TV News April 2016

WHEAT:NEWS TV Apr 2016 - Vol 3, No.4

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-- Scott Johnson, Editor

Change Is In the Air
AndyHeadshot

Change is definitely in the air. No one is feeling it more than the R&D departments of broadcast equipment manufacturers, where up and coming standards like ATSC 3.0 get their first foothold into reality. With that in mind, we ventured in our R&D lab and struck up a most interesting conversation with our SVP of Technology, Andy Calvanese.

WS: What do you make of all the changes going on in television broadcast lately?

AC: It does seem overwhelming until you realize that what we’re really seeing is not a series of changes but one large tsunami of change that is essentially the transition to IP. But that is no small change. It’s perhaps the biggest change broadcasters have faced in the 30-some years that I’ve been in this business. AES67. ATSC 3.0. SMPTE 2025. They’re all pointing to IP. ATSC 3.0 is built on an IP backbone, for example. Ultimately, we’re working our way toward combining broadband and broadcast and that’s what is needed to feed content to smartphones, tablets, TVs and PCs – all those devices consumers have today.

WS: I can see how these changes affect video, but what about audio? As an IP audio console and router manufacturer, Wheatstone probably has a pretty good feel for what the future of television audio will look like – or sound like.

AC: It’s actually a very exciting time for us because a lot of the IP audio development we’ve invested in over the last few years is going to be valuable in this new connected world. Even just looking at ATSC 3.0, we’re starting to see some interesting ways to make that audio experience more immersive with better spatial and distance resolution and more personalized with alternate audio tracks or effects. It’s a more expansive world of audio and it’s all made possible once we enter into the IP domain.

WS: But on the way to ATSC 3.0, there are other standards that are going to play a role, right?

AC: That’s right. Take AES67, the audio transport standard. All the major network, console and device manufacturers have adopted AES67 as the solution for interoperable AoIP, or plan to soon. That means that instead of having separate cards for Dante or AVB or the protocol flavor of the month, all IP audio can be exchanged in and out of our system and through others’ using AES67. This is what interoperability is all about. Broadcasters can just route audio through all these various systems using one standard, which, by the way, has been adopted as part of the TR-03 recommendation and is, I understand, likely to become a SMPTE standard soon.

WS: IP is a very mature technology that has been in use by broadcasters for a long time now, since before the smartphone as we know it existed. Do you think we sometimes lose sight of that because of all the new standards coming out?

AC: I do. For example, a lot of times when we talk about AES67 and AES70 we forget that these are device-to-device or network-to-network interoperability standards. So while that’s important, let’s not forget that the real power of IP is in the network – and that is a very mature technology being demonstrated over and over again in stations today. We’ve been doing whole network environments that operate on a system level for over two decades. We can control or change devices and set parameters for sets from one end of the network to the other. We can bring in mixing and EQ at any point in the network, and group sub-mixes or access sources anywhere along the way. We’re really talking about a very advanced and capable ecosystem, and that exists today in systems like WheatNet-IP.

Read More Change Is In The Air

WS: As you know, the current SMPTE standard encapsulates audio, video, and data into one stream. How important do you think de-encapsulating audio separate from video will be?

AC: One of the benefits of going IP is that multiple streams with entirely different content/data can co-exist together in the same infrastructure, even on the same wire. I think that is the point behind TR-03. Since the workflows for audio and video are different, ultimately the content has to be differentiated somehow. Whether we get there by encapsulating/de-encapsulating it in IP SDI or as a separate stream will depend on how the video side resolves this. I'm sure it will be the video ramifications that rule on the value of the different approaches currently being debated. But, in any case, AES67 is the IP audio standard being used. Over the long run, encapsulating/de-encapsulating is an unnecessary step that adds expense and complication; however, in the short run, there is SDI infrastructure in place today. However this plays out, there’s no doubt that AES67, and by extension our WheatNet-IP audio network, which has AES67, will be compatible.

