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Evolution in digital audio

The large HD OB vehicle plays a key role wherever Cologne-based public broadcaster WDR is covering significant events or productions. This truck is the latest of four WDR OB trucks with AURUS control rooms and sets new standards in versatility

WDR 1

WDR 2

WDR 3

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You might be tempted to think that the potential for technological progress in digital broadcasting is now all but exhausted. After all, the first big digital OB trucks appeared on Germany's roads over 20 years ago. Since then, the technology has developed steadily, producing much higher performance in smaller footprints and trucks have turned into mobile studios with remarkable space utilization. The introduction of HD has provided the incentive for new evolution. You will not find sensational new concepts or technologies in current OB vehicles, instead the technology continues to develop at a steady if unspectacular pace but at a very high level. This trend can be observed at WDR, the largest of Germany’s public broadcasters. In 2012, WDR’s fleet of TV OB trucks expanded and it is now graced by the impressive HD FÜ4 truck with an AURUS audio control room. As is so often the case, the audio control area occupies only a very small space on the new truck. In contrast, the video area is very generously proportioned including the two slide out side extensions, each more than one metre deep. The available space can be subdivided into different rooms with movable partitions and used in a variety of ways. A small multipurpose room serves as an additional VT area or an audio sub-mix room as required. Various task areas, including for example EVS facilities, can be moved around so that the truck can be adapted flexibly to a wide range of production scenarios.

Routing or Connecting

Flexibility is also essential in audio processing and AURUS provides just that. As a freely configurable audio-mixing console it lies at the heart of the audio system. WDR have already used the console successfully on their SD trucks where it has proven to be efficient and very reliable. The pairing of AURUS and the NEXUS audio network, which is open to any audio format you can think of, demonstrates the flexibility so important in outside broadcasting. The duo are there precisely because of their high degree of rapid adaptability and user-friendliness and not only at WDR.
Another plus is smooth integration into a wide variety of audio environments. On the HD FÜ4, AURUS and NEXUS had to fit seamlessly into a very open and versatile infrastructure. This manifests itself with the extensive audio patchbay in the audio control room. All relevant signals connect to this patchbay and all ports can be configured individually. Werner Menskes, production engineer from WDR's TV outdoor-broadcast department, who is in charge of planning and constructing the OB truck, explains it this way: “In the TV production field, such a patchbay is a critical element in being prepared for any possible situation.” Because for example, it may be necessary to insert additional sources or to change the input of a unit with flexible I/O configuration into an output. Other scenarios include creating extra monitoring points, direct and sophisticated troubleshooting, or even setting up a full fallback configuration rapidly in the event of a failure. All in all, the patchbay provides a total of 1 800 ports which gives a huge increase to the vehicle’s flexibility. The patchbay also provides the intercom ports. Subscriber units can be connected via discreet analogue or digital lines or tunnelled though NEXUS to connected stations. A secondary bay with another 400 ports located in the VT area supports this concept further.

HD FÜ4 at a Glance

VTS Studiotechnik from Eglhausen near Munich was in charge of upgrading the HD FÜ4, a 40-ton articulated tractor-trailer. The trailer features extensions which increase its width more than one metre on both sides. Since the medieval town centre in Cologne, home of the HD FÜ4, has so many narrow streets it is possible to operate the vehicle using just one of the two extensions. When fully extended, the truck provides five rooms – a video monitoring room, a video control room 1, a VT with video control room 2, a audio-control room, and a multi-purpose facility – to accommodate a total of up to 23 people. On the audio side, the truck includes a 48-channel AURUS with a fully equipped audio processor. The associated NEXUS audio network has 128 microphone-input channels. The Magix Sequoia DAW and the Sonic Core EventDriver are used as 5.1-capable playback devices.

