May 28, 2013

AVB Thrilled the Radio Star

We’ve recently written about Audio-Video Bridging, or AVB, an evolving set of protocols to converge professional audio and video across Ethernet.  Extreme Networks, with its 1588v2 timing expertise, is a leader in this space, and we’ll be exhibiting as part of the AVnu booth (come see us at Booth 459e) at the upcoming InfoComm show in Orlando June 12-14, 2013.  For those not following the technology, besides seeing use in concert halls, stadiums, theme parks, studios, state-of-the-art multimedia conference rooms, and even high-end home installations, AVB will also support navigation and entertainment over Ethernet in your next car.  Closer to home, I’ve spoken with customers that are looking to AVB to support high-bandwidth engineering workstations.   But it sometimes is worthwhile taking a step back and looking at how we got here, and just how different ProAV was a few short decades ago.

The documentary ‘Sound City’ follows what was probably the best-known analog recording studio over an almost forty year span, from 1969 until it closed in 2011.  Many of the greats – Fleetwood Mac, Pat Benatar, Tom Petty, Foreigner, and even Nirvana all recorded at what looked like nothing more than a warehouse in Van Nuys, California, not far from Hollywood.   Its appeal was the sound quality of the studio itself, as well as a legendary mixing console from Neve.  Bands went in there and played their hearts out, the result mixed onto two-inch magnetic tape.  Sound City’s ‘platinum’ age spanned a ten-year period from the mid-70s to the mid-80s.  But then the world changed.

The advent of digital recording and CDs added a non-linearity to recording.   Tracks could be recorded onto “digital tape,” loaded into a computer, and then mixed and altered using Pro-Tools (called ‘Slow-Tools’ by producers at the time due to the speed of Macs) and other early applications.  You no longer needed to be in the same room at the same time, or even in the same city.  Mouse clicks replaced razor cuts to splice tape and manual punch-ins.  Admittedly, Sound City didn’t see some of this coming, and was late to re-equip.  After Nirvana recorded there in 1991, other grunge bands gravitated to the place, but the end was in sight.  But not all was lost.   The mixing panel was disassembled, moved, and found a new home in Studio 606 courtesy of Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters (and previously with Nirvana).  It is one of the few places where bands can still get together and be bands, even onto magnetic tape.  So where does Ethernet play into this?

The technology has just celebrated its 40th anniversary – just a bit younger than Sound City.  We’re working with partners who include some of the most influential in the industry – Riedel, Sennheiser, Biamp, Axon, Avid, Harman, and Barco, to name a few.  They are building AVB-equipped mixing boards, microphones, speakers, video processors and pretty much everything else for the audio-visual recording industry.  A decade from now, AVB will be all but universal.  However, I have a new appreciation for how we’ve gotten to this point and the need to preserve a small part of the past.  Long-live Studio 606!


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