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2012: the year in review

It’s year end, and time to look back. What will 2012 be remembered for, apart from that big sporting event, and Her Majesty throwing a bit of party?

It’s year end, and time to look back. What will 2012 be remembered for, apart from that big sporting event, and Her Majesty throwing a bit of party?

Bad weather did its best to sabotage the festival business in the UK, aided and abetted by continuing adverse economic conditions. In fact, it was mixed fortunes all round for many in our glorious pro-audio industry.

Our cover story in January suggested that the Audio Engineering Society (AES) was feeling cautiously optimistic about the year ahead, having turned a financial corner and posting a “small but significant surplus” following two lacklustre years.

Despite the improved financial performance, the AES’s 132nd Convention in Budapest attracted less than a dozen exhibitors and drew criticism for a lack of marketing, calling into question the future of the trade show in Europe.
Undaunted, newly appointed executive director Bob Moses spoke frankly, yet confidently to PSNEurope (June 2012) about changes that have already taken place within the organisation and, hopefully, moving on.
It’s a sentiment echoed by PLASA CEO Matthew Griffiths who is equally confident about the trade show’s future at ExCeL in 2013, despite doubts voiced by pro-audio manufacturers at this year’s final Earls Court event. 

Griffiths admitted pro-audio got the short end of the stick over recent years, and hinted that a separate event may be in order, or perhaps even partnering with “other shows”. Regardless, the CEO is embracing 2013 as an opportunity to ‘rework’ PLASA.
Also getting another look was the ‘dark art’ of mastering, which has been exposed to a wider audience both publicly, through Apple’s new Mastered for iTunes initiative, as well as professionally with the Music Producers Guild introducing a new mastering group.
Avid looked to improve its bottom line in 2012, selling M-Audio and AIR Software to Akai/Numark parent InMusic Group, and its consumer video product lines to Canada’s Corel Corporation.

The company also revealed its aim to save $80 million annually by cutting staff and “darkening facilities”. Shares in Avid Technology have dropped in recent years from a high of $70 to around $7 as of 12 December.
Despite the figures, Avid’s greatest image troubles may have stemmed from an onslaught of email correspondence from irate Sibelius users, who wanted the company to sell the notation software back to its original founders (Ben and Jonathan Finn), after it emerged that the Sibelius UK office was to close and further development outsourced.
The campaign had relentlessly pursued Avid since the announcement was made in mid-July, even composing an anthem for their cause (well, naturally…).
The group’s efforts relented somewhat after Steinberg’s announcement that it had recruited 11 of the former Sibelius team to work on its own music notation software. 
The BBC also faced a certain degree of turbulence, shutting down Bush House, auctioning its contents (I never did get an RE-20), and preparing to move various departments from Television Centre to Elstree (temporarily) and South Ruislip – all while trying to celebrate its 90th anniversary amid a torrent of child abuse allegations and subsequent management resignations. One annus horriblis indeed.
Summer of Sport One of pro-audio’s biggest news-making events took place around the end of July, though what it was, no one would say. Draconian rulings against non-sponsors of that particular event made it impossible to report on it in any official way.

Not that it mattered, really. We were all too wrapped up in the excitement of the London 2012 Olympics. What’s that? Oh, that was the big news?
Press releases finally flooded into our inboxes throughout September (and they’re still coming), as manufacturers and suppliers could – for the most part – now open up about their contribution to Britain’s economy and morale boosting Olympic Games.

Prior to that we relied on sister magazine Installation’s editor Paddy Baker, who snapped photos of kit by L-Acoustics, Electro-Voice and Shure during the Opening Ceremonies (Editor’s Comment, August) to supplement what little official information we did have (PSNEurope, July).
What we can now say is that for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, Australian Norwest Productions worked closely with the UK’s Delta Sound, Britannia Row and Autograph, during which Merging Technologies’ Pyramix was the DAW of choice for playback of the pre-recorded audio.
It took three weeks to install the required Optocore fibre signal transport, which used more than 50 devices, with Dolby Lake processors providing the switchover between networks. Optocore also delivered both PA and monitor feeds, via DiGiCo SD7 desks (what a great 10th anniversary bonus; PSNEurope, September 2012), to the largest Olympic PA system in the history of the Games: from L-Acoustics, 220 VDOSC, 100 KUDO, 55 ARCS, 88 SB28 subs and a number of 12XT fills — all driven from 280 LA8 amplifiers.
Radio microphones for the ceremonies were Shure’s new Axient system, with Sennheiser G3s used for IEMs and a comms system comprising two Artist 128 frames provided by Riedel (exclusive coverage in PSNEurope, October).
Broadcast-wise, over 50 Lawo mixing consoles were deployed by various international broadcasters. BBC Sports’ sound team used a 62-fader Studer Vista 9 console in each of its three production room galleries at the International Broadcast Centre, along with a Yamaha 01V96 grams mixer and SpotOn audio playback software, monitored via a Genelec 5.1 loudspeaker system.

Broadcast microphones were provided by Audio-Technica. An unspecified amount of equipment was also supplied by AED Group. On the road In the UK, it was the second-worst ‘summer’ since weather records began, which contributed to the cancellation of a large number of festivals including Creamfields and Bloc Festival (well, sort of).

