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NAB 2017 Follow-Up: Standards-Driven Audio Workflow Builds Momentum

This is a pivotal year for audio and video over IP, as the SMPTE ST 2100 draft approaches approval and as production and broadcast facilities incorporate media-over-IP into their infrastructure.

At NAB, dozens of manufacturers and industry organizations joined together to host a four-day IP Showcase to demonstrate real-world tech interoperability and educate media creators on ways they can work better over IP. So what happens how?

I checked in with the Audio Engineering Society and the Media Networking Alliance to find out a little bit more about the changes ahead, and learn how media producers can best educate themselves on new standards.

A few basics, for those who are new to the conversation: For the past year and a half, SMPTE has been working to develop a set of standards that specify the carriage, synchronization, and description of media streams over IP, documented as SMPTE ST 2110. The standard defines transport and timing protocol for audio, video, and metadata, split into separate essences.

The audio and synchronization portions of SMPTE ST 2110 are based on AES67, a high-performance interoperability protocol based on existing standards like Dante and Livewire. I asked Kevin Gross, leader of the AES’ Task Group on AES67 Development and Vice Chair of its Working Group on Audio Applications of Networks, to explain how AES67 will accommodate future technologies.

“AES67 is based on existing standards from the IEEE and IETF. Dante and LiveWire (also Q-LAN and RAVENNA) are technologies that are also based on some of the same existing standards,” Gross stated. “The purpose of AES67 was to create an interoperability mode so that these similar networking technologies are able to talk to each other,” he added, explaining that technology tends to evolve forward rather than cleanly jumps forward. “We can expect future technologies to be derived from current technologies such as AES67. We are already seeing this happen. The under-development SMPTE 2110 standards for high-performance video systems are based on the AES67 architecture and are compatible with AES67 from an audio perspective.”

The AES has worked with major industry associations to build a unified path for the adoption of SMPTE ST 2110, sponsoring IP Showcase events at NAB and IBC and participating in JT-NM coordination of a technology roadmap. I asked Gross about the maturity of AES67 itself, and he explained that the standard was originally published in September 2013, and was updated in 2015 with minor corrections and clarifications. “We expect to publish another update in 2017 again with minor clarification and corrections,” he said. “In this case, we believe that a stable and well-maintained standard is the best kind of standard.”

So what does this all mean to media producers? I checked in with Terry Holton, Vice Chairman of Media Networking Alliance, an association of manufacturers and end-users that was established to promote adoption of the AES67 audio networking interoperability standard. Holton share a real-world example that demonstrates how networked audio collaboration can evolve with the adoption of the protocols. “One practical example we have seen recently involved a radio production studio system in Europe,” Holton explained. “The system consists of products from Yamaha, Avid, Lawo, Genelec and QSC. The core networking technologies behind these various devices are based on Dante, Ravenna, and Q-LAN. However, this system now uses AES67 to connect between many of these different devices, maintaining the advantages of a network compared to compromising by interconnecting using MADI, AES/EBU, or possibly even analog. “

With SMPTE ST 2110 getting closer to final approval, I asked Holton when media producers could expect direction on best practices in audio-over-IP workflow. “In addition to the work being done by the AES, the Media Networking Alliance is working to provide guidance and education with regard to audio-over-IP networking,” he explained. Watch this space for developments!

Sarah Jones is a writer, editor, and content producer with more than 20 years' experience in pro audio, including as editor-in-chief of three leading audio magazines: Mix, EQ, and Electronic Musician. She is a lifelong musician and committed to arts advocacy and learning, including acting as education chair of the San Francisco chapter of the Recording Academy, where she helps develop event programming that cultivates the careers of Bay Area music makers.

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