Audio Networks for TV Shows, Part 1

Viewers of the steel cage matches on The Ultimate Fighter TV show may not be thinking about audio networking, but that's what brings revved up sound from the crowd, the fighters and the announcers. F 6/14/2010 8:00 AM Eastern

Audio Networks for TV Shows, Part 1

Jun 14, 2010 12:00 PM

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Viewers of the steel cage matches on The Ultimate Fighter TV show may not be thinking about audio networking, but that's what brings revved up sound from the crowd, the fighters and the announcers. Fernando Delgado of Stickman Sound in Las Vegas takes us backstage for audio networking to go with RockNet.

Fernando, thanks for being with me here on the Networked AV podcast, all the way from Las Vegas. You're the owner of Stickman Sound, and how did you come up with that name?
Fernando Delgado:
The name was actually my son's idea; he just drew a picture of what I did for work, which was flying the boom pole a lot of the times, so Stickman Sound was born, I guess. [Timestamp: 1:08]

And how long has that company been around? What all do you do there?
Let's see, I guess it's been about 10 years I've been freelance. Didn't really plan on having a company, necessarily; I just fell into it. I have a bit of a obsession with equipment so that obsession has turned into a business. It's great. [Timestamp: 1:27]

And what you're doing in this particular application is using RockNet for audio networking. Now I think I've done one podcast on RockNet before, but just to refresh my memory, what's the advantage of using RockNet in this application where you're doing a couple of TV shows with it?
For me, the biggest benefit to RockNet is it's simply a network, and the beauty of it is the system itself has tons of different possibilities in terms of routing. For what I primarily do, we have to provide audio to a lot of different places so that's why we went with RockNet opposed to any other type of system. It's just a network. It's simple, it's easy and sounds good. It works in just about every application for just about every show that we do. [Timestamp: 2:12]

And you're using this for, I believe, some of the more well-known TV shows are Ultimate Fighter—lots of action on that one—and you're also doing TLC's Ultimate Cake Off.
Yes to both.

Well, one advantage I know of about RockNet is that it has a fairly low latency figure because the packet structure is designed strictly for audio transport rather than things of a more Ethernet 802.3-compliant nature.
Yeah, it's on a ring topology, it's pretty simple. You run two Cat-5s, two pieces of Cat-5, to each device and you're done so in terms of setup; it's simple. What we do with our equipment, a lot of times we are putting our RockNet input boxes into attics and stuff like that so it's—there are a lot of closet spaces, attics, stuff like, small spaces. So it's small, and we haven't experienced any problems with latency whatsoever, regardless of how big the system is or how much cable we run. [Timestamp: 3:11]

OK, and you actually don't need a computer or any kind of a software application to set that up. I mean, it can be done just on the front-panel controls of the hardware units.
Yes. I do use the software because a lot of what I am doing is duplicating audio. A lot of the patching is similar from one device to the other, so using the software makes it very, very simple. But yeah, if you need to just throw up the system real quick, you can just plug in your hardware, dial it up, and go. No problem. [Timestamp: 3:41]

Take me through a little of that, Fernando. You've gotten into a place where you're doing a temporary remote setup, you've got the hardware in, and you've made the physical connections with Cat-5. Now how do you setup the RockNet hardware units?
Well, once everything is set up, once I have all of my signal patched and I am good to go. A lot of what we do is in multiple locations in one day, so we're having to break down our equipment, put it on a truck, and move it quickly. A lot of times, we have mobile carts that we move the gear with, and RockNet's great because we can literally just put it in a rolling rack, drop it just about anywhere. As long as I have power, I am good, and the system fires up just as quickly as it takes to boot up one of the consoles. [Timestamp: 4:25]

And from there, it is just a matter of setting some hardware IDs on the LED readouts right on the front panel of each hardware unit. Is that right?
Everything has an LED and on the Yamaha cards, which I use a lot of, it's just a little—all you need is a tweaker to set the ID on it. And then the I/O boxes, it's just a set of buttons. [Timestamp: 4:47]

And that's the Yamaha RN.141.MY cards that you just slide into the Yamaha console slots?

