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Is the Future IP?

Unified Comms, IP, Multicast Protocol, even Wi-Fi or ‘digital multicore’. 10 years ago your average sound engineer would not have a clue as to how to approach networking in the sound environment. Pretty much all ethernet ports used to be used for was updating firmware – if the technology even had such a thing.

Where are we heading?

The technological advances that we’ve seen in the last few years are astounding and the future seems set for some really amazing things. With all the new technology coming out IP protocol is becoming more and more a standard feature in technology. Multicores are being replaced with cat 6 cables. Analogue mixing desks are being replaced with digital ones. Even guitar amplifiers are being replaced by quality modelling software available on you laptop, tablet or phone.

With more and more devices taking up more ports & more bandwidth, AV engineers are having to become more and more up to date with IT technology. The only thing about AV systems are that we don’t tend to do things by half.

I need more!

IPTV is a perfect example – if a little out of what most of you are used to. Recently I’ve been installing IPTV systems round the country. Initially we were looking at providing the IPTV ‘gateway’ only – converting television into multicast streams however, we soon got involved in the IT side of things as well. IPTV uses multicast protocol – which we had to learn to manage in an IT environment. It wasn’t easy – even trained IT guys knew the theory of multicast but the practicality of setting up was very difficult.

It may sound fairly trivial and slightly out of the church AV environment however, the lessons learnt can be applied. High-quality sound reproduction tends to take up a fair chunk of the pie when it comes to the strains on IT networks.

Last Sunday morning I was mixing sound on our digital desk (Yamaha LS9-32). As normal I had the iPad out and was trying to mix using that but for some reason I kept disconnecting. It was a bit infuriating – I’d get to the stage to mix the band’s IEM’s (something that I like to do as it gives the band a bit of real time feedback to their mix) and then the iPad would disconnect.

It was only after that I realised that we had also rigged up the MacBook to the network so that ProPresenter could have been controlled via the iPhone. I’ve not got to the bottom of the problem yet – but when it was just the mixer and the iPad later it seemed to work absolutely fine.

The wi-fi router we use is pretty basic – I think it was one of those free ones you get when you sign up to an ISP for 12 months – but still the thought that we might have used up the entire bandwidth of a small 4-port Wi-Fi router as slightly worrying. Maybe we need to upgrade but bandwidth requirements – but it does ask significant questions about how AV engineers need to view IT details.

Where now?

I could go on and on about the emergence of smaller more powerful devices, SSD memory and OLED displays but for today it’s enough to surmise that IT is becoming part of the AV engineer’s toolbox. We need to make sure we’re comfortable using IT technology otherwise the way in which we do things is going to become obsolete. If we don’t want to get left behind, maybe we need to start adding IT to our skill-set.

Let me know what you think! Are you using IT more and more? Do you find that sometimes the networking side takes the focus away from the worship? Leave a comment and let me know!

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