AES Daily Day #2/Sunday
May 29 Edition: Digital Production Consoles - an option-rich environment.
What shall we call them? Mixing consoles or
DAW controllers? "A Rose, etc ..." but there are plenty of options on the
exhibition floor here in Barcelona, ranging from the new SADiE (Stand
2822) H64 Multi-Channel Remote, which provides track arming, monitoring,
transport controls and edit controls for its workstations, to the new
Digidesign (Stand 1301) ICON D-Command medium-format console that features
Pro Tools|HD Accel as its DSP engine, with modular Pro Tools|HD interfaces
and peripherals for system I/O.
Solid State Logic (Stand 1911) will be showing a new automation option
for the AWS 900 Analogue Workstation System - shown right - based
on G- and K-Series Ultimation. AWSomation enables a post facility
or mastering house to make adjustments to premixed 5.1-channel DME stems,
for example, and apply additional dynamics control or EQ. Since these changes
normally will not be made within the attached DAW, but rather a downstream
mixing section, the new option will memorize level changes for update during
Euphonix Europe (Stand 1901) is showcasing the System 5-MC
Integrated DAW Audio Mixing System, which combines the familiar S5 control
surface with EuCon-capable DAWs such as Steinberg Nuendo and Merging Technologies
Pyramix. The integral MC Intelligent Application Controller provides master
functions and integral DAW control, plus command of software applications.
Other DAWs, including Pro Tools, can be accessed via HUI protocol and (to
Harrison by GLW (Stand 4201) is spotlighting the Trion Digital
Production/Broadcast Console, which fairly bristles with useful features.
Instead of offering centrally located controls, Trion provides access via
a vertical array of assignable knobs per channel or - and here's the neat
touch - across all 80 controls per eight-channel input block. A 20-second
PreView Waveform Display is useful for monitoring the imminent arrival of
Merging Technologies (Stand 3505) continues to refine its
OASIS Open control Protocol that allows work-surfaces to connect to
its Pyramix DAW system - current implementers include AMS-Neve, Euphonix
and Smart AV. Pyramix can be used as a stand-alone DSP mix and I/O engine
accessible via a conventional LAN with transport control and timecode sync.
Lawo's powerful MC²-Series Digital Consoles (Stand 3501)
now enable channels and buses to be assigned or attributes copied directly
onto a channel strip. Up to 192 DSP channels and 144 summing buses are available
via MADI, ATM or AES I/Os; the firm's DALLIS Matrix handles up 8192-squared
mono analog/digital channels.
Calrec Audio (Stand 1415) will unveil System Plus for
its broadcast consoles; new enhancements include expanded monitoring and
5.1 source selection. Designed to handle 5.1 surround sources as single
inputs, System Plus also enables adjustment of individual elements. And
the firm's Hydra network enables sharing of I/O resources and control data.
Studer (Stand 2602) will spotlight the Vista 8 Digital Console
that now features V3.5 software with a number of live-performance features,
including CUELIST, which allows a series of cues with snapshot settings
and MIDI trigger commands to be edited and sorted. (The feature also integrates
with Harman's HiQnet networking protocol.) Audio-follows-video plus external
matrix control have also been added for live broadcasting.
And Fairlight (Stand 1908) will unveil the Constellation-XT
Digital Console, which is powered by a 240-channel, 72-buss QDC engine.
A new In Line Panel provides dedicated and assignable controls for input
settings, EQ and dynamics filters, sends, panner and all plug-ins. ILP features
new-generation Organic Light Emitting Diode displays that work in high lighting
levels and at acute viewing angles.
AES Daily Day #3/Monday
May 30 Edition: Interface Design and Ergonomics - setting high standard
All too often, system designers are so distracted
with the elegance of an invention that they can unwittingly forget that
humans need to use them to perform specific functions. No, we are not being
short changed in terms of blindingly fast computational speed; it is more
a matter of finding our way around the pull-down menus and front-panel controls.
And while I can marvel at a range of DAW capabilities with which we have
been presented, for example, users might end up frustrated that they cannot
implement those new, trick functions, simply because they cannot find the
Yes, interface layout is the key to being able to realize the full
potential of any new offering. But how many manufacturers are giving such
considerations the attention they deserve. Not enough, I would hazard. All
of which makes the work of tutors at Glasgow Caledonian University
highly relevant. During the Convention I met Patrick Quinn, who on
Saturday co-presenting with colleague John Lynn a fascinating paper
entitled Interface Design as part of an Audio Technology Degree,
which describes an undergraduate honors program whose fourth-year students
focus on the theory and practice of interface design for music and audio
As paper 6351 explains, final-year students at Glasgow are exposed
to the cognitive capabilities of users across a wide range of abilities
and experience - we cannot simply assume that because we, as designers,
understand that this pull-down menu initiates a specific response, a typical
user also recognize the modality - and that students understand the principles
of good ergonomic practice, particularity that of user centered design.