Centralized and Distributed Simultaneously

These versatile connection options make it possible to wire the vehicle centrally. When using the traditional approach, the crew lays multicore copper wiring, for example, from the stage microphones to the OB truck. Usually however, the typical NEXUS methodology with distributed audio interfaces is preferred with NEXUS Base Devices placed near the sources, extending the OB truck systems via fibre-optic cables to the location. Here again, WDR has left several options open because in addition to the NEXUS fibre-optic cabling, the truck is equipped with another optical system which can accommodate not only audio but also video, intercom, and data networks. The AURUS architecture is also used to provide maximum flexibility. All the console TFT screens, which display the channel meters in normal operation, can be connected to HD SDI signals alternatively and the central panel display can show the output from the RTW surround monitor unit. The HD FÜ4 has been used in many WDR productions ranging from sports events to recording cultural performances at the broadcaster’s own premises in Cologne. The highlight to date was the semi-final match between Germany and Italy in Warsaw at the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship. The truck generates several concurrent audio mixes, especially at large live events. In addition to the main mix, there is often a clean feed, an M&E feed and or other auxiliary feeds. To ensure smooth and versatile operation, the truck provides a total of four broadcast lines each with 16 audio channels and can be reconfigured to eight broadcast lines each with eight channels if necessary. Thanks to its open bus layout, the AURUS can be configured appropriately for the project in hand depending on the number of buses required. Regarding this feature, Bernd Peters, one of the WDR audio engineers who has completed several productions on the HD FÜ4 is particularly happy with the AURUS down-mix feature: “When we are doing a multichannel production, we use the AURUS down-mix matrix to generate the on-air stereo signal from our multichannel mix in realtime.”

Limiting for Surround Mixes

With so many output signals available, on-air routing becomes a pretty complex business. On the HD FÜ4 this is simplified considerably by a global routing-matrix controller, the BFE KSC-Manager. The STAGETEC system is integrated with this control, so that selecting a transmission line with the KSC-Manager enables the appropriate NEXUS crosspoints automatically.
The levels of the various multichannel mixes should generally be limited using an external dynamics processor. However, only a few compressors and limiters support multichannel linking – the majority of units only support stereo linking, so manual multi-channel linking would be required. Therefore, the WDR follows a different approach and uses a hardware device for the main mix only. For the other sends it uses VST plug-ins instead. The Waves Surround 360° plug-in is suitable for this purpose. It is accessed via Nuendo, one of the few DAWs capable of outputting four multichannel signals. Integrating the DAW with AURUS would enable it and the plug-ins to be controlled from the console directly – this may well be an option for the HD FÜ4 in the future. So there is still room for further progress, the evolution in digital audio continues to produce remarkable innovations – provided these are supported with open and flexible design!

TV and Radio Broadcast

AVATUS & NEXUS/NEXUS STAR

  • HSE24 Home Shopping Europe AG  Ismaning, Germany
  • RSI Broadcast Center  Lugano, Switzerland
  • tpc Metechno, Broadcast Center  Zurich, Switzerland

AURUS & NEXUS/NEXUS STAR

  • Antena 3 Madrid (TV)  Madrid, Spain
  • ASTRO (Malaysian satellite television) Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Anhui TV  Hefei-Anhui, China
  • Auditorium Rai di Napoli  Naples, Italy
  • BBC Scotland Glasgow, United Kingdom weiterlesen blau 2019
  • BR Bayerischer Rundfunk  Munich, Nuremberg, Germany weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Canal 9  Valencia, Spain
  • CCTV  Beijing, China weiterlesen blau 2019 weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Crow TV-Studio  Tokyo, Japan
  • Deutschlandradio  Berlin, Cologne, Germany
  • Deutsche Welle TV  Berlin, Germany weiterlesen blau 2019
  • FM 802 Radio  Osaka, Japan weiterlesen blau 2019
  • FRANCE 2  Paris, France
  • Fuji TV  Tokyo, Japan  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • HSE24 Home Shopping Europe AG  Ismaning, Germany
  • HR Hessischer Rundfunk Frankfurt, Germany
  • J.V.E. facilities   Almere, The Netherlands  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • MDR Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk  Leipzig, Germany weiterlesen blau 2019
  • NDR 2  Hannover, Germany
  • NDR Norddeutscher Rundfunk Hamburg, Hannover, Kiel, Schwerin, Germany
  • Plazamedia TV&Film Produktion  Ismaning, Germany
  • Phoenix TV Station  Bonn, Germany
  • RAI  Rome, Milan, Naples, Torino, Italy  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Radio Bremen  Bremen, Germany  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • RAI Radio  Rome, Italy  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Rom TV  Rome, Italy
  • RTS Radiotelevisione svizzera  Geneva, Switzerland  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • RTBF Brussels, Belgium  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • RTM Kuala Lumpur  Kuala Lumpur, Perdana, Seremban, Malaysia  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • RSI - Radiotelevisione svizzera  Lugano, Switzerland
  • TAI Television News Agency  Warsaw, Poland
  • Television de Galicia  Galicia, Spain
  • TVP Telewizja Polska  Warsaw, Poland  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Tianjin Radio Station  Tianjin, China
  • tpc zürich ag  Zurich, Switzerland  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • TSR Télévision Suisse Romande  Geneva, Switzerland
  • TVE Radio Televisión Espanola  Madrid, Spain
  • WDR Westdeutscher Rundfunk  Cologne, Bocklemund, Dusseldorf,  Germany  weiterlesen blau 2019

