May 2017 From the Publishers of Radio World
From the Publishers of Radio World
Trends in Consoles Where no board has gone before
Virtual Roundtable: Trends in Consoles
Reinventing the Broadcast Console
Decluttering the Console
The Expandable, Adaptable, Transformable Console
Putting the Console Into the Cloud
Simplifying the Complexity of Workflows
The mighty radio broadcast console, desk, board, mixer has long been seen as the command center of the radio broadcast enterprise. And for many decades it changed little in its construction, operation and purpose. However, like so much of broadcast technology, it finds itself under siege and being reformed, from above and below. Inexpensive mixers are being filled with radical new features such as Bluetooth connectivity while more Brett Moss upmarket consoles are being connected to IP networks, Gear & leading to exposure to all sorts of features and promises. Technology This latest Radio World eBook looks into where Editor consoles are and where they might be going. Our coverage starts with one of our popular Virtual Roundtables, in which we pick the brains of numerous console experts, some of the people who’ll likely be building your next console — even if it doesn’t look anything like your current board. Then we asked leading console manufacturers to provide their own written commentaries about where console technology is going and how they are applying it to their products. Those articles follow the Q&A. Inside this eBook you’ll read about cool new touchscreen consoles; groovy groove-based faders; the plusses (and minuses) of IP technology; the prospects of virtualization; the flexibility and feature power that digital technology has brought to the console; and even the continued survival of Old Faithful, the analog console. This is Radio World’s 32nd ebook. Find them all at radioworld.com/ebooks. Got a suggestion for next time? Drop us a note. I’m at email@example.com.
A Tablet — Just What the Doctor Ordered
The Evolving Hybrid Analog-Digital Radio Console
TRENDS IN CONSOLES Radio World | May 2017 Cover Art Credit: iStockPhoto.com/Anueing
Virtual Roundtable: Trends
As part of this eBook, Radio World surveyed representatives of numerous console manufacturers for their thoughts concerning where consoles are going. Participants who replied to the invitation include Ben Palmer, sales manager, Arrakis Systems; Kirk Harnack and Marty Sacks, Axia Audio, Pascal Malgouyard, head of marketing, Digigram; Clark Novak, radio marketing specialist, Lawo; Tag Borland, President, Logitek Electronic Systems; Dan Braverman, President, Radio Systems; Jay Tyler, director of sales, Wheatstone; and Hanno Mahr, CEO, Yellowtec. All replied individually to the questions shown.
expand on a need. It is tempting (but I think self-serving of analog manufacturers) to compare the benefits and continued use of analog consoles to vinyl records or tube amplifiers. This is because whatever subtle audio quality enhancements may be perceptible with good analog design, these are lost in the transmission process. Where the routing capabilities of an IP or router-based platform are not needed, analog boards offer a tremendous and ongoing value to thousands of stations and studios.
Radio World: Is the analog console dead?
Ben Palmer: Most definitely not. There are many applications where analog consoles are more appropriate and a better fit for studios, or remotes. So long as there are analog source equipment to take, there will always be a market for analog consoles.
Kirk Harnack: Not at all. Analog consoles are still useful, especially for quick remote broadcast and sports mixing applications. Most are not networked so they cannot share audio, which makes them disadvantaged in a normal studio environment.
Jay Tyler: I wouldn’t say it’s dead. Wheatstone still makes analog consoles and actually, consoles like the Audioarts Air-1 and Air-5, are still very popular among one-studio operators. But I think we all agree that IP consoles are where it’s at in terms of usability and cost. There are still many who want an analog console, but it’s certainly not in its glory days.
We’ve been able to do incredible things with touchscreen control … but at the end of the day, we have to get back to the purpose of the console. It’s an interface, a user interface. — Jay Tyler Dan Braverman: Radio Systems remains just one of a few broadcast console manufacturers that “still” manufactures analog consoles. We do so because demand remains strong, not only from users that want to match a board they bought from us years ago, but also those that will always prefer the simplicity and dependability of analog. In fact our new line of consoles due later this year will be fully featured, demonstrating that, still, analog boards to continue to fill and
Tag Borland: Pretty much. We made our last analog console in the 1990s. While there are some low-end analog consoles still out there, the cost of an entry level digital/networked console is dropping to the point where even the smallest station can afford to leave the old way of doing things behind.
Radio World: IP technology has taken the console industry by storm, are there any downsides to it?
Ben Palmer Arrakis Systems
Kirk Harnack Axia Audio
Marty Sacks Axia Audio
Pascal Malgouyard Digigram
Borland: Latency is a permanent downside to IP. The store and forward nature of the technology increases the time between someone speaking TRENDS IN CONSOLES Radio World | May 2017
Clark Novak Lawo
Tag Borland Logitek Electronic Systems
and hearing their voice in headphones. While most talent can adjust to the new sound of their voice in a few days, some never do. The complexity that virtualization and IP transport allows is a problem if something goes wrong. It can even be difficult to know in what room or city the failure is occurring. A lack of interfacing standards creates a silo effect between products from different manufacturers. There remain many places where IP audio must be converted to analog or AES3 to bridge between IP enabled equipment.
Dan Braverman Radio Systems
Pascal Malgouyard: The broadcasters have now realized that interoperability at system level between manufacturers is important to keep control of their own workflow. Currently this is only partially addressed by AES67, which has been intentionally limited to audio streaming and clock synchronization. To date, equipment control is widely proprietary, hence limited to equipment belonging to the same ecosystem as the console manufacturer. Hanno Mahr: The administration is not yet intuitive, data are easily tapped and sometimes it is hard to do error analysis.
Jay Tyler Wheatstone
Hanno Mahr Yellowtec
Tyler: There’s been this perception that IP is not reliable. In the early years, that may have been the case, but I think it’s proven itself to be quite reliable, especially since there are redundancies built into systems like WheatNetIP. One Blade in particular that’s been operating at a station for years now showed that it has 1,053 days (as of May 23) continuous uptime, which is remarkably reliable. Before a disruption for a station UPS replacement it had logged 1,400 days straight. Marty Sacks: Using AoIP technology solves nearly every audio problem that has plagued analog audio for decades. Hum, buzz, ground loops, and RF interference are all but completely gone with AoIP implementations. TRENDS IN CONSOLES Radio World | May 2017
The “downside” to IP technology is there are new techniques to learn. As with any tech, there are “gotchas” for those who haven’t yet learned the fundamentals of IP networking. The good news is, these problems tend to occur once — at installation time. Once any networking foibles are corrected, they don’t return unless someone haphazardly reconfigures something.
Radio World: What are your thoughts on Dante, Ravenna, AES67, Livewire, WheatNet, et al? Are they sufficient for your needs or does there need to be one, all-encompassing standard? Tyler: Interoperability is something that we as a manufacturer support because it makes our systems more portable. We think it’s important to be able to at least exchange audio between systems, and to a large extent AES67 does that. More needs to be done to bring along other aspects of interoperability like control, although we’ve had success with standards like AES70, for example.
