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Wiring for Creative Arts Education, Part 1

Jul 8, 2010 9:20 AM, With Bennett Liles

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OK, and what kind of digital network are you using to connect all these sources?
Mark Baker: One of the primary ones is what we call an Aviom system, which is sold by Aviom. Primarily what we’re doing is is that we’re using a Cat-6 lines and these production panels as TI lines to go back to the machine room, which contains our Aviom networks, which we actually have three of. Each network Aviom bay is capable of carrying 64 channels of either audio or headphone feeds to and from any direction and can be dispersed by a hub system to anywhere in the house. [Timestamp: 9:28]

OK, you were talking about the main hub of all this. Where is that located?
That’s located down in the machine room where we were talking about the production panels that we have in the house tie back to. So in other words, we have essentially three audio racks that tie back to that system. It’s quite effective actually. We used it for a large-scale TV show that we do called Crooked River Groove. We hosted it in the black box theater and we sent basically 24 channels of audio to six production suites plus our main tracking room along with video and recorded it all simultaneously as a huge class project. [Timestamp: 10:07]

OK and one of the main advantages, from what I know about the system, is the fact that you don’t have to have some kind of big fancy computer system to run it and to make all the assignments and configuration. Most of the adjustments and everything are just front panel on the hardware.
Oh and that would probably be the most complicated part of the whole system; the system is extremely easy to use. It’s almost fool proof. There’s no way that you can mistake or cross signals anywhere in the path. Like, for example, if a mic channel is used, like mic 1, and you can’t access it from any other point if your systems are connected to the same network. Which if they are, all you have to do is basically set the network perimeter or what network that you want it to be and you literally plug it in and it automatically sees it. There’s no IP addresses to set. The system, if it’s on the same network, immediately recognizes that there’s either another mic pre or another line-in input module or a line output module online and it’s ready to go. It’s literally that simple. It doesn’t get much more easier than that. [Timestamp: 11:16]

Well, even with Cat-5 and Cat-6, that’s a lot of cabling to do. Who installed all the twisted pair for you?
The company, at the time, was called Doan Pyramid, which now, I guess their name is Zenith Corporation or Zenith Communications. Interestingly enough, as far as total cable for the building, we actually installed 450,000ft. or approximately 85 miles of audio and video cable across the board so the project was really extensive from that point. The twisted pair that we’re using is the built-in 79-89 R twisted Cat-6, which has the video component, I guess or video capable, and that’s our primary twisted-pair that we used throughout the building. [Timestamp: 11:59]

OK and you’ve got audio, you’ve got queuing, you’ve got timecode. I read somewhere where you’ve got a dedicated system just for the distribution of the timecode.
Yeah, actually that system is interesting. The way that that technically works is that we used a 64 16I for the inputs and then we used a MH10 because that particular SMPTE system is actually an A-16 protocol. Aviom has two types of protocol. It has A-Net protocol—the 64 system, and they also has an Aviom the A-16 network. And for those two to talk, you need what’s called a ASI interface to actually tie those two together so basically the 16 protocol and the 64 protocol can talk on the same network. And what we do is then we distribute that through a group of seven A16-D Pros, which is our distribution network and those go to all the TI lines. [Timestamp: 12:57]

Well, I would think that coming in there everybody’s got to have a certain basic level of knowledge about this, but one size doesn’t fit all as far as how fast they learn this and how fast they all pick it up. You’re going to have students coming in with a little more experience and a little less. So what’s the general learning curve on students and faculty operating the network routing and the set up on this thing.
The students actually take to it quite quickly and the faculty actually—the interesting thing is that the faculty is actually coming up with newer and crazier ways to use it, and I mean crazier in a positive way. We had one instructor come in and after he thought out the distribution issues or the advantages of using it, he actually will take a direct output from each channel on the SSL console—because one of the things is that when you’re in a learning situation, you want to have more students have hands on at one time—and he started deducing, “Well, hey, I have 48-channels here, it would be great if I could use the Aviom system to basically take direct outs with the A-16 mixer or little personal mixer,” so each student gets a personal mixer and a direct out that feeds the Aviom queue system and each students gets his own channel that he can listen to at will through a pair of headphones, for example. But as far as like the learning curve, that was just a brilliant thing that he came up with. Like I said, it’s like this system is amazingly plug-and-play, and if you just get a quick 20 minute tutorial, you’re easily up and running. In February of this year was our first real attempt at using the Aviom system to be the distribution point for this Crooked River Groove show and it worked impeccably. I can’t stress that enough. We absolutely had almost zero issues with the system and Aviom was kind enough to even send out a system tech for us and just to oversee it because we had mentioned, “Hey, this is what it’s really being built for. Can you come out and help us out?” And they flew a guy out and it went extremely smooth. In fact I think the poor guy was bored because it went so smooth. So we were quite pleased. [Timestamp: 15:16]

Like the lonely Maytag repair man.
Yes, I would say that’s a perfect parallel.

All right, Mark Baker and the Cuyahoga Community College and their Center for Creative Arts. Sounds like you’ve got a great thing going there—tremendous benefit to the students that I wish I’d had in my day. Thanks for being here for part one and in part wwo we’ll get more into what you do with Pro Tools and the system and maybe some of the fiber interfaces, but thanks for being here for part one.
OK, thank you.

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