Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Important Factors For Selecting An Audio Console For Live TV Production

Studer Vista 8 Digital Console Offers Ease Of Use And High Operating Speed

With the arrival of HDTV, there has been a re-evaluation of the importance of sound in today’s television production. With the rising popularity of home cinema systems, 5.1-surround sound has rapidly become more common for home entertainment applications. With this, there is an expectation from the television audience that HDTV is not only about better quality of picture, but also about an enhanced listening experience. With the growing trend in Surround Production, choosing an audio console for live TV production is becoming a more important decision.

Control surface design is the largest difference between all console manufacturers today. For live TV, ease of use and speed of operation are key elements for an operator to ensure error free productions. Flexibility and functionality are important factors, however the challenge for console manufacturers is to offer a concept of operation that is not only very intuitive but can also withstand the constant evolution of new functionality.

From very early digital consoles, the concept of ‘Central Assign’ became a philosophy that allowed manufacturers to greatly reduce the size and number of controls on the surface. The idea of selecting a channel to a single panel, which offers controls for all functions, was adopted by many and it seemed a logical concept, but it comes with many disadvantages. One major disadvantage is the lack of overview of all the settings of the console. Screens can assist this by showing the information, but the problem is that there is constant ‘mind mapping’ to see settings which are not located where the controls are; you may be controlling in one place but having to look in another. Also, there are problems relating to multi-user environments. Unless you incorporate multiple ‘Central Assign Panels’ it will be very difficult for more than one person to work on the console simultaneously.

The Studer Vista 8 operates with the principle philosophy of channel strip operation. Most operators find this very intuitive, as one’s instinct is always to go where the channel fader is located to access the functions of it. The patented Vistonics technology offers a graphic interface with great overview of the channel settings and allows the user to control exactly where he/she is looking. This allows for intuitive operation and is very comfortable for the user. This also frees up thought power for the creative and management role of the mixer. The concept also includes a ‘one touch to access’ rule, which means that if you do not have access to a function, it is only one press away. This is essential for the high-pressure environment of live TV.

One major consideration when designing a control surface for a digital console is the need for flexibility to ensure that it is future proof for both manufacturer and customer. The control surface must allow sophisticated software functionality to be added in the future and have a means to provide the controls and philosophies to support this.

It is a growing trend for broadcasters to use studios for a number of tasks including live productions as well as simple post-production work. Therefore, large scale broadcast consoles must be versatile enough to suit smaller applications. With such a multi-purpose studio, the audio console must offer a changeable channel bus/architecture to fit the various applications. The flexibility of the console provides the customer with the peace of mind that he/she needs to handle any type of show or application. This flexible DSP philosophy also allows Studer to incorporate DSP algorithms that allow the customer to easily update existing setups with any new functionality.

In the TV environment, system integration of the audio console is becoming more and more important. The Vista 8 D21m IO system offers a completely modular hardware concept that requires no advanced pre-wiring. Systems can be expanded at a later date by adding cards in a ‘plug and play’ manner with no need for pre-wiring at the time of order. The 96 KHz IO system allows Studer to design and add new cards to the system as and when new formats become standard. Recent additions include HD-SDI embedder/de-embedder cards that make system integration very easy and cost effective. It also reduces potential points of failure by eliminating the need for an external solution. Dolby E decoder cards are also available which becomes very space saving as it is possible to have 24 Dolby E decoders in a single 3U frame with redundant power supplies. With the flexibility of the system, more and more customers are utilizing the console’s internal router as the main audio router of a studio or truck. This again is very elegant from a system point of view as the console router can be controlled by third party video control systems including NVision, Grass Valley, Probel and Leitch to name few.

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