Audio networking and general interconnection of systems has long been at the heart of TV and radio installations but in recent years these technologies have taken on even greater importance and significance with the introduction of databased file-transports, usually over fibre optic links.
Internet Protocol (IP) is the carrier format grabbing most attention in broadcast applications as TV stations and radio channels adopt audio over IP (AoIP) for both contributions and distribution/transmission. Proprietary-based systems such as Audinate Dante and Ravenna from ALC NetworX have been developed to meet the needs of specific situations, primarily in connecting equipment for large-scale installations.
The Audio Engineering Society, working with the European Broadcasting Union, released the AES67 protocol in September last year to lay down comprehensive interoperability recommendations in the areas of synchronization, media clock identification, network transport, encoding and streaming, session description and connection management.
This week at the ISE (Integrated Systems Europe) show in Amsterdam, Audinate announced that the AES67 transport scheme would be incorporated into Dante, which already has Layer-3 IP capability through the User Datagram Protocol (UDM). AES67 will add the Real-time Transport Protocol (RTP) to the media networking system. Audinate's chief technology officer, Aidan Williams, said in the announcement statement that AES67 "will provide another option for interoperable Layer-3/IP-based audio networks in the future."
Audinate is to implement support for AES67 as a firmware update for original equipment manufacture partners in early Dante products "within 12 months". The company says it is now able to offer both UDM and RTP to users, with AES67 aimed at those that "prefer an open IP-based transport option", with capability for Ethernet switches using the IEEE 1588 precision time protocol.
Dante is also compliant with the emerging AVB (audio video bridge) standard overseen by the AVnu Alliance; Dante also complies with these specifications. Audinate developed its media network originally for the live music and events sector. Chief executive Lee Ellison comments that this ensured it met the "highest challenges" and by being scaleable could be applied to other markets.
Over the last two to three years Dante has become regarded as a viable contender for broadcast installation, with SSL and the Bosch group - including RTS Telex - among others, incorporating it into products. The latest broadcasting specialist to sign up as a Dante licensee is Calrec Audio. The UK company's communications manager, Ian Cookson called the move "another positive step towards total networking interoperability" and said that "over the next few years we expect to see a lot of broadcasters utilising equipment that will interface with common transports", with Dante a major player in this sector.
Ellison comments that AES67 will be attractive to broadcasters, who are now expecting IP to be part of the interconnection and networking set-up. "They are using the IT infrastructure for the intercom system and programme feed as well," he says, "with everything on the same network. What we do is to have all devices on a network and make sure they are easy to set up."
The ultimate aim, Ellison says, is to simplify the business of networking. This will appeal to all potential users of this kind of technology but there is still the concern that systems like Dante are proprietary and so not open enough to have full interconnectivity.
Ellison acknowledges that many end users "have a horrible taste in their mouths" from trying to work with a technology that did not have the support behind it that they needed. He takes the example of voice over IP network Skype, which is proprietary but is able to connect PCs to Macs and everyone is able to talk to each other using it. "AVB and AES67 devices are able to talk to other things and the standards keep changing so they can keep up with everything," Ellison comments.
In the last ten years, Ellison concludes, there has been a move from hardware-based networking to software applications, which, among other things, has brought "cost savings". In today's budget conscious broadcast world that is going to be a big point in favour of IP and other new media technologies.