WS: Trying to create more content with less means broadcasters are doing more with IP audio networking. One of the more notable trends is being able to connect to remote environments or even multiple remote environments using IP. Tell me about that.

AC: That’s what is so great about IP. Once audio distribution is based on IP, along for the ride on the same cable comes automatic device discovery and connectivity to all of your normal audio functions (ingest, playback, processing, mixing, routing, leveling, and a myriad of control functions; basically anything you'd do with audio). Plus, this gives us a way to link to production automation systems like Ross, Grass Valley, and Sony in their native IP. You get instant remote patching, sequences and salvos, conditional switching, etc. The increase in real-time functional capability is huge.

WS: What about separate audio and video workflows and this issue of synchronization? Won’t there be lip sync and audio imaging problems as a result of two workflows, one for video and another for audio?

AC: Not necessarily. SMPTE-2059 deals with synchronizing with IEEE 1588 PTP, which is also the timing backbone for AES67. The AES67 standards group is currently working with SMPTE on documenting the specific details for this.

WS: Thanks, Andy, for taking time out.

Your IP Question Answered

Q: How is the IP audio console different than other consoles?

A: For starters, all I/O is managed in the network so that the console itself is not limited to a certain number of fixed connection points. This makes it possible for any channel to connect to any audio source in the studio, and for audio to be moved around without the use of soundcards. All sources in the network are accessible, and every destination visible from the console. Plus, changes are a lot easier to make as a result. You can instantly change mic feeds, IFB connections and processing settings – and pick them up anywhere in the network. For example, you can bring up a mic feed and the processing settings for that mic in Studio A just as you would in Studio B. It’s all based on native IP, so the console can talk IP directly to your production automation system. No serial data conversions are needed.

New at NAB Booth N2530


Wheatstone has added surround sound to its BLADE-3 I/O audio toolbox. In addition to audio processing, mix minus/IFB creation and logic control, surround sound is now available at every IP access point to our WheatNet-IP audio network.

Check out our IP audio network at NAB, booth N2530, along with our line of IP audio consoles – from our large format IP-64 dream machine and Dimension Three touchscreen console to our Series consoles for small studios or OB/ENG vans.

ATSC 3.0. Audio as the Starting Point

AES70

By Fred Huffman

Picture yourself at a future time when your boss informs you that a major production requires audio content conforming to ATSC 3.0. “When can we be ready, how much will it cost, how long will it take to update our facility?” How will you respond? No need to panic now, but think about how to be up-to-speed on ATSC 3.0 when the time comes.

ATSC 3.0 planning and development is currently in the fourth year of a four-year plan. Focused activity is targeted at elevation to Candidate status in early 2Q-2016, and ratification before the end of 2016. Products compliant with ATSC 3.0 should be available beginning in 2017, with audio a good starting point for many broadcasters.

It’s probably not too soon to become familiar with ATSC 3.0 standards and product development. Suffice it to say, a preliminary plan in hand covering implementation sometime in mid to late 2017 may be prophetic and valuable when project kickoff day arrives.

As you know, ATSC 2.0 is the foundation for ATSC 3.0 and will bring significant change and many new audio features such as immersive sound and viewer personalization. Broadcast audio production systems will have to be replaced or upgraded because the new standard is not backward compatible. New standards will include new coding and compression that will bring about immersive sound, personalization with more sound channels, and mixing of unrelated sound – for example, music with broadcast source content.

ATSC 3.0 and Audio

Last month, ATSC announced elevation of two audio codec proponents to candidate status with the recommendation that broadcasters of a particular region or country choose either for use. Current standards are based on Dolby AC-3. Based on that announcement, and pending final testing later this summer, it seems certain a Dolby AC-4 and MPEG-H alliance is likely to be included in the final standards suite. Press reports indicate U.S. broadcasting is likely to continue with Dolby technology.