So you just set some rotary switches with the device numbers on the LED readouts and you're all set to go after that.
That's it. After that, it's plug and play. It doesn't matter how many times you turn it on or power it off; you're good to go. [Timestamp: 5:06]

They talk about using "quads" on the RockNet network. What are the quads and how does that work?
I would say that's probably the one goofy side to RockNet is the way the inputs and outputs are set up. Pretty much, once you get the terminology, it's very simple. Quads on all of the physical input boxes, it's just that: a bank of four channels. And that's how basically you can set up your device, based on quads and what quad is where or whatever within the network. You have to see the software to understand it, but once you see it, it's very, very simple. [Timestamp: 5:42]

And for mixing, you're using the Yamaha DM2000 boards.
For Ultimate Fighter, I am using—it's two separate systems, and each system is comprised of a DM2000, which I use as my recording console. It outputs to my multitrack systems. And then I am also using two LS9 consoles and an O1V. I put those in the producers' control room, and I feed all of my audio via RockNet to the producers so that they can hear everything that they need to hear. [Timestamp: 6:17]

Audio Networks for TV Shows, Part 1

Jun 14, 2010 12:00 PM

OK, take me through the setup for Ultimate Fighter. I have seen the show a couple of times, and one thing is for sure: You don't want anything that breaks easily anywhere near what I guess you would call the performing area.
Yeah, the setup itself is—it's quite basic. We have microphones placed throughout the gym and the house that the fighters live in during the taping. And we bring all of those sources into RockNet, and then I use the LS9s and the O1Vs as individual producers stations. Then I feed every single microphone—whether it's a surveillance microphone that's planted within the property or a personal microphone that the cast members are wearing. In addition to that, we also feed camera return off of our digital microwave system so that the producers can hear what our ENG mixers are mixing. We bring all of those sources into RockNet, and then I distribute them in the producers' control room so they can hear every single audio source that we have through those three consoles. [Timestamp: 7:24]

So they don't have to be patching anything; every source they need is available everywhere.
That's the beautiful thing about RockNet is the signal doesn't have to necessarily come from me. Where before, we would have to have a rack of DAs and a lot of copper to achieve essentially the same thing. I am programming one LS9. and then I am copying and pasting that scene essentially into their other consoles and RockNet. For this application is essentially working as a gigantic DA for me. I take my feed, and I record what I need to record. I drop whatever the producers need to listen to into those LS9s, so I've got 64 faders for them to listen to via the two RockNet carts in the back. And then I have a station for an executive producer—he has the O1V. I wanted to give him a smaller footprint; I didn't want to put a big 32-channel mixer in front of him. So he has an O1V, and I have that set up so that all of the important stuff is on the top layer for him but everything is coming in via RockNet. [Timestamp: 8:29]

And I guess you've got the effects mics and all that kind of stuff? I mean these guys are duking it out in the sort of steel cage environment around the ring?
Yes, and all of those microphones—I bring those to me. And during the fights, I have two channels set up on the executive producers' station that just says "program mix." So everybody in the control room can bring everything down except for the program mix, and during the fight they'll hear my program mix. [Timestamp: 8:55]

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Audio Networks for TV Shows, Part 2
Screaming chefs and tumbling 500lb. cakes might seem an odd mix with the audio networking, but the mayhem in the kitchen on TLC's Ultimate Cake Off is captured by Stickman Sound with RockNet. Fernando Delgado takes us through a day of taping this show...

On the RockNet 101 input boxes you actually have, I believe, it's the status of each channel with three LED's with things like mute, signal presence, clip, and so on.
Yeah, they're great. There's a signal light, a clip light, 48 bulbs, and a mute light. [Timestamp: 9:12]

And you can remote-control all of the mic preamps and so forth from the Yamaha board through the MY cards.
Yes, it's great. The 101 boxes are great because (a) they don't get hot, so I can put them in places like a hot attic or a closet with my wireless rack. And it's small and compact, and you can put them just about anywhere just because of the size. They're great. And then having remote head amp controllers—fantastic. I assigned my DM2000s as the head amp control, and I set all the producer consoles to be the slave so they can't mess with anything. [Timestamp: 9:52]

And what do you do for power on those? If you have a power outage, do they come right back up when you get the power restored?
Yes, I've never had to go back and re-patch something within RockNet because of a power loss. [Timestamp: 10:03]

Well, that sure helps.
Yeah, it's great. It really is.

Because with doing remotes and stuff, you never know about the power.
That's true. And also on the back of the 101 boxes, it has a 4-pin—it's 24V from what I understand. I didn't look into it that much, but we're going to try to come up with a battery system that'll support it that way if we do lose power during prodcution, we can keep rolling. [Timestamp: 10:25]

All right, Fernando Delgado of Stickman Sound, talking about using a RockNet on Ultimate Fighter and in part two we'll go behind the technical scenes of TLC's Ultimate Cake Off and we'll see how you do the set up on that. Thanks for being here for part one.

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