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Monthly Archives: July 2014

  • Lies my digital video engineer told me.

    (Eugene Johnson joins us today with a great column on "Lies my digital video engineer told me.")

    1) Once the audio signal is digitized, it is perfect, impervious to noise and degradation, much better than an analog signal.

    2) After your digital audio signals are embedded in the video stream, a robust transmission system, it arrives at its destination perfectly. You save on cabling and installation costs; what could be better?

    3) Audio is not as complicated as video, and we are experts at manipulating the video signal and transmitting it. Audio basically just comes along for a free ride.

    This is just a sampling of the comments you run into in the field. So, who needs an audio specialist? Only those with money to burn, or those freakish "golden ears".

    The example scenario to refute these perceptions is to look at the great "unwashed masses" of television or video signal consumers. This group easily outnumbers the TV professional literati a thousand fold. Give them marginal video with pristine audio, and they will by and large continue watching the program. Switch to perfect video and poor audio and ten to one they will switch. The human ear is more discerning than the eye. Audio does not matter? Of course, it does.

    The theatre of the mind works better with good audio and poor or no video, than it does with good video and poor or no audio.

    All audio starts as an analog signal, and at the consumer's ears ends up as an analog signal. Care must be taken at both ends of the conversion, to and from the digital domain, to make these processes transparent. Do not introduce audio artifacts, pick up audible digital sync signals, and do not hit the digital cliff where all audio just stops and disappears. Be mindful that although the signal is digital, basically a squarewave of ones and zeroes, headroom, dynamic range, noise and total harmonic distortion still matter.

    Of course, proper levels must still be maintained. Regulatory bodies worldwide have introduced legislation that dictate that levels shifting program to program, program to advertisements (especially) are not acceptable or desirable to the consuming masses. So, here is another area where our digital audio signals have to be corralled to be considered perfect.

    The tools to control our signals have long existed in the analog domain and one can still easily use these tools by extracting a digitized embedded audio signal from the video steam converting it to analog, processing it in the analog domain, then converting it back to digital before re-embedding it into the video stream. Even typing this is exhausting, and it is not a practical solution. So the audio specialists have had to come up with carefully designed solutions to do all this processing, while remaining in the digital domain.

    With multiple audio signals being embedded in the video stream, currently sixteen channels, it is crucial that the signals are "packaged" properly before embedding. One expects a 5.1 surround sound signal to arrive in the proscribed sequence of L, R, C, Lfe, Ls and Rs so that the surround audio complements the video. If L and R are reversed you lose the spatial context of the video. More alarmingly, if C and Lfe are reversed (a common error) you lose the centre channel, which is generally the dialogue or voice track, and it will not take the consumer very long to switch to another program. All the pristine video in the world will not save the program if this happens.

    So we have audio products designed by audio experts to lead our video brothers out of this morrass.   A to D and D to A converters, processors that control of levels automatically or through operator intervention, channel shuffling or swapping, channel substitution to allow voice tracks to be replaced by another language or to replace a corrupted audio track and more...

    (Simplified journey of some of the steps an audio signal must go through before reaching it's destination.)

    And through it all we need world class audio monitoring to guide the program creators, program distributors and program delivery services, and give them real time analog access to the digital audio programs every step of the way. Yes, we know that it is not as glitzy or glamorous as high quality video. But, without good clean audio, the video is just a silent movie. And even those needed the piano player and captions to engage the viewing public.

     (Thank you for taking the time to explain all this to us, Eugene!)

  • Tool of the Day: Bending Machine (A short journey into the metalwork behind Ward-Beck product packaging)

    In contrast to our last tool of the day, this one is quite large.

    Many of our hall mark Ward-Beck products are encased within metal packaging. The lightweight aluminum we use for this purpose is a lot easier to carry than heavier metal like steel, and affords a degree of protection and durability that plastic casing often cannot.

    However, as is the nature of the beast, the raw metal has to go through a lot of steps before becoming the final packaging that you see in products such as our PODs and AMS monitors.

    Before anything can happen, of course, the packaging design has to be finalized by R & D, and sent off to get cast. Once the metal pieces that make up the packaging arrive, in the various shapes and sizes needed, it is time to get to work. One of the initial processes involves using a bending machine to get these metal pieces into the right shape.

