AVB and Audinate's Dante: An Update After Infocomm 2014

One of the things I like most about the Infocomm show is that I always unexpectedly run into friends, and also invariably see something new. In 2009, that something new was Audio-Video Bridging (AVB), an IEEE open standard for transmitting time-synchronized audio and video over Ethernet, using special network switches. I've long been a supporter of open standards, and I was a big supporter of AVB. But after the 2013 AES convention, four years after that very public roll out, it seemed to me that AVB had been too slow out of the gate, and that Audinate's proprietary Dante audio networking technology had already won dominance in the live sound market (and I wrote about all that in a blog entry, which, amazingly to me, has had nearly 5,000 views). Everything I saw at this year's Infocomm further supports that conclusion.  

These pictures (sorry for the cameraphone quality, I wasn't lugging my heavy DSLR around the show) sum up the situation for me. Here's the display by the AVNU Alliance (the AVB Trade association--I wrote a lot about them here after a visit to their testing lab last summer):

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Transient

There's actually less on display this year than last year. There was the (very nice) AVB-based Avid S3L console, some interfaces, and switches from Extreme Networks, who, as of now, are the only company to get AVNU-certified switches onto the market. The Extreme switches seem very nice, but when I priced them recently I was surprised to learn that the AVB option costs over $300+ extra per switch. With so little AVB product available for our industry, what does that $300 get me?  (BTW, recently there was a very cool "Brick and Bullet" AVB I/O Kickstarter that unfortunately did not reach its funding goal--they are vowing to go forward anyway).

Contrast that to the demo area at Audinate's A/V Networking World (AVNW) the day before Infocomm:

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Here, there was lots of stuff from popular pro audio manufacturers that you can buy today, all connected together using standard switches and patched with a consistent interface. And in this all-day Dante love fest, they showed real world, completed installations, and lots of new, working stuff.  My friend Jamie Anderson from Rational Acoustics presented on a recent SMAART class he taught where he replaced his old analog signal distribution system with Dante, saying it saved him several hours on the class because it "just worked":'

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Another old friend, Michael Cusick from SAVI, explained the massive Dante network his company recently installed in a big renovation at the Planet Hollywood showroom in Vegas.

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I had to miss the afternoon presentations.  But Dante had a booth on the floor showing many of their OEM partners:

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The booth also featured Audio Technica's ATND971, "the first wired microphone that transmits audio and control data together over the Dante network protocol":

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So, it seems the prediction I made after peering into my crystal ball back in November still holds up: "... Audinate's Dante has won the race, while AVB is still being tweaked by the mechanics over in the pit lane."   

You can see all my AVB/Dante postings here, and pictures of random stuff I found interesting at this year's Infocomm here.  I also have a writeup of our 2014 show control geekout here.

Update June 24, 1pm: Here's a video from Audinate from Infocomm explaining the above and some things I missed at the show:

"Classic" Live Mic List Survey Results!

Yana Chupenko at Cathyland's Love Bites 2014

Yana Chupenko at Cathyland's Love Bites 2014

There are as many opinions about microphones as there are sound engineers. Experimentation with mics is a great thing to do, but what if you’re just starting out, or you need to mic something you haven’t worked with before?  

For my students (and anyone else interested), I thought it would be fun to develop a list of “classic” live mics for live sound.  Rather than just make a list based on my own opinions, I figured I’d crowd source it by creating a survey and sending it out to as many people as possible (and writing this, with the analysis complete, I just realized I forgot to vote in my own survey!).  I ran a beta test of it with a few people on the always excellent Theatre Sound Mailing List, and then tweaked up the survey and posted it both there and on the ProSoundWeb Live Audio Board forum.  36 people completed the survey, which ended up being a bit tedious (it turns out we mic a LOT of different things!). 

I asked respondents for two variations on “Classic”.  The first would be “Money Is No Object”, and the second is “Most Commonly Used”.  Here’s the list of the most popular in each categories (I've also got a better formatted PDF available here).  Ties are indicated by multiple mics separated by “/”, such as SM58/AKG 414. 

