Radio World: What’s the most important trend in design of consoles for radio broadcast?
Roberto Tejero: First of all, the workflow as we know it from the days of analog and the first digital consoles has completely changed. Today, no console is a rigid control of inputs to outputs, but a complex operation that needs to contemplate the interaction with other equipment and software applications and areas of the station. It has to be able to be driven by either a person or automated, controlled by third-party equipment and applications. Today’s mixing consoles have a high load of software and firmware, allowing for variations in regards to operation and workflow, almost totally customized.
The great operational and functional capacity of today’s radio and television consoles means that you cannot assign a button for each function. Now, in our latest Atrium digital audio mixer, the simplest configurations operate in a similar way but on a touchscreen, while the most complete configurations have a second general-purpose touchscreen.
Note that these screens do not eliminate the presence of keys and faders, which users want to maintain, but makes these mechanical components contextual, keeping all the information necessary for the control in sight.
RW: What demands do you hear from potential buyers that are different from 10 or 15 years ago?
Tejero: Customers’ demands more seldom refer to the number of inputs and outputs in analog or digital but rather reduced to the AoIP connectivity and its capacity. The next most important “countable” would be the number of local sources that can be connected, i.e. microphone inputs. The number of input sources in a control/studio configuration is much less than a few years ago. More emphasis is placed upon the capacity to control other equipment, same brand or third-party.
Customers also increasingly ask that the surface and core be located separately; with our technology, one central audio core can work up to six control surfaces simultaneously. Many customers install all the cores in equipment or rack rooms and take the audio sources of each studio to the rack room through IP interfaces. For high-level installations, especially in radio station networks, they ask that the functionality of the buttons and the content of the screens be customized in the console, as well as that the rest of the equipment is controlled from the console — cameras and switcher for visual radio, audio codecs, etc. Also required in these environments is supervision and remote control of all consoles.
RW: How have AoIP developments been reflected in the look and function of physical surfaces?
Tejero: In my opinion, IP technology does not alter the appearance of control surfaces of general-purpose consoles. Functionally, however, it allows relocation:
- A console can act on several cores at the same time, located in different places, and that develop a combined function.
- Several consoles can act on the same core, or working as a mirror of one another, or sharing it, acting in this case each individually on the core as if there were no other consoles.
- And in the most complex case, several consoles can act differently on several cores at the same time, transparently using part of the features of each core.
This technology also allows the appearance of other different control elements, intended to develop very specific functions by sharing a core among several:
- Control surfaces mounted on a PC screen
- Small consoles or control surfaces for voice booths or editing booths.
RW: What do virtualization and cloud technology mean for users and studio designers?
Tejero: The remote production is essential today in the radio, since it is necessary to produce a lot of content in many places at once and with reduced staff. It is increasingly common to remotely control studios at outside events or remote network stations.
But if by virtualization we mean mounting console functions on the PC screen interface, we must not lose sight of the fact that some users are reluctant given the lack of precision for the operation.
A mixed interface may work well in some cases, as I said — a few buttons and faders working in combination with a screen.
RW: What’s an example of a notable recent installation of your equipment?
Tejero: The installation of APunt FM public radio of the Valencian Community in Spain is a good example of how to install consoles today. Four studios with AEQ Forum Split consoles; almost all of its audio inputs and outputs go to the redundant IP Dante network. Two studios also have a Yamaha auxiliary console for the production of music, also connected to the network.
There are two journalist cabins with Capitol IP console. In the booths, there are microphone and headphone interfaces and ON-AIR signalling terminals, also connected by IP.
The audio is routed with an audio matrix. In the same way, most of its inputs and outputs go to the Dante IP network. Two studio consoles send the microphone levels and operator commands to a Visual Radio system over the IP network.
All computers are in central control. The convenience of installing the console cores there was evaluated; but for simplicity of wiring and since they are silent, in the end it was decided to leave them in the studios.