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BEITC Session: Hardware or Software?

Beginning the process of “dematerializing” studios

Photo by Paul Kaminski

Hardware or software? That’s the question radio managers and engineers have to answer when planning new facilities. At the Broadcast Engineering and Information Technology Conference at NAB Show 2017, Lawo suggested that a lot of hardware could be combined into a software solution, without sacrificing quality.

Michael “Catfish” Dosch, Lawo’s director of Virtual Radio Projects, said virtualizing radio studios is a two-step process: turning products/equipment into applications or “dematerialization”; the second is the creation and implementation of data centers.

He compared the process of turning products into applications, suggesting people with smartphones are familiar with the smartphone replacing a number of devices. Radio has had its own process, over time migrating music sources to a computer. Given the processing power of the modern computer, Dosch posed these questions: “What if all of these boxes (sources) became applications? Why not? Could I run all of these functions on a computer, maybe even the same computer that’s running the playout software now?”

He suggested that once an analog interface and audio source became digitized, that source could be moved by the AES67 digital audio standard, and sources “soft”-connected in the computer. “So now, my entire radio studio is simply a PC and this one input/output device.” Dosch said the software/hardware comparison for flexibility leans toward software. “It reduces cost and complexity.”

Dosch mentioned a number of software applications available today, that replace boxes, including his company’s virtual mixing console, virtual sound card and virtual patchbay.