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How Does AES70 Fit in the Studio? Think MIDI

AES70 defines a scalable control-protocol architecture in three parts

The author is a spokesperson for Wheatstone, which was part of the AES X210 task force responsible for developing AES70.

IP audio network manufacturers have gone all out to develop complete studio environments, some of which include everything from control surfaces and talent stations to button panels and widget GUIs to specialty I/O devices and processors.

These systems are the backbone of the broadcast operation today because they provide complete control and access of networked audio and gear in one seamless environment. By building upon their respective audio network environments, manufacturers have been able to expand on AoIP capabilities and lower the cost of operation in many cases.

Integrating other devices and networks beyond their own network environment, however, typically called for customized solutions.

Then AES67 came along and provided a transport standard that all audio network manufacturers could use to bring audio in and out of their networks. It is now more than two years since AES67 was ratified, and the standard is gaining traction. It is available in most of the popular IP audio networks and just recently, AES67 was adopted as part of the TR-03 recommendation for HD-SDI-to-IP transition by the Video Services Forum (VSF).

Still, without a control standard, audio network manufacturers have been limited in their ability to offer inter-platform audio network interoperability.

Now another standard has come along: AES70, which was ratified into existence earlier this year by the Audio Engineering Society Standards Committee (AESSC) as a rudimentary control standard for audio IP networking. AES70 defines a scalable control-protocol architecture in three parts: a mechanism framework, a control class structure, and a protocol implementation for TCP/IP networks. (For more information, check out the newly published AES70-2015 standard for audio applications of networks – Open Control Architecture.)

It is based on the Open Control Architecture (OCA), which is essentially a library of specific control functions such as ON/OFF, level control, and similar functions that can facilitate control between third-party devices and an existing network environment.

Whereas AES67 gave us a means to move audio signals from point A to point B regardless of audio network brand, AES70 now promises to give us a standard that will allow interoperable control between third-party devices and elements of existing audio networks.

So, what does this mean to the seamless audio network environment broadcasters have come to rely on today?

First, AES70 will not be adopted overnight. As with all standards, it will take some time before AES70 can be integrated into the studio environment as it is implemented and tested in real world scenarios. And it won’t supplant existing audio IP networks, which will continue to function as complete operating environments into the future. AES70 doesn’t change that. What it does is add the ability to connect certain devices to those systems and provides some basic control between them.

Think of AES70 as the MIDI of broadcasting. Just as MIDI was developed as a standard by the music industry to communicate how electronic instruments such as sequencers, keyboards, and processors can control each other, AES70 was developed by audio professionals to communicate basic commands and logic among devices and digital tools in a typical studio environment.

The immediate goal in bringing about this standard is to provide users the means to facilitate control between third-party equipment and existing audio networks, which, when coupled with AES67, should offer greater studio interoperability.