Others pulled out early fearing they couldn’t compete with the Olympics (Big Chill) while poor ticket sales forced some events to be abandoned (Sonisphere). 
Despite the weather wreaking havoc in the UK, it wasn’t all bad for the festival industry in Europe. Marc Maes reported on the massive growth of Belgium’s Tomorrowland, echoed by Germany’s Reload Festival (PSNEurope September 2012).

Reports from both Phil Ward and David Davies in PSNLive revealed that both big and boutique events are more than capable of holding their own, illustrated in Dave Robinson’s write up of Mama Group’s chic and eclectic Wilderness Festival.
What’s more, after something of a hiatus, festivals (and other events) suddenly had a wealth of large-format PA systems to choose from. PSNEurope had the scoop on Nexo’s modular STM Series, which launched at Prolight + Sound in Frankfurt, where JBL’s VTX system also made its European debut. Martin Audio’s MLA Compact system was introduced around the same time.
Later in the year, Meyer Sound rolled out its newest large-format PA at this year’s Way Out West festival in Sweden, followed by Coda Audio’s ambitious ViRAY system, which the company hopes will lead it into one of the “top five” pro-audio loudspeaker brands. Fingers crossed that the weather picks up next year, so rental houses get to buy and use this stuff!
The year for studios was a good one if you were Abbey Road (happy 80th birthday!), Livingston (which just opened) and East Point, hidden behind a secret door disguised as a bookcase inside Osea Island’s Manor House.

Studios spotting ‘for sale’ signs in 2012 include Air Studios, while Garden studios has shut its doors and David Gray’s Church Studios risk being turned into flats next year. Major announcements Other ‘big’ news this year included more than a few companies expanding, starting with Uli Behringer’s Music Group dominating the headlines on the opening day of InfoComm in Las Vegas, with news of the acquisition of UK-based loudspeaker brand Turbosound.

New consoles including the X32 (Behringer) and the PRO 1 (Midas) are keeping the marketplace lively. Soundcraft, meanwhile, took the bold move of launching the Si Performer, the first hybrid audio/lighting desk.
At IBC 2012, TSL Professional Products announced it had acquired surround sound microphone and audio processing technology manufacturer SoundField.

In the 3D audio sector, Dolby Laboratories bought Spanish developer Imm Sound in July, and DTS responded in August buying out SRS Labs, taking competition in the niche market up a notch.
Dolby Laboratories Jeffrey Riedmiller has also been a vocal advocate for best practices for loudness, as reported by Kevin Hilton. This year, France, Germany, Switzerland and Austria began using the EBU R128 loudness standard for television loudness control while at IBC2012 David Davies reported that the focus of anti-loudness activity is beginning to shift towards radio, cinema and streaming services
AED has flexed its muscles more than ever this year. In January, its rental division made a massive investment in both Sennheiser and JBL’s VTX system. AED Rent then celebrated its 25th anniversary by launching its financing division, AED Lease, in July. Company CEO Glenn Roggeman took home an official Olympic torch from this year’s PLASA show in September, only to have the company’s Willebroek, Belgium headquarters go up in flames in early November.
“Total damages are estimated at some €800,000 worth of video equipment, €1.5 million in lighting and audio kit, half a million euros in specialised machinery, computers and materials, plus an estimated cost of €1 million for the damaged buildings,” Roggeman said. “We managed to recuperate some 70 hoists with water damage, but discovered over 200 units that were simply melted in the heat of the inferno.”
On a final Olympic note, we’re already in much better shape to report on the Sochi 2014 Games with the first piece of news already in from Relec SA, who will be supplying 25 pairs of PSI Audio monitors to be used in the broadcast booths. Feel free to let us know about your contribution to the “Winter of Sport.”
Networked audio The standardisation of networked audio chugged along in 2012, with an emphasis on ‘interoperability’ among its key players with two protocols in particular dominating the headlines: Audio-Video Bridging (AVB) and Ravenna.
AVB set the tone early with some key product releases including Biamp’s Tesira; the company’s first DSP-based networked media system to employ AVB as the primary digital media transport, launched at ISE.
This was followed by a flurry of Dante-enabled products released at Prolight + Sound in Frankfurt. Audinate’s technology, built on AVB standards, is seen by many as a seamless ‘upgrade’ path to AVB.
Meanwhile, AVB’s industry forum, AVnu Alliance, picked up two new members in Waves Audio and Dolby Laboratories, and formed a council to begin work on the second generation of AVB standards.

AVB product certification testing is to begin next year at the University of New Hampshire’s InterOperability Laboratory.
Testing was supposed to begin in August of this year but has been pushed back to early 2013. AVnu Alliance’s Ellen Juhlin spoke to PSNEurope in September about AVB’s ongoing development.
Ravenna, meanwhile, made such a strong showing at IBC2012 (19 of its 21 partner companies were exhibiting) that David Davies couldn’t help but wonder whether or not the technology was approaching a ‘tipping point’ (November).
Earlier in the year Ravenna partnered with the Telos Alliance (announced at NAB), including Livewire manufacturer Axia, bringing interoperability to a total of 70 combined broadcast partners. A string of further global partnerships were announced, including a significant link up with IP codec manufacturer Qbit; announced at IBC.
And what of our year? Well, PSNEurope took on a new staff writer (that would be me) but more importantly, the magazine got a whole new look in March.

We’re now smarter and sexier than we’ve ever been (I’m talking about the redesign, of course). Hairier too, it seems.

Have you seen the contest we’re running? There’s still time to enter, and win a pair of AKG K167 TIESTO headphones
Story: Erica Basnicki