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Immersive and AoIP grow at IBC 2018

The IBC (International Broadcasting Convention) provides an annual platform for TV and radio technology. Video has long been dominant but, as Kevin Hilton reports, the balance is swinging in favour of audio...

Something that has been apparent for the last couple of years at IBC is that sound is on a level with – or even leading – vision/video, after years of being an after-thought add-on. This is particularly noticeable in immersive technologies. Spatial sound has long been regarded as the natural partner to both virtual reality/augmented reality (VR/ AR) and higher resolution imaging systems, such as 4k (Ultra High Definition/UHD).

The developing trend today is for more affordable immersive audio technology. This was reflected in the launches of two new single-unit Ambisonics microphones. The SoundField by RØDE NT-SF1, shown on UK distributor HHB’s stand, features four true condenser capsules and comes in a kit with a suspension mount, spherical windshield and a custom cable made by Mogami. This is priced at US $999, which senior sales manager Ryan Burke says puts Ambisonic recording within reach of more people with a “big focus” on VR. Also on display was a free plug-in designed to work with the NT-SF1; this provides B-format processing in post-production, with the ability to focus on specific sounds in the spatial picture.

Portable recorder manufacturer Zoom is also targeting the burgeoning virtual creation market with the H3-VR, which combines four-channels of recording with an Ambisonics mic and integral decoder. Product specialist Sam Clarke explains it was designed and built in house, with a gyroscope for orientating the spatial signals and the ability to record in Ambisonics (A and B formats), binaural stereo and stereo. The H3-VR was debuted at IBC and should be available by the end of October, priced at £329.

At the reproduction end of the immersive chain, Genelec launched the S360A high SPL loudspeaker and 7382A subwoofer. At a special presentation, R&D director Aki Mäkivirta said the company had developed the monitors in response to “changes in sound reproduction”, specifically immersive audio. The S360A is able to reach a maximum peak of 128dB and features analogue XLR and AES/EBU digital connections. The 7382A can also achieve 128dB (short term) and reached 15Hz in anechoic chamber tests. ORF sound supervisor Florian Caterer and Benny Andersen’s engineer Bernard Löhr gave their thoughts on spatial audio from their respective broadcast and music perspectives.

Microphones in general threw up some new attention- grabbing releases. Sennheiser introduced the Memory Mic, described by a visiting sound recordist as “a radio microphone that doesn’t need a wireless connection”. This compact unit, featuring a flexible, magnetic clip, was originally designed with the consumer market in mind but, channel sales manager Tim Constable, said people who saw it had come up with a lot of different uses: “There’s been interest from the wedding videography, presentation, conference and news reporting sectors.”. The mic module features a ME2 capsule and WAV file recorder with four-hour capacity. Once recording is complete, it syncs to the user’s smartphone over Bluetooth to transfer files. Among other new products on show was the SK 6212 mini transmitter for the 6000 Series digital wireless range.

Other additions to the wireless mic market included the full production version of the Audio Limited A10 system, with parent company Sound Devices showing the MixPre-10T timecode recorder and Ambisonics plug- ins for VR work; Sony’s DWX third generation system, featuring a micro-transmitter with audio over IP (AoIP) connectivity through Dante; and the Shure Axient Digital range, featuring the small-scale ADX1M body pack with internal antenna.

AoIP has had a high profile at IBC for the past few years and that continued this year. Jünger Audio has been attracting attention recently for business reasons after it went into insolvency measures in July. During a press reception at IBC, managing director Martin Schlockwerder said that by September 15, 20 potential new owners had been reduced to a shortlist of eight. He hoped a decision about the company’s future would be made by October 15. In the meantime, Jünger highlighted the new flexAi (Flexible Audio Infrastructure) platform, which offers AES67 and SMPTE ST 2110 AoIP connectivity as well as MADI, AES/EBU and analogue.

Sonifex has expanded its AoIP offering to include Dante-compliant units as well as RAVENNA/AES67 products. The AVN-CU2 commentary unit, with inputs for two commentators, was shown in prototype form. Managing director Marcus Brooke said the new box had mix-matrix capability and was able to connect to AES67 networks. He hoped it would be available during the first quarter of next year.

Glensound Electronics expanded its range of Dante products with the Paradiso Lite commentary system and two compact units for the Beatrice intercom range. Perhaps of most interest was a prototype small loudspeaker, aimed at a rack room, studio and OB truck audio monitoring applications.

Managing director Gavin Davis explained that the Divine was conceived as a Dante/AES67 replacement for compact Fostex speakers that are still widely used in broadcasting. He said the company would need to know there was enough demand for such an item, adding that the reaction had been positive.

Visitor numbers for this year’s IBC were three per cent down on last year’s show, although organisers pointed to an increase in exhibition space and conference delegates. IBC 2019 will take place in Amsterdam at the RAI Exhibition Centre from September 12-17.