SVG Sit-Down: Studio Technologies President Gordon Kapes Discusses Meeting the Technical Needs of REMI Production
New product suite relies on Dante protocol for talent-cueing, IFB
As REMI/at-home production grows in popularity, technology vendors like Studio Technologies are stepping up to provide the gear needed to make onsite production as seamless as possible. Recently, Studio Technologies upgraded its Model 5422 Dante intercom audio engine, Model 216 announcer’s console, and Model 44D audio interface to better meet the talent-cueing and IFB needs of REMI productions. SVG sat down with Studio Technologies President Gordon Kapes to discuss the enhanced suite of products for REMI production, the importance of addressing the approach’s biggest technical challenges, and what visitors to the company’s NAB 2018 booth can expect.
Studio Technologies recently enhanced its REMI product suite. Tell me a little bit about the new capabilities it offers.
The main product in our REMI product suite is our Model 5422 Dante intercom audio engine. We released this product in late 2016/early 2017, and, since the concept of the product first came up, we knew that one of the final features we wanted to support was talent-cueing for REMI/at-home production. We’ve learned from the people who work out in the field, and, with our final software release, we’ve given the unit all the features we wanted to.
We felt that we were able to tackle an obscure but very important area, which is talent-cueing. On-air personnel typically want to hear production audio themselves, [as do] the other people involved in the production and audio signals. So we in firmware developed what I think are some clever and effective ways of generating these talent-cue signals. We’re doing it in the Dante domain. We’ve chosen for many of our products to have audio flow over the Dante audio-over-Ethernet protocol. The Model 5422 is a Dante-enabled product, and we have seen people using our Dante products for onsite production. By adding IFB creation features, we felt that we gave people another strong tool to allow production personnel to be located remotely from the event site.
We put the ability in one of our standalone announcer consoles, which is a small box that you can plug a microphone and a headset into, and you can generate a high-frequency tone — in our case, 18 kHz — that adds in with the voice audio so that you can have a production person literally anywhere in the world press the button to talk to talent anywhere else at the event site, and you will transport your voice along the 18-kHz trigger tone and get to our Model 5422, which will then create the IFB.
We are familiar with having production trucks at the site, and the production trucks have large intercom systems that can generate all the required signals, but, as you start putting the production facilities in one location and the events in another, you [need to have something] onsite to generate IFB. That’s the key thing that we saw that people are going to need, and that’s why we added this remote IFB feature along with related features. The Model 5422 goes onsite where there isn’t a truck any more, and now you can use our four-channel announcer console to generate a producer talk or a director talk signal and route that audio to the event site, and talent will hear excellent audio quality.
We think that many [major sports networks’] intercom systems, with a slight modification to programming, can generate the signals that our 5422 uses, so we created the suite of products to provide people a very quick proof of concept. Then they integrate the generation of this tone into their existing systems and have this capability very quickly. If they are not able to generate the tone, we add that tone-generation ability to our Model 44D interface, and so it does a very simple function.
It’s one of these things that most people will never know about and care about if it is working, but, if it were missing, they would be missing an important part of a complete REMI implementation.
What are some of the most pressing technical challenges of REMI production, and how does Studio Technologies address them?
I would think that a big technical challenge is getting the audio signal from Point A to Point B or Point A to Points B and D and doing it fast and efficiently. It seems like the video signals are pretty well covered with some of the different providers, but our experience being able to quickly deploy multichannel audio is lagging a little bit. The second issue is, it’s changing rapidly, and having people know, whether it’s products from us or other vendors, that it can be done now. A lot of very nice solutions are available now, and you can achieve it probably better than you think.
Why is the REMI-production market an important one for your company?
With our offering of Dante-based audio Ethernet products, we feel that REMI is very real, and it’s going to be very well used. If we can’t be part of how people implement it, then we’re simply not going to sell equipment. You combine that with the fact that we’re problem-solvers that really enjoy being in this market, and we love spending time trying to solve these issues. That’s why it’s important to us.
NAB 2018 is just around the corner. What can visitors to the Studio Technologies booth (C7550) expect to see?
We’ll be mostly talking to people about the REMI suite, but we’ll also be introducing three new announcer consoles, which are, pieces of hardware to help people create on-air audio positions for talent. We’ll also be showing a new Dante bridge, which will help people link to different local-area networks’; it’s really a pretty unique product. We’ve started work on SMPTE 2110, and we’ll be showing products in the audio area for 2110. We’ll also be showing a very nice alerting unit that works with our Dante intercom equipment to provide a visual and audible alert to people.
We eat and sleep this stuff. We like people’s phone calls and emails and that we can give people solutions. Our biggest challenge as a small company with lots of different products is communicating to people all the different ways our equipment can be used. We feel that [our REMI suite] is another specialized but important piece to let people achieve what they want with REMI production.