Money Is No Object Most Commonly Used
Vocals
General Speech Handheld Shure SM58 Shure SM58
Rock Vocal Handheld Audix OM7 Shure SM58
Pop Vocal Handheld Neumann KMS 105 Shure SM58
Rap Vocal Handheld Shure SM58 Shure SM58
Jazz Vocal Handheld Neumann KMS 105 Shure SM58
Classical Vocal Handheld Neumann KMS 105 Shure SM58
Headworn Boom Cardioid DPA 4088 Countryman E6
Headworn Boom Omni DPA 4066 Countryman E6
Lavalier Cardioid DPA 4080 Shure WL185
Lavalier Omni DPA 4061 Countryman B3
Choir or Chorus AKG C414 Sennheiser e 935
Guitar-Bass
Acoustic Guitar Mic Neumann KM 84 Shure SM57/Shure SM81
Guitar Amp Mic Shure SM57 Shure SM57
Acoustic Bass Mic DPA 4099 Shure SM57
Bass Amp Mic Beyerdynamic M-88 Shure SM57/ Sennheiser MD 421
Piano-Keyboard
Grand Piano: Lid Closed Earthworks PM40 PianoMic AKG C414
Grand Piano: Lid Opened AKG C414 AKG C414
Upright Piano: Lid Closed AKG C414 AKG C414
Upright Piano: Lid Opened AKG C414 AKG C414
Electronic Keyboard Amp Shure SM57 Shure SM57
Electric Organ Shure SM57 Shure SM57
Leslie Cabinet Sennheiser MD 421/Sennheiser MD 441 Shure SM57
Drums
Kick Drum Inside Shure BETA 91 Shure BETA 91
Kick Drum Outside Electro Voice RE20 Shure BETA 52A
Snare Top Beyerdynamic M-201 Shure SM57
Snare Bottom Shure SM57 Shure SM57
Floor Tom Sennheiser e 904/Sennheiser MD 421 Sennheiser e 604
Tom Sennheiser MD 421 Sennheiser e 604
Cymbals AKG C414/Neumann KM 84/Neumann KM 184 Shure SM81
Overhead AKG C414 Shure SM81
Hi Hat AKG C451B Shure SM81
Misc Percussion Neumann KM 184 Shure SM57/Shure SM 81
DI
Guitar Amp Radial JDI Countryman 85
Pedal Steel Radial JDI Countryman 85/BSS AR-133
Bass Amp Radial JDI Countryman 85
Keyboard Radial JDI Countryman 85
Computer Whirlwind pcDI Whirlwind pcDI
DJ Mixer Radial JDI BSS AR-133
MP3 Player Radial JDI/Radio ProDI/Whirlwind pcDI Radial ProDI/Whirlwind IMP 2/Whirlwind pcDI
General Input Radial JDI Countryman 85
String
Banjo Individual DPA 4099 Shure SM57
Ukulele Individual DPA 4099 Shure SM57
Dobro Individual DPA 4099 Shure SM57
Violin Individual DPA 4099 Shure SM81
Viola Individual DPA 4099 Shure SM81
Cello Individual DPA 4099 AKG C414/Shure KSM137/Shure SM81
Bass Individual DPA 4099 Neumann KM 184
Harp Individual DPA 4061/Schoeps CMC6/MK 4 Shure SM81
Mandolin Individual DPA 4099/Sennheiser MKH 40 Shure SM57
Violin Section DPA 4011/Neumann KM 84/Schoeps CMC6/MK 2/Schoeps CMC6/MK 4 Neumann KM 184
Viola Section Schoeps CMC6/MK 4 Neumann KM 184
Cello Section DPA 4011/Neumann KM 84/Schoeps CMC6/MK 2/Schoeps CMC6/MK 4 Neumann KM 184
Bass Section DPA 4011/Neumann KM 84 Neumann KM 184/Shure SM81
Harp Section Schoeps CMC6/MK 2/Sennheiser MKH 40 Shure SM81
Woodwind
Harmonica Sennheiser MD 441 Shure SM58
Piccolo Individual Neumann KM 84 AKG C451B/Neumann KM 184
Flute Individual Schoeps CMC6/MK 4 AKG C451B
Oboe Individual Neumann KM 184/Schoeps CMC6/MK 4 AKG C451B
Clarinet Individual DPA 4099/Schoeps CMC6/MK 4/Neumann KM 184 AKG C451B/Neumann KM 184/Shure KSM32
Bassoon Individual Schoeps CMC6/MK 4 Neumann KM 184
Saxophone Individual Sennheiser MD 421 Sennheiser MD 421/Shure SM57
Piccolo Section Neumann KM 84 AKG C451B/Neumann KM 184
Flute Section Neumann KM 84 Neumann KM 184
Oboe Section Neumann KM 84/Schoeps CMC6/MK 4/Schoeps CMC6/MK 21/Sennheiser MKH 40 Neumann KM 184
Clarinet Section Schoeps CMC6/MK 4 Neumann KM 184
Bassoon Section Neumann KM 84 AKG C414
Saxophone Section Sennheiser MKH 40/Neumann KM 84/u87 AKG C414
Brass
Trumpet Individual Sennheiser MD 421/Electro Voice RE20 Shure SM57
French Horn Individual Sennheiser MD 421 Sennheiser MD 421
Trombone Individual Electro Voice RE20 Sennheiser MD 421
Tuba Individual Electro Voice RE20 Sennheiser MD 421
Trumpet Section Neumann u87/Neumann TLM 170 AKG C414
French Horn Section Neumann u87 AKG C414
Trombone Section Neumann u87 AKG C414
Tuba Section Neumann u87/Schoeps CMC6/MK 4 Not enough responses
Percussion
Xylophone Individual AKG C414/Sennheiser MKH 40 Shure SM81
Timpani Individual AKG C414 Shure SM57
Bass Drum Individual Earthworks SR25 AKG D112/Shure BETA 52A
Cymbals Individual AKG C414 Shure SM81
Conga Individual Beyerdynamic M-201 Shure SM57
Timbales Individual Beyerdynamic M-201 Shure SM57
Triangle Individual DPA 4021 Shure SM81
Tambourine Individual Shure SM57 AKG C451B/Neumann KM 184/Shure SM57/Shure SM81
Misc Percussion Individual AKG C451B Shure SM57/Shure SM81
Xylophone Section AKG C414 Shure SM81/AKG C414
Timpani Section AKG C414 Shure SM81/AKG C414
Bass Drum Section AKG C414 Not enough responses

