sales, according to Prout. “That has been a bonus for us; some people are having to redo their studios, as the frequencies they’ve been using for years are not going to work.”