Studer Helps Customers Gain Flexibility Over IP Infrastructures

HARMAN Professional Solutions and its Broadcast division (offering products such as the Vista series of audio mixing consoles) has been making news lately on the IP front with a series of new Ethernet-enabled products as well as a new software application that addresses heterogeneous audio networking and routing, within an audio production or post environment. The company believes that networking and resource sharing over an Internet protocol (IP) infrastructure is the most flexible and cost-effective strategy for media creation and success.

The Broadcast Bridge spoke with Katy Templeman-Holmes, Director of Technology & Solutions for all HARMAN brands serving the Broadcast, House of Worship, and Theater communities, about the direction of audio networking and how HARMAN plans to help media companies and clients manage different types of IP infrastructures.

The Broadcast Bridge: Why has IP audio networking become so important?

Templeman-Holmes: IP networking theoretically offers simplicity and facilitates the implementation of cost effective workflows that take advantage of off-the-shelf components and products that can be leveraged to develop highly flexible and scalable, networked infrastructures.

Of course, deploying that facility infrastructure to manage the IP traffic involves replacing existing copper with Ethernet cabling (Cat5/6) and that can potentially be the expensive part.

Those investing in Studer infrastructures and solutions don’t pay a premium for the convenience; we are working to support a heterogeneous workflow. When our clients opt in to IP technology, they have to consider the entire workflow and their business model.

The key thing to remember is that even if the IP environment is a seemingly large investment, it is exactly that, an investment. You are gaining so much more functionality and capabilities in the way you handle, repurpose and distribute content in the future. It’s really worth any upfront investment when you consider how it can help monetize your content in new ways than were never possible before. When you look at it from a business perspective and the opportunities it provides, the return on investment comes in your workflow opportunities, not so much in what any single box or piece of software can do. Once in the AoIP domain, you can do more work with fewer resources.

The Broadcast Bridge: Is there real interest in distributing signals over an IP infrastructure?

Templeman-Holmes: Absolutely. Clients today are thinking less about individual products and more about the workflow it will fit into; how it will work with other products on the network. Most people now understand what IP networking can do for them. They are just busy trying to figure out how to make it work seamlessly. As an industry we’re getting closer to universal implementation every day. Our clients and partners are most concerned about productivity and monetizing their content as fully as possible. They recognize that using IP networking technology is one big step in that direction.

The Broadcast Bridge: How does audio networking help Studer products perform better?

Templeman-Holmes: Audio networking doesn’t directly make a product perform better; it presents new opportunities for workflow and centralization of resources. Working within the IP domain, you can move content around faster and you can be more flexible in how you allocate your resources, either in-house or over a remote connection. That’s a significant benefit for a media company.

The good news is that there is no degradation in the audio quality as it moves across an IP network. So, by networking Studer products—which support open industry protocols such as Livewire, Dante, AES67, and soon Ravenna—it gives you so many more options. A flexible IP infrastructure is far more dynamic than a static SDI workflow.

Katy Templeman-Holmes, HARMAN's Director of Technology & Solutions for the Broadcast industry.

Katy Templeman-Holmes, HARMAN's Director of Technology & Solutions for the Broadcast industry.

The Broadcast Bridge: Does the audio industry have to eliminate all of the various networking schemes (Dante, AES67, etc.) and standardize on one format? Is the lack of a universal AoIP standard hurting business?

Templeman-Holmes: I think the lack of a standard is causing those on the fence to pause and not invest in anything until they feel things are properly sorted out. Broadcasters are a relatively conservative community and we like and support standards. Even for HARMAN as a manufacturer, it is tough to develop products that support multiple formats, so we like standards as well. We’re not just trying to build products, but develop sustainable workflows for our customers that include technology from many different vendors and APIs. An easy way to make that all work is by using and adhering to standards so that everyone is talking the same language.

Everyone needs a rule book to refer to and in the broadcast and professional audio industries that rule book is a standard. Here at HARMAN we feel that SMPTE 2110 will be a really important and impactful standard. It equates simplicity and uniformity—two things missing from audio IP networking currently.

The Broadcast Bridge: What's next in audio-over-IP networking for HARMAN (Studer)?

Templeman-Holmes: Our new DIOS (Distributed I/O System) software application serves as the brains of an IP network, translating and distributing signals as necessary and regardless of format. It can also communicate with (and control) each and every IP node on a network, where other signal protocols cannot. For example, AES67 is a necessary transport standard but it doesn’t inherently allow all nodes to talk to each other by default. DIOS solves this problem, with full support for AES67.

We like to think of DIOS as a GPS system for audio signals. It will eventually evolve for video signals as well. You punch in a destination and the software routes the appropriate signals to their desired destination. You can feed any signal in and it automatically identifies what type of signal it is, what signal type it needs to covert it to, and sends it anywhere you want for resource sharing. The best part is that you as the operator don’t have to make any of those decisions on the fly. Once the system is set up the way you like it to work, the software takes over and does the rest. Even if there’s a problem or a new path needed, DIOS, as the brains of the workflow, makes it happen.

Shown as a technology preview at the recent 2016 IBC Show, DIOS resides on a standard COTS server in a facility and takes advantage of IP networking by managing, converting and distributing audio signals in a fast, highly deterministic way. DIOS is ostensibly operating as a translator, as it manages the routing and communication of a heterogeneous network.

DIOS also allows engineers to configure a particular show’s matrix and I/O needs and then save them for later recall. Then the DIOS software takes over, including identifying redundant paths and switching over to them as needed. An engineer doing it manually would have to physically re-configure the inputs and outputs, which takes valuable time, or search through hundreds if cables to find a bad one. With DIOS, you just set it and forget it. DIOS knows when there’s a problem and resolves it immediately.

In due course, DIOS will be widely available across Studer’s entire portfolio and support third party technology. Although the software is highly dynamic and will continue to evolve, we already have DIOS integrated into the workflows of several major broadcasters, albeit an embryonic example. Early adopters are working with it for audio now (leveraging the software’s auto path finding and auto path redundancy features) and as the software evolves, they can easily upgrade the software through a perpetual license program. 

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