TV Production Shifts Towards Portability, AoIP

LAS VEGAS, NV—Changes abound in broadcast audio, significantly affecting everyone involved— producers and content creators, consumers, gear manufacturers, advertisers and most certainly the broadcasters themselves.
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LAS VEGAS, NV—Changes abound in broadcast audio, significantly affecting everyone involved— producers and content creators, consumers, gear manufacturers, advertisers and most certainly the broadcasters themselves. That’s the consensus amongst most pro audio experts PSN met at the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) for the 2015 NAB Show. And largely, it’s all about the Internet.

Since NAB 2014, for example, we have Sling TV— low-cost Internet Protocol pay television (IPTV) with major channels on board—owned by Dish Network, unveiled in January, 2015 at the LVCC during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Software manufacturers are increasingly wooing the “backpack producer,” touting highly-portable, all-inclusive A/V content production solutions and tools with unprecedented capabilities. And at the high end, audio over IP (AoIP) isn’t just a topic of discussion; it’s the plan for the future.

Who are new customers, the content creators in our evolving world of broadcasting? “If anything, they’re jacks-of-all-trades,” notes Jim Cooper of MOTU. “There’s a move to consolidate workflows onto a single desktop, and people are putting on multiple hats for multiple roles. Often there’s one person doing everything— soup to nuts, maybe even all the picture editing—and they are looking for simple solutions that give them broadcast quality.”

“Run-and-gun”-friendly features comprise much of the MOTU audio interface line today, explains Cooper. “On the 8M, our Thunderbolt audio interface features a hardware-based limiter called V-Limit, allowing for an extra 9 dB of headroom when users are in an uncontrolled environment and capturing something on the run. We’ve also recently added AVB audio networking. We just continue to add value to the interfaces we make. If you look at a typical new MOTU interface, you have I/O, a mixer with twice the DSP as the older generation, with 48 inputs, all stereo buses, compression, EQ, format conversion and a full-blown monitor mixer that’s controllable from an iPad.”

Mike Scheibinger of Sony Creative Software waxed prophetically about the new generation of content creators following a popular demo where new sound design techniques were facilitated by SpectraLayers Pro 3’s spectral audio editing GUI and the Sound Forge Pro Mac DAW. “As it turns out, it’s all getting easier and easier to do,” offers Scheibinger. “It’s shooting film with DSLRs, editing audio on a laptop and creating an entire world for your multimedia that sparkles. The ability to shoot and render 4K video resolution in a portable rig is available to basically everyone. Just like the music world in the last decade, this is the decade of the democratization of video content production and distribution—and I’m talking about video content that looks just like pro, downtown cinema 4K high-res. All of this opens up worlds of opportunities for anyone who has the inclination to create this kind of multimedia: Shoot it today, edit it tonight and show it by morning. And it will look and sound fantastic.”

Fixed install and large OB rigs still dominate the high-end of the market, where, “The biggest change facing audio manufacturers is AoIP,” attests Kevin Emmett of Calrec Audio, “and the market doesn’t quite know where it is yet. There’s a bunch of different standards: the closely aligned RAVENNA and AES67, Dante, AVB and Hydra2—the Calrec proprietary network. Because our customers don’t know where to turn yet, we’re agnostic and working with RAVENNA and Dante. As a manufacturer, we need to support what the customer needs. Over the next few years, that arena will shift and change, shift and change. What the interoperable standards give you is being treated as a panacea. It allows everything to talk to each other, and it will be great…but no one knows which way to jump yet.”

As such, Calrec’s big unveilings were compact expansion units for Hydra2: Fieldbox and H2Hub, a rugged 8-input I/O and a switcher, respectively, intended for live sports, a category that Emmett says helps to push innovation in audio for broadcast. “With [the new units], we can provide very large networks very affordably—down two coppers, one acting as redundant,” he explains. “The cost-effective boxes, we think, will play a big part in our business moving forward. [In sports broadcasting] like golf—where you have a lot of inputs over a huge area, but only one or two in spots dotted about—it’s perfect.”