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Control, monitoring standard for audio systems

30 Jan 2014  | Jeff Berryman

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These installations have the following characteristics:

 • Multiple program sources, control stations, loudspeaker clusters, and external interfaces.
 • Interfaces to paging, signage, security, emergency, show video, security, and other systems.
 • Interfaces to external systems—broadcast, internet, user devices (tablet, smartphone).
 • Evacuation standards compliance may be required.
 • Security may be required.
 • Network infrastructures are typically administered by central IT.
 • Large to very large network diameters.

Concert toursConcert tours increasingly present a mix of networking challenges in which the touring artists' systems need to be seamlessly integrated within each venue's in-house environment. The evolving set of requirements include:

 • Multiple ad-hoc connections, varying from place to place, ideally using network audio For example: The prime contractor provides main loudspeakers and the subcontractors provide delay systems, fills, woofers, etc.
 • Connected to resident venue system for area fill.
 • Connected to show video systems, radio, TV, internet broadcast systems, recording systems, and press feeds
 • System configured modularly, with multiple mix and loudspeaker/ amplifier sub-systems, variously deployed from rental house(s) for different tours.
 • Media transport may be a mix of Ethernet, AES3, MADI, AVB, Dante, etc.

Intimate "bar band" and nightclub venues
These situations typically utilise small overall installations and entail a lot of diversity, however there is a trend towards more media networking. Future AV networks in nightclub venues will ideally provide a single media network connecting everything with the adaptability for integrating each act's equipment. Issues that will need to be addressed include the following:

 • Multiple house speakers, stage monitors, mixers, mics, ancillary gear
 • In-ear monitoring system optional
 • Powered loudspeakers, network-connected
 • One main house mixer, tablet-based (no big mixing desk)
 • Onstage monitor mixers for each musician—small tablets on mic stands
 • Wired microphones connect through stage box on network
 • Wireless microphones connect through receiver(s) on network
 • In-ear monitors connect through transmitter(s) on network
 • Wireless access to main house mix is an option
 • Optional external interfaces, both analogue and digital, to house systems
 • Optional multi-track digital recorder on network
 • Optional webcasting interface on network and on internet

Broadcast intercom networks
Broadcast intercom networks involve mission-critical applications and large complex media networking challenges; all with millions of dollars typically at stake. Key characteristics include the following:

 • Thousands of intercom stations, with multiple control points
 • Transcontinental networks using private leased data lines.
 • Interfaces to broadcast mixing equipment.
 • VoIP interfaces
 • Portable and fixed-location stations.
 • Many subnets, multiple sites, multiple work environments within buildings, multiple remote locations.
 • Network infrastructures may be administered by production intercom departments or by central IT.
 • Frequent reconfiguration.

The need for control
In all of the above scenarios, there is a need for unifying the system control functions in a consistent manner that can seamlessly coexist with signal transport functions, both residing on top of the transport layer. It has become relatively easy to move signals from point A to B via standard transport protocols but, without also having a standardised control structure in place, these raw signals are not of much use.

Professional media networking requires both signal transport and system control.

As described in the following sections, the Open Control Architecture provides this system control functionality, while assuring compatibility with existing and future transport protocols and optimising flexibility for unique feature differentiation between systems.

OCA technical overview
As a system control and monitoring architecture, OCA does not provide signal transport, but is designed to cooperate with current and future signal transport standards, such as the audio/video bridging (AVB) protocol suite now under development within the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and the IP-based media transport protocols defined by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

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