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June 1994: Volume 2, Number 10


The Legacy of Edison: Is There a Future For Audio Recording as We know it?

Guest Speaker... Ken C. Pohlmann

Section Meeting and Annual Year End Social


Pre-meeting "Dutch Treat" dinner, 6:00 pm at a hotdog stand near you,

or the 6th Floor Cafeteria, whichever you prefer.

Phone National Mail Box at (416) 922-8122 before Friday, May 13, 1994, 12 noon

Space is limited to 90 people, and reservations are accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Also note that the Blue Jays are in Town. Parking will be Scarce and Dear.

AES What's Inside

AES This Month's Meeting Preview

With a single turn of a crank, Thomas Edison invented high bandwidth storage and passive solitary entertainment, destroyed a rich family tradition of interactively shared music-making, and changed the world. Today, it can be argued that the importance of his audio invention is diminished as the entertainment, information, communications, and computer industries integrate their technologies to deliver entirely new products and services.

The compact disc, a direct descendent of Edison's first cylinder recording, is a paradigm of this integration; its original function of music storage will soon be eclipsed by the software, database, and video information increasingly crowding its pit track.

As audio engineers, the keepers of Edison's legacy, can we accommodate such integration and maintain audio recording as a unique field of study?

Or is Edisonian audio-only recording dead, destined to be roadkill along the information superhighway?

Ken Pohlmann is a professor of music and director of the music engineering programs at the University of Miami. He has authored three books on digital audio topics, is a member of the Board of Governors, and received the Audio Engineering Society's Fellowship award for his work. He is currently the AES Eastern Region Vice President.

He is technical editor of Car Stereo Review, contributing editor of Stereo Review, and technical editor of Mix Magazine.

In his spare time, he rides large displacement motorcycles.

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AES Last Month's Meeting Review

About 50 AES members and guests attended the May meeting of the Toronto AES. The location was the CBC Broadcasting Centre and the topic was Neve's Capricorn console.

Nick Brown, who headed up the automation software development for the Capricorn, was on hand to give some historical and technical background on the project. Nick first joined Neve to work on the DSP1. This was a completely assignable digital console with very few controllers. Much of what the Capricorn is today grew out of the advantages and limitations of the DSP1.

In classic British understatement, Nick said that the DSP1 "did not have a great interface". A console operator needs to be able to find controls always in the same place, so the Capricorn is laid out more like a traditional console. Immediate access to the controls is required so a Capricorn operator need press no more than two buttons to reach any control on the console.

For further ease of use a graphic user interface is employed on the computer. For most functions however the computer is not required and the user can go directly to the console.

Of course, the "console" is merely a control surface; no audio passes through it. Audio is handled in the DSP rack. Nick went over the basic DSP architecture. I/O cards get audio in and out of the system. Fortunately, the MADI standard came along about the time the Capricorn was being developed. Both copper and fiber optic versions of MADI are supported.

The storage node includes a 700 meg hard drive for the software, console configurations, and automation. There is also an optical drive for backing up and easily transporting automation data. (A floppy disc drive would have insufficient storage capacity for the amount of data generated by the automation).

Nick showed us a densely populated dynamics DSP card. It uses RISC processors operating at 40 MHz. Neve developed their own ASIC chip set to meet the specialized audio demands of the Capricorn.

In developing the Capricorn, Neve saw a market for a console that could be complete automated. Thus the automation is an integral part of the system with automation local to each card.

Nick explained that doing DSP according to textbook theory results in a harsh, unpleasant sound. Neve's own V-series console are widely respected in the industry, so a team of mathematicians analyzed exactly its characteristics so that this console's processing were modelled after the V-series.

The Capricorn handles internal processing with a 32 bit word length. Audio can be output at a wordlength appropriate to the storage medium. TPDF dither is used.

At the height of the project 60 engineers were involved, about 25 of whom were writing software.

After many questions for Nick, the attendees split into two groups to see the console in action. Doug Doctor, a Recording Engineer at CBC Radio, demonstrated the console in Studio 211 while Glenn Specht, Technical Support for Neve Canada, which distributes the Neve concole, and Johanne Anka, Recording Engineer for CBC Drama, were at the console in Studio 210.

Complete recall and automation of everything on the desk sounds amazing, but seeing it happen allows the full implications of this technology to sink in. The console operator can walk back into the studio any time after the first session and within seconds be back to exactly where he/she left off: same levels, pans, EQ, dynamics processing, mic pre-gain, channel assignments and labelling...everything. This functionality reaps many benefits in a tightly-scheduled facility.

