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M3 Does More With Less Fiber

LOS ANGELES, CA—Live music recording and broadcast company Music Mix Mobile (M3) was in attendance at the annual Grammy Awards telecast for the seventh time this year.

Joel Singer at the cab of one of Music Mix Mobile’s two trucks in use during the 2015 Grammy Awards. LOS ANGELES, CA—Live music recording and broadcast company Music Mix Mobile (M3) was in attendance at the annual Grammy Awards telecast for the seventh time this year. While the technical set-up, including two trucks, Eclipse and Horizon, was largely unchanged from last year, this year M3 implemented new FiberPlex fiber optic technology that engineer-in-charge and partner Joel Singer expects will usher in new efficiencies and cost effectiveness.

“It’s the future of where our company is going,” states Singer. “It’s all about streamlining production, hours and overtime, and connectivity, and the ability to get in and out of a venue efficiently. We pride ourselves on the fact that we’re a very mobile company that can get in and out of venues quickly, and we don’t take up a lot of space. This takes us to the next level.”

Fiber optic cable is nothing new, of course. But the technical capabilities of FiberPlex’s 2RU WDM-16 16-channel active wavelength division multiplexer, which M3 implemented in order to distribute MADI streams between its music mix trucks, the venue and NEP Broadcasting’s Denali Summit truck, significantly streamlined the company’s set-up this year. “Running five, six or seven pieces of duplex cable is really not what we want to do anymore,” he says.

Instead, M3 ran just one TAC-12 single-mode fiber optic cable to its two trucks parked outside the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles from the arena’s backstage area. In past years a TAC-4 cable would have been run from each of the five racks housing M3’s Grace Design and Aphex microphone preamps. This year, with those signals instead funneling into FiberPlex’s multiplexers located at “preamp world,” says Singer, “We’re still doing 192 channels back and forth, but we’re doing it on just two strands of single-mode fiber.”

The music trucks used FiberPlex TD-6010 Throw Down converter boxes with plug-in SFP (Small Form- Factor Pluggable) modules to convert between electrical MADI and the required connections. The signals were de-multiplexed and fed into a MADI router, where Singer could select the inputs to send to the mixers.

In previous years, MADI streams would have been distributed from the M3 trucks to broadcast production mixer Tom Holmes in the Denali truck over multiple cables. Feeding Summit from the M3 trucks via TD- 6010 converters fitted with the appropriate STPs, says Singer, “We’re using just four strands of another TAC-12: two for Eclipse and two for Horizon, send and receive.”

Singer reports that he began buying FiberPlex’s Throw Down boxes for their independent format conversion capabilities—between 3G-SDI and HDMI, for instance, or electrical MADI to single-mode fiber. The manufacturer, based in Annapolis Junction, MD, has several decades of experience in the governmental, military and civilian security markets, and in 2004 entered the pro audio market with its LightViper products. Through its Coarse Wave Division Multiplexing technology, FiberPlex is able to combine up to 16 bi-directional source channels down a single fiber, each at data rates of 155 megabits to 3 gigabits, for a potential total of 48 Gbps.

Being able to unlock 16 times the current standard capacity of a fiber infrastructure opens up exciting possibilities, Singer says. At music festivals, for example, a WDM-16 at a central location, interconnected with multiple stages via TD-6010 Throw Down boxes, could feed a hub for distribution to multiple trucks or temporary mix rooms. “We can just send a pipe to every room and everyone gets what they want, with network control,” he says. “We can put up video cameras; we can do whatever we want. We have all these options at our disposal now.”

When M3 parks a truck at Madison Square Garden in New York for the NBA All-Star Game pre- and post-show music segments, being offered just two strands of fiber, for instance, will no longer present a challenge. “We’ll shine a light down it, meter it so that we know that it’s working, make sure it’s going where it can’t be disconnected, and we can deal with it. The possibilities are limitless for us and what we do,” says Singer.

“M3 is the only audio facility in this country, possibly in the world, that can do something like this as effectively. We’re pushing technology further, so that we can take what we do further.”
FiberPlex Technologies

Music Mix Mobile