Audio Consoles Focus On Remote Mixing For Virtual Production

Among a number of things, the pandemic has accelerated product development timelines for remote production and the migration to virtualized IP infrastructures, supporting the ability to produce content remotely and stay socially distanced. Many of these new tools were already in place but were often still in early stages, and some were cobbled together nearly on the fly as broadcasters coped with the careful return of live sports.

That’s why most broadcast audio mixing consoles sold today include IP-based connectivity to give users unlimited access to the console’s core via a separate device—like an off-the-shelf touchscreen, an electronic tablet or even a cell phone. It’s a trend that has been evolving even before the pandemic, but many professional mixers are now either working from a centralized facility remotely located miles from the live event itself or from their homes.

Here’s a few ways that suppliers of audio mixing consoles have stepped up and developed flexible technology that work in a myriad of IP environments. 

Calrec Audio

Calrec’s Type R for TV virtual mixing console features automated operation and can be controlled from the control room’s video production switcher and remote fader panel.

Henry Goodman, director of product management at Calrec, says the product addresses the rising demand for automated audio consoles in smaller news operations.

“More often we’re seeing the console surface not used at all, which is driving the demand for broadcast-level virtual consoles.”

Type R for TV is compatible with established station automation systems including Ross Overdrive, Sony ELC and Grass Valley Ignite. Furthermore, it provides fully automated programming with real-time adjustment of unpredictable external factors via a standard web browser.

Type R’s small and adaptable hardware elements can be easily added if desired. Powered by standard PoE switches, Type R has three different panel options. If broadcasters prefer a physical surface, then banks of six faders can be added. Adaptable soft panels like Calrec’s Large Soft Panel (LSP) and Small Soft Panel (SSP) can also be used.

Calrec also offers its Assist web UI, a browser-based interface application that creates a virtual-console environment that allows mixers to access a virtual desk on almost any device. Assist works over TCP/IP and offers minimal control lag, which makes minor adjustments easy and quick to do. Assist uses the same technology as the company’s VP2 “headless” virtualized-console work surface, which mimics the operations and capabilities of its flagship Artemis and Apollo consoles. A version is now available for the RP1 compact desk and Type R radio production console.

At the same time, console makers like Calrec are encouraging the continued transition to an IP infrastructure. The company’s IP-based ImPulse core offers a native IP AES67- and SMPTE 2110-compliant backbone, is NMOS-compliant, and is compatible with existing Apollo and Artemis control surfaces.

Lawo

All Lawo mc² series mixing consoles are optimized for IP production environments, whether on-premise or remotely.

Lawo’s Power Core RP, introduced in 2019, is a Remote Production solution for its mc² audio consoles, which are all IP-enabled. Featuring integrated modular I/O, IP streaming capabilities, and advanced DSP that includes 64 processing channels, low-latency on-site monitor and IFB mixing, and full mc² remote control of all channel parameters (gain, fader, mute, EQ, dynamics, Aux Send levels and more). A touch-screen GUI provides additional control for both on-site and remote operation.

Lawo’s Mix Kitchen allows off-the-shelf components to be used in any environment and reliably connect to a home facility’s mc2-series console.

Lawo’s Mix Kitchen allows off-the-shelf components to be used in any environment and reliably connect to a home facility’s mc2-series console.

Another Lawo product, Mix Kitchen, was introduced in June and allows off-the-shelf components, such as small USB fader panels or DAW controllers, to be used in any environment and connect to a home facility’s mc2-series console. It also allows surface-less operations based on the mc2 micro-core. In addition to remote mixer operation, the solution enables in-place access to any Mac- or Windows-based computer in the plant. What they are saying lately is that users don’t need to invest in a separate control surface anymore.

This third generation of Lawo’s mc² 56 console is optimized to work within IP video production environments, featuring support for native SMPTE 2110, AES67/ RAVENNA and DANTE, while Lawo’s LiveView feature enables thumbnail previews of video streams directly in the fader labeling displays. The console also features IP-Share gain compensation and DSCA Dynamic Surface to Core Allocation.

Solid State Logic

The latest V3.0 release from Solid State Logic addresses the ongoing IP and security challenges within today’s distributed audio production workflows. This includes expanded AoIP integration that provides direct console routing control for ST2110-30 and AES67 streams, and a major embedded operating system upgrade.

This latest software release also adds new functionality across the whole System T console range, targeted at entertainment programming and events. This includes NGA and immersive audio, DAW control and dynamic automation.

Running a Dante AoIP backbone and compliant with AES67 / 2110 protocols, System T offers advanced integration capabilities into an existing or future AoIP infrastructure.

Running a Dante AoIP backbone and compliant with AES67 / 2110 protocols, System T offers advanced integration capabilities into an existing or future AoIP infrastructure.

SSL System T makes it easy to configure as part of AoIP networking that supports Dante, AES67 and ST 2110 on the same hardware interfaces. There’s also full discovery and dynamic routing of any Dante enabled devices directly from the console GUI. And the new software extends visibility and routing of ST 2110-30 or AES67 RTP (Real-time Transport Protocol) streams directly from the console’s GUI.

AoIP routing is available using standards and widely adopted technology and is presented to the user as audio channels, not IP addresses. Built-in connection management and audio shuffling provides mono routing capabilities, plus logical device configuration, to easily manage bundled audio signals and provide searchability.