Using AoIP technology solves nearly every audio problem that has plagued analog audio for decades. — Marty Sacks
Palmer: Dante is by far the most popular, with over 250 manufacturers using the protocol. But with AES67, it allows other proprietary protocols to mingle in the same network. This is excellent for converging newer systems, such as Dante, to work with older existing systems and protocols. Certainly with Continued on page 6 ❱
make it perfect for broadcast workflows. Livewire offers excellent and easy discovery, routing and reliable GPIO signalling. It’s truly point-and-click. Other AoIP systems for broadcast are very good, too. Each offers some benefit for broadcasters. Which brings us to AES67. Over a decade back, Telos founder Steve Church proclaimed that a “common tongue” was needed so that any AoIP device could connect with any other. Telos helped start the AESX192 working group, the group that hammered out what became AES67. The purpose of a common AoIP standard — AES67 — is not to replace the other AoIP protocols. Indeed, the competing — and slightly incompatible — protocols from various manufacturers are highly developed to best serve their users’ needs. AES67 is simply a common audio connection protocol that manufacturers may include along with their existing, refined, protocols. Indeed, if we tried to have “one, all-encompassing standard” we would lose a lot of convenience and flexibility that we get now. Our advice is to choose the broadcast equipment you really like and has enough existing partners and a large enough ecosystem to make sense for your facility. Use that equipment and protocol (Ravenna, Livewire+ AES67, etc.) to its fullest extent and convenience. Then, use AES67 where you need to connect devices that do not natively offer your chosen standard.
❱ Continued from page 5
AES70, you will see an even greater and more powerful ecosystem for AoIP. Borland: IP audio is facing growing user annoyance because the noncompatibility between vendors limits what equipment a facility can choose. The thing that makes digital audio universal is that everyone follows the same AES3 standard. We think that AES67 is a good start for IP audio, and the AES70 standard and a robust discovery protocol will fill in a lot of details that will make networked audio just as universal as digital is today. As a manufacturer we believe that compliance with international standards will speed the adoption of the technology. Mahr: In terms of new products a universal, allencompassing standard is desirable to facilitate product development. AES67 is a small step towards it but there is still the need of a centralized control made available. In the end, not one, all-encompassing standard is the key, but the fact that various networks are able to communicate in the best possible way with as little restrictions as possible.
IP audio is facing growing user annoyance because the noncompatibility between vendors limits what equipment a facility can choose.
Radio World: What’s the next step for IP technology (vis a vis radio broadcasting)? Mahr: Standardization, standardization, standardization.
— Tag Borland
Borland: We see more remote mixing and monitoring in the future. It’s one of the reasons we have added motorized faders to our products and have spent a lot of time working with multi-platform touchscreen technology.
Malgouyard: AES67 is quickly becoming the interoperability trunk for clock distribution and audio streaming. Of course, a common discovery and, above all, a common multivendor control standard are still missing to complete these items intentionally left aside of AES67.
Palmer: I believe you will see more software/touchscreen-based mixers that can access any source on the network. Utilizing standard Windows systems, it will be extremely powerful to have the ability to control your systems from anywhere in the world.
Harnack: As with any competitive endeavor, the AoIP ecosystem for broadcast has developed in a fragmented way. This is actually quite natural, and even proper. Of course, we’d like to see Livewire be the worldwide standard. Actually, among radio broadcasters, Livewire is the de facto standard with the majority of installations and technology partners. However, the pro sound market is probably better served by Dante, as many of these installations are temporary. Plug-and-play convenience is more important than the attributes of Livewire that
Malgouyard: One of the next steps consists in controlling AoIP at the system level (compared to equipment level) with multivendor tools in an audio orientated way, and not as IT, including end-to-end redundant audio routing, clock distribution and generic controls. Another step, already underway, consists in using IP to progressively move most, if not all, the audio processing and Continued on page 8 ❱
TRENDS IN CONSOLES Radio World | May 2017
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speaking of the availability of electronic components. Nevertheless, all the options available cause problems in anticipating the future development of electronics. Rapid improvements in components make it difficult to define the product you’re developing in the design phase. Thus, there is a need for periodic adjustments that may change the product you are working on leading to a different feature set.
❱ Continued from page 6
content management into the cloud so that the different actors may benefit from its flexibility, scalability and distributed workflow access. Sacks: We’ll see AolP tech on practically every piece of equipment — even microphones, speakers, headphone amps, etc. We’ll see entire facilities built with AC power cords and Cat-6 cable dominating the cable plant. Moreover, some of those AC power cords will give way to Power over Ethernet (PoE) technology, making wiring even simpler. We’ll witness more ease of managing our separate yet connected LANs (AoIP and business LANs). We’ll watch the virtual disappearance of RCA plugs, nine-pin D-sub connectors, and even XLRs. We’ll observe as audio never leaves the IP or DSP realm until it comes out the control room speakers and headphones, plus the listeners’ speakers or headphones.
Sacks: We do live in a bountiful time. We can see dramatic and positive changes in tech every decade, every year, every month, and almost every day. In mass quantity we see component costs becoming quite cheap; and, as consumers, we may have similar expectations for broadcast equipment. The truth, though, is that equipment built solely for the broadcast industry is made in small batches — very small batches when compared with consumer or even prosumer manufacturing scales. And while components may be cheaper, even in small quantities, their long-term availability is constantly threatened. Broadcast manufacturers must choose components wisely, especially in displays and even microprocessors. Parts makers are always building the next big thing for the big guys, leaving tricky choices for broadcast equipment manufacturers.
AES67 is quickly becoming the interoperability trunk for clock distribution and audio streaming. Of course, a common discovery and, above all, a common multivendor control standard are still missing to complete these items intentionally left aside of AES67.
Tyler: As a manufacturer, there’s always a balance you have to strike between what’s new and what’s proven. On the one hand you want to be able to take advantage of all the new technology coming out, but not if it’s unproven or doesn’t do as advertised. That’s why companies like Wheatstone invest so much in R&D. There are many good examples of technology that has reached a sort of reliability and price mark that make it appealing to broadcasters. OLED and touchscreen technologies are good examples. These were once new and unproven, but we use them throughout our system and can do things we couldn’t have done otherwise as a result. Linux is another example. We can do things with Linux that we couldn’t dream of doing before.
— Pascal Malgouyard
A key part of the next steps in IP technology is the continuing education of broadcast engineers, and the rise of a new generation of IT-centric engineers. We have to hope the new generation is as passionate about pristine audio as most of us have been. AoIP gives them the perfect platform to keep audio just perfect.
Borland: I’m sure that if you asked this question 40 years ago, they’d tell you we were living in a golden age, too. New technology is always cool. What is changing is that the life cycle of components — the time between when a component is introduced to when it is obsoleted — is becoming much shorter. Since stations want to hang on to their audio consoles a lot longer than the average consumer hangs onto their mobile phone, we have to make design choices that give us the capability to support an audio console over about a ten year period even if some of the major components change during that time. That being said, new technologies make it easier to bring things to market faster. By moving a lot of functions
Radio World: As we live in a technologically bountiful time, the cost of electronic components has dropped while the capability of said components has increased. Are we living in a golden age? Does the inexpensive availability affect design choices, especially considering possible rapid improvement in components while still in the design phase (or initial production)? Mahr: We are definitely in the middle of a golden age
TRENDS IN CONSOLES Radio World | May 2017
from buttons to touchscreens and taking advantage of a 24-hour development cycle by using global design teams, Logitek was able to develop the prototypes of the Helix console in about three months. We think that qualifies as “golden age.”
Radio World: Touchscreen technology has crept into console hardware design, creating hybrid consoles with things like touchscreen dynamics and routing sections but physical faders remain. Is this the camel’s nose under the tent? Borland: We spent a lot of time watching users interact with technology before we set out to build the Helix, which is Logitek’s touchscreen-based console. There are certain functions that people use while looking at the board and certain ones they use while looking somewhere else. As a result we retained physical faders and on/off buttons. When you’re on the air, it’s like you’re playing piano. Your fingers know where to go from what they feel. It’s far more difficult to play piano on a sheet of glass.
