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Roland at NAMM 2011

Feb 16, 2011 12:58 PM, By Cynthia Wisehart


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What does a pro AV journalist notice at NAMM? The Roland booth stood out for me, for kind of a nerdy reason. All the audio and HD video presentation systems were supported by the company’s own gear (via Roland Systems Group), and the systems integration and live production were all handled inhouse. I don’t think you could say that about any other booth at NAMM.

Just as you stepped into the large circular performance space—which one passerby called “House of Roland”—you saw a Roland Systems Group employee sitting at a Roland M-400 48-channel desk, mixing live audio and HD video (via a Roland V-1600HD mixer), and driving playback with a Roland PR-1000HD presenter, weaving in pre-roll, commercials, and graphics. This rig was supporting the largest of five stages where the performers were using Roland M-48 in-ear personal monitors, supported by various Roland digital snakes (no wedges). The audio signals were traveling via Roland Ethernet Audio Communication (REAC) over Cat-5.

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Those who have been to past NAMM shows know that the Roland booth was a big theater with a 20ft. ceiling, hung speakers, big subwoofers, etc. There was a director calling a three-camera shoot, and a big fancy rental and staging house put it all together. This year was different in two ways for two reasons, says John Broadhead, VP of technology and communications for Roland Systems Group. “The concept of the booth changed because we wanted to do more of a ‘distributed theater.’” Meaning rather than one demo at a time, they wanted to be able to offer many more demos a day across multiple demo stages. And Roland Systems Group was ready to take on the whole support task, end-to-end with no outside help.

“It was kind of a coming-of-age moment,” Broadhead says, and he reminds me that no other audio company can support video at the level Roland Systems Group can (via the Edirol integration).

In addition to the main stage, the system included a similarly equipped HD stage for Cakewalk demos. The smaller stages showed off the group’s smaller rackmountable elements, including the M-300 audio mixer and the V-44SW multiformat video switcher, plus the personal monitors and snakes.

I want to hit two points before I run out of space. It’s interesting to see Roland’s viewpoint on pro AV because it does not have a broadcast pedigree, and it’s keyed to simplicity—the kind of thing a volunteer could operate. “But we’re also getting respect from the professionals on the broadcast and integration side,” Broadhead says, “because although we don’t have all the bells and whistles, the latency is as low as anything out there, and we have quality scaling.”

The other thing that jumped out at me is something they didn’t end up using. The interesting newVR-5 AV mixer was in the pipeline for streaming, but a combination of uplink costs and clearances challenges made streaming from the booth impractical. Still, it could have been done. I like that.



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