According to Skip Pizzi, leader of the evaluation and testing process, stereo and 5.1-channel surround capabilities of today’s ATSC system will be expanded to include “immersive” (that is, fully three-dimensional) sound using 12 or more channels. In addition, it appears that there will be far more flexibility when it comes to presenting multiple languages and immersive sound elements and other effects through the use of audio ‘objects.’ This likely will mean that viewers will be able to personalize their TV sound experience by adjusting the level of dialog, changing the position of certain sound elements, changing dialog language, selecting different narration (like ‘home’ versus ‘away’ announcers for sporting events) or adding commentary tracks, and so on.

This new system will also accommodate a wide range of speaker and soundbar systems and placements, and include improved loudness and dynamic range controls. Viewers will be able to merge soundtrack elements available on the Internet with broadcast content in perfect synchronization. And with all these and other features, the system will also be more bandwidth-efficient, so audio will require fewer bits in the payload. This means that these qualitative and quantitative improvements can be delivered to viewers in a highly practical manner, typically occupying the same or less bandwidth than today’s ATSC audio system requires, according to Pizzi.

Another important characteristic of the new standard is end-to-end control of device functions and service configurations (see Fig. 1). This is yet another example of how broadcast technology continues to migrate closer to use of OSI Layer 2 and Layer 3 protocols, bringing simplicity and flexibility found attractive by owners and viewers of mobile phones, tablet computers and recent generation “SmartTV” receivers. A return channel is also part of the new standard, enabling greater interactivity and download of non-real-time, file-based content on demand.


Figure 2 should look familiar to anyone familiar with IP audio. The ATSC protocol stack is rich in flexibility and capability designed to enable new and innovative ways to produce, distribute and deliver content. What’s more, it should support the industry for many years, because with appropriate product planning and design, firmware and software updates enable product improvements.

Now is the opportune time to gain insight into ATSC 3.0 product functionality and system architecture, and begin thinking about block diagrams, rack layouts, preliminary equipment lists and RFP requirements.

Fred Huffman is owner and principal consultant of Huffman Technical Services, Middletown, NJ, which specializes in next generation IP based network architecture and design. A longtime SMPTE member, he has contributed to New York Section monthly program sessions, and DC Section Bits-By-The-Bay annual technical conference. He is a member of Motion Imaging Journal Board of Editors, and served as advisor to SMPTE Education for their online course, Essentials of IP Media Transport for Broadcasters. Fred is scheduled presenter, SMPTE: Online Executive Strategy Briefing Virtualization: Software Defined Networks and Network Virtualization (June 23). He can be reached at 732-787-5462 or fred@huffmantechnicalservices.com.

Andy Calvanese Discusses WheatNet-IP for Television
Wheatstone's VP/Technology, Andy Calvanese, discusses some of the advantages of the seamless, built-in control layer of the WheatNet-IP audio-over-IP network when used in television applications.

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Wheatstone

  • Foshan Radio (Beijing, China) purchased two E-6 control surfaces and a WheatNet-IP audio network through Audio Design Company.

  • WAMC-FM (Albany, NY) added an I/O BLADE, Screen Builder application, and IP Meters application to an existing WheatNet-IP audio network.

  • LDS Church (Provo, UT) purchased four I/O BLADEs and NAVIGATOR software for a WheatNet-IP audio network.

  • Minnesota Wild -NHL (Minneapolis, MN) purchased an M4IP-USB four channel mic processor BLADE.

  • GS Broadcast (Mississauga, ON) purchased a Screen Builder application for an existing WheatNet-IP audio network.

  • CBC (Iqaluit, NU) purchased an E-1 control surface and WheatNet-IP audio network.

  • Corus Entertainment (Vancouver, BC) purchased a complete WheatNet-IP audio network with two LX-24 and two L-12 control surfaces, nine TS-4 talent stations, seven M4IP-USB four-channel mic processor BLADEs, IP Meter and NAVIGATOR software.

  • WBAL-AM (Baltimore, MD) purchased an LX-24 control surface and WheatNet-IP audio network BLADEs.