Radio World: Will large touchscreen-based consoles, looking like Star Trek equipment, be common/affordable for the mid- and small-size station, or are such things more like supercool concept cars at auto shows? Clark Novak: Moore’s Law has not been repealed. Science-fiction keeps turning into science-fact, and technology keeps getting more affordable; the average cellphone has more power than an IBM supercomputer of the ’60s. This trend will continue, with touchscreen interfaces affordable and desirable for stations of all sizes. In fact, consoles based on PC platforms, using touchscreen GUIs and running studio tools as apps, could save stations quite a bit of money compared to traditional hardware.
Moore’s Law has not been repealed. Science-fiction keeps turning into science-fact.
Palmer: It will definitely become more affordable over the next couple years. Touchscreen monitors are very affordable already, along with powerful PCs. Over the coming years, it will only become more affordable and accessible to everyone. Mahr: In our opinion, large touchscreen-based consoles are anything but user-friendly. They lack usability, responsiveness and haptic control elements. Rather than producing purely touchscreen-based consoles it is key to use the achievements of the touchscreen technology to combine them with the benefits of other conventional or new control elements. The future challenge is to develop more elements that mix benefits of different technologies resulting in high usability for the operator. One step in this direction is our Intellimix’s G-Touch fader which combines characteristics of different fader technologies.
— Clark Novak
We see the potential for full touchscreen consoles in places like production studios or remote broadcasts where you’re interacting with the console less. It could also work in a talk studio where you’re also shooting video, again, when you’re not as actively operating the board. Novak: Touchscreens give us an excellent way to streamline consoles. Typical consoles are pretty cluttered — full of knobs, displays and switches, most of which don’t get used very often. Other functions are buried deep inside menus. Using touchscreens, console designers can move functions from the surface to a context-sensitive GUI. This allows us to declutter the console by removing controls that aren’t commonly used, and give faster access to deeply-embedded features. This makes for a better user experience for jocks, because the controls they need most often are prominent on the mixing surface, while deeper functions move to the GUI.
Harnack: There’s certainly progress on this front. One company has even sped up their touchscreen response time to better suit the recording industry. Telos actually has partnered with two companies making touch screen mixing control software — BSI and IP-Studio. We also have a SoftSurface app that runs on Windows PCs or tablets, and some stations are using it to mix sports broadcasts from hundreds of miles away from the actual control room. Axia’s SoftSurface app may be used to either augment or completely replace the hardware console; so, really, we’re already at the point where touchscreen consoles are a reality.
Mahr: The benefit of touchscreen technology is the ease of making modifications by only changing software settings without any necessary adjustments in hardware. Therefore, hybrid consoles can be a fundamental, future-proof solution to optimize consoles and thereby user workflows. At the same time, this fact should be Continued on page 12 ❱
TRENDS IN CONSOLES Radio World | May 2017
DIY Console Trends never last. As soon as you bring home that new car or iPhone or flat screen TV, something better comes along to take its place. But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if you could configure your next broadcast console for the trends that are happening now, and continually re-configure it for all those future trends that will happen down the line? The LXE is one of the better ideas to come out of the Idea Factory at Wheatstone. It’s a build-your-own surface that is totally customizable long after it rolls out of the factory, right down to the colors on the buttons.
Above is an example of how easy it is to configure your console. Simply pick a control and select the function you’d like from a drop-down menu. For more complex things, you can also using scripting to achieve the control you need. ON-BOARD OLED SCREENS
Instead of mapping switches, buttons and knobs to a particular function that can never be changed, the LXE’s surface controls are completely programmable through a GUI. Every button, switch, and knob on the LXE is fully scriptable. Any button on the surface can be reassigned at any time to talkback, cue, start/stop, or any of myriad other functions, and can be tied to different elements available on the WheatNet-IP audio network. DO IT YOURSELF - BUILD YOUR OWN All of it is done through ConsoleBuilder™, a GUI-based app that allows you to program and configure hardware on the surface. This is a drag-and-drop, scriptable GUI that puts an exceptional amount of power into an easy-to-use interface. PGM Assign, Set, EQ ON/Off, Talkback – any of over 25 functions can be assigned to just about any knob, button, or fader. Even the colors can be changed on switches, which are RGB LED illuminated. In fact, you can create powerful macros for as many controls as you want.
The small, full-color OLEDs in the modules on the surface provide whatever information is pertinent to what you are doing at any point in time. Turn a knob or push a button and a screen will provide the info you need. These are fully scriptable to present the info you need, when you need it. THE BIG PICTURE
Above is a look at how ConsoleBuilder™ works. Not surprisingly, it’s an exceptionally powerful interface that’s incredibly easy to use. A display shows you the layout of your console – just double click on the button, knob, or OLED you want to configure, and a series of screens and tabs guide you through your choices.
The LXE has a touchscreen GUI that lets you interact with your audio in fresh new ways. You can customize screens or use any of our pre-built screens for metering, clocks, timers, dynamics, EQ, assigns, and more. All are touchscreen accessible with gestures you’re used to using on your smart devices. You can do everything from pinching and dragging EQ to setting up router crosspoints in your network.
THE SMALLER PICTURE
We’ve seen ScreenBuilder used for studio mic plots, maps of entire countries with transmitter locations, simple on/ off talent panels — it’s pretty much wide open. If you can conceive it, you can achieve it.
Mobilize your buildyour-own LXE console by loading your own software controls onto a smart device, such as this Windows Tablet, or other appliances.
ScreenBuilder™LXE software lets you drag and drop objects and define their functions via a simple wizard interface. ScreenBuilder™LXE comes stocked with meters, faders, knobs, buttons, tallies, etc. ready to be dragged, dropped, and configured. You can also add your own graphics and assign functions to them using our script wizard.
Customization starts with the physical configuration of the LXE. The LXE is available in traditional form factors up to 32 faders. Or, if you like, it can be split into separate fader banks at different locations, connected through Ethernet and sharing resources. There’s something else LXE has that many boards do not: layering. Although layering is a common feature for TV audio boards, the LXE is one of the few IP audio consoles for radio that uses layering because it can reduce the footprint and the cost of the console. For example, instead of a full 32-fader console, you might be able to use a twolayer 16-fader console, or a four-layer 8-fader console, depending on the needs of your application. All of these offer 32 mixing channels. BEYOND THE SURFACE Like all Wheatstone IP consoles, the LXE is a front end to the integrated intelligent network known as WheatNet-IP, which routes and controls shared audio throughout your facility’s studio environments.
BROADCAST AUDIO PERFECTIONISTS®
Designed and built in the USA • Phone +1-252-638-7000 • wheatstone.com | firstname.lastname@example.org ADVERTORIAL
more comfortable with a touchscreen than a mouse for example.
❱ Continued from page 9
seen as a motivation to develop new control elements rather than trying to take advantage of touchscreen technology in combination with conventional physical faders. When you need to do a smooth fade you wouldn’t dream of using a touchscreen fader, at the same time mechanical faders have their downsides. Thus, it is a mistake to stick to conventional mechanical faders. Not only the console itself but also its control elements need to be rethought. A hybrid control design can be a step in the right direction. But what is of the essence is not only to combine touch screens with physical faders but to optimize them in terms of their respective functions and their interaction. This is exactly what Yellowtec had in mind developing the Intellimix Desktop Mixer which is characterized by its multi-touch screen combined with the all new transformation of a mechanical fader called G-Touch. Malgouyard: In blu by digigram, both the audio engine and the mixing workspace GUI are genuinely located in the cloud, hence they are 100 percent percent virtual for the conferencing application.
Radio World: Is the future of the console app-based — existing on smartphones or tablets? Palmer: There can definitely be a lot of plusses for utilizing tablets and smartphones for ancillary control. But you will still have to have a physical interface for bringing in your sources. Also, depending on station needs, they may need something more than a simple tablet. Malgouyard: App adoption will probably grow for particular uses. It will migrate usage by usage since one of the key conditions is that the coupling between smartphone or tablet control surface and audio processing must fit the workflow in terms of usage and key performances such as speed, audio latency, security and robustness. Tyler: That exists now. There’s no question that we can, and should, mobilize access whenever and however it makes sense. We showed a LXE Windows tablet as a console at the NAB Show complete with faders and knobs, the works. Not only could you effectively change controls on the LXE and adjust dynamic off of that small tablet, as a producer might during a busy show, but you could run the entire board operation if you wanted to. All of that capability exists — and so much more because we have been able to mobilize station operation using apps.
In our opinion, large touchscreenbased consoles are anything but user-friendly. — Hanno Mahr
Sacks: We’re already there now — at least at The Telos Alliance. These are options, some of which have been available since 2012. For fast-paced, full-time operation, hardware consoles are far-and-away the norm. However, we’re enthused that more broadcasters are using SoftSurface and our other apps to control audio consoles, audio processors, talk show systems and mic processors. They’re using these apps primarily for convenience, and for excellent graphical displays detailing equipment operation.
Tyler: I think all of the above. We’ve been able to do incredible things with touchscreen control — pinching EQ, swiping, all that. There is a definite movement toward that kind of intuitive operation. But at the end of the day, we have to get back to the purpose of the console. It’s an interface, a user interface. And whether that comes in a package with a physical fader or a virtual fader, that will be decided by the user and he might even have different preferences for different applications. A good example of this is we all have smartphones but we all have laptops too, and tablets and some of us have desktop computers too. We use all those appliances every day, and one doesn’t necessarily take the place of the other.
Radio World: Virtualization is a buzzword these days. How realistic is it to put the console into the cloud — that is, to not have a physical facility where a DJ and an engineer might interact, with a program director peering in occasionally?
Palmer: Users, including myself, seem to find comfort in having a physical interface, such as the fader. It is something that is tangible and easy to control. Certainly as we become more and more comfortable with touch screens, we may see less of a need. My children are
Malgouyard: This should probably be considered caseby-case because virtualization allows different contents otherwise distributed in different silos to gather in the
TRENDS IN CONSOLES Radio World | May 2017
same processing space. For instance, blu by digigram simply solves a particular challenge by mixing in the cloud heterogeneous content sources. The talk show application is completely managed from a virtual workspace. The result of this live feed is fed to the studio on-air console by a professional interface providing the physical gateway to the cloud.
devices, but it should just be a matter of time before it is a standard. Mahr: When you go back in time, you would have never imagined the technologies of today being ready for use. As the evolution of consoles will be an ongoing matter, there will also be consoles in the future that completely differ from the ones used nowadays. For certain gesturebased virtual consoles might be one kind of them although we have a little doubt about that.
Harnack: Great question! We’re delighted to report that this is already done and on-air. One British broadcasting company’s project keeps mics, headphones and console surfaces at the local stations, while everything else is done in their own cloud network centers. All stored audio exists at the network center, and console surface manipulations in local station control rooms actually control DSP mix engines in the cloud. This project massively reduced the amount of tech on-site in the local stations, yet keeps all the on-air talent there, in their home towns. With a lot less equipment spread around cities, towns, and hamlets, there’s far less need for engineers to maintain the gear in these local facilities.
Tyler: That would be one cool console! My answer is, why not? There was an entire section dedicated to virtual reality at the NAB Show, and although a lot of that is still in its infancy, I suspect that technology will make its way into our studios when the time is right. I wouldn’t be surprised if our R&D guys are experimenting with some of that now.
Radio World: What was your favorite console or the best console ever made?
Novak: Running apps from the cloud is very common in the IT world, so why not broadcast? IT took hardwarebased technology and migrated it to virtual machines, which has some very interesting advantages. First, the tools are available anywhere you have an Internet connection. Second, apps are usually less expensive than hardware. Third, it’s scalable on-demand — need another suite of audio production tools? Just fire up a new virtual machine. This approach may not be suitable for every radio studio, but it could be very attractive for some. And the software tools are already available — codecs, phone systems, editors, playout systems, and even mixing consoles.
Harnack: I grew up in Central Kentucky, where many radio stations used consoles from a regional manufacturer, Shane & Young. These looked suspiciously like LPB Signature consoles, but sported model names borrowed from American Indian tribes. My first favorite was the monaural “Cherokee,” then later the stereo “Sioux.” Simple, quick and easy to operate without workflow errors. Borland: A PR&E BMX made in Carlsbad. You knew you had made it as a talent when you ran your show on a BMX. However, that is rose colored memory. The limited functionality, noise, cross-talk, high maintenance and general crankiness of big analog consoles makes them unusable with today’s workflows.
Mahr: With the rise of the importance of AoIP, consoles put into the cloud seem to be a possible future scenario. The question is how to overcome the current limits in terms of speed and security.
Tyler: Besides the Audioarts — everyone knows I’m a die-hard Audioarts fan — I’d have to say the PR&E BMX III console. They were built tough and they’ve lasted all these years later. They just keep going.
Radio World: Could there be a “Minority Report”-style gesture-based virtual console in our future?
An unabridged version of this roundtable will appear online at www.radioworld.com. n
Borland: Alexa, turn on my microphone. Palmer: This is already being done, and will be common place in coming years. Microsoft has their Hololens, and Myo has an armband. With these control interfaces working with a standard Windows platform, it is logical that we will be able to control a software-based console in the future. I personally love the mouse over these TRENDS IN CONSOLES Radio World | May 2017
Reinventing the Broadcast Console To create a disruptive console, we sat in a lot of studios and watched how people work By John Davis
now it’s time the industry set out to do things because they needed doing. While the term “disruption” has been overused to the point of parody in technology, we did make it a primary goal for our R&D team with our new console design. To create a “disruptive” console, we felt that the first step was to sit in a lot of studios and watch how people go about their work. Logitek has been manufacturing a large number of television consoles in recent years, and we’ve watched their needs change as more TV stations implement program automation. That’s really where the “glass cockpit” concept came about; the audio console is there more to provide a backup in case of automation meltdown. In normal operation, the person operating the video switcher is using a combination of touchscreen controls and physical faders to run audio while also switching video and operating the camera controls. Watching one person operate that many devices at once gave us a lot of insight into what controls are important and how they’re most easily used. While in radio you’re not consolidating three positions into one, we’ve still seen the operator’s duties change rapidly in the past few years. It’s not enough to just open the mic and talk between the records or conduct an
The author is technical support manager for Logitek Electronic Systems. Twenty-five years ago, Logitek ushered in a new architecture for radio consoles. Known at the time as router-based consoles, the system was one of the first designs in a method now called networked facility architecture. The then-radical idea that the console (user interface) and the audio I/O infrastructure did not have to be in the same package has become commonplace in today’s facilities. Networked audio has changed over the years, with IP replacing TDM as the networking protocol, but the console itself has remained pretty much the same, with lots of buttons to access necessary and optional functions. Consoles are still bulky and in some cases even intimidating. Logitek now feels it is time to again reinvent the console. WHAT NEEDS DOING?
The prevailing industry attitude in the past, including ours, has been to do things the way they’ve always been done “because we’ve always done it that way.” Maybe
Logitek Helix for Radio. The touchscreens can be seen above the hardware fader sections.
TRENDS IN CONSOLES Radio World | May 2017
interview; today the person behind the console is responsible for both the on-air product as well as social media content … with maybe a little video production mixed in. So just as in television, you have a lot of things to keep track of in a radio studio with divided attention. We watched operators scroll through their phones looking for something before putting the phone down and doing something with the console. That told us that they were very familiar and accepting of a touchscreen user interface. Yet despite all the touchscreens around them, be they on a tablet, PC or phone performing a variety of functions, the operators
The touchscreen allows for deeper menus that can control more functions. Here UI provides detailed access to an impressive equalizer section for a single channel strip.
ancient artifacts, the Helix, first seen at the recent NAB Show, makes other consoles look like relics of the past. Moving to an interface that’s primarily software-driven also makes it easy for us to add features to the Helix that our customers haven’t dreamt up yet. When the next big thing comes along, we can load a file and change what needs to be changed. TAKING IT FURTHER
While we are in change mode, we can press the touchscreen concept further. There are compelling uses for operating an audio console solely from a touchscreen, and so we created the Helix Surface for the Microsoft Surface Studio tablet as a companion to the Helix Radio and Helix Television consoles. First off, it is a cost-effective backup solution to the console. The ability to give talent at a remote broadcast complete control over the console in the studio without needing a board operator is useful (not to mention adding a layer of show business to the remote), and the motorized faders on the physical console ensure that the next person in the studio knows exactly what position the faders are in. Production studios and voice track booths also require less interaction with a console, making a touchscreen installed in those rooms very cost effective. Unlike our previous virtual consoles, the Helix Surface exactly mirrors the screens on the console, so movement between the two requires no operator readjustments. The Helix Surface is also made with Multi-touch capability, so real crossfades could be accomplished on an all-glass interface. What’s next for console designs? We are looking forward to sitting with operators who are using touchscreen-centric consoles to see where their wishes will lead the industry next. n
The touchscreen version of the Helix’s monitor section.
didn’t use the touchscreens in the middle of a talk break when there was a physical control available. We learned that whenever an operator’s eyes needed to be watching something or someone, they would select controls by feel; when their attention was less occupied they would prefer a touchscreen. So, we set out to follow those cues and combine the physical with the virtual. The controls used while someone’s attention could be divided were physical. The controls that are used when someone is paying attention solely to the board could move to a touchscreen. By eliminating a large section of buttons, we made a console that takes up less space in the control room, and by building the touchscreens into each of the modules we avoided the need to add yet another computer monitor into the studio. In addition, one of the primary requirements is a modern interface that doesn’t get in the way of all the other screens that are now required in the studio. When we were done, we had a console with a touch screen that engages the user, making navigation not only easy but fun. Just as the iPhone made previous phones look like
TRENDS IN CONSOLES Radio World | May 2017
Decluttering the Console Touchscreen technology can lead to a cleaner studio and more productivity By Clark Novak The author is radio marketing specialist for Lawo.
Lawo’s Ruby console melds physical and touchscreen controls to achieve a clean, clutter-free work environment.
Modern radio consoles are extremely powerful tools. Today’s console includes multitudes of features lacking just 20 short years ago, features impossible before the introduction of DSP and computer logic. Capabilities such as per-source EQ, built-in dynamics and voice compression, routing matrix control and multisource input selection (to name a few). While useful and desirable, inclusion of these capabilities has led to an unintended consequence: the veritable sea of knobs, buttons, switches and readouts that clutter the surface of modern mixers, making it hard to find what’s needed when time is tight. At the same time, computer monitors were also taking over; screens now dominate most radio studios. Many control rooms have multiple monitors: one for the playout system, another for call screening software, one for contesting, yet another for news or the internet. With all of this clutter, modern radio studios can be pretty confusing places. But there is a solution.
Lawo’s approach to decluttering the radio console began with our engineers studying how touchscreen GUI interfaces simplify complex controls in avionics, IT, defense systems and other critical applications, applying the results to radio environments. They found that when some functions are moved to a context-sensitive GUI, operator comprehension and speed increases. Operators are able to find and activate infrequently-accessed features more quickly. The physical mixing surface is streamlined, requiring less counter space, and has fewer buttons and knobs to keep track of. The result: smoother, more error-free programming. Reduction of the total number of display screens in control rooms is big on everyone’s list, and a console GUI interface helps achieve this goal dramatically. By employing a standards-based HTML5-compliant GUI toolkit to build customized displays, screen count is reduced because console controls now share a common interface with studio software such as playout systems, codec controls, and audio editors — even webcams and social media. Naturally, these context-sensitive controls can also be linked logically, to help automate and further simplify complex studio operations. Better remote diagnostics now become more practical, too. A software-based console GUI allows remote access with true “under the hood” control, allowing engineers or support personnel to examine and adjust the console state without ever having to lay hands on the hardware. Will GUIs completely replace physical mixers one day? No one knows the future. But this is certain: studios and board operators can benefit today from the decluttering effect that context-sensitive GUIs have on modern mixing consoles. And that’s just plain smart. n
You’ve probably noticed that touchscreen interfaces are everywhere. Cellphones, ATMs, gas pumps and retail checkouts employ them; maybe your favorite burger joint lets you order with one. Even passenger jets have embraced the “glass cockpit.” Why not use this technology to reduce complexity in radio studios? At this point, you’re probably asking: “Are they really suggesting I throw out my console and put in a touchscreen?” Of course not. Critical controls demand a hands-on interface. Carmakers would never replace a steering wheel with a screen — the results would be disastrous! Likewise, you might not want to do away with faders altogether. However, adding a touchscreen interface to a radio console can extend its capabilities — and enhance talent’s creative process.
TRENDS IN CONSOLES Radio World | May 2017
The Expandable, Adaptable, Transformable Console Technology trends in broadcast consoles make what was once science fiction into reality By Dee McVicker The author is marketing associate for Wheatstone. In an Earth 2.0 experiment, participants were asked what the world would look like if they could reboot the planet and start over again from the ground up. Some entirely reinvented our world. Others opted to abandon Mother Earth altogether. But ultimately, most ended up with a planet much like the one we live on, only without For Phil Tower, the best thing to come out of the IP console revolution is an entirely pollution, hunger or strife. right-handed board. That’s something to think about when For others, moving all audio, control and functions considering trends in broadcast consoles. from the console to the network has no doubt meant It’s fair to say that we’ve seen tremendous unprecedented access and new ways of producing advancements in the everyday console. But at the end content. We are reminded of ABC Radio news in New of the day, the most important advances improved upon York City, where live newscasts originate from an the console as the ultimate user interface between talent IP-networked LX-24 console but all mic and fader controls and listener. are done two time zones away in Arizona over an IP link. “We open the mics from Scottsdale, the lips move in UNPRECEDENTED ACCESS New York, and audio comes out of your car speakers in Consider Phil Tower, an on-air personality who has San Diego,” says David Dickson, the VP of engineering for managed to find his way around most radio consoles for Skyview Networks, which handles the sports and news several decades — but with one good arm. He was born content distribution for ABC in New York. with a birth defect that reduced his left arm to half-size, We’ve seen console surfaces get smaller, more which means that during most of his career he has had to adaptable, more capable, and, in truth, stranger-looking. lunge halfway across the board with his other arm to hit One console-like appliance that is familiar to the on-air button. anyone who knows WheatNet-IP audio networks is Then IP consoles happened, and life in the studio the SideBoard, a surface that contains the faders and became much easier for Tower. Now, whenever he sits controls typical of any control surface but in a compact down to his Wheatstone LX-24 control surface/IP console rackmount or desktop turret chassis. in the WOOD(AM/FM) control room in Grand Rapids, Another interesting appliance is the TS-4 (or TS-22) Mich., the first thing he does is punch in his own personal talent station, which rolls mic control, source selection, presets, so all mic and automation feeds are potted up headphone volume and other necessary talk functions on the right side of the board, where he has quick access into a small counter turret directly in front of talent. to talkback or weather or traffic beds using his good arm. We can now source, route, mix and send to air from For Tower, the best thing to come out of the IP console just about any surface imaginable, in some cases without revolution is an entirely right-handed board. TRENDS IN CONSOLES Radio World | May 2017
part of the enterprise world, but have recently proven robust enough for the 24/7/365 demands of broadcast. “We’ve gone to Linux kernels that are easy to manipulate, and a lot of them are open source so we can run them on different kinds of back ends, and that opens the game up to do all kinds of things,” Parker said. This new LXE architecture — what Parker describes as a platform — lends itself to new capabilities that might not seem like much on the surface. But in reality, they offer huge advancements in adaptability and scalability. Among these is the LXE’s dynamic networking between separate LXE fader banks located anywhere inside, or outside, the studio. Split console configurations are common because they offer the ability of two or more board ops to work off of separate fader banks in the same room, or separate
Snapshot of a customized screen created with Wheatstone’s ScreenBuilder app showing primary and secondary paths of ABC news feeds between New York and Scottsdale. While ABC Radio news announcers are talking live in New York, their mics are managed by Skyview Networks in Scottsdale, Ariz.
touching a single physical fader. When Beasley Broadcast set up a remote studio built out of cargo containers at Las Vegas’ Container Park two years ago, announcers initially broadcast from the location using a touchscreen interface that was essentially a bank of faders, knobs and other software widgets on a flat-screen monitor recessed into the furniture. Virtual surfaces like this are becoming more popular thanks to the advent of software such as Wheatstone’s ScreenBuilder app that makes it possible to create GUIs with the drag and drop of a widget on a screen, which can then be scripted for controlling devices and various elements in the IP audio network. CONSOLE 3.0
Where is all this going? Whereas the initial IP console revolution was all about access, the next revolution in consoles appears to be more about choices. “It turns out that what we’ve learned about software apps is directly transferable to hardware,” says Kelly Parker, Wheatstone engineer who oversaw the design of the new LXE configurable console based on his years in the field designing and installing new studios. Consoles like the LXE are removing the limitations of a fixed surface by providing a completely reconfigurable architecture. Instead of mapping switches, buttons and knobs to a particular function that can never be changed, the LXE’s surface controls are completely programmable — and continually reprogrammable — through a GUI similar to ScreenBuilder. The button that was used for phantom power can be reprogrammed to toggle EQ on or off. Any button anywhere on the surface can be programmed at any time for talkback, cue, start/stop or any of myriad other functions, and can be tied to multiple different elements available on the WheatNet-IP audio network. The reconfigurable console is possible in part because of the maturation of IT systems that have long been a
When Beasley Broadcast set up a remote studio built out of cargo containers at Las Vegas’ Container Park two years ago, announcers initially broadcast from the location using a touchscreen interface that was essentially a bank of faders, knobs and other software widgets on a flat screen monitor mounted directly onto the furniture.
rooms networked together, in order to share mutes, tallies, speakers and other resources. But until recently, there were limitations to the scope and range of splitconfigurations. “IP audio consoles were traditionally bound to one mix engine for every surface and that really limited how they could be used,” he said. “We now have the ability to network multiple surfaces through a shared I/O engine, or conversely, network a surface to multiple engines.” This latter setup is typical of at-home production, where a home console can access network I/O centers in different locations — perhaps Continued on page 20 ❱
TRENDS IN CONSOLES Radio World | May 2017
Putting the Console Into the Cloud Cloud-based services simplify content creation in the field, on-air mixing in the studio By Pascal Malgouyard The author is head of marketing for Digigram. After being a pioneer in AoIP audio, first outside the studio with IP codecs The GUI of Digigram’s console in the cloud provided by blu by Digigram. and then introducing studio low-latency codecs, telephone) to make sure correspondents can multichannel AES67/Ravenna products, we at Digigram simultaneously access the studio. The second issue have looked at how to take IP cloud-based applications concerns logistics: The station engineer has to book to the next level. expensive ISDN lines and bulky equipment to reach the We have researched solutions for two challenges for contribution site. broadcasters: enabling professional yet cost-effective In addition, there are issues of equipment maintenance content creation in the field, as well as redefining on-air and technical training for contributors and producers in mixing of various audio sources in the studio. the use of diverse audio codecs — all of which increase The first issue is to manage and mix on-air diverse the cost of live contribution. remote audio sources (e.g. smartphone apps, Continued on page 22 ❱
would require a complete console reboot, making realtime sharing of resources and mixes impractical for most studio projects. In this new world of the expandable, adaptable and transformable broadcast console, there’s also something else we have to look forward to: a fresh new way of interacting with audio. One of the more noticeable features of new consoles like the LXE is their intuitive GUIs, which make them not only the ultimate user interface between talent and listener but also between talent and audio as well. Being able to “pinch” the right amount of EQ or boost/cut frequencies using touch just scratch the surface of what these powerful platforms can do. All this, and more, are pretty good indications that the next generation of broadcast consoles will dramatically reduce workflow bottlenecks and resultant strife in the broadcast production studio. n
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a local venue across town and a remote location in another city. Both can be under the control of the home surface, which can open and close mics, apply signal processing, handle IFB backlinks, etc. The former workflow, with multiple consoles accessing a common I/O point, can let talent working together in a shared location interact in real time, using the same sources and feeds. Example: live segues between succeeding dayparts for a natural transition from one host to another. Dynamic networking such as this makes it possible to co-produce from an auxiliary LXE Windows or Apple tablet in real-time while another board op is actively producing on the main LXE surface. NEW WAYS OF INTERACTING
In the console 1.0 world, collaborations of this nature
TRENDS IN CONSOLES Radio World | May 2017
Logitek Introduces Consoles for the “Touch Generation”
Helix Radio represents a new approach to the operation of broadcast consoles. It incorporates the latest multitouch technology along with a suite of familiar controls to offer easy, yet fully customizable operation. The world has become accustomed to the use of touchscreens. Whether they are in your mobile phone, on a tablet or part of your automation system, touch devices have become the norm for running applications and making menu choices. Younger operators at your station have literally grown up with these devices. Logitek’s Helix Radio combines the best of the multi-touch world – offering simple menu selection and easy screen operation – with the convenience and easy operation of traditional controls such as large physical buttons and smooth faders. The result is a console built for the “touch generation”, but with easily accessed physical controls that your experienced operators will demand. Helix Radio is available in sizes ranging from 6 to 24 faders (fader layers are available for system expansion as needed). Each Helix console includes a Monitor module (with onboard metering) and an HDMI output which allows for connection of a separate touchscreen meter or control bridge. Modules can be mounted in a single or split desktop frame. Touch-sensitive faders are motorized for seamless integration with automation systems. Each Fader module in Helix Radio contains a 7" IPS touchscreen which provides context-sensitive function access; six motorized faders with touch-sensitive fader caps; large ON and OFF buttons with LED RGB-assignable colors; bus assignment for Program and 4 to 8 AUX busses; and direct access to CUE. Metering indication for each fader appears above the fader on the touchscreen panel. The Monitor module also contains a 7” IPS touchscreen with context-sensitive function access; volume faders for Monitor and CUE; a CUE volume control knob; Studio/ Guest volume control knob; 4 hotkeys for main monitoring functions and integrated profanity delay control with a
large “dump” button. Program metering appears on the touchscreen panel, along with delay status and other information. Helix can be accompanied by Helix Surface, a full “glass cockpit” console on a touchscreen that can replicate the action of a physical Helix console or operate independently of a console. Helix Surface offers essential multi-touch functionality which finally allows cross fades – with an attractive user interface for operators. Powered by Logitek’s JetStream AoIP platform, Helix Radio offers all of the functionality needed for smooth, efficient operation. 24 auto-configuring mix-minus busses are standard. The JetNet interface available in the JetStream provides a direct interface to automation systems, allowing those systems to operate the console without the use of a separate sound card. With Helix Radio, “Console Meets App.” Visit http://helixconsole.com for more information.
With a cloud-based mixer a variety of sources can be located anywhere. ❱ Continued from page 20
CONSOLE AS SAAS
These issues can be addressed by way of IP technology. For instance, what if one could mix in the cloud — without the need to have a physical console at a location or require personnel to gather in one specific place at a specific time? What if the console became a single software-as-aservice? Such a cloud-based service would unify the robust capabilities of a true broadcast mixing console — including faders that work just like physical faders, mixminus, talk-back and monitoring — with a set of virtual codecs, audio recording utilities and a contact database. Such a service would make it easy for studios to establish simultaneous, high-quality conferencing communications between the virtual mixing interface and any remote contributor with a web browser, traditional SIP codec or even telephone as a backup. With a console in the cloud, there is flexibility for hosts and guest contributors such as journalists, experts and other remote presenters and content contributors. Engineering and maintenance personnel need not be placed at numerous locations where the hardware is located but rather can be dispatched wherever they need to be whenever they are needed. Training for hosts and contributors can be simplified to dialing a phone number or clicking on a URL link. It is also important to note that as an SaaS, a virtual console as part of a virtual studio in an IP network can be updated quickly and constantly rather than waiting for a physical console to be upgraded or a new one purchased, delivered and installed. The cloudbased console should not break down or need repair. Maintenance costs can drop. Furthermore, as a cloud-based service, the cloud console and its virtual studio are nearly infinitely scalable — from one to as many as needed — and can be easily
Contributors, i.e. input sources for the console, can become active by way of a mobile device and a URL rather than having to travel to a studio or find an uplink site.
updated with new technology as it is developed. With our new blu by digigram we institute this futuristic concept now — blu by digigram unites the virtual mixing workspace and a professional studio interface providing AoIP and AES/EBU-analog connectivity. The physical interface (which comes as a subscription base with the blu service) is an encrypted gateway to cloud services. The service simplifies real-time program logistics by utilizing a URL that allows a contributor to join a talk show through the virtual console in just two clicks via the cloud. Whole sessions can be recorded off-air for later use. These contributor links are generated without the need for network/IT configuration or knowledge. In the end, a system like blu by digigram SaaS enables a unique no-fuss, no-hassle pay-as-you-go model for managing and processing contributed content from an array of sources, and these substantial time and cost savings allow broadcasters to dedicate more of their time and resources to creating the compelling, timely and relevant programming that audiences demand. n
TRENDS IN CONSOLES Radio World | May 2017
Simplifying the Complexity of Workflows How usability-centered technology helps to rethink consoles By Kathrin Nimpsch
units, simple to use and convenient enough to fit on any desk. The “Desktop Mixer” was born.
The author is junior marketing manager for Yellowtec. IT’S ALL ABOUT USABILITY
Professional workflows tend to become more and more complex. Feature requirements not thought of a few years ago are omnipresent today and the evolution of consoles is anything but standing still. Progressive refinements and the additional capabilities provided by new technologies have led to an increase of both size and the feature sets of contemporary consoles. Addressing the ongoing dilemma between the rising complexity of workflows and the limited space given to workplaces, years ago Yellowtec created a new product category — Intellimix: A small mixer consisting of two
As years went by, it has become time to apply these lessons to present console technology development. Today’s console’s operational requirements, caused by burgeoning demands, increased complexity of workflows and powerful feature sets made possible with digital technology have increased the time needed for users to become familiar with new consoles and their embedded technologies. Inspired by the ease of using a smartphone, this has led to an examination of how to improve mixing consoles Continued on page 24 ❱
Yellowtec’s petite Intellimix mixer — note the groovy G-Touch faders.
TRENDS IN CONSOLES Radio World | May 2017
The Intellimix is also unusually thin.
With that new fader design in mind additional fader options then become possible. But it is more than just a new fader design. There is a change in overall traditional appearance that makes the mixer stand out as a futuristic mixing console. The key aspect of every new console development should be the user. The theme through the whole design process needed to focus on the user and usability. The result: Simplifying the user’s daily work the way a console should. Smart features need to be made accessible in the best possible way. What is the use of extended features if you don’t know how to find them or put them to use? Usability and ease of use are the key to optimized workflows. To simplify complex production tasks, a multitouch widescreen display can offer quick access to all your settings and peripherals, whether they are plug-n-play or ready to interface via USB, IP network or Dante AoIP. Ultimately, Yellowtec succeeded in realizing their vision. Completely familiar but at the same time entirely revolutionary — this is what describes the new Intellimix Desktop Mixer best. It is a Red Dot Award winner for product design along with contributing to a whole new mixing experience. n
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by rethinking their components. With demands for expanded features, a need for improved ergonomics and usability in mind, console designers questioned the benefits and downsides of conventional control elements. Focusing on user experience, the goal was set: The creation of a whole new
The key aspect of every new console development should be the user. The theme through the whole design process needed to focus on the user and usability.
kind of intelligent audio mixing, one that focuses on the intuitive control of a wide selection of features. Following this approach, usability has been selected as the center of product development. Faders, the central element of every mixing console, play an essential part. When you need to do a smooth fade, you wouldn’t necessarily dream of using a touchscreen. However, advances in responsiveness and haptic feedback have made new developments possible, leading to an in-depth analysis of how to improve conventional faders. Digging into every conceivable detail, all mechanical parts have been banned. Modern industrial technology has made it possible for alternative fader designs such as a molded groove to guide a finger, as demonstrated by the G-Touch Faders used in Yellowtec’s Intellimix.
TRENDS IN CONSOLES Radio World | May 2017
A Tablet — Just What the Doctor Ordered Board ops can rejoice. Advances in tablet technology bring more console control By Kirk Harnack The author is with the Telos Alliance. Apart from the audio over IP revolution, broadcast audio consoles look mostly the same now as they did in the 1990s. Linear faders, on/off buttons, source selection and buss assignments — these are tried-and-true hardware attributes of nearly every radio console, both yesterday and today. While AoIP consoles look similar to older work surfaces, their “under-the-hood” machinations tend to be far more capable — and far more complex. AoIP consoles typically offer “backfeed” or mix-minus audio to guests, whether in-studio or remote. Most have stored Profiles for quick setup of different shows. Some can control devices like IP talk show systems and codecs, but typically only through OEM hardware panels. They may also offer convenient pre-fader level (PFL) metering, monitoring of different points in the air chain, and even loudness metering conforming with the ITU BS.1770. Lesser-used or automatic functions are often shown on a video monitor attached to the console. However, when added to the gaggle of other video monitors, a radio control or production room can get cluttered. Information overload may ensue, with talent and board ops simply ignoring important visual information. There is, in actual fact, ever-increasing innovation in the audio console realm. Thanks to the open architecture offered by some AoIP consoles, third-party developers are inventing new solutions to accompany or even replace some of the hardware- and menu-deep software functions. One innovative solution that’s been tested and refined over the past two years is a modular software package running on a Windows-based tablet. Developed by Axia Livewire+ partner IP-Studio, the IP-Tablet software enables common Windows tablets to control and monitor a host of functions in an Axia studio environment. This IP-Tablet modular software suite lets users monitor and control numerous console functions. It also works with other products in the Telos Alliance ecosystem
The Axia IP-Tablet puts your most used console functions on an app, allowing you to control Axia consoles and other Telos Alliance gear like Omnia audio processors and Telos phone systems.
like VX phone systems, xNodes, Omnia VOCO 8 mic processors, and Pathfinder control systems. SCREENS
Screens and presentations on IP-Tablet are customizable, giving users just the information, view or controls they want. The IP-Tablet PowerStation or StudioEngine licenses, for example, allow users to customize the layout and control of the Axia console displays. You can choose from one of the predesigned templates, or through the simple drag-and-drop design interface, you can design a layout that is specific to your needs, containing features like VU meters, timers, time and date display, status of on-air, preview and talkback, the ability to change fader sources and console profiles, full control of onboard virtual mixing with faders, and more. Shown above is a typical screen showing a Continued on page 26 ❱
TRENDS IN CONSOLES Radio World | May 2017
The Axia Fusion control surface.
Many facilities use Axia Pathfinder to control everything from simple audio routing to complex salvos, en masse routing changes and “if-then-else” events. Manual interaction with Pathfinder has always been possible through hardware buttons and PC-based indicator and button apps. Now, these functions are easily viewed and controlled using custom buttons and displays within the IP-Tablet.
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dashboard view of key console buss levels, clock, host mic status, and quick keys to jump to the playout system view or the on-air phone system. The flexibility of software controls on a tablet allow for COMMON FORM FACTOR onboard control of peripherals such as phone systems. In That radio audio consoles have retained the same basic our case there is an optional IP-Tablet module that offers a look for many years tells us that this common form factor status view and control of a Telos VX and VX Prime multiis just right for radio. Today’s software-defined consoles line VoIP phone systems. Caller ID, caller PFL and other staand AoIP connections over a standard Ethernet network tus are easily viewed. Plus, full caller control — including console fader levels — are under touchscreen control at your fingertips. Selecting a line and dialing out couldn’t be easier. And just as with a Telos VSet phone, or the Axia Telephone Call Controller Module, board ops can lock any line to a hybrid, preventing accidental hangups on VIP guests. Using the IP-Tablet for caller control means that anyone can control their callers’ appearance and levels. If the host is not operating the main audio console, he or she can use an IP-Tablet for full control of phone lines and hybrid faders. While the IP-Tablet may sit on the console furniture and move about as needed, many users want this compact functionality to appear on the console itself. A matching panel affords this slick integration of the IP-Tablet into an Axia Fusion console surface. Installing the IP-Tablet this way The app version and the hardware version of the Axia phone module. gives the user instant access to and visual confirmation of special functions that may not be used for most shows. encourage users and third parties to bring their own A tablet-based controller can add features working additions to the networked ecosystem. further away from the traditional console control such as The Telos Alliance enjoys more technology partnercontrolling IP-based codecs and processors. The IP-Tablet ships than any other broadcast equipment manufacturer. easily interfaces with the Telos Z/IP One IP codec, This large and growing ecosystem is due in large part to provides control and monitoring of the Omnia VOCO 8 the technology standards, such as AES67, and accessible mic processor and Omnia.9 audio processor, and allows architecture of Livewire+ AoIP running over off-the-shelf IP-Tablet users to access the xNode’s internal mixer inside data networks. This ecosystem brings tremendous choican xNode. Plus, it can display event metadata from radio es and options to broadcasters, allowing flexible and automation playout systems. meaningful solutions in their facilities and workflow. n TRENDS IN CONSOLES Radio World | May 2017
Use it. Love it. Intellimix. Intellimix is a whole new desktop mixer for many applications in audio broadcast and video. Built into an extremely slim aluminum body, it oﬀers uncompromising flexibility at your fingertips. Be amazed by its smooth operation and functions not thought of before. The all new G-Touch© fader technology lets your finger simply follow a groove with no mechanical control. A well detailed touch display makes your daily work fun again. Swipe and determine your favorite function controls for each source individually. Visit www.yellowtec.com or text jeﬀ@yellowtec.us for more information.
The Evolving Hybrid Analog-Digital Radio Console The analog console is dead. Long live the analog console By Mike Palmer The author is president of Arrakis Systems. One question I have recently been asked is, “Is the analog console dead?” I think that the thousands of radio customers worldwide who purchase analog model consoles, such as those made by Arrakis, would say no. In fact, Arrakis analog console unit sales have grown over the last 35 years. The console technology choices today are analog, digital or AoIP. They are like Compare and contrast the rat’s nest of wires and switches in an early 1960s era Gates Radio/Harris Intertype President radio console and the sleek simplicity of single-board of the Arrakis ARC-10 (obverse and reverse apples, oranges and pears. are seen here). Choose your flavor. They all perform the same job on the outside, but do it differently on the inside. So, is analog tooth wireless interfaces to tablets and cellphones, AoIP dead? Our mouths are analog and our ears are analog. Ethernet audio distribution, and more. In fact, an analog Until we can plug a USB connector into the back of our console isn’t analog anymore. It is actually an analog-dignecks and we as people go digital, there will always be ital hybrid product that gives customers the best of both analog. worlds. Still, analog radio consoles have evolved dramatically One of the important evolutionary changes in radio over the years. The radio console of today isn’t the radio since the early ’90s has been the Windows PC-based console of yesterday. Arrakis’ first year at the NAB conradio automation system. This has driven analog console vention was 1980, and that year RCA introduced a new manufacturers to create a digital interface to the automodel radio console: eight channels, 5 feet wide, step mation system. On our end, the Arrakis ARC series hybrid attenuators for faders, audio transformers, hand-wired consoles feature an internal USB audio sound card so that harnesses and almost 100 pounds. PC software can play and record in digital directly from Needless to say, radio consoles have evolved dramatithe console for both on-air and production applications. cally since then. To even more tightly link the interface, Arrakis has produced on-air software that talks directly to the console for starting and stopping the playlist, triggering recordBLURRING THE LINES ing, etc. As new technologies and advances have come along, To further blur the definition of an analog console, the console has become less expensive to manufacture one can add another digital interface such as Bluetooth and more reliable. It has added evolutionary new feashort-range wireless connectivity. This feature allows tures to match: USB sound card interfaces to PCs, BlueTRENDS IN CONSOLES Radio World | May 2017
consoles in 2013 and control was integrated into our Audition software. That was so well received that we introduced the ARC-Talk-Blue at the recent NAB Show. It features two dedicated Bluetooth channels. AOIP
Another important digital innovation in radio has been “Audio over IP.” With AoIP many channels of audio can be sent simultaneously over a single Cat-5 Ethernet cable. This replaces bulky multipair shielded cables and punch blocks for audio distribution around the station. A single Cat-5 cable can replace hundreds of audio cables and the interconnections are software assignable. To provide AoIP connectivity to Arrakis ARC series hybrid consoles, we introduced “Simple-IP” at the 2016 NAB convention. Instead of building out a whole new proprietary IP network standard as others have done, Arrakis took advantage of developed, industry-standard, off-the-shelf technology in the development of Simple-IP. Using 1RU AoIP boxes and Ethernet connectors, we utilized Dante AoIP technology developed by Audinate. Dante is the world standard in AoIP with plug-in compatibility to more than 250 manufacturers and 600 products. To connect to AoIP networks from other proprietary radio manufacturers, Dante features AES67 connectivity. This makes our products compatible with those from hundreds of other companies. Yet, ultimately, despite rampant digitization, the “analog” radio console will never die. It will simply continue to evolve. Much like the competition between gas, hybrid and electric powered cars which all do the same thing in different ways. The analog console of today most closely resembles the hybrid gas-electric car which merges the strengths of both technologies. n
customers to connect any Bluetooth enabled landline or cellphone, for taking callers and putting them on-air or record. It can actually alleviate the need for a separate phone hybrid. Other Bluetooth capabilities include the ability to stream any device that has Bluetooth — such as a mic recorder, or MP3 player or tablet. Bluetooth connectivity seemed like such a great idea for a mixer that Arrakis added it to the ARC series
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Trends in Consoles (Radio World ebook) - May 2017