One Engineer's View of IBC 2010

September 14, 2010


Amsterdam - Sep 11, 2010 - The IBC is commonly referred to here at the show as the NAB Show of Europe. Located at the RAI convention center in Amsterdam, the IBC uses all of the halls in the complex -- each one with its own theme. Finding radio or pro audio was a challenge among the sea of 3D television, but Hall 8 ended up being the place to be for a radio engineer. My goal was to investigate vendors and products I would not see at the NAB Show and I found a few. Here's a summary of what I found.

JoeCo Limited - Blackbox Recorder
The fancy lights and scroll wheel are sure to catch your attention, but what's behind the flash is pretty powerful. The Blackbox Recorder does one thing. It captures up to 24 individual tracks of audio and records them in synch to a USB2 compatible flash or disc drive. The files are broadcast WAV files with selectable sample and bit rates from 16-bit/44.1kHz up to 24-bit/96kHz. Up to four boxes can be stacked for a total of 96 tracks in synch.

Designed primarily for live, off-the-mixing-console recording, it allows you to capture a multiple-track live recording in high quality and then mix it with your multitrack Pro-Tools or Audition software later. The beauty is that you don't need to drag a production workstation on site to make your recording, just bring this 1RU box and a flash or hard drive and you have everything you need. Analog to digital converters are built in. The time remaining on the drive is displayed on the front panel, so you'll know how much space you have left.

It doesn't support compressed files yet, but Joe de Bie, JoeCo's international sales manager said that function is being considered.

www.joeco.co.uk
+44 1223 911000

RaLex Solutions - MDC.net
In a small booth with two computers was this unassuming vendor with a very powerful product. The words "Codec Control" caught my eye and after a demo I was pretty amazed. In business in Belgium for 15 years, RaLex's Ramon Schaap has perfected an easy to use interface to remotely control ISDN codecs of all kinds plus audio routers as well. He supports all major ISDN systems you could think of in both serial and IP control.

The user interface shows all codecs available and their status. If framed, a yellow "F" is displayed. If only line one is in use, a T1 (T for Telecom) is displayed, and if both are used, a T2 is displayed. The B channels can be split, too. The interface also supports IP by displaying an N for network. Dialing can be done manually, through the built-in address book or a quick-dial page. All data is stored in a MYSQL database and it runs under Windows. One of the things Schaap was pretty proud of was that his software allows multiple users to see and control codecs. In many cases the manufacturer's own control software limits access to the device to one user at a time. I asked if server redundancy was possible. Schaap has a utility that can copy all data from one server to another but auto failover is not possible because of the external connection limitations. You can't really have two servers connected to all external devices simultaneously. However, to get server two up quickly just requires moving the control line from the main server to the backup.

So here's the other powerful part of this system: It has a built in scheduler. You can bring up a calendar on each device and program it to dial and hang up when you want, using network or ISDN and in what configuration (algorithm and bit rate). And an even better feature is that you can set it to auto hang up after it's been dialed. No more forgetting to hang up and rack up a huge long distance bill anymore.

Security profiles can be set on a per-user basis or in groups, preventing certain people from accessing certain devices.

As I mentioned, this unit can also be used to control an audio router. All the scheduling info can be applied to making and breaking routes on a timed schedule. One of the great things they've built into the user interface is a screen to look at all active routes. Presets can be programmed in as well. Routers supported so far include 360 systems, Pro-bel, Studer, Klotz, Siemens and Digigram to name a few. Some more common to the U.S. are not supported yet, but I was told that as long as an interface language could be provided, it would be no problem to add support for additional routers.

www.relax.be

--continued on page 2



System Base - IP Codecs
I stopped at another small booth with three 1RU boxes on the tables. I spoke to Andrew Steward, technical director of SystemBase, a manufacturer of IP codecs. He said his units are used primarily for point-to-point linear audio transmission. Not unique, considering there are other manufacturers that do the same. However, he believes one of his competitive edges is the fact that he writes his own software. He said that understanding how to make an audio algorithm work over IP is key to reliability and stability. Also, since his system is embedded and not running on Linux or Windows, the boot time is the fastest I've ever seen. Steward had two systems running in his booth connected to each other through a network and he unplugged one in front of me. When he plugged it back in, audio was back in seconds. It booted and framed incredibly fast.

The system can be purchased with front panel control or without. If you buy it without you can control it fully by using the Web interface. It supports linear audio from 8kHz sample rate in mono all the way up to 48kHz stereo. He also has added configurable forward error control (FEC) to help with poor network performance. Delay on the 48kHz stereo setting is anywhere from 4ms to 23ms, which is pretty low latency.

His systems can support multiple connections without interrupting the main connection in case you need the same audio to go to more than one location. And he has built in auto negotiation. The system can support SNMP for monitoring.

His systems also support apt-X compression and g.722 in the case bandwidth is not available. He said a system was installed on a 2Mb/s up, 10Mb/s down Internet line at the World Cup in South Africa and never failed for two weeks.

www.systembase.com

Ghielmetti -Audio Monitor System GMS 2100
Another item that caught my eye was a 2RU audio test set made by Swiss manufacturer Ghielmetti. Perfect for a rack room, it has two high-quality speakers for monitoring any one of three analog or four digital stereo sources that are selectable by the front panel. The third analog and the fourth digital input jacks appear on the front panel so if you need to throw a quick patch cord in, you don't need to dig into the back of the rack.

Metering includes level and peak indication -60dB to +24dB, sample rate and phase. It has a built in signal generator that can generate 800Hz or 1kHz. Metering ballistics are selectable and include DIN 45406, Nordic N9, BBC British IIa and digital. Users can also select peak, or peak and average.

A headphone jack is on the front panel with volume control and a mute button, too.

www.ghielmetti.ch

2WCOM - Network Monitoring via IP/SNMP NC06
I met with Werner Drews, managing director of German-based 2WCOM. In addition to manufacturing a full complement of DVB satellite receivers, his company makes a neat 1RU box called the NC06 that can take a contact closure from a legacy piece of equipment (an alarm, for example) and convert it to an SNMP message. At Dial Global, we use Ipswitch's Whats up Gold to monitor all of our servers and broadcast equipment across the company. Having the ability to trigger an SNMP alarm via a contact closure is a great way to keep your monitoring consistent.

In addition, the NC06 can accept SNMP commands and provide relay closure commands to your devices in order to throw a switch or start up an alternative piece of equipment if the main goes into alarm.

A pretty simple device, but a great way to integrate your legacy equipment into your modern network monitoring system.

www.2wcom.com

NKK Switches - OLED switch
For the mad scientist who likes building or modifying things, I saw a very cool display at NKK Switches. On display was a pushbutton switch that measures about 3/4" x 1/2" that display video. When I walked up to their booth, my face appeared on a few since they had a camera aiming directly at me.

www.nkkswitches.com/oled-pushbutton.aspx



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