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AES 2020: Something for Everyone, Everywhere

The Audio Engineering Society’s 149th Convention will be hosted virtually this year, and to accommodate the online format, the program is being expanded from four days to four weeks.

AES Show 2020New York, NY (October 7, 2020)—With no large-scale in-person professional audio trade shows currently scheduled for another 12 months, the Audio Engineering Society’s 149th Convention – AES 2020 – is being hosted virtually this year, and to accommodate the online format, the program has been expanded from four days to four weeks. While many will miss the face-to-face interaction and the trip to New York City, the month-long online show enables more attendees to access much more of the program than they typically would in person.

According to AES Show 2020 co-chair Jonathan Wyner, “Expanding the convention offerings across a full month answers one of the biggest questions raised by convention attendees in the past when faced with hundreds of compelling sessions packed into just four days: ‘How do I choose?’ Applying lessons learned from AES’s first online convention experience with the highly successful AES Virtual Vienna [held June 2–5], we extended the timeline to provide our attendees the opportunity to dive deeper into the program and explore new topics. Plus, we have some exciting and innovative new programming. A virtual event allows us to take attendees places they have never been. It also means that you will be able to see and hear presenters up close and personal as never before. All attendees will have the best seat in the house!”

Declaring that October is Audio Engineering Month, the AES has set out a program that includes all the perennial favorite activities and events. And not only do attendees not have to hustle from one room to another to squeeze in all the Technical Program sessions they want to see, the virtual show also offers more bang for the buck.

“With all the online content, the convention can now be experienced by anyone in the world who has an internet connection,” says convention co-chair Valerie Tyler. “Combined with lowered registration fees, and without the necessity of travel costs and logistics, the 2020 AES Show is the most accessible ever.”

AES Show 2020 Set Broadcast / Online Track

Indeed, accessible by anyone anywhere with an internet connection, this year’s online convention will help the AES continue to build on its diversity initiative. “It’s our goal, and my personal passion, to encourage diversity in our attendees,” says third convention co-chair Paul “Willie Green” Womack. “New voices and topics during the last several AES Conventions have broadened our attendee base; now we’re taking the convention directly to everyone everywhere. That can only build on our progress—there’s infinite room under the umbrella.”

In practical terms, the program comprises four weekly focuses. Weeks one and two feature interviews, webinars on timely topics and an online AoIP Summit. The third week will turn the spotlight on students and the exhibition showcase. The fourth and final week will feature the many tracks of the tech program, which is usually held in the meeting rooms away from the show floor, including workshops, papers, engineering briefs and special events such as the Heyser Lecture and keynote addresses.

Organizers report that they have been designing and reworking the convention for this year’s virtual multimedia presentation formats, combining live and on-demand sessions and real-time Q&A sessions with presenters. With no physical show floor to browse, for example, the new AES Show Product Launch enables attendees to see the latest gear from manufacturers and developers through video-based product launches and live engagement with product specialists and company personnel.

The virtual platform also allows the AES to offer some events that would not be available in the physical world. One such event is “The Seven Wonders of the Audio World,” presented by John Krivit, which will offer in-depth tours of legendary studios around the globe, not just the New York area, as would typically be the case.

The social upheaval that has surfaced in the United States during 2020 is reflected in this year’s program. One session, “Unlocking the Control Room: Equity Achievements in Audio,” offers an examination of gender diversity issues, continuing an initiative that the AES began several years ago. Panelists Amandine Pras, Grace Brooks, Kat Young, Daniel Fox, Mary Mazurek and Eliot Bates will host an open dialogue about the achievements of AES members who have applied their expertise to prompt actions toward equity.

The Hip-Hop and R&B track is back for a second year, with Womack and co-chair Armand Jennings examining the audio engineering and production insights, artistry and gear behind some of the genre’s biggest artists. Highlights include a deep dive into Run the Jewels’ recent release, RTJ4, with a focus on mixer Joey Raia’s hybrid studio setup.

This has been a landmark year in the struggle for social justice in America, and with Black music central to the music and entertainment industries, Womack will moderate the Black Music Roundtable, a panel of Grammy- winning engineers and producers discussing how the recent shift in cultural awareness impacts opportunities for artists and technicians of color.

The coronavirus pandemic, too, has changed many things, some perhaps for the long term, including the way that music is produced. Peter Doell and Warren Huart will discuss whether online workflows can replace some or all of the record-making process, now that many of us can no longer interact in person, at least for the time being, and will explore the pros and cons of online tools and platforms.

There has been a great deal of national discussion about remote learning in general as the pandemic has dragged on. A workshop entitled “The Day School Came Home” will feature a panel of prominent audio educators—including a number of past AES presidents—reflecting on the initiatives they have implemented in switching from physical to virtual classrooms. The presenters will also review some of the online collaborative tools available, including twitch. tv, and binaural audio encoding, while also offering Zoom best practices.

The convention’s regular student and career offerings have been expanded this year into an entire AES Show Student Week. The week is scheduled to feature workshops, recording critique sessions, recording and design competitions, a career and education fair, mentoring sessions and more.

AES Show Fall 2020 •