Respondents were encouraged to skip mics they didn't use, so a few of the entries are blank (I guess not many people mic tuba sections).  A few also had pretty small sample sizes and ended up being less relevant--you can download my summary sheet of the top three results in Excel format here.  I also have all the raw data available here (scrubbed of any personal information).

In general, the “Money Is No Object” section drew a lot of diverse responses, while the “most commonly used” tended to hone in on a few favorites, some overwhelmingly (again, see the percentages on my summary sheet linked above).  Despite my efforts, I still missed some mics in my list, most notably the Shure BETA 91 for inside a kick drum (the eventual winner), and the write in box worked to correct that. The only other write in that I saw with more than a few entries was a couple Heil mics, but the respondents weren't always clear about where they should go, and the quantities would have only added up to compete for third place or so, so they didn't affect the categories where they were written in (some people also wrote in mics that were on the list).

This is of course not a scientifically accurate survey, since I have no idea how many sound engineers there are in the world, and therefore also have no idea how well this small sample represents the market.  But I do think the list has some value, since it’s as if I had asked 36 of my closest sound engineer friends their opinion.  And it’s an experienced group, with 82.4% of respondents indicating that they had worked in the live sound business more than 10 years.  90% said they worked at least partly in concert sound, and 50% do this kind of work primarily (I forgot worship sound in my poll so several people wrote that in).  24 (67%) of the respondents were from the US, but I also got seven from the UK, three from Canada, one from Germany, and one from the Netherlands.   You can see the rest of the demographic result details in the excel sheet linked above. Thanks to all the participants! And, congratulations to Tim Perry of Utica, NY, who won the copy of my book.  

 It turns out that Survey Monkey offers a very limited set of options for data analysis for the “Matrix of Questions” type that I used, so I ended up having to do an unbelievable amount of spreadsheet magic to get the results.  For that reason, I’m sure there’s mistakes in the list; if you find any please let me know and I’ll correct it.  

"Classic" Live Mic List Survey--Need Your Help!

