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Governors State University Regulates Multichannel Audio with Dante

As a four-year public university offering 64 degree programs to more than 5,500 students, Governors State University (GSU), in University Park, IL, has an intensive video mission that encompasses producing thousands of hours of video for media programs and video libraries on behalf of such high-profile publishers as the American Psychological Association. 

As a four-year public university offering 64 degree programs to more than 5,500 students, Governors State University (GSU), in University Park, IL, has an intensive video mission that encompasses producing thousands of hours of video for media programs and video libraries on behalf of such high-profile publishers as the American Psychological Association.

GSU faculty and students work together to develop a wide range of educational and training programs, including a media-based curriculum that is used across the U.S. and Canada to train foster and adoptive parents.

The GSU media department also produces all of the video needed to fill their own local Comcast cable television channel, and support their academic curriculum and special video programs, including stage shows presented by GSU’s Center for the Performing Arts, and more.

The Challenge

In light of its demanding video initiatives, GSU found that its need to produce multiple channels of digital audio exceeded the capabilities of its traditional audio routing infrastructure.  

At the time, GSU’s facilities—including two TV studios, a central control room and ProTools audio suite—utilized a house video/audio router that transported multiple layers of analog and AES digital audio over fiber, sometimes using the MADI protocol.

While they could embed digital audio within video signals for streamlined distribution, this strategy would not solve the need to route multiple channels of uncompressed digital audio signals for production.

Due to its complexity, this standard audio router and heavy cabling was time-consuming and expensive to set up, modify and troubleshoot, often requiring the assistance of skilled engineers. Though this stifled productivity, the budget precluded hiring more personnel.

“We were faced with the growing complexities of accommodating more multichannel audio in our video productions,” said Charles Nolley, vice president of media marketing and communications at GSU. “It became increasingly difficult to route multiple levels of audio through a traditional routing infrastructure, and the challenges of managing audio from remote production locations across campus were cumbersome and time consuming.”

The time had come to find a flexible, scalable, cost-efficient solution that would enable GSU to move multiple channels of production audio from their many campus halls and venues.

The Solution

While Nolley found most of the audio networking systems on the market to be complex, finicky and hampered by latency issues, one stood out as a viable solution: Dante Audio over IP Networking by Audinate. With Dante,  the GSU video operation now has the flexibility, scalability, low latency, and ease of use it requires to grow and thrive.

With its intuitive software-based Dante Controller, one does not need to be an IT expert to configure a network capable of transporting multiple channels of exceptional quality audio. And rather than having to run heavy “snakes” and complex, costly hardware, Dante uses cost-effective, off-the-shelf industry standard switches and Cat-5/6 Ethernet cabling.

As a result, GSU’s production technicians installed their own new Dante network with minimal labor—using their existing campus-wide, high-performance fiber network—in just one week, compared to the lengthy process that an upgrade of their legacy routing infrastructure would have required.

Since more than 300 vendors have licensed and incorporated the Dante protocol within their own equipment, GSU was able to mix and match third-party Dante-enabled systems, including such brands as Focusrite, Shure, Studio Technologies, Symetrix and Yamaha.

Key components deployed around the GSU campus for Dante connectivity include:  a Yamaha CL5 digital audio mixer and DSPs, Shure ULX-D and Microflex wireless transmission systems for wireless microphone inputs, and Focusrite RedNet 3 and Studio Technologies interface devices. The Dante Audio over IP network also provides seamless connectivity of IFBs, intercoms, in-ear monitors, audio conferencing and other communications systems, which promotes tighter, more collaborative production.

Benefits and Savings

Today, GSU’s Dante network supports the distribution of more than 1,000 audio channels between its TV studios, control room, the Performing Arts Center, and the sports facilities as well as the numerous campus halls and educational buildings. Besides basing productions in its TV studios, GSU’s media team can also produce video at remote locations that can be switched in the central control room with no loss of audio quality and with very low latency.

Another example of GSU’s newfound production flexibility is the ability to bring back all of the discreet audio sources from a show at the Center for the Performing Arts to the control room, along with the video. Rather than being limited to using the front of house audio mix, they can now do a completely new audio remix.

“With Dante, the audio is always clean, and we never have to worry about maintaining tight sync across the network for live shows and other productions that demand low latency,” Nolley said.

Dante has substantially exceeded GSU’s expectations for scalability, enabling them to do more than they originally planned or envisioned. For example, the power and flexibility of Dante prompted them to implement a separate Dante network exclusively in new nursing labs in GSU’s College of Health and Human Services to improve nurse training. Dante now enables professors to monitor multiple nurse/patient interactions remotely and communicate privately with the nurse trainees via wireless in-ear monitors.

“The longer we’ve had Dante, the more we have realized how much more we can do with the technology. We did not envision extending our intercom and IFB systems for new theater and learning applications. But it’s so easy to use that we now have students configuring and running setups across the campus by themselves,” Nolley added. Students can operate every aspect of the network, and conveniently store and recall very complex configurations to return the system to prior settings.

“Dante has enriched the education of our students enormously because they are now very empowered to quickly understand how to use this technology across many applications. That simply wasn’t possible before.”

The Bottom Line

With its Dante backbone, GSU has realized significant cost savings, time-and-labor savings, and operational advantages, including:

  • User-friendly operation that doesn’t require high-level engineering skills
  • Seamless integration between Dante compatible third-party products
  • Rapid deployment, with easy installation and set-up
  • Very low latency
  • Operational cost savings, especially when installing and configuring the system
  • Highly flexible configurability and scalability
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