Tech Focus: Audio Monitoring, Part 1

Production trucks see small changes, particularly in the most fundamental gear

Change is creeping into the remote-production truck. For instance, the front-line vehicles of broadcast’s army are tentatively beginning to incorporate digital-audio networking into the signal flow on trucks, mainly on the comms side. And, when it comes to that most fundamental piece of equipment — the monitor speaker — small changes are being noticed.

There’s more to choose from, to start with. Regular occupants of the mix compartments now include speakers from Genelec, Neumann, Dynaudio, JBL, and Blue Sky, with others appearing here and there according to network or A1 preferences.

NEP’s three-unit SSCBS features audio networking from Dante.

NEP’s three-unit SSCBS features audio networking from Dante.

“We’ll poll a number of A1s when were in the planning stage of a big new truck,” says NEP design engineer Michael Naugle. That includes the recently commissioned SSCBS, which was built for CBS Sports and launched Aug. 18 for golf and will be the unit covering Thursday Night Football. It’s fitted with Bowers & Wilkins CM5 S2 speakers and an ASW10CM S2 subwoofer at the main and submix positions, the choice of CBS A1 Ed Soltis.

At the network level, ESPN has regularly chosen Blue Sky speakers, and NBC has a preference for the Neumann KH120s, when it notes a preference.

“They tend to be pretty open about that,” says Naugle of the Peacock net. “We can accommodate almost any request an A1 or network makes. The thing is to find what they want in the right form factor for each truck. It has to fit in the space, but there’s definitely a lot to choose from.”

(SSCBS also has the first production-truck implementation of Dante audio networking. Two Focusrite RedNet D64R units provide up to 64 bidirectional channels of both coaxial and optical MADI interfaces between the Dante network and the truck’s Evertz routers, as well as a bridge to the intercom system.)

All Mobile Video audio-development specialist Ian Vysick gets lots of input about speaker preferences from A1s and on speaker placement as well. A new AMV truck, as yet unnamed, will have the video monitors at eye level and the speakers, usually at ear/eye level, positioned above them.

“We’ve been watching how people use their monitors,” he explains. “Having to sit there for long periods looking up at the video can be literally a real pain in the neck.”

AMV’s work skews toward entertainment but reflects a growing willingness to experiment more with how audio compartments are configured and how audio gets into and out of them.

“With multiview monitors, the mixer can configure the pictures however they want, as long as the program stays in the middle,” says Vysick. “Audio gives you a little more leeway in terms of where its monitors have to be placed.”

He also says that, for the first time, he’s using automated room-correction DSP software, part of the Dynaudio Air monitoring system going into the new truck. “I like that it gives us some extra control and some information, such as when the drivers are sagging,” he explains. “But you have to be careful with room correction: you never know exactly what it’s taking into account.” He means that the inevitable noise that will penetrate the audio compartment to some extent could become part of the environmental information that the automated-correction software uses to make its calculations.

Automated-room-correction software is now available from most of the regular denizens of the trucks — including JBL, Genelec, and Blue Sky — as well as Dynaudio. It’s being tentatively introduced into the truck world.

But waiting ahead is an entirely new universe of audio formats that will send immersive sound to set-top boxes. Audio monitoring will inevitably have to cope with that.

“Object-based audio is down the road, maybe three to four years,” says Naugle. “But, for now, 5.1 [surround] is plenty.”

Click here for Tech Focus: Audio Monitoring, Part 2 — A Broad Range of Options.

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