CRESCENDO & NEXUS/NEXUS STAR

  • ASTRO  Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Anhui TV  Hefei-Anhui, China
  • CCTV  Beijing, China
  • CBC Cologne Broadcasting Center  Cologne, Germany
  • Formosa TV  Taipei, Taiwan  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Fujian tv  Beijing, China
  • Hangzhou TV  Hangzhou, China
  • HR Hessischer Rundfunk  Frankfurt/Main, Kassel, Germany
  • HSE24 Home Shopping Europe AG  Ismaning, Germany
  • HBTV Hubei Broadcasting Group  Wuhan, China
  • HNTV  Zhengzhou, China
  • JiangSu Broadcasting Corporation (JSBC)  Nanjing, China
  • Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) Yeongdeungpo District, Seoul, Korean
  • Life News TV, Moscow, Russia
  • M6 TV  Paris, France
  • Media Prima Berhad  Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • NDR  Hamburg, Germany
  • NOSPR Narodowa Orkiestra Symfoniczna Polskiego Radia  Katowice, Poland
  • ONE TV / Dorna Sports Management Rome, Italy
  • Plazamedia TV&Film Produktion  Ismaning, Germany
  • Rede Bahia de Televisao  Salvador, Brazil
  • RTBF  Brussels, Belgium
  • RTM  Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • RTS Radiotelevisione svizzera  Geneva, Switzerland
  • SBT Sistema Brasileiro de Televisao Sao Paulo, Brazil  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Shenzhen TV  Shenzhen, China
  • Sveriges Radio  Stockholm, Sweden
  • tpc zürich ag  Zurich, Switzerland
  • TSR Télévision Suisse Romande  Geneva, Switzerland
  • TVE Radio Televisión Espanola  Barcelona, Spain
  • Vatican Radio  Vatican, Italy  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Videohouse  Brussels, Belgium
  • VRT Brussels, Belgium

AURATUS & NEXUS

  • ASTRO TV  Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Bernama News TV  Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • BR Bayerischer Rundfunk  Nuremberg, Germany
  • CCTV  Beijing, China
  • CJ E&M Brodcasting Centre  Seoul, Korea
  • EPTV  Campinas, Brazil
  • FFS Film- & Fernseh-Synchron  Berlin, Germany  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Henan  Zhengzhou, China
  • HBTV Hubei Broadcasting Group  Wuhan, China
  • Moscovia Broadcasting Company  Moscow, Russia
  • OMTV - Olympic Marseille Football Team  Marseille, France
  • Plazamedia TV&Film Produktion  Ismaning, Germany
  • Radio Kuwait  Kuwait
  • RTBF Brussels, Charleroi, Belgium
  • RTL Radio  Paris, France
  • RTM TV  Sarawak, Malaysia weiterlesen blau 2019
  • RTM TV  Kuala Lumpur, Sarawak, Malaysia
  • SBT Sistema Brasileiro de Televisao  Sao Paulo, Brazil  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Shenzhen TV  Shenzhen, China
  • Tele M1  Aarau, Switzerland
  • Tele 1  Luzern, Switzerland
  • VRT  Brussels, Belgium
  • WDR Westdeutscher Rundfunk Siegen, Bonn, Cologne, Essen, Wuppertal, Aachen, Münster, Bielefeld, Dortmund, Duisburg weiterlesen blau 2019  Germany