NOTE: Survey closed, results posted here.

I believe that microphones are something everyone should experiment with to get the best sound for the application, but my students and others new to the business lack experience and are often looking for good starting points for professional technique.

So, for fun, I'm looking to develop two crowd-sourced "classic" mic lists, using two definitions of classic:
1. of the first or highest quality, class, or rank: "a classic piece of work."
2. serving as a standard, model, or guide: "the classic method of teaching arithmetic."

List 1 will be what your mic choice would be for a particular application if money were no object; list 2 will be what you use (or see used) most commonly.

I will publish the results here in conjunction with the upcoming 2014 USITT convention. All data from the survey (except for optionally given email addresses and names) will be available to anyone interested for download.  And, I will randomly select one survey responder and give them a copy of my book, Show Networks and Control Systems

If you use microphones for live shows, please take a few minutes to fill out my survey here.  

The survey will close at noon NYC time on Saturday, March 22, 2014.

 

Controlling an ETC Ion Console Over an IP Network and from Dataton Watchout

ion-productGallery-1x10.jpg

I've written before about controlling a GrandMA2 console, Figure 53's QLab V3Weigl's ProCommander, and Stage Research's SFX all using ASCII commands over IP.  I had a little time today (we're on winter break and don't have classes) so we set up our ETC Ion lighting console to see how to control it over the network.  I'm a noob on the Ion, but I worked with my colleague Sue Brandt who can find her way around the board, and this blog assumes you know the basics of the console as well.

In most of the stuff I'm doing these days, I'm trying to move away from legacy protocols like MIDI, serial, and DMX and into IP everything.  (Although, implementing my "simpler is always better" design principle, for an upcoming show we will be firing old school, hardware-based MIDI Show Control out of the Ion to control Dataton Watchout).

ETC has implemented into the Ion (and the Eos family) a simple ASCII-based "String Interface" control protocol that can be sent via a serial port or via IP.  The commands are detailed on page 23 of the EOS Family Show Control User Guide.  

Here's a couple typical cue messages:

• Go 1 – fire playback 1
• Cue 1 2 – run cue 2 from list 1, on the appropriate fader
• Cue 1 – fire pending cue from list 2

The manual is very clear that, "All text will be queued up until either a carriage return (hex 0D), a “\r”, or a “#”, is encountered to show the end of the command".  

There's just a couple things you need to need to establish communications.  Of course, the computer/device you are using for control must have an IP address in the subnet of the console.  Our console had a Class A, non-routeable IP address.  You can get to this screen by going to the "Shell" and selecting "Settings" to bring up the EOS Configuration Utility ("ECU" in ETC Parlance).

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(Keep in mind that if any of this IP-mumbo-jumbo is confusing, I have a book and a whole series of free video lectures here on the page.)

While you're in this configuration screen, you also have to turn on the "UDP Strings" feature to get it to accept the string commands (I learned this the hard way by not turning it on at first and finding a port rejected command in Wireshark; you can learn from my mistake):

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(Sorry about the crappy camera phone pictures--if you want to see my better (unrelated) photography go to my Facebook page).

Go back into the main console software, and there under the Show Settings page you need to enable "String RX" (RX means Receive), and then pick some port for the board to receive on.  I picked 56789 for this test (just make sure to pick something not on the assigned list).

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That's the extent of the configuration on the Ion side.  

For a basic test, I used the Essential Net Tools utility running on a PC.  Essential Net Tools has a "Raw Socket" mode that is great for this kind of testing (socket just means IP address and port number combination).  

Here's the ETC syntax to fire a Cue on List 1, Cue 5.5 out from Essential Net Tools:

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That was it, that's all it took!  Once configured, it worked just fine and was very responsive.  

I then decided to fire the ETC Console from the Dataton Watchout multidisplay software system.   To send ASCII commands out over the network from Watchout, you first setup a String Output (screen capture from the manual since I forgot to capture my screen).

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With that in place, writing a cue was a simple matter of filling in a box and dragging it onto the Watchout timeline (as indicated, the $0D indicates a Carriage Return ASCII symbol:)

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And that was it, it worked great!  I've been doing this a while, but for me I find controlling anything over a network like this to be the most straightforward and powerful method.