For AoIP, the future has arrived

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The consoles are commissioned remotely; communications span continents; production is seamless from truck to studio

In retrospect, audio over IP networks was unavoidable. The migration from a dedicated cable/channel-signal environment to a network-based model over the past 10 years has proceeded along the same path as the transition from analog to digital three decades ago. But a few things happened to accelerate the trend.

Calrec Audio’s Tim Casey: “When COVID happened, it was like, let’s [AoIP] work now!”

“It was a nitro explosion,” says Tim Casey, support technician, Calrec Audio, choosing a not inappropriate metaphor to describe how the conventional field production model for broadcast has suddenly been rendered moot by the COVID pandemic. “Whether [a broadcaster] wanted to televise a sporting event, he couldn’t send hundreds of people to one location and had to find other ways to do it all. I think networks were preparing for a future where they could remotely control cameras and microphones and switch and route

remotely, but that would probably be 10 years from now. Then when COVID happened, it was like, let’s make it work now! Everyone had to operate it out of necessity.

From toll road to open road

However, a fundamental change like this has many moving parts and, coincidentally, many of those parts were already moving. Two in particular were critical: the widespread adoption of Dante, Audinate’s proprietary networking protocol that leveraged the naturally slow gears of standards-based technology coding with aggressive marketing, and the gradual arrival of AES67 and of the SMPTE ST 2110 network group. standards.

The path to networked signal transport had already developed a number of proprietary or hybrid toll roads, so to speak: Lawo was involved in the development of RAVENNA; Calrec had its Hydra network; Wheatstone had WheatNet; QSC was enjoying success with its Q-SYS system deployed in broadcast and sports facilities on the AV installed side. What could have been a multi-pronged Edison-vs.-Tesla-scale brawl (with enough drama to perhaps warrant its own film version) was instead channeled through a combination of Dante’s rapid success in gaining adherents (licensees , in his case); the pandemic accelerating the need for centralized remote operations; and the arrival of a series of standards that encouraged cooperation — in the form of increased interoperability and intercompatibility — in a sort of model for the United Nations of technology.

“ST 2110 has codified how all vendors are expected to interact with each other. Before, it was like one of those impasses where which chicken and which egg will arrive first? Casey said. “Once the 2110 standards were codified, manufacturers and vendors could join and then do their plugfests” – gatherings where manufacturers’ engineering representatives, overseen by recently established organizations such as the Alliance for IP Media Solutions (AIMS) and the AVnu Alliance, could bridge the gaps between applications that may be encountered on an IP network in the field.

(AIMS held its first live interoperability demonstration of Internet Protocol Media Experience (IPMX), a set of standards-based protocols designed to provide interoperability for AV over IP, at InfoComm 2022 in Las Vegas the last week.)

The future

In the slow and uneven decline of the COVID pandemic, the broadcast industry is formalizing the use of remote operations, via REMI or home-based workflows. Calrec’s Casey cites the ability to commission new audio consoles remotely, instead of having to send engineers on site.

“As many of the new products are already IP-based,” he says, “it has become easier than ever to go down this path. For a very large distribution [operations]it may still be a good idea to have people on site, but smaller operations, such as regional sports networks, will be the best candidates for remote commissioning.

For intercoms, which have rapidly migrated to networked environments in recent years, the future has already arrived. For example, during broadcasts of the 2022 Beijing Olympics last winter, RTS’s ODIN and ADAM raster frames were deployed to create a seamless global communication network.

“I was tapping an alpha on my RTS control panel in Connecticut, and it was showing up as always,” said Jeremy Katz, who worked as audio collateral on the production, first on location from Beijing and then from NBC Sports facilities in Stamford, CT. “Even though we were literally a world apart, operationally we felt like we were on a normal remote, working together in an OB truck. The director was saying something and the cameraman in Beijing was reacting in real time, like on any other show.

Other intercom brands also have built-in network solutions, such as CrewCom from Pliant Technologies, Bolero from Riedel and the LQ series from Clear-Com.

Microphones have moved into networks. Audio-Technica’s ATND971A cardioid condenser boundary microphone and Sennheiser’s TeamConnect Ceiling 2 microphone have Dante network outputs.

Interestingly, both were originally developed for the corporate/conference room market, but could eventually migrate to sports broadcasting, as Shure’s MXA710 steerable linear array did. The array’s steerable transducers, guided by Shure’s exclusive IntelliMix DSP and Autofocus technology, are compatible with Dante and AES67 audio networking protocols and have been used by DTT Audio Supervisor Dave Grundtvig for coverage of this year’s NBA All-Star Game.

“With this, we can create steerable lobes and point them in different directions as needed, from a distance,” says Grundtvig, who has also experimented with network-controlled microphones for baseball and the NBA Summer League. “This is an entirely new category of microphones for broadcast applications. We are in uncharted territory with this.

In the House

Facilities-wise, CP Communications and its subsidiary Red House Streaming have converted their headquarters in St. anywhere in the world, without leaving the IP domain. . The operation includes a varied network infrastructure of 1-Gb and 10-Gb pipe interface with its two RHS studios and extends to its new RHS-36 truck. The facility has hosted several REMI productions in the past, including the Bermuda Athletics Championships and two ACC Golf Championship events.

“Regardless of the production service used, we acquire in IP, produce in IP and distribute in IP,” said Kurt Heitmann, CEO, CP Communications and The Red House streaming, in a prepared statement. “We can keep everything over IP with our vMix workflows or also decode the content for a traditional SDI workflow onboard the RHS-36. We can then IP encode it for distribution [using IP compression standards in ways that allow clients to capture, edit, process, and deliver programming in their preferred formats]. We work in compressed environments, instead of moving uncompressed content into the facility via a network cable. Working in compressed environments gives our customers the freedom to manage content to and from anywhere in the world via IP in a variety of formats including RTMP, RTSP, SRT and NDI.

AoIP has never been not is going to happen, but the speed with which it’s arrived and integrated into broadcast audio workflows, combined with broadcast’s need for ever greater efficiency, suggests the trend will only embed itself deeper.

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