Gear Talk: Tools of the Trade Part 1

Welcome to this first week of this round of “Tools of the Trade.” The aim for this series is to talk about a few tools that I have started to use that have changed how I or my team operates on a significant level. Tools that save time, save money, or just create simple solutions to complex problems. One example from the past is Teamviewer. Having that installed our production machines has drastically changed how we operate and dramatically increased our level of support for production machines at our regional campuses. 

This week I want to highlight Dante AVIO. You can get them either as Dante in analog out or vice versa with only a single analog or two in/outs(links: AVIO Output, AVIO Input). You can also get it outfitted to handle 2 bi-directional pairs of AES (link) or USB to Dante (link). That’s all it is. You can either come from Dante and output 2 XLRs or the reverse. As our level of audio networking continues to grow we have an increasing list of ideas of unique and really helpful things we can do with that. I should say however that we are able to do this stuff because our building network has been dramatically improved over the last few years. Where a lot of churches separate their Dante networks from their building networks, we don’t need to. We have a 10 GIG network with a fiber backbone and some great VLAN setups that allow us to run it all on the same switches without issues. But back to the AVIO. 

Over the holidays we really wanted to step up our game in terms of pre-programming as much as possible for the big Christmas show. The big step for us was using timecode in a much more prolific way. The reason was so we could do a bit of programming within our monitor setup to allow for greater flexibility of that engineer but also to record the songs with timecode during the early rehearsals so that lighting could get ahead of the game as soon as the lighting rig was built. We already had Dante VIA running to bring in the audio but we needed a way to get SMPTE timecode recorded as well. To do that, we used the AVIO. Here’s how. Ableton, being our tracks software of choice was a natural fit to be the timecode master. Each song was a new hour and we could then distribute timecode with our audio infrastructure (i.e. Dante) so it could hit both our audio consoles (useful in monitor world mostly, a few use cases in FOH land) and then be broadcast across our Dante network Dante VIA to record timecode, audio (via Dante VIA), click and guide (already on dante). The AVIO comes into play because we need to timecode back out to analog audio to our GrandMA console which only accepts SMPTE via analog audio. When recording or live we are sending the timecode from ableton to the console but when in playback in lighting, all it takes is a simple re-patch so it’s fed from VIA instead. This option wouldn’t be possible without the AVIO or some much more expensive gear. We have also started using them to feed broadcast sources, external rooms, etc because we feed our video gear from dante. The more we use these, the more use cases we find for them, so keep an eye out for a deal, and just pick one up. I guarantee you’ll find something useful for it to do if you’re already invested in Dante. 

They aren’t without hiccups however. We have found them to need restarts from time to time (meaning that you simply unplug the data side and plug it back in). I’m not sure why but if something has changed with the network as a whole, switch rebooting, power cycle, sometimes they simply stop working and need reset despite showing no errors in Dante manager. Since we know this, it isn’t a big deal to us but just something to be aware of. I am currently looking for other reasons they seem to lock up but haven’t found any so far. 

Well that’s it for next week. Next week I’ll be discussing a personal pair of tools that I carry with me everywhere I go that make my life so much easier. Be sure to subscribe at this link to be notified when a new post has been published. As always if you have any questions about what you’ve read, please don’t hesitate to reach out either here, on facebook, or by dropping me a line at daniel@studiostagelive.com. See you next week!

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