(The degree syllabus draws heavily, I understand, on the work of Apple Fellow
Donald Norman, whose seminal work, "The Design of Everyday Things" has been
an inspiration to many technologists.)
While it would disingenuous of me to point out bad designs that we
might discover at this current AES Exposition, I can at least offer my two
cents worth in terms of what I might consider good examples of human interfaces
and sensible ergonomics. Since my "special subject" these days is digital
consoles and DAWs, let me start there. The
System 5-MC, in particular, combines traditional in-line assignable
console controls with a centrally located DAW command section, while the
Digidesign ICON D-Control and new D-Command - shown left
- controllers combine elegant virtual assignment with clear, color-coded
on-surface controls. SSL's AWS 900 incorporates a clear and unambiguous,
one-control-per function paradigm within its analog sections, but takes
full advantage of assignabliity in the companion DAW control area; for me,
the new Studer Vista 8 sets new benchmarks in almost intuitively
bringing in front of the user clustered functions that are associated with
the current task.
Although I am still coming to terms with the new Smart AV Elite
Assignable Console Controller, I'm sure that with more hands-on experience
I will begin appreciate its enhanced ergonomic capabilities. And I came
away from demonstrations of the DiGiCo D/DS-Series, Harrison Trion,
Fairlight Dream Constellation-XL, Stagetec Aurus Direct-Access
Console, MC²-Series and InnovaSON Sy48/80 with new respect
for these companies' offerings.
And in terms of current-generation workstations, a tip of the hat must
go to the new Digidesign Pro Tools V6.9, SADiE V5.4, Steinberg
3.0 and Merging Technologies Pyramix V4.3, all of which continue
to set high standards in powerful editing, mixing and DSP functionality
that is easily accessible by novice and aficionado alike.
- Barcelona's CCIB hosts successful 118th AES Convention"
Designed by architect José Luis Mateo, the
new Centre Convencions Internacional Barcelona (CCIB) - opened just a year
ago - is considered to be one of Spain's finest examples of modern architecture.
And justly so. Centered in the "Southern California of the Mediterranean,"
Barcelona proved an enjoyable venue for this well-attended convention.
Genelec introduced the new 8020A two-way active monitor and
companion 7050A subwoofer, the former designed as a "baby-brother" addition
to the 8000 Series. The 8020A measures just nine inches tall and features
a 4-inch LF driver plus 3/4-inch tweeter in a diecast aluminum enclosure
that incorporates the firm's Directivity Control Waveguide for linear on/off-axis
response. Auditioned against current members of the 800 family, the new
addition is outstanding! (US price: TBA.)
Nagra demonstrated a new hand-held recorder for radio journalists
that offers both PCM-linear and MPEG record modes. The ARES-M sells for
€800 ($1k) and features a plug-in mic, USB connectivity, 1 GB of internal
memory, an audio editor and a built-in FM receiver - the unit runs, Nagra
claims, for 10 hours from a pair of AA cells.
First-time exhibitor Mercenary Editions showed a range of new
Great River, Pendulum, Little Labs and related products; Jonathan Little
was showing the new lmnopre Microphone Preamplifier that cost $1,200 and
includes a DI input, phantom power, phase adjustment and LF resonance controls
in a robust aluminum package.
HHB unveiled the new CDP-88 remote-controllable CD player, a
1U unit that features 24-bit Sigma-Delta converters and external 32-96 kHz
word clock. Serial, parallel and IR remotes are included.
SADiE unveiled LRX Remote - shown right - a laptop-based
location recorder with motorized fader-equipped controller, jog wheel, built-in
editing and expandable I/O up to 24 analog/digital sources and direct tracks.
A built-in video playback enables on-set ADR - a neat touch.
Waves demonstrated the new and much-anticipated APA32 - shown
left - and APA44-M Audio Processing Accelerators, which can be stacked
up to eight deep to provide enhanced DSP for fully-stressed workstations.
Both units connect via 100M or 1G Ethernet and come bundled with APA-compatible
plug-ins. The APR32 costs $1,600 and the -44-M $2,400.