  • WALA-TV (Mobile, AL) purchased a D-8EX console.

  • C-Span (Washington, DC) purchased an LX-24 control surface with I/O BLADEs to expand an existing WheatNet-IP audio network.

  • ABC News (New York, NY) purchased five L-8 control surfaces, four L-12 control surfaces, a TS-4 talent station and a WheatNet-IP audio network system.

  • Rogers Media (Kitchener, ON) purchased three EDGE network units and Screen Builder application for an existing WheatNet-IP audio network.

  • Bell Media (Drummondville, QC) added to an existing WheatNet-IP audio network.

  • Oakwood (Mississauga, ON) purchased two I/O BLADEs for an existing WheatNet-IP audio network.

  • KNOM-AM/FM (Nome, AK) purchased a WheatNet-IP audio network with three IP-16 digital audio consoles, one IP-12 digital audio console, four SideBoard control surfaces, two M4IP-USB four-channel mic processor BLADEs, and six M2 dual channel mic processors.

  • KAVU-TV (Victoria, TX) purchased a Series Four TV audio console.

  • Entertainment Network India Limited (Indore, India) upgraded an existing D-75 audio console for an existing WheatNet-IP audio network through Horizon Broadcast.

  • Mel Wheeler Radio (Roanoke, VA) purchased six LX-24 control surfaces, six L-12 control surfaces, a SideBoard control surface and WheatNet-IP audio network.

  • UCB Radio (U.K.) purchased an LX-24 control surface.

  • Entercom (Wichita, KS) purchased two M4IP four channel mic processor BLADEs.

  • University of Central Oklahoma (Edmond) purchased an L-12 control surface.

  • City of Fort Worth (Fort Worth, TX) purchased a MADI interface and Series Four audio console for the city’s public access channel.

  • Florida State University’s WFSU-TV (Tallahassee, FL) purchased a Dimension Three TV audio console.

  • KUAR/KSSN-FM (Atlanta, GA) purchased four I/O BLADEs for an existing WheatNet-IP audio network.

  • WASJ-FM (Panama City, FL) purchased an IP-12 digital audio console.


Audioarts Engineering

  • SCA Sound Solutions (Tokyo, Japan) purchased an R-55e audio console.

  • Radio One (Atlanta, GA) purchased two Air-1 consoles.

  • MMV (Montreal, QC) purchased an R-55e console.

  • Pamal Broadcasting (Glen Falls, NY) purchased four Air-4 consoles.

  • Jeff Laurence Gill Studios (Otto, NC) purchased an Audioarts 08 console.


Wheatstone Audio Processing

  • KAGE/KHME-FM (Winona, MN) purchased an FM-55 audio processor.

  • Great Eastern Radio (Barre, VT) purchased an FM-55 audio processor.

  • Entravision (Reno, NV) purchased an FM-55 audio processor.

  • Leighton Broadcasting (Perham, MN) purchased an FM-55 audio processor.

  • WYDE-FM (Birmingham, AL) purchased an FM-55 audio processor.

  • WMIE-FM (Cocoa, FL) purchased an FM-55 audio processor.

  • Townsquare Media (Missoula, MT) purchased an FM-55 audio processor.


VoxPro

  • Cox Radio (Atlanta, GA) purchased two VoxPro 5 digital recorder/editing systems.

  • Newcap Radio (St. John's, NL) purchased a VoxPro 5 digital recorder/editor system.

  • Oakwood (Mississauga, ON) purchased five VoxPro 5 digital recorder/editor systems.

  • iHeartMedia (Seattle, WA) purchased a VoxPro 5 digital recorder/editor system.

  • iHeartMedia’s WOAI-AM (San Antonio, TX) purchased a VoxPro5 digital recorder/editor system.

  • Entercom (Atlanta, GA) purchased two VoxPro 5 digital recorder/editor systems.

  • WAJI-FM (Fort Wayne, IN) purchased a VoxPro 5 digital recorder/editing system.

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