Special for studioexpresso.com by Mel Lambert; June 2002
Most of us make it to the yearly Audio Engineering Society Conventions held on alternating coasts each Fall. But the European conventions shouldn't be overlooked; held in the Spring in either Amsterdam, Hamburg or Paris (other cities are also under consideration), the event is more relaxed than the North American shows, and represents an opportunity to see hardware from companies that are less well know here in the States. As well as securing news of new developments from the well established brands.
Console manufacturers AMS-Neve, Euphonix, Harrison, Soundtracs, SSL and Yamaha were proudly showing of a range of recently announced offerings, while StageTec unveiled the all-new Aurus "Direct-Access Console" that offered 24-bit/96 kHz resolution with up to 300 inputs, 256 buses and 96 channel strips plus snapshot/dynamic automation for all system parameters. Studer's Vista 7 Digital Mixing System incorporates the remarkable Vistonics operating interface, which providing instant overview of all control-strip parameters, as well as easy access to critical controls - no delving through menus or layers to find the knob you need.
Solid State Logic wowed AES attendees with its new XL 9000 K-Series analog console, a design that has already been ordered by Larabee Studios, Los Angeles, and Troy Germano's Hit Factory, New York, plus Pacifique, Los Angeles, Pressure Point, Chicago, Paragon, Nashville, and Angel Mountain, New York. The first European installation will be at MG Sound, Vienna. Described by one customer as a "J-Series console on steroids," the XL 9000 provides "dual benefits of 5.1 surround architecture plus increased bandwidth and resolution required for DVD-Audio and SACD."
AMS-Neve spotlighted its new Logic MMC Digital Console, a successor to the classic Logic 2 design, but with 24/96 operation, new I/Os and the firm's XSP DSP engine. A total of 500 signal paths are available at 48 kHz; 250 at 96 kHz. Encore Automation offers direct user compatibility with DFC, 88R, V-Series and Libra systems. Full surround-sound routing/pan is also provided. A lot of bang for the buck, by all appearances. And the 88R Analog Console is making an impression in Europe, with a recent order from Massimo Scarparo, a Rome-based residential facility; AIR Studios and Sphere Studios are also recent customers.
While Digidesign was attracting a great deal of attention with Pro Tools HD (including its new all-digital 192 Digital I/O interface that runs at 24-bit/192 kHz sample rates), Cube-Tec unveiled AudioCube5-Dell530, which is available with a number of VPI mastering/restoration plug-ins, and Quadriga Tape-24, an archiving system capable of digitizing up to 24 tracks of analog to 192 kHz sampling rates.
And Fostex is the first licensee of Digigram's EtherSound technology, which allows low-latency networks to be set up within a studio using conventional Cat-5/6 cabling, I/O cards and hubs. Up to 64 channels of 24/48 audio can be accommodated, with bi-directional control data.
Finally, news of an interesting new European pro-audio magazine from the folks that brought you "Studio Sound." Zenon Schoepe and Phil Bourne have launched "Resolution," an new title that will be published eight times a year. As they say in the magazine's promotional literature: "Audio has a vital part to play in selling new formats in music recording, broadcast delivery and post, all through multichannel. Without a doubt, there are more professional end-users involved with the creation of audio content now than there have ever been, thanks to the democratization of digital and workstation technology." Watch the skies!
And, just case you think that it was all work, pictured right in the AES Press Room are (left-to-right) this article's author with Mix magazine's Michele Kanatous and Erika Lopez, while left we have included a photograph of a vintage AES Telefunken analog tape machine that formed part of a fascinating AES Historical Presentation during the Munich Convention. (Note the machine's unusual B-Wind configuration, with oxide layer outside, since the record and replay heads face towards the rear of the deck.)
AES Metadata Symposium:
Special for "Pro Sound News" by Mel Lambert; May 2002
Metadata, as we know, is "Information about Information" - file names, file locations, artist details, recording/production venue, and so on. But how should we manage all of this important data? And, just as vitally, what standardized data formats are there for studios, post houses and broadcasters that need to keep track of literally terabytes of digitized audio and companion data?
A thorny, yet highly topical question, and one that was addressed fully in this important symposium, organized by the Audio Engineering Society prior to its 112th Convention in Munich during early May. Pithily subtitled "The Present State of Chaos and Wishes for Solutions," symposium chairman, Gerhard Stoll, of IRT, Munich, provided a succinct summary of the current situation, including appropriate interfaces for an end-to-end delivery of metadata (separate databases linked to digitized audio files, for example, or self-contained media files); questions about initial implementations; and a pressing requirement for mature standards.
"Within a broadcast environment," Stoll stressed, "existing production and scheduling tools need to be integrated into an emerging metadata scheme. But are our industry partners willing to integrate [proprietary] systems into such an overall concept?"
A presentation from Mary-Ellen Kitchens (pictured left) and her colleagues from Bavarian Broadcasting Corp, described the organization's IDAS - Integrated Digital Archiving System, developed in conjunction with Tecmath AG - that allows large amounts of metadata to accompany audio files, and enables the music scheduling department, for example, to automatically prepare playout lists for European copyright entities.
Lars Jonsson of Swedish Broadcasting Corp., Stockholm, described schemes for handling metadata, including the use of Dublin Core Metadata Initiative designations to describe data files. [more] DCMI is an open forum engaged in the development of metadata standards that support a broad range of purposes and business models.
Other metadata schemes under evaluation by a number of broadcasters, record labels and similar organizations include MPEG-7, which offers a number of descriptive elements that range from low-level signal features (such as like colors, shapes and sound characteristics) to high-level structural information about content collections; and Material Exchange Format (MXF), which defines various data structures for networked and archived media, and which is currently being considered by SMPTE as potential metadata standard. [more]
As might be expected, this is an emergent discussion and one that will have a profound influence on our industry. When the AES publishes its proceedings from this conference, it should required reading for anybody looking at networked and server-based audio distribution