Dante-enabled PIX recorder inspires audio networking in TV production and producers of reality TV show, Poker Night in America on the CBS Sports Network.

IT and broadcast convergence immediately summons visions of video and audio signals moving across the workflow and infrastructure of a TV facility. A quickly escalating number of facilities are transitioning from purely baseband distribution to audio over IP networking, efficiently routing multichannel signals between control rooms, production spaces and technical operations with a minimum of cables and connections.

The value of digital media networking in television extends beyond the traditional studio facility, however. Increasingly, production companies are relying on these networks to increase efficiencies across the production and post cycle, from set up to tear down – vastly reducing the labor associated with TV production.

Photo Credit: Rush Street Productions & Broadcast Beat

This is extremely helpful for companies like Rush Street Productions, the producers of the TV show Poker Night in America. Now in its second season on CBS Sports Network, Rush Street Productions travels around the country with two flypacks – one dedicated to video and the other to audio. The transition to digital media networking has simplified setup for multi-camera shoots, taking as little as 30 minutes. This efficiency is a big boost given their hectic shooting and post-production schedule. In addition to their travel schedule, the team also shoots a new episode every week.

For Matt McGregor, a producer at Rush Street Productions, the biggest value lies in increased channel counts. The flypack systems, which were built exclusively on Audinate’s awarding winning Dante™ networking solution, have quadrupled channel capacity for Rush Street Productions.

“In previous productions we were involved with, we were limited to eight tracks,” said McGregor. “Now with Dante incorporated into our setup, we have the capacity to record 32 separate tracks to our devices. Our goal has always been expandability, and now we have it.”

The typical show features nine poker players at the table, each equipped with a wireless lavaliere. In addition to player mics, there is a backup shotgun mic hung above the table as well as the floor director’s mic. While the production team isn’t currently utilizing all 32 tracks, having the extra capacity enhances the live recording quality today, and gives the team the opportunity to work in more audio feeds – both live and canned – in the future.

“It’s highly valuable to separate each microphone into a separate track, which we can easily do with Dante,” he said. “As a result, we can more easily single out during the editing process. It makes everything more efficient.”

Photo Credit: Rush Street Productions & Broadcast Beat

Simplifying the Flypack

Cinequipt, a Minneapolis-based systems design and integration firm, was in charge of building the flypacks for Rush Street Productions. The Dante-enabled equipment includes three Video Devices PIX 260i recorders, which capture all the audio tracks and video; and a Lectrosonics ASPEN SPN2412 digital signal processor (DSP) to ingest analog signals into the Dante network.

The Video Devices PIX series of rack-mount recorders, manufactured by Sound Devices, specialists in audio and video products for broadcast and film production, are file-based, quad-drive video decks with Sound Devices-caliber audio recording capabilities. For audio inputs and outputs, the PIX 260i offers 32 channels of Dante audio I/O over Ethernet, along with 8 analog, 8 AES digital, and 16 SDI/8 HDMI embedded. Like the PIX 260i, the PIX 270i video deck offers an Audio Only mode, records both monophonic and polyphonic WAV (with Broadcast WAV metadata), but the PIX 270i provides 64 channels of Dante audio.

Once audio is ingested, the board operator creates mixes for the local PA system and a live webstream. The direct mixer output feeds individual microphones and sends several stereo mixes to a Lectrosonics ASPEN SPN1264 DSP, which puts all audio signals onto the Dante network. The fully redundant architecture of the Dante network ensures seamless switching between main and backup paths as necessary, with two off-the-shelf switches to support the handoff between the Dante network and redundant ASPEN inputs and outputs.

According to Bryan Heiber, project manager and design engineer for Cinequipt, using Dante simplified the wiring between the main audio rack and the video production rack where the recorders are located. A single Cat6 cable supports all audio networking, eliminating the need to carry heavy, multichannel analog interface cable from city to city.

“Dante has clearly saved costs across an efficient use of rack space, integration time for Cinequipt, and set up and tear down time for Rush Street Productions,” said Heiber. “They (Rush Street Productions) have the most innovative flypack we have built to date, and it is going to be even easier to top that as more Dante-enabled products come on the market.”

As Heiber explains it, the audio flypack is built to drive 26 channels today, with expandability to 32 channels via the Presonus mixer, PIX 260i recorder, and the Dante network. Without a digital media networking architecture, the analog cabling for 26 channels would have been “wrapped in a coil” at the base of the flypack. There also would have been the labor-intensive process of running 26 cables through an assortment of self-drilled holes.

“For Cinequipt, it especially came down to a massive reduction in labor,” said Heiber. “We custom make every cable for all of our flypacks, and would have had to make cables for 26 channels running everywhere through those cases. Making 90-120 traditional cables and installing them takes a very long time, versus a few Cat6 cables. The cost-savings in man-hours was enormous. Even though this was our first experience with the Dante technology, it was incredibly easy to use and made our job way easier.”

Credits: This article and images were first published on BroadcastBeat.com. Re-used here with permission from Audinate.