Pieter Schillebeeckx, Product Director, TSL Products
Audio monitoring has come a long way since its humble beginnings of a box with a speaker, a volume control, and an analog input. Today's high-end audio monitoring units boast an impressive array of I/O such as SDI, MADI, AES-3 and analog while offering a large amount of functionality such as accurate metering, loudness measurement, Dolby decoding, metadata analysis, and video-confidence monitoring.
There is, however, a huge storm brewing in the world of broadcast in the form of video- and audio-over-IP, which will turn everything upside down. Although it has been on the horizon for some time now, it is gathering pace and momentum and can no longer be stopped. As one of the leading manufacturers of audio monitors, this is set to keep us very busy in the foreseeable future. One of the main challenges to date has been the standards/protocol wars that have been raging, but there are very encouraging signs that would suggest we are getting closer to a consensus on the way forward. Some of the main forerunners at the moment are S2022-6, TR-03, and TR-04 for video-over-IP, and AES67, Dante, and Ravenna leading the charge in audio-over-IP.
One of the fundamental differences when monitoring a traditional 3G-SDI signal versus (for example) an S2022-6 video-over-IP stream is how the signal makes its way to the audio monitor.
In a traditional setup, the 3G-SDI input of the audio monitor would be connected to the output of a video router and, using a router control panel, any signal available in the video router can be routed ready for monitoring. In the case of S2022-6, this is a very different story, as all signal routing is now taken care of in the software domain and the physical connection is now a 10 Gig-e bi-directional pipe into the network. This differs radically in that an audio monitor can now monitor any stream available on the network by signing up to a multicast rather than having a video signal sent to it by a hardware router.
Although being able to sign up to any multicast stream on the network sounds like an exciting prospect, typing in IP addresses in order to monitor a signal does not exactly rank highly on the list of usability. Luckily, there are some comprehensive control protocols on the horizon that will help to deal with this signal management. In the meantime, however, we are hard at work making the user experience as positive and simple as possible while also making control available to third parties through an API for integration in the third-party control systems.
Although the IP revolution is very exciting, as an industry we are also aware that this is not going to replace good old-fashioned SDI-based infrastructure overnight. This is where broadcasters face a challenge when making investment decisions, and this is no different when it comes to audio monitoring solutions. At TSL Products, we are very much aware of our customers' hybrid needs where they will want to monitor 3G-SDI or MADI alongside audio- and video-over-IP in a single audio-monitoring product. The recently launched PAM-IP was developed with that specific goal in mind, allowing users to monitor 3G/12G-SDI, AES-3 and analog alongside S2022-6 (uncompressed video-over-IP) and Dante/AES67 (audio-over-IP) without compromising on any of the functionality expected from a modern high-end audio monitor. There is a lot of change on the way and we are leading the charge from the front. No broadcast system is complete without an audio monitor, so it is paramount that we understand our customers' requirements with regard to monitoring both in the hybrid stage we are entering now and beyond where IP will be all there is left.