SSL has also updated the embedded operating system on System T. The control surface and SSL Tempest Control Rack (TCR)—which offers an ideal solution where a broadcast audio mixer is required but a traditional console is not—now run on a Windows 10 OS platform. Transitioning to Windows 10 allows continued updates, including Microsoft’s latest security additions, plus additional future console features layered above the embedded OS.

From V3.0, System T fully supports running TeamViewer directly onboard the consoles for remote access, enabling remote support, configuration and at-home control as if you were sat directly in front of the console. Working from anywhere in the world with a standard internet connection, you can directly access the console and all software control features via any computer or touchscreen device.

Studer

Harman Professional Solutions’ Studer Vista consoles continue to be a leading choice for professional broadcasters and mixers. Vista consoles feature scalable Infinity Core signal processors, and comprehensive metering to meet the challenges of the most demanding broadcast environments.

In the area of large-scale mixing consoles for broadcast applications, the Vista X, together with the Studer Infinity Core, offers the patented Vistonics and FaderGlow user interface, which provides control of 1,000 or more audio DSP channels and more than 5,000 inputs and outputs. The Vista X is available in 32, 42, 52, 62, and 72-fader versions, so you can select the size and options that fit your specific needs.

The Vista X with Quad Star technology uses four processors to achieve aviation-standard levels of redundancy in the control surface.]

The Vista X with Quad Star technology uses four processors to achieve aviation-standard levels of redundancy in the control surface.]

The new Vista X with Quad Star technology uses four processors to achieve aviation-standard levels of redundancy in the control surface while CPU-based DSP makes it viable to provide two completely independent DSP cores running in parallel with “instant” change over.

Overcoming the potential single points of failure evident in conventional TDM-based systems assures total peace of mind, and also offers the possibility of two complete Vista X surfaces working on the same project at the same time, enabling very large, dual language or multi-format productions to be undertaken with ease.

Studer’s Vistonics interface builds Vista X’s rotary controls and buttons directly into the flat screen displays that provide visual feedback. Each audio function is always associated with the same color – red for EQ and filters, green for dynamics, and so on.

Another Studer innovation, FaderGlow, combines with assignable channel naming to further reduce stress by illuminating each fader in the color relating to the relevant function, creating an instant overview of console status.

Finally, Studer’s VistaMix is designed for automated microphone mixing for unscripted radio and TV talk shows. VistaMix automatically mimics the actions of a skilled human operator, increasing gain for “talking” mics and reducing gain for all others at lightning speed to create a clean live mix without spill or ambience. And it’s all controlled remotely.

Wheatstone

Wheatstone’s Strata 32 audio console has over 64 channels as well as the latest IP audio innovation placed into a 40-inch frame that fits most television applications. Whether at home, newsrooms, remote vans or sports venues, the compact IP audio Strata 32 console has dedicated faders for eight subgroups and two masters along with 32 physical faders that can be layered for all 64 channels.

The Strata 32 console provides access to all resources in the WheatNet-IP network, via a touchscreen interface, for reliable remote mixing capability.

The Strata 32 console provides access to all resources in the WheatNet-IP network, via a touchscreen interface, for reliable remote mixing capability.

The console also provides access to all resources in the WheatNet-IP network, via a touchscreen interface with an intuitive menu that can adjust EQ dynamics, set talkback, configure mix-minus feeds, and bus matrices, mute mic groups; and it can manage sources and destinations. The console also features per-channel OLEDs display all relevant editing and operating functions at a glance.

The Strata 32 has all of its I/O managed through the audio network. There are no limitations with fixed connection points on the console and it provides access to all sources on the network. Also, any channel can connect to any audio source or destination, using any preferred audio format. This supports multiple file formats, such as HD/SDI, AES, MADI, AoIP, Analog, or TDM. And the console integrates seamlessly with all the major production automation systems. It comes complete with IP audio mix engine plus an optional stage box for extended I/O.

What’s clear is that most broadcast audio consoles can now be accurately and reliably controlled from virtually anywhere in the world, due to an increasing demand for remote access capability. That’s a good thing for the mixer sitting in their basement or spare bedroom mixing a major TV show. Due to travel restrictions, cost cutting and logistics, more mixers will be working from home in the future. They now have the remote access technology they need to make it commonplace.

You might also like...

The Sponsors Perspective: Capturing Immersive Audio

Strategies for capturing immersive audio for scene and object-based audio.

The Sponsors Perspective: Monitoring Immersive Audio

Genelec Senior Technologist Thomas Lund starts down the road to ideal monitoring for immersive audio by looking at what is real, and how that could or should be translated for the listener.

The Sponsors Perspective: Effectively Using The Power Of Immersive Audio

Lawo’s Christian Scheck takes a tour of console functions and features that have a special place in immersive audio production, and how they are developing.

KABB’s Chief Meteorologist Shares His Successful Broadcasting From Home Formula

When the pandemic began shutting down TV stations in the spring of this year, journalists and producers were left to figure out how to work from home and set up technical systems they were very unfamiliar with. In many cases…

The Sponsors Perspective: Mixing Realities - Feeding The Immersive Markets

Will alternative immersive channels create an imperative for broadcasters? Veronique Larcher, Director of AMBEO Immersive Audio, Sennheiser, explores immersive content outside of the commercial broadcast space, including virtual, augmented, and mixed realities.