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ALC and Lawo launch IP distribution system

Kevin Hilton 14 September 2010

The growth of audio over IP in the broadcast market looks set to continue with the introduction at IBC 2010 of a new open, real-time distribution technology, writes Kevin Hilton. Ravenna was developed by a group of manufacturers, led by Lawo associate company ALC NetworX. It is designed primarily for passing signals around broadcast centres, connecting OB trucks and linking facilities over WAN connections. Ravenna came out of a discussion over dinner between Philipp Lawo, chief executive of Lawo, and Andreas Hildebrand, senior product manager at ALC. Lawo sketched a schematic for an IP-based distribution system on a sheet of paper, a blow-up of which featured on the ALC stand at IBC (pictured in the background with Hildebrand). "Philipp pointed out that the iPhone 4 and other smartphones all have IP and all do audio," explains Hildebrand. "He said that IP is available everywhere so why not use it for professional audio as well, so he started drawing the diagram." The aim behind Ravenna is to combine the professional audio and IP worlds, with the potential to connect any type of device. A major reason for the adoption of IP as a backbone technology in broadcasting and pro audio is its low cost compared to traditional digital routing and matrixing. Another attraction is the open structure, allowing developers to take IP as a platform and build applications on top. Hildebrand says Ravenna was intended as a non-proprietary format from the beginning. "We wanted something that could spread out and be taken up by other companies," he says, "so it was never going to be only for Lawo. If it had been the Lawo developers might have focused too early on mixing and routing. We wanted it more open, to be applicable for other manufacturers in the recording industry and even for video." Lawo and ALC have worked with Genelec, Merging Technologies, Innovason, Schoeps, DirectOut, DSA Volgmann and L-S-B on the initial development of Ravenna. Merging and Genelec have implemented their own platforms using the basic Ravenna specification but without any code from ALC/Lawo. During IBC Genelec displayed its Audio Distribution over IP system, which uses uncompressed signals over a standard LAN. Other companies are using a "piggyback board" produced by ALC as a reference design and added it to their core infrastructures through I/O interfaces. Hildebrand says the technology information and mechanisms used in Ravenna will be issued in the public domain "in due time". This, he explains, is intended to give companies not already involved the opportunity to "hop onboard" and discuss their requirements and suggestions before the spec is finalised. He adds that won’t be given away by ALC/Lawo is the reference codes and designs. Depending on how many other companies now get involved in the development of Ravenna, a finished specification could be available in a "couple of months". www.alcnetworx.de 

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