ON AIR flex & NEXUS/NEXUS STAR

  • ABC Australian Broadcast Corporation  Sydney, Canberra, Hobart, Brisbane, Perth, Melbourne, all Australia
  • Al-Watan Radio Kuwait  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • ASTRO (Malaysian satellite television)  Cyberjaya, Malaysia
  • CCTV Movie Channel  Beijing, China
  • HR Hessischer Rundfunk  Frankfurt, Germany
  • HSE24 Home Shopping Europe AG  Ismaning, Germany
  • NDR (tv station) Kiel, Hannover, Germany
  • Plazamedia TV&Film Produktion  Ismaning, Germany
  • Radio Pilatus   Lucerne, Switzerland  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • SDTV QILU Channel  Beijing, China
  • Shanghai Education Television  Shanghai, China
  • tpc Zürich  Zurich, Schwitzerland
  • WDR  Duisburg, Dusseldorf, Wuppertal, Germany
  • Xiamen Travel Channel  Xiamen, China

NEXUS/NEXUS STAR

  • All India Radio New Delhi, India  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Antena 3  Madrid, Islas Baleares, Spain
  • BBC  London, United Kingdom
  • BBC North Manchester, United Kingdom  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • BR Bayerischer Rundfunk Freimann, Germany  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Cadena SER  Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Spain  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Canal Mundo Radio  Madrid, Spain
  • Canal+: Paris, France  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • 20th Century Fox  Los Angeles, USA
  • CBS  New York, USA
  • ESPN  Bristol, Los Angeles, USA
  • ETABETA  Rome, Italy
  • Eurosport 2  Paris, France
  • HR Hessischer Rundfunk Gießen, Fulda, Darmstadt, Wiesbaden, Kassel, Germany weiterlesen blau 2019
  • HR Hessischer Rundfunk  TR 3  Frankfurt, Germany  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • IRT Project Hybnet  Munich, Germany
  • NBC  New York, USA
  • NHK  Tokio, Japan
  • n-tv  Berlin, Germany
  • ORB/DVB-FSZ Ostdeutscher Rundfunk  Potsdam, Germany
  • ORF Eisenstadt, Dornbirn, Austria
  • Onda Cero Radio  Madrid, Spain
  • ONE TV / Dorna Sports Management Rome, Italy
  • Polskie Radio S.A.  Warsaw, Poland weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Portuguese Broadcasting Service  Lisbon, Portugal
  • PTT  Madrid, Spain
  • Public Radio of the Ukraine  Kiew, Ukraine
  • Radio Caracol  Bogota, Colombia
  • Radio Cope  Madrid, Spain
  • Radio 9  Valencia, Spain
  • Radio France  Paris, France
  • Radio Traffic  Paris, France
  • Radio Marca  Madrid, Spain
  • RBB FS Berlin, Germany
  • RPP Radio Programas del Peru  Peru
  • RTS Radiotelevisione svizzera  Geneva, Switzerland   weiterlesen blau 2019
  • RTL Berlin, Germany
  • SAT 1  Zurich, Switzerland
  • SFB Sender Freies Berlin  Berlin, Germany
  • Staatlicher Rundfunk Usbekistan  Uzbekistan
  • Studio Hamburg  Hamburg, Germany
  • SWR Südwestrundfunk Stuttgart, Baden-Baden, Germany  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Tele 5  Madrid, Spain
  • Televisión de Galicia  Santiago de Compostela, Spain
  • TF 1  Paris, France  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • TV 1 Napoli  Naples, Italy
  • Unitel  Unterföhring, Germany
  • Vatican Radio Vatican, Italy  weiterlesen blau 2019
  • Yunnan TV  Kunming, China
  • ZDF Mainz, Berlin, Germany
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