    The tool you see below is a bending machine. Dave, the manager of the Ward-Beck metal shop, was kind enough to take us around the various machines in the metal shop, and show us how this one in particular worked.

    The pieces of metal are fed through the bending machine, and various bending tools are used to twist the metal into the desired shape. For this machine, there is a top tool and a bottom tool inserted into the machine. When the machine is at work, these two tools press together on the metal to bend it. Below, you can two bending tools already inserted into the machine, ready to work their magic. Inset, you can also see some of the different varieties of top and bottom tools we have available for use.

    Here is an animation of the bending machine at work, demonstrated once again by Dave Adams.

    Continue reading

  • RTO-214 - ReTrO support for legacy Ward-Beck Systems console modules

    Ward-Beck Systems has gain control as a reputation.  For over 40 years, WBS has been turning on, off, up, and down audio signals for the television and radio industry.  We have produced thousands of large format mixing consoles and modules, from 1967 up until just last month.  Many of the legacy console modules, have made their way into the music industry.  In 2002, an internet following of the modules and consoles, the Ward-Beck Systems Preservation Societywas created to offer support and documentation to users.  Anthony P. Kuzub, the student behind it all, recently accepted an internship in our design department.  With him around, much of the WBS legacy, documentation, parts and knowledge of the legacy consoles is maintained.   The first product off of his bench is one that offers owners of legacy modules a solution to a common problem: "How do I rack mount these loose modules?" Ward-Beck Systems is excited to announce a new lineup of retro products! Starting with a 2RU rack enclosure for (2) 14" legacy WBS modules. RTO214 - 2ru Rack mount with Ward-Beck Systems M460 microphone pre-amps The RTO-214 Rack Mount Chassis and connector kit for TWO 14" Ward-Beck Systems M46O*, M470*, M521 or similar 14" footprint. 276_29 With studios shrinking in size, and gear filling up the expensive rack space, there has been a pronounced need for a 2RU enclosure. This was originally designed by veteran WBS fabricator Erwin S. for the current lineup of WBS AMS-8 products. The design updates and fabrication are carried forward by Shop Manager and Mechanical Designer Dave Adams. Dave is a master metal smith utilizing the tools that built the modules that WBSps users want to have rack mounted. Dave has been working together with APK to create a stable platform in a 2RU enclosure.  Sold as a DIY flat pack kit with all the pieces you need. The BUM (Back Unit Mount) will be pre-punched for however you decide to wire it. Power options and i/o varieties make for easy design and hookup. 

    Along with a full chassis, the kit also includes:
    (2) 5 pin panel mount Neutrik XLR Female
    (1) 5 pin panel mount Neutrik XLR Male
    (2) 3 Pin Neutrik XLRM chassis mount
    (2) 3 Pin Neutrik XLRF chassis mount
    (2) 3 pin / TRS Combi Jacks chassis mount
    (4) Reclaimed EDAC mating connectors - (New stock Available) Internal hookup wire
    (6) Numbered 2' pieces of Mogami hookup wire
    (4) Cheesehead Module screws
    (1) Set of vinyl labels with related words and numbers for your project 

    RTO214 - Ward-Beck Systems Back Unit Mount - BUM - for rack mounting legacy vintage console Modules*note: unit above is shown with (2) 5 pin female connectors as a mockup.  Recommended wiring is XLRF for power input and XLRM for power output

    To make interconnection easier, a power cable kit is included:
    (1) 5 Pin Neutrik XLR Male
    (1) 5 Pin Neutrik XLR Female
    Wire to build power cable
    Expando for Power cable

    RTO214 - 2ru Rack mount Ward-Beck Systems cable kit We are offering this flat packed kit at,  and encouraging support for customers through the forum.

    Upcoming products that are Bananas: (not ripe for market) - External Power supply - DB25 pre-wired breakouts - DB25 to EDAC connectors for the modules of your choice - RTO-114 (1) 14" L series modules in 1RU - RTO-47 (4) 7" L series modules in 2RU - RTO-27 (2) 7" L series modules in 1RU - RTO-26.5 (2) 6.5" retro 400 series modules in 1RU Pre-orders can be taken, and custom ideas are always welcomed.  Submit your designs today.

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