M3 Makes Its Way Into Audio Over IP
Remote-entertainment-production company’s foray into IP is instructional for all genres
The crossover between sports and entertainment has been a sweet spot for Music Mix Mobile (M3). The remote-production company, which has received Emmy Awards for its mixing and production work on Grammy Awards shows and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame broadcasts, also handles mixing chores on the music performed at the NBA All Star Game and other broadcast-sports events. And like the networks it works with, M3 is migrating its signal infrastructure from MADI to AoIP.
The company has chosen to use the RAVENNA networking standard, an open-source format and one favored by Lawo, whose consoles are aboard M3’s four trucks: three with Lawo mc²56 desks and one with an Lawo mc²36. The mc²56 on the most recently upgraded remote-production van, M3 Voyager, has a 48-fader surface supported by Lawo’s HD core with four eight-port MADI cards offering 2,048 bidirectional channels and six DSP cards supporting more than 560 DSP channels and the use of dual master cards in both the console core and all DALLIS frames providing dual-star redundancy to support critical live-to-air applications.
“We previously had a smaller Lawo mc²36 in this truck, but, with the increase in larger-input shows we’re doing, we decided to dedicate that mc²36 to one of our smaller mobile units and put a larger Lawo mc²56 into this truck,” says Joel Singer, co-owner/chief engineer, M3. “These will operate on IP RAVENNA Link, moving towards RAVENNA Net at some point.”
It’s part of a strategy to shift completely to an IP infrastructure. The Lawo consoles’ native implementation of RAVENNA helped push M3 in that direction, as did the standard’s open-source nature. Combining RAVENNA with the AES67 interoperability standard, according to Singer, ensures intercompatibility with the wide range of formats encountered during remote production.
“The RAVENNA link lets us put and discover devices as objects on the network,” he says, adding that recent Lawo software updates have made the migration to IP easier. For instance, the DALLIS I/O’s IP-Share algorithm sets the optimum analog gain for multi-client requirements and ensures that the corresponding gain compensation is applied to the digital gain stages of all consoles when the analog gain of the preamp is being adjusted.
Singer was an early proponent of digital-audio systems but has nonetheless been cautious about transitioning to new platforms. He cites his experience with the Neve Capricorn digital console, which was a groundbreaking platform when it was introduced in 1992 (and was the first console to implement MADI, as a single-cable connection between console and tape deck) but whose plethora of proprietary technology elements made it difficult to maintain.
“I’m not a big fan of Dante for the same reasons,” he says, referring to Audinate’s widely used networking product. “It’s a proprietary format, whereas RAVENNA is an open-source format. Along with AES67, I’m confident that it can work with any other systems on the networks. That’s important in any live situation.”
Singer also points out that his consoles have a Dante card and can work with Dante devices on the RAVENNA network. “I’m not against Dante,” he explains. “I just prefer a system that has a governing body setting its standards versus one that is proprietary.”
What Singer has learned in the transition process is how much he — and everyone else on this particular journey — doesn’t know and needs to learn. “It’s no longer just about audio. You have to learn the layer protocols, how everything interacts on a network, and how to troubleshoot a network. None of this was in my job description even five years ago.”
The most immediate benefit of IP for M3 has been the increase in channel counts, which has been critical with music productions, like sports events, becoming larger and more complex. “With RAVENNA, I have 128 channels of bidirectional audio, versus the 64 channels I had with MADI, with even less cabling,” he says.
Singer sees AoIP already becoming more common in broadcast trucks but, initially, in such elements as intercoms and distributed sound within the truck itself. Out to the field and beyond, he expects, will take longer, given broadcast’s natural caution around new technologies.
“Externally, we’ll still see the traditional console and field-box combinations over MADI,” he says. “But over time, it’s going to AoIP. It just offers us so many new options.”