Processing for individual channels can be assigned with the computer. Clicking on, for example, EQ, turns the monitor's cursor into a patchcord. Clicking anywhere in the signal path pre- or post- fader (or any other processing already selected) patches that EQ into the channel at that position. Changes to the "patching" and the order of processing can be made in real time and are glitch-free.

All basic controls for each channel are physically located on each strip. For detailed access to parameters, the operator uses the centrally located control surface or golden strip. The complete status of every strip on the console can be verified and updated from this area: an operator can do an entire mix without moving from the ideal stereo position.

Our thanks to Nick, Glenn, Johanne and Doug for a very interesting and informative evening with this exciting new technology.

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AES Swan Song

by Chairman Tom Shevlin, P.Eng.

My year as Chairman of the Toronto Section of the AES ends in mid-June, and our Right Honourable Editor has asked me to reflect on my term in office. A lot has happened, so here goes...

While the committee in general is often considered an inefficient way of getting things done, I think at least the Toronto Section committee has been effective indeed. This is a group of pleasant and agreeable people who seem to be able to pull together to accomplish just about anything they can dream up. It is a cliche, though quite true, to say that these are people who manage to devote a great deal of their time and energy to the organization in spite of very busy personal and professional lives. I often marvel at the travel distances some of our out-of-town committee members manage to put in, while doing as much or more than the downtowners. The military slogan "Be all you can be" comes to mind...

I would like to send a large bouquet to the employers of the committee members. We have all tried their patience in a thousand ways this year. Thank you for the use of the phones, the fax machines, the photocopiers, the time. Committee members always seem to be dragging themselves out of intense overtime projects to make it to meetings. You, the employers, have done your part for the furthering of audio knowledge, and the membership is grateful indeed.

The activities of local sections of the AES would not be possible without the generosity of the program presenters. Our speakers are normally paid expenses alone, and in some cases are fully sponsored by their companies. The variety of presentations this year was quite wide. We had facility tours such as the fascinating Princess of Wales Theatre, as well as our invasion en masse of the CBC Broadcasting Centre. Product presentations, normally the mainstay of our programs, included digital consoles, only a dream not long ago, at both ends of the price spectrum. An unforgettable session for those who gave up the baseball playoffs was our evening with Mr. Rupert Neve sharing his vast experience. We shared with Los Angeles, New York and others the opportunity to see first-hand the three-ring circus known as GroundView, a seminar on grounding and shielding problems that has already made "the pin 1 problem" the buzzword of the industry. The sound reinforcement crowd partook of several sessions on new developments in that area. All in all, we tried hard to have something for everyone in pro audio.

One of the best aspects of my experience with the Toronto Section has been the opportunity to meet a lot of people in the industry, not only in Committee meetings and the international Conventions, but also at the local Section meetings, where I think sometimes that the coffee breaks and the apres- presentation times make for some of the best industry communication around. A career counsellor recently told me that this makes for an almost ideal form of personal networking.

Something that has created a great deal of excitement both within the Section, as well as in the AES in general, is the development of our Toronto Section Bulletin as something far beyond the simple meeting notice of former times. We all owe Earl McCluskie a vote of thanks for spearheading this fine project. A number of local members with writing, editing, and desktop publishing skills are now coming to the fore in an effort to help him take our newsletter to an ever higher plane.

The members of the committee are constantly trying to serve the needs of the membership, particularly in the tricky area of balancing the presentation of theoretical developments versus practical applications. Your feedback is always appreciated, and suggestions of possible program resources even more.

I wish the new Executive the best of luck in making the years to come better yet. I've tried to do my best, and I have to admit I have had a ball in the process.

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AES What's New

Multimedia is one of Canada's largest international communications event. Topics included CD ROM, Virtual reality, photography, graphic design and digital imaging and much more. Over 15,000 visitors from around the globe attended.

Congrats and good luck, Janine!

If you hear of anything that you think would be of interest to the AES membership, call Patricia Carr at SoundCraft.

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AES Classifieds

24 Track Sound Studio For Sale Downtown Toronto, established client base, Equipped for music recording, automated mixdown and audio post production for video (4 machine SMPTE lock) Call (416) 868-0713 for details.

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Logo Copyright 1994, Audio Engineering Society Toronto Section Bulletin

Articles may be used with the Author's Permission. Contact the Bulletin Editor: earlm@hookup.net

Editor: Earl McCluskie Assistant Editor: Anne Reynolds Layout Editor: Lee White

The Bulletin is prepared in print by Lee White, and on Horizons and the Internet by Earl McCluskie.