Showtools, interview with Juan Manuel Bagato

Juan Manuel Bagato

A couple of months ago, I read a brief report from Juan Manuel Bagato about a new project he had worked on with his company Showtools. Immediately after reading a few paragraphs, I began to think about creating this interview.

Undoubtedly, it is a fully integrated project that does not leave out any details, and that makes full use of the possibilities offered by digital audio networks. In each answer, Juan Manuel does not save on any details, and shares comprehensive information about the features and possibilities of this excellent facility, the first in its category, held in Argentina. What services do Showtools offer?
Juan Manuel Bagato: From the beginning, Showtools was created with the intention to shape a universe of technical-creative possibilities, oriented to innovative solutions in the areas of project engineering, programming and implementation of AVL/IT systems.
Whilst Showtools is a brand, it is at the same time a conceptual design style that seems to be slightly out of reality. We do not follow the fashions of global marketing, nor certain habits of professionals, but we have a constant motivation for evolution and the belief that everything can be made perfect. Each design is taken as “the new challenge.” Somehow it will be an improved version of our previous work.
It is a spirit that constantly moves us, often takes us out of the comfort zone and puts us in unimaginable places. How was the beginning of the work at the Institute Auditorium José Manuel Estrada?
Juan Manuel Bagato: The overall project began in 2007, but only at the end of 2013 did we become aware of the current stage. At that time, we had the first meetings with administrators. The meetings were crucial and positive as they quickly revealed the extent that the project could make use of the most modern AVL/IT technologies.
In the first trimester of 2014, we formalized the AVL engineering stage, and began to work as a team under the sustainability-bioclimatic concept. Arriving at the end of that year, after completion of civil works, installation began. How it sustainability achieved in this project?
Juan Manuel Bagato: The concept of Sustainability-Bioclimatism was the one that gave life to the work. All disciplines involved had to adjust to that concept. The original mentor, Designer and Director, Arq Guillermo Mariano, knew how to communicate and direct the effort towards the primary objective: Sustainability.
Within this context is where the first design for AVL / IT in the country was developed, maintaining full awareness of issues such as: high availability of services; support security for people and property; comfort; accessibility; operational flexibility; energy efficiency; reduced heat sources; less electromagnetic radiation; space saving and weight equipment; reduced maintenance; optimisation of technical resources and scalability technology, among others.
The project sees a multi-purpose space, covering 700m2 with capacity for 400 people seated, 500 standing, built underground (all development takes place here). And, incredibly, it receives natural light from 10am to 5pm thanks to its design. Another unique feature that the specialists have achieved is, for example, passive ventilation; ie. no mechanical systems are used to generate the natural airflow from outside.
I could list many other passive or bioclimatic measures, that together with the special features of the audio, video and lighting systems, minimise power consumption to the point of achieving a building certification in Energy Efficiency Category B, according to standard IRAM 11900.
It is also notable that this work was one of those selected by an international jury from among 80 projects in Latin America to be exposed in the ExpoENCACS 2016: The First National Meeting on City Architecture and Sustainable Construction.

Showtools - Audionetworking

Showtools – Audionetworking What does the audio system offer and what equipment was installed?
Juan Manuel Bagato: We take care of development of the AVL Project engineering and management. The installation was carried out by CB Multimedia. The premise was very clear and demanding: the installation must respect all the provisions of the project and the materials needed to maintain the high quality standard of the detailed equipment.
Currently, the auditorium has an audio system based 100% on Ethernet networks, highly innovative for our country, which stands out for being the first facility in Argentina that integrates DANTE + Q-LAN protocols and CobraNet, which besides high quality audio, provides extreme operational and functional flexibility.
All the audio system is based upon the Q-sys QSC platform. In this case, in a Core 250i processor with large quantity and variety of connections local analog audio, network audio Q-LAN + DANTE, and Ethernet network dedicated to streaming services and control, in addition to control via proprietary and external ports.
For FOH mixing a Yamaha CL1 console is used, integrated via fiber optic with a Yamaha Rio 1608-D Stagebox via Ethernet nodes formed by CISCO switchers. Among other services, the switchers are used for bi-directional audio transport over the entire audio network.
On the other hand, the installation has two digital stations for voice and remote control operations. For this, the Q-Sys PS-1650G units act via Ethernet for sending audio, control and power via PoE. Each one is scheduled according to project requirements for sending voice messages to the different areas and their combinations.
However, the power of the Q-Sys platform also allowed us to access remote control of pre-recorded messages stored in the Core 250i, arranged for safety announcements and other types of calls. These can be commanded manually from mobile devices, a PC, or from a QSC TSC-3 touch panel located in the rack.
In automatic mode, the alarm/evacuation messages are commanded by the Central Fire unit, while the Q-Sys system maintains constant control of the links status.
A suitable design based on networks provides many unconventional tools for professional audio. One is the feasibility of using remote interfaces [A/D-D/A networked] that expand, facilitate and simplify the various types of connections. Therefore, I incorporated into design the Q-Sys I/O-22 interface. We call it the “little magic box”, because it allowed us to solve many situations surrounding connections.
You can think of that unit as a portable mini-Stagebox, which powered by PoE provides 2×2 balanced audio channels, converted to 32bit @ 48Khz over the network. It also has phantom power, a small amplifier enough for a return headset, and a bi-directional RS232 control port that allows you to create control scenes for auxiliary equipment and command them from anywhere on the network.
Moreover, the sound diffusion was solved based on a two-pronged solution, composed of a distribution system in the ceiling designed to achieve a degree of uniformity of coverage (>80% over the entire area), and a FOH system (due to the need to cover different types of presentations).
We arranged the use of BOSE cabinets that meet the EN54 standard for alarm systems, for its placement in the acoustic ceiling. The circuits fed by 70V lines from QSC CX302V amps integrated to Q-Sys system via DataPort, allow transportation of audio, control and telemetry of the amplifier.
The ease of this configuration also allows us to load, into the Q-Sys platform, specific EQ compensation curves for that speaker. Information provided by the manufacturer allows us to maintain linearity in frequency response. In addition, when installing each of the speakers we individually measured, using Smart v7, to verify the correct acoustic phase, frequency response and SPL.
The ceiling system is fully integrated with FOH system. This feature allows you to create special mixes for art and multimedia shows as they generate a harmonious front stereo image, plus a separate  MONO / L+R mix in the ceiling. I believe that, when it’s used creatively, it is the ideal tool for creating spatial effects such as soundscapes.
To achieve the coupling between the two systems, intelligent, automated and sophisticated control resources are used, processed by the Q-Sys Core, applied mainly to EQ, Gain and Delay circuits. For that there is a set of dynamic virtual objects that with extreme precision are automatically adjusted based on the level of ambient noise and variations in temperature and humidity.
Environmental effects can be manually or automatically adjusted using external calibrated sensors. The open architecture of DSP and Q-Sys programming allowed us to write our own lines of code and centralise control integration.

For the FOH system, Renkus Heinz Iconyx ICR-8-II Series and  PN212-SUBR subwoofer systems were specified. They are active systems, with DSP with nonvolatile memory and presets allowing quick and easily performance of configuration changes according to different needs. This system, so far, is also unique in the country.
Each component of the FOH system behaves as an independent unit that is integrated into the system. The network allows access for total control and telemetry. For this, proprietary RHAON software  is used operating under CobraNet. Smart v7 was used in the calibration step.

The concept of sustainability includes comfort, and in this particular sense, thanks to the unique digital tools for orientation and opening of the sound beams [Digitally Steerable], the Iconyx system allowed us to obtain unique solutions.
For example, during some activities it is common that children sit on the floor, very close to the stage. I paid a lot of attention to these situations to avoid high sound pressure levels. Consequently, we calibrate the system to avoid high exposure in that physical region, generating a higher SPL envelope only beyond 10m from the PA. In this way the system does not affect the overall comfort and more importantly, compromise the safety or health, in this case, of the children.

Showtools - Audionetworking

Showtools – Audionetworking Could you tell us what the combination of Q-sys and Dante offers?
Juan Manuel Bagato: Strictly in terms of Audio Networking, we are using the same network infrastructure for transport and audio control protocols, these being Q-LAN + DANTE and CobraNet, coupled with the extensive capabilities of processing and control from Q-Sys. These resources are available to operators, providing highly enabling tools of control management, telemetry and operation of the entire system.
The ease of integration allows us to create special interfaces aimed at each type of application. Thus, a person without high technical skills can make use of the basic functions of the system. Alternatively, experienced technicians can operate from a virtual console, mixing live sound, keeping commands of audio players, reception control from audio streaming [including Internet Radio] and even PGM recording commands all in the same window in Q-Sys.
By integrating these systems, the auditorium gives a valuable feature. In real time, any analog signal, from the DANTE or Q-LAN network, is converted to .mp3, .flac or .wav, for transmission via the Internet. This allows point to point links or broadcasting through external servers.
The system allows transmission and reception of independent stereo signals. Added to this – and although the institution has its own online radio station – is possible to set links with any other radio, broadcasting service or external event to create, for example, shared sessions. To make the system transmit and/or receive audio in multiple formats via the Internet, only the assignment of an IP address is required, in addition to activating functionality. This and other resources such as integration with SIP telephony for audio conference or audio demultiplexer over video IP, are available permanently. Could you share some specific examples of the benefits of the audