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Tag Archives: education

  • 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!)

  • Throwback Tuesday: Getting Schooled

    How Ward-Beck equipment is helping to educate the broadcast professionals of tomorrow

    Welcome back to Throwback Tuesday! This time, let’s take a brief look at Ward-Beck Systems’ historic partnerships with educational institutions. It’s no secret that technology is evolving at a rate that threatens to leave Moore’s law far behind in the dust. At such a time of change, it is crucial that those hoping to break into the audio and broadcasting industry get practical experience with industry-standard equipment.

    As early as 1981, the Conestoga College of Applied Arts and Technology installed a WBS L2402 console in its Radio & Television Department, where helped many students to develop hand-on experience and gain practical knowledge they can put to good use in the world of professional broadcasting.

    Students pursuing a Master of Fine Arts or Science in Television Production at Brooklyn College are encouraged to make use of the Brooklyn College Television Center, which includes a Ward-Beck console in its armada.

    By using these consoles as part of the curriculum, students can bridge the distance between academic experience and the workplace. Westphal College of Media Arts & Design has Ward-Beck equipment in its recording studio classroom, which is used by students and even recording professionals, truly bridging the divide between education and the industry.  And hey, some of you might remember us talking about the 48x48 Ward-Beck matrix intercom used by ABC to broadcast the Olympics. Well, Algonquin College’s instructional lab has one of these installed in its instructional lab. It might be old but it’s still going pretty darn strong.

    The use of our equipment in institutions of learning is not limited to radio alone. Having installed it in 2008, the University of King’s College School in Halifax makes use of a Ward-Beck console for its Journalism Department.

    The College of Sports Media, which offers an exclusive sports broadcasting course, has a state of the art radio studio which includes a 12-port WBS console.  Stephen Leacock Collegiate Institute has 24-track Ward-Beck console and attached voice-over booth in the audio control room of its Leacock Television Network Studio. There are further Ward-Beck equipment functioning in the studios of various learning institutions such as Mohawk college (see pictures here), Niagara College, Seneca College, Centennial College and Southern Alberta Institute of Technology.  Technology may have moved on, but these old products are working as well as they did in their prime, educating broadcasting students worldwide.

    Practical experience does far more than help students become accustomed to studio production technologies. The use of industry-standard equipment in college studios also helps students to mature as media professionals, and learn the intangible skills required by a broadcasting career, such as professionalism and adaptability, in settings that replicate real life situations. In the end, no textbooks can teach that. Only practical experience can develop such skills, and Ward-Beck Systems is proud to be one of the companies whose equipment has a hand in shaping the media professionals of tomorrow.

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