Finally, this ever-cynical reporter made a point of visiting 2+2+2
Marketing's demo room, to hear what was promised to be multichannel
playback with a difference. A horizontal playback area bounded by left,
right, left-rear and right-rear loudspeakers is supplemented by an additional
pair of loudspeakers mounted directly above L and R units at height equal
to half the distance between that latter pair. A companion mic array of
at least three stereo ORTF or spaced omni pairs (extras for the rear ambiance,
if necessary) is routed to these six playback channels. During an auditioning
session with chamber music, a cathedral organ and various "sonic fireworks,"
I was pleasantly surprised at the depth, width and, yes, height of the playback
soundfield. Definitely worth checking out. (www.222sound.info)
- Interesting new audio-for-video developments at AES Convention in Barcelona
In addition to the regular North American gatherings each fall alternatively
on the East and West coasts, the Audio Engineering Society also holds a
European Convention that attracts a wide audience of professionals from
the video, audio and broadcast industries. This year's venue was the recently
completed Centre Convencions Internacional Barcelona (CCIB); designed by
architect José Luis Mateo, the center is considered to be one of Spain's
finest examples of modern architecture. I would not disagree - and it also
provided an excellent backdrop for some of the latest audio developments
targeted at project-video and related facilities.
Genelec unveiled the new 8020A two-way active monitor loudspeaker
and companion 7050A subwoofer, a combination that packs a lot of
high-resolution power into a small package. Available in black, silver and
white diecast aluminum enclosures, the new 8020A is a "baby-brother" addition
to the highly popular 8000 Series. Measuring just nine inches tall and featuring
a 4-inch LF driver plus 3/4-inch tweeter, the new offerings incorporate
Genelec's DCW (Directivity Control Waveguide) that ensures smooth on/off-playback
axis response for multichannel and stereo arrays.
The firm considers that the 8020A was designed specifically for monitoring
in "difficult listening environments," particularly those compromised by
lack of space. The unit is recommended for compact edit and playback rooms
up to 2,300 square feet, with a typical listening distance of between four
and six feet. The system's Minimum Diffraction Enclosure features a relatively
large internal volume, matched with curved edges and outstanding mechanical
strength. The result, as this writer can attest, is accurate imaging and
LF extension in a compact enclosure. Free-field frequency response is a
quoted 66 Hz to 20 kHz (± 2.5 dB), with maximum peak SPL output per pair
of 105 dB at 1m.
Solid State Logic showcased a major development for its well-received
AWS 900 Analogue Workstation, which comprises a 5.1-capable analog
console front end and a digital control section for the attached DAW, including
full HUI-based command of mix/edit functions. In essence, the AWS 900 provides
enhanced level, processing and plug-in control for a variety of popular
workstations, including Digidesign Pro Tools, Apple Logic Pro and other
popular offerings, and enables simultaneous control of parameters from a
familiar control surface - no add-on fader modules or a clumsy mouse/keyboard
The new AWSomation option enables all automation adjustments
made, for example, during a final print-mastering or layback stage using
a number of premixed 5.1-channel DME stems - or while applying additional
dynamics control or EQ - to be scanned and memorized. Since we are replaying
balanced stem elements from the DAW, such dynamic changes will not be stored
in the host application; instead they need to be derived from the SSL's
downstream mixing section - hence AWSomation. A handy Join Function allows
mix-automation settings to be developed in the middle of an audio cue and
then the data written from a selected in-point - the start of a scene transition,
for example - at the push of a button. (Usefully, all automation data can
be stored and retrieved within the DAW as MIDI System Exclusive data.) MIDI
timecode is used for positional reference while MIDI Machine Control (MMC)
offers full locate commands.
Euphonix demonstrated the new System 5-MC Integrated DAW
Audio Mixing System, which combines the familiar System 5 control surface
with the new MC Intelligent Application Controller. The latter connects
via an Ethernet-based EuCon topology to a variety of compatible workstations,
including Steinberg's Nuendo and Merging Technologies Pyramix. (A HUI-based
control option also is available for such DAWs as Pro Tools, Logic Pro,
MOTO Digital Performer plus others.) The centrally mounted MC also includes
56 LCD SmartSwitches that can be programmed to send out keyboard macros
to speed up operation with any PC- or Mac-based application.
Since media production requires the simultaneous use of several applications,
the new System 5-MC's control surface can be switched each time a different
edit or mix program is activated - the system can also switch control between
several DAWs at the touch of a button. As I discovered, Euphonix has spent
a great deal of design effort to ensure that the operator can switch out
of the "tweak" mode when mixing, and hence provide the feel of a conventional
console without the need to constantly grab a trackball; in this way, the
user can concentrate on the balance of the mix - just like we could in the
good old days before workstations!
Digidesign wowed AES attendees with demonstrations of the remarkable
new ICON D-Command medium-format console which, like the original
D-Control surface, utilizes Pro Tools|HD Accel as its DSP mix engine using
Pro Tools|HD I/Os and peripherals. Equipped with a choice of either eight
or 24 channel faders, the new DAW console features touch-sensitive motorized
faders, two multi-purpose rotary encoders and multiple pushbuttons per channel
strip. D-Command's intuitive and clear front-panel layout includes a central
Main Unit for fast access to essential functions, plus dedicated EQ and
dynamics editing panels, a monitoring area and other commonly accessed controls
within easy reach. The system also includes the XMON analog monitor and
communications system, and offers simultaneous six-channel mixes (mono thru
And, in related news, Digidesign announced an exchange program that
allows ProControl or Control|24 controllers to be swapped
out for ICON D-Control or D-Command work surfaces. The recently announced
Pro Tools TDM 6.9.2 software, in addition to adding support for Mac OSX
10.4/Tiger, also includes firmware updates for ICON D-Control and D-Command.
Fairlight, which offers a range of high-end digital consoles
and DAWs, announced a high-definition version of its Pyxis non-linear
video system that offers both uncompressed and compressed playback.
Incorporating a new PCI card capable of locking to various sync signals,
and also supporting Black Magic Design's HDLink hardware, the new HD range
includes a standard SD player/recorder, an SD player/recorder with Genlock
and SDI I/Os, an HD/SD network player and an HD/SD player recorder with
SDI and Genlock supporting JPEG or 4:2:2 uncompressed video. All versions
operate in NTSC or PAL and at any standard frame rate. In addition, the
new HD versions provide support for 24 and 23.98 fps film operation, and
can reference Tri-Level sync as master timing reference. LTC can also be
generated at any required rate enabling Pyxis to serve as a master source.
Pyxis-ADR can be used to spot ADR takes directly into an edit list
that can be used to control and cue external audio recorders. In this way,
users can enter In/Out timecode positions for the required take and store
these within a Pyxis project. Recording is then accomplished with a simple
one-touch operation that includes generation of all video streamers, cueing
and user-defined pre-rolls.
SADiE demonstrated the new LRX Remote, a laptop-based
location recorder whose control surface comprises a small assignable mixer
with eight motorized faders that allow rapid switching between inputs and
output busses with simple bank switching. Features include pre-fade listen
and dedicated record enable buttons; a complete editorial interface with
fully-weighted jog wheel and edit buttons; locator memories; transport controls
and headphone monitoring. Timecode and Genlock also are included.
The LRX system utilizes the same eight-channel analog/digital I/O cards
as the SADiE H64 workstation; three cards can be incorporated for full 24-track
capacity. A second hard drive of DVD-R recorder can be connected via USB2
or Firewire to mirror recordings and/or provide a simultaneous safety copy.
In addition, a video stream can be simultaneously captured for playback
or ADR while actors are still on set.
Realizing that even current-generation DAW engines might lack the horsepower
to run multi-dimensional plug-ins, WAVES announced a pair of APA
Series Audio Processing Accelerators that bring dedicated external DSP
to the task. As the firm says so succinctly, the APA32 and APA44-M Accelerators
offer the power to do the heavy lifting that current mixing projects demand!
For example, the APA32 will run six IR-1 Reverbs or nine Linear Phase Equalizers
at 44.1 kHz; the APA44-M adds 30% more plug-in power. WAVES offers a range
of elegant native/TDM plug-ins for Pro Tools, Cubase, Nuendo, Logic Pro,
Digital Performer and other DAWs.
Both units feature standard Ethernet ports, eliminating the need for
a dedicated PCI card or Firewire/USB connections. Up to eight APA units
can be connected to a host PC/Mac using a standard Ethernet router or across
a V-LAN switching system using the supplied NetShell software. For example,
with access to 16 APA units and four DAWs, users could allocate four APAs
to each computer. But, for a DSP-intense project, two DAWs each running
eight APAs can be configured by simple cable swapping. A truly flexible
DTS demonstrated the new Pro Series software encoders
for DTS-encoded content. The PC/Mac-compatible Pro Series Encoder accommodates
DTS Digital Surround for 5.1 channel surround sound, DTS-ES 6.1 discrete
and DTS 96/24 for high-resolution audio on DVD-Video at a choice of four
sampling rates and three bit rates between 754 kbps and 1.235 Mbps (1.5
Mbps is required for 96 kHz sample rates). The Pro Series network encoder
is designed for multi-user facilities using Apple Computer's Xserve topology.
Also announced: strategic partnerships with C-Media Electronics and
Realtek Semiconductor that will enable DTS audio technologies to be included
within these companies' chip sets for PC motherboards, plus PCI/USB soundcards.
DTS Connect-enabled PCs provide DTS Interactive while Neo:PC offers multichannel
and stereo content. DTS Interactive enables single-cable connection via
a digital output to a DTS-enabled surround sound system by encoding all
audio onto a DTS-compatible Bitstream, while Neo:PC transforms stereo content
into a 7.1-channel surround sound experience.
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