LAS VEGAS, NV—According to Gordon Smith, chairman/ CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the impending incentive auction is an opportunity for the industry to develop and adopt a next-generation technology platform. “In an increasingly fragmented marketplace, next-gen promises to provide flexibility, IP interoperability and new revenue streams,” said Smith in his keynote at the 2015 NAB Show in Las Vegas.
IP is already well-established and widely adopted in many markets within the audio world. But this year, if the recent NAB Show is any indication, marks a tipping point for the wider broadcast industry, which is now grasping the potential of IP in the face of cord-cutting customers, OTT (over-the-top) content delivery and the reduced over-the-air footprint that could result from the incentive auction.
The auction is intended to encourage TV stations to sell off their frequency spectrum in order for the telcos to beef-up their mobile services in response to apparent customer demand. But while the NAB, advocating on behalf of its members, and the Federal Communications Commission continue to trade barbs over the exact terms of the plan, some television practitioners are already making the leap into next-gen tech.
At a gala event hosted by Imagine Communications at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino’s The Joint the night before the NAB show floor opened, company CEO Charlie Vogt introduced Vince Roberts, executive VP, global operations and CTO of the Disney/ABC Television Group. “By leveraging evolving IP and cloud technologies, we are able to move beyond what’s currently possible with traditional proprietary ‘big iron’ broadcast infrastructures,” said Roberts, announcing that he plans to transition Disney/ABC to an IPand cloud-based global programming playout, delivery and network operation with the help of Imagine’s products and services. “Imagine Communications’ IP solutions enable us to automate and deliver workflow processes and technologies to a more agile and scalable environment,” he explained, referring to the company’s VersioCloud and Zenium solutions.
During the Super Session “Television’s Transition to an All-IP Future— Why It’s a Big Deal,” consultant Clyde Smith with Fox Network Engineering and Operations observed, “The business is evolving more rapidly than we’ve ever seen it, but there is not enough flexibility with traditional infrastructures to address the rapidly changing business or to scale-up new services at will. IP means you can scale and that all these process can be automated.”
Meanwhile, in the audio world, interoperability between the disparate networking protocols is most definitely moving closer. The AES67 interoperability standard, published at the end of 2013, is effectively a subset of technologies already included in RAVENNA. Immediately prior to the show, Audinate announced that Dante will shortly receive the scheduled firmware update supporting AES67, initially via the Brooklyn II card. The Telos Alliance also announced that its updated Livewire+ is fully compliant with the AES67 specification.
Other AoIP product introductions included Lawo’s launch of its new A__line family of interfaces with the A__mic8, which houses eight mic/line ins, four line outs and two RAVENNA/AES67 ports. Solid State Logic added two new Dante-enabled 19-inch interfaces, Network I/O: Stagebox, which offers eight mic/line inputs and eight line level outputs, and the Network I/O: MADI-Bridge.
Calrec announced that its consoles may now be integrated with DiGiCo desks—the two are in the pro audio group formed in August, 2014 along with Allen & Heath—via DiGiCo’s Orange Box. The rack-mount interface accepts DiGiCo Multichannel Interface (DMI) cards and, when equipped with Calrec’s new Hydra2 interface card, enables cross-brand interoperabillity.
On the third day of the NAB Show, coinciding with opening day at the Frankfurt ProLight&Sound in Germany, the umbrella business name for the three-brand group was revealed as Audiotonix, and DiGiCo also unveiled its new entry-level console, the S21. The compact desk offers DMI card options enabling input from Dante, Calrec’s Hydra2, Optocore and Waves SoundGrid, as well as MADI.
Wheatstone also addressed the accelerating interest in AoIP technology with new product introductions at the show. The company’s new flagship IP-64 large-format TV console has been designed as an easy-to-operate surface that frees operators from the impression that they are facing a “sea of knobs,” as the company puts it, and also supports HD/SDI, AES, MADI, AoIP, analog or TDM connectivity. Gibraltar IP Mix Engine, the gateway to the WheatNet-IP audio network system, which also carries control and command functions, supports the company’s Dimension Three, D-8EX, Series Four and Series Two digital mixing consoles in addition to the new IP-64, and additionally enables AES67 compatibility. Also, the company and Eventide have partnered to add WheatNet-IP audio and control networking to Eventide’s BD600W profanity delay unit, which combines extended remote control and audio over Wheatstone’s WheatNet-IP broadcast network, with 80 seconds of profanity protection.
Avid is finally making good on its promise of interoperability with brands outside its immediate orbit, announcing at the show that Audinate is currently working with the company to develop a new Dante option card for the Venue S6L console system. The live sound desk will also offer interoperability with Waves plug-ins via the Waves SoundGrid AoIP network.
The NAB Show