Vox Media Podcast Network
Vox Media’s portfolio features well-known editorial websites including the Vox news website, New York magazine, The Verge, The Cut, Eater, Vulture, The Strategist, Polygon gaming site and others. The Vox Media Podcast Network has a broad portfolio of podcasts spanning technology, news, pop culture and futurism. Vox Media Studios is the group’s non-fiction production and distribution studio for various TV and streaming partners.
Miles Ewell is the Director of Production Technology for Vox Media. He oversees a team of AV professionals who manage all the internal equipment rental systems of the company, external sub-rental systems, all of the in-house studios, studio infrastructure design and building, and technical consultation across the company.
"A lot of our focus these days is on the podcast group and the long-form studios team because they require a lot of technical support and consultation," said Miles. "But we also support editorial video across the company as well as events systems."
His team has supported the Studios division since it launched a couple of years ago. The Studios division writes and sells shows to providers such as Netflix and Hulu. The team also supports the Vox Media Podcast Network, which works with all of the company's editorial groups and writers to build an extensive catalogue of podcasts. In all cases, the Production Technology team helps design install, and configure the studios and spaces, and then supplies on-going support for the studios as well.
Dante Controller software for routing.
“At the time I started working at Vox Media, I was running live sound for streaming sports shows, and our team was plagued with some challenging analogue audio runs in our Bryant Park studio that were regularly impacting our live streaming work," said Miles. "They had a Yamaha QL5 mixer, which supports Dante networking, but were not using Dante for stage patching. I convinced them to buy a Yamaha RIO Stage Rack, which is also Dante-compatible, and it changed their operations significantly.”
Audinate’s Dante network audio protocol supports system scalability and flexibility. The required number of audio inputs and outputs can be placed wherever they are needed, and the ability to set up redundant connections makes it possible to design a system that will continue running in spite of technical problems. With Dante Controller software running on a PC, RIO Stage Rack users can patch devices on the network in a flexible manner.
New York Facility
When the Vox Media team decided to build a new facility in New York, Miles helped design the audio infrastructure to use Dante as much as possible.
"By using Dante as much as possible, I don't even need to use the full broadcast headphone amps in our podcast studios any longer. I can use the Focusrite RedNet headphone amps just as easily, as they are on the network," said Miles. "Being able to control everything remotely through Dante’s interoperable connection with manufacturers like Focusrite, you could do everything from somewhere else, which is very appealing for us right now."
Dante distributes uncompressed, multi-channel digital media via standard Ethernet networks, the same networks used for home or office data networking, with near-zero latency and synchronisation. Audio, control and all other data can coexist effectively on the same network.
Focusrite RedNet headphone amps are Dante compatible.
"I decided to re-consider our podcast infrastructure across the country. We have a small studio in San Francisco where we use Dante between the console and computer. In Washington DC, we have two podcast studios that both run Yamaha QL1 mixers with RIO Stage Racks, and those are fully integrated. So, I see a lot of opportunity for using Dante," said Miles.
“The multiple-room facilities in both New York and DC always shared a Dante network. I set up our studios in each facility to ensure that they were connected. As a result, we had a primary control room and could run a session with people in each room separately. I was able to do that extremely quickly with our Dante setup."
Latency and Synchronisation
While preserving audio quality, Dante can maintain ultra-low latency and a precise level of synchronisation. As well as flexibility, the Dante user interface and network management make system integration fairly simple, to help users set up and configure complex networks faster and more easily.
"At our Broad Street, New York facility, we have about 24 Dante devices, including RedNet equipment, in our server room to communicate with our comms system and our Skype units," Miles said. "We have quite a few QL consoles throughout the floor, which includes audio suites, live control rooms and podcast control rooms, and we use a lot of Dante AVIO analogue adapters because they're easy to deploy."
Available for analogue input or output, for AES3 and USB conversion, the AVIO Adapters allow users to integrate their legacy audio gear with Dante-connected systems, increasing interoperability, performance and scalability across the audio network.
Vox Media's Polygon website
"The AVIO USB adapters are a good choice for us because, in our podcast studio specifically, we need to interface with people over Skype or Zoom. Having found that laptops running Skype are easier to manage, we use the AVIO adaptors to connect them," said MIles. "As a result, if someone in one room needs to hear the audio from another room, we've already programmed the transmitters and receivers. This arrangement gives us a dedicated, completely separate Dante network, primary and secondary with ports in almost all rooms."
Back into the Studio
Miles and the Vox Media team are focussing now on working past the measures put in place during the pandemic and returning to a more normal level of business and creative interaction. But many lessons have been learned for and from setting up the work-from-home experience, and Miles is planning to use elements of remote connectivity and control in future audio systems and production plans.
"We're looking forward to moving people back into our studios on a more regular basis. I'm taking a close look this year at how we can build really clean, remote-controllable studios," said Miles. "I'm also anticipating an expansion of our use of Dante and seeing how I can have a studio in California controlled by a producer in New York. We should be able to mix and match what we need to make a project happen, and I feel certain that Dante connectivity will play a role in those concepts." www.audinate.com