IBC 2010: Lawo, ALC Debut IP-Based Open Distribution for Audio

Audio over IP is not as sexy as 3D, but it challenged stereoscopy in the ubiquity stakes at the recent IBC 2010. In a major move, Lawo and its associate, research company ALC NetworX, announced a new open distribution technology based on IP for broadcast centres, OB trucks, and facilities linked by WAN connections.

The system, named Ravenna, was developed by Lawo and ALC working with Genelec, Merging Technologies, Innovason, Schoeps, DirectOut, DSA Volgmann, and L-S-B. Philipp Lawo, chief executive of the console manufacturer that bears his name, conceived the idea while having dinner with ALC Senior Product Manager Andreas Hildebrand.

“Philipp said that the iPhone 4 and other smartphones all have IP and all do audio,” Hildebrand recalls. “So, because IP is available everywhere, he thought, why not use it for professional audio as well?”

Lawo drew a schematic for an IP-based distribution system on a sheet of paper at the dinner table. The result was Ravenna, which is intended to combine professional audio with IP and potentially connect any type of device.

Hildebrand says Ravenna was intended as a non-proprietary format from the beginning. “If it had been only for Lawo, the developers might have focused too early on mixing and routing,” he explains. “We wanted it more open, to be applicable for other manufacturers in the recording industry and even for video.”

Merging and Genelec have implemented their own platforms using the basic Ravenna specification, without any code from ALC/Lawo. Other companies are using a “piggyback board” produced by ALC as a reference design and have added it to their core infrastructures through I/O interfaces.

The technology information and mechanisms used in Ravenna will be issued in the public domain “in due time,” Hildebrand says, to allow companies not already involved in the project to make suggestions before the spec is finalised.

A final version of Ravenna, he adds, could be available in a “couple of months.”

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