Day #1/Friday 10-10 Edition: Overview of Special Event Program
While the technical sessions and workshops define the immediate focus of an AES Convention, the Special Events Program provides a unique opportunity assess the ways in which new developments find practical applications. As AES Convention Chairman ZoŽ Thrall points out: "We have nice cross section of special events and technical tours that give a real 'New York Feel' and address a range of topics from live sound to broadcasting to recorded music."
Today, following the Opening Ceremonies and Keynote Address from leading producer Arif Mardin, AES attendees will have the opportunity to hear about the Rebuilding of New York Broadcasting, a panel discussion moderated by David K. Bialik and Howard Price. This afternoon the Society is hosting the ever-popular Annual Grammy Recording Soundtable, spotlighting The Year of 5.1 Broadcasting - Kick starting the Future of Broadcast Audio.
Saturday morning will see what is bound to be a fascinating discussion, moderated by George Massenburg, on selection of the first 50 recordings for the National Registry of Recorded Sound at the Library of Congress, and the critical role played by the AES. The afternoon session focuses on Audio Processing for Broadcast, moderated by Joe Capobianco, and comprises a discussion of compression, expansion, EQ curves and psychoacoustics. Simultaneously, the ever-popular Platinum Producers, moderated by Grammy-winning producer Ron Fair, will focus on how the art of music recording has changed over the past 40 years; what is the state of the art today, and where is recording going?
Mid-afternoon, Sound For Pictures will comprise a panel of film and TV that will explore how advances in technology have affected work flow, production processes and technical possibilities, while the day ends with the SPARS Business Panel, which will explore strategies for adapting business to these changing times. Saturday evening sees the ever-popular Richard C. Heyser Memorial Lecture; this year Ray Kurzweil addresses the subject The Future of Music in the Age of Spiritual Machines.
Sunday morning, authors Jim Cogan and William Clark will discuss the genesis of their innovative book, Temples Of Sound, published by Chronicle Books, which details the stories of legendary studios. Digital Broadcasting in the United States, moderated by David K. Bialik, will discuss the arrival of digital TV, satellite radio, and in-band on-channel (IBOC). Platinum Engineers, moderated by Bobby Owsinski, addresses the topical subject of Music Production in the 21st Century: Moving Forward or Backward? while Sound Systems and Human Hearing - How To Maximize System Performance For The Real World, moderated by Frederick Ampel, will consider we perceive sound and the kinds of limitations and damage that exist within the listening population. Sunday night will be devoted to a Tour of Central Synagogue, followed by traditional organ concert by Graham Blyth.
Live Sound figures strongly on Monday. The day begins with Road Warriors - Live Sound, moderated by Clive Young, which considers a range of current topics, followed by Road Warriors - Live Recording Tips And Techniques, moderated by Randy Ezratty, which highlights the pros and cons of traditional and burgeoning methodologies.
Day #2/Saturday 10-11 Edition: Digital File Exchange - AES31 & AAF Progress
The analog-to-digital transition was relatively painless. Apart, that is, from media interchange. With the inevitable proliferation of hard disc recorders and digital audio workstations came a virtual Tower of Babel. In response, the Audio Engineering Society developed AES31 "Standard for Network and File Transfer of Audio: Audio-File Transfer and Exchange." AES31 went a long way towards providing a universal Rosetta Stone that could be implemented by any firm interested in providing plug-and-play compatibility. And now the broader appeal of Advanced Authoring Format (AAF) looks set to provide enhanced audio functionality throughout the video and film domain.
While AES31 is currently supported by such firms as Studio Audio & Video (SADiE), Merging Technologies, Genex Audio and others (at the file-format level, at least), the standard has been hindered from broader acceptance by a decision made at Avid Technology. Recognizing that multimedia data exchange and integrated audio-for-video was the wave of the future, the firm directed its digital audio division, Digidesign, to focus on OMFI and later AAF as a way of exchanging data between Avid- and Digidesign-branded systems. AES31 was left in the dust.
That was then, this is 2003. On the convention floor AES attendees will discover AAF compatibility from a number of key DAW manufacturers; if you cannot beat them, join them - and we have to acknowledge that Digidesign's Pro Tools is indeed preeminent amongst the studio and post industries. As Joe Bull, SADiE managing director, explains: "While we continue to support AES31, AAF is now available as an option on our Series 5 DAWs. Projects started on an Avid or Quantel video editing system, for example, need the superior audio editing and processing functions that are only available from a dedicated audio workstation. With the addition of our fully integrated AAF support, SADiE will provide these projects with a powerful real-time audio editing solution."
But Bull concedes that, while AES31 integration in SADiE products took 1-2 weeks to implement, AAF "took considerably longer; it's wide and deep, with lots of additional project information that needs to be included." SADiE planned to demonstrate full compatibility with Pro Tools during the convention. "We have successfully imported Pro Tools and Avid Symphony project files to Series 5, and are testing the export process."
According to Scott Wood, Digidesign's senior product manager, post production, "Pro Tools 6.1 with DigiTranslator added AAF interchange to provide integrated import/export compatibility with AAF-enabled products. Our first-release testing was focused on interchange with Avid video editing systems [since] they were the first to market with AAF-compatible versions of products. Now we are working with other manufacturers to ensure that our Avid-wide AAF implementation can be exchanged between other AAF-supported workstations."
Wood is quick to point out that Digidesign still supports the Society in advancing AES31. "We continue to encourage the AES31 working group to consider an AAF-based sequence for AES31 Level 4," for a more complex and more capable Object Oriented Project Structure. "We are not planning on expanding our OMFI capabilities any further. Digidesign, with Avid and the entire AAF Association, is focused on expanding the open source-based AAF interchange format. We are confident that the industry is best served with a single interchange standard that can ensure full audio, video and graphics interchange compatibility between different manufacturers," he concludes.
Day #3/Sunday-Monday10-12/13 Edition: Grammy SoundTable
Always striving to remain at the sharp edge of the creative envelope, NARAS decided to focus on the behind-the-scenes technology and production techniques used during February's 45th Annual Grammy Awards: the first live telecast to be broadcast in both HDTV and discrete 5.1 surround. The panel included key members of the production team that won an Emmy Award for its innovative works on this landmark broadcast. (Click on image left to download a larger version.)
Co-moderated by former Recording Academy chairman Phil Ramone and Hank Neuberger, who for a decade has served as supervisor of broadcast sound for the annual Grammy Awards telecasts, fellow panelists compromised: Murray Allen, who for 20 years has served as sound designer for the Awards; John Harris, who is a partner in Effanel Music and served as lead music mixer for the telecast; Ed Greene, broadcast sound mixer; Randy Ezratty, owner of Effanel Music, and who handled 5.1-channel sound design and mixing; Rocky Graham, manager of digital television applications at Dolby Laboratories, and responsible for technical support on the telecast; and, finally, Robert Seidel, VP of CBS Engineering and Advanced Technology.
As Ed Greene confessed: "This was the most complex live telecast we have every undertaken," with 1,000 mic sources being used during the three and one half-hour telecast. John Harris recorded each music rehearsal in the Effanel Mobile to a hard disk system, and overnight prepared automated mixes on the unit's AMS Neve Capricorn digital console in both stereo and 5.1, which would be approved by each artist's management. During the live telecast, these recorded mixes were refined and adjustments made simultaneously to the stereo and 5.1-channel balances. But, because the stereo mix was being sent to the majority viewing audience, Harris monitored this continuously.
The simultaneous 5.1-channel mix passed to the audio section of a separate mobile truck, where Randy Ezratty added rear ambience as necessary, using a Lexicon 960 reverb and feeds from the audience mics, as well as compressing and performing bass management on the surround sound that accompanied the HDTV telecast. "We nixed the idea of performing a separate real-time 5.1 mix," Ezratty said, "simply because of the problems of duplicating level changes between rehearsal and the live show, and also because it would have been difficult, if not impossible, for [the artist representatives] to approve both the stereo and surround mixes."
Finally, the 5.1 and stereo mixes were Dolby E-encoded and sent from Madison Square Gardens to the CBS Transmission Center for on passing to some 150 affiliate stations.
BONUS: Special AES47 Technology Demonstration of Transmission over ATM Network
Chris Chambers [pictured left], Senior Research Engineer at the British Broadcasting Corporation's R&D Center, Surrey, UK, coordinated a special AES47 Technology Demonstration of a BBC Pilot Project that moves Radio 4 live production from conventional cable routing to an ATM Network over single CAT5 cabling.
Using off-the-shelf Asynchronous Transfer Mode hardware, the BBC is transferring multichannel AES47-complaint signals between studios and to various transmitters.
Unlike IP-based connections, ATM offers extremely low latency (around 1 mS), supports mixed sample rates and bit depths simultaneously, and offers a routing and distribution structure that can be set up as One-to-One, or One-to-Many.
By way of an example, the Corporation is using 155 Mbit/sec ATM highways to carry up to 40 channels of AES3-format 48 kHz/24-bit signals in each direction; two unused pairs on each CAT5 cable carry a "back-up" AES3 stereo signal, plus a dedicated multi-rate sync reference.
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