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Dante Connect: Enabling Established Audio Workflows In The Cloud

The live broadcast landscape has changed beyond anything we could have imagined.

Streaming has impacted our industry in ways we're not even fully aware of yet. The fight for viewers’ eyeballs is intensifying, and although broadcasters are still producing content for live transmission, they are also under immense pressure to create variations of that same content to meet the needs of many different audiences.

We no longer live in a linear world; today our world is designed around niche content curated to the individual. People consume content in different ways and on different devices. They interact with that content differently, and distribution channels monetize it all in different ways.

The most practical way for broadcasters to cover all the bases is to utilize software-based workflows to repurpose the same base materials into content designed for these channels and interests.

Virtualization and cloud services provide methods of creating content in a practical way. It not only benefits tier-one events which must be repackaged multiple times, but it also lowers costs to achieve higher production quality for second and third tier events.

We have never had access to so much content. As we move further away from proprietary hardware and move more towards software-based environments, the benefits of scale are substantial.

To our customers, whether that scale comes from the cloud or on-prem shouldn’t really matter; what matters is being able to easily scale available resources up and down as requirements change, all without having to think about footprint or the logistical challenges which accompany it.

Dante Connect

Divorcing our workflows from bespoke hardware fundamentally changes how we are able to tell stories, and it is something that Audinate has been looking at for years.

Dante Connect is a suite of products that allows equipment in Dante-enabled networks to be accessed in the cloud. In other words, it enables users to use the same familiar workflows and equipment that they are used to using in their facility and move them straight into cloud or virtualized environments.

Dante Connect takes advantage of commonly available tools and gives users the ability to access them for a range of productions, regardless of location. It provides different stakeholders with remote access to common audio sources such as commentary, game FX and natural ambience in a cloud environment to repurpose for a range of outlets.

What We Do

Audio in the cloud is challenging due to the tight clocking requirements traditionally handled by hardware devices. In the cloud, there is no capacity for dedicated hardware, so the need for innovation is required. Luckily, Audinate's mission is about making it easy to manage audio in networked environments and that now includes the cloud.

Audio is commonly embedded with a video source, but in a cloud environment the audio has to be stripped out, with non-deterministic delay having to be added directly into the signal chain to bring everything back into line. It’s a time-consuming and frustrating process.

Dante Connect solves many of these challenges by expanding on the same Dante protocol which millions of devices already use to provide the same resolution and determinism that you would expect, but in a virtualized environment.

How It Works

It is made up of four main components.

The Dante Virtual Sound Card

The first is Dante Connect’s Virtual Sound Card. Whether it's a mixer, a DAW or some other type of DSP you're working with, the Dante virtual sound card provides the ability to connect a variety of enabled devices on a Dante network.

The Dante Connect Gateway

The Dante Connect Gateway then handles connectivity between locations, whether they are on-prem, edge or cloud.  It is specifically designed to match up the clocking of audio sources from on-prem equipment to truly virtualized environments such as the cloud.

Dante Connect achieves this. When dealing with audio, the aim is to get everything talking to same clock at the lowest latency, and on-prem is easy because everything is localized with very short transmission times. In an on-prem environment, Dante signals are already clocked and in-sync, and broadcasters have been working with them for many years.

The Dante Gateway creates a clocking source in the cloud and automatically negotiates the bridging between cloud and on-prem devices. The Gateway assigns the appropriate buffer to maintain the same experience to everything that is happening in the cloud.

While we are never going to get around the laws of physics, humans are very adaptable to such things as long as the whole line is in temporal sync to itself. What we discovered is that as long as sources clock as if they are locked in together and are presented back to the operator in the same form, they are easy to deal with.

And while there are always going to be latencies which we have little control over, such as where the data stack is located and whether we are relying on public internet, with Dante Connect this is no longer a challenge.

In fact, it is exactly where the solution lies and is precisely what Dante Connect works to overcome.

Dante Domain Manager

The third element of the Dante Connect application suite is Dante Domain Manager. This technology handles the enrolment of sources and allows users to scale up and down as necessary, providing the ability to spin up a whole host of virtual sound cards if the production demands it. Users can even use scripts to do that, which means they can expand the capabilities of a production when required.

This flexibility is an even more efficient way to work because users can utilize those same resources on other productions. Dante Domain Manager adds value by enabling that flexibility.

The Dante Remote Monitor

Finally, Dante Connect's Remote Monitor allows a user to route audio to a web RTC point so that any phone or computer web browser can listen in real time. It takes Dante audio feeds and enables users to listen wherever they are. For example, it provides the ability for a producer to listen to a mix in real time without having to make a patch point somewhere. We wanted to make it quick and easy to spin up a patch point to any part of the production with a couple of clicks on a web server, both for confidence monitoring as well as quality control.

Technology Partners

The development of a technology like this means that collaboration is vital. Although it remains agnostic, Audinate has been working with key partners in the development of Dante Connect including AWS, Waves, Audiotonix, Riedel and HHB Communications.

While Audinate’s core business is as an ingredient for OEMs to integrate the Dante protocol into their product, this technology is not about that. Dante Connect isn't anything if we don't integrate with industry standard microphones, audio mixers or comms systems

Will Waters, Principal Product Manager at Audinate

Will Waters, Principal Product Manager at Audinate

Creating More Opportunities

We shouldn't have to decide which event we can cover based purely on the physical resource we have available, or how we can cover it. This is how we’ve always worked and traditional outside broadcasts are now a prohibitively expensive way to cover live events.

The good news is that irrespective of the output, every treatment uses the same fundamental sources, and Dante Connect allows our customers to take advantage of that, wherever they are. Whether it is an on-prem network, a cloud topology, or a hybrid mixture of the two, Dante Connect syncs everything up as if the mixing desk, stage boxes and microphones are located in the same physical environment.

Operators don't physically have to be at the event. They can mix shows in a controlled and managed audio environment which is close to their home. It gives them the ability to deliver multiple events on any given day or week.

Ultimately it allows us to cover more events with fewer resources and mix for a wider variety of stakeholders. It’s no wonder that there are more and more overlaps where the production is pushing into cloud production, and Dante Connect is there to support them.