MARC BRUNKE: INNOVATOR
One night, sometime in 1990, a young musician became so frustrated with his stage sound, he took it upon himself to fix what he saw as a fundamental problem. This lightbulb moment took six years to come to fruition, but it was worth it, because in 1996, Marc Brunke founded Optocore, the company to deliver the world’s first fibre optic multicore, and now one of the leading audio networking manufacturers on the planet. We sit down with the man himself, to find out more. Words Paul Watson “I was supposed to be a musician; that was the first plan,” opens Marc Brunke, adding that he studied music as well as electronic engineering. “I composed music, I played in bands, did lots of gigs, but I also worked for various electronics companies, so as usual, on the music side, there wasn’t much income, so the electronic engineering was my income!” A sign of things to come, perhaps. And fittingly, Brunke’s audio lightbulb moment happened while he was on stage. “We had a gig, I was playing saxophone, and we had a very bad experience with a multicore, so the sound engineer was having a lot of problems at the desk,” Brunke recalls. “There were broken channels, lots of buzzing, and we even had some Russian long wave broadcast coming through the system [laughs]. As we waited an hour for the sound engineer to fix the issue, I was thinking, ‘it’d
be more professional to do this over fibre.’” This was back in 1990, but Brunke was already familiar with fibre optic technology, as he’d used it on jobs with telecom companies. Quite the rock and roll story, though. “Yeah, and a couple of weeks later, I asked the professional guys who the companies were that were making fibre optic snakes, and it turned out there were none; all the professional musicians I spoke to were all, ‘wow, would this be possible?’ And I said, ‘yes, why not?’ And that’s how it started. So the musicians urged me to do it, really.” So the following year, Brunke started work on the snake. But it was no walk in the park. “You have to remember there was no Internet, no smartphones, there was nothing. Wow, how did we survive? [laughs] There was also no A/D converter. So basically, there was a lot of groundwork necessary,” he explains.
“So what I did for the first generation of Optocore was an analogue modulator fibre optic system. This worked, and was good, but the dynamic range wasn’t so good – it was about 75dB, which was OK, but not good enough for professional sound. So then I started to work on digitising the signal, which is now, of course, the standard process. So really, the first working systems that were fully stable came out in 1996.”
Ahead of the Game
This was essentially the beginning of Optocore, as we know it today, and 1996 also saw the company secure its first sale. “The first system actually went to Poland,” Brunke says. “It was a broadcast van, and it was for the papal visit to Poland – and at this time, it was a Polish Pope, so they made a huge effort to get things right, so they
LONDON 2012 OLYMPIC GAMES: Optocore at the helm, as usual.
GAME-CHANGER: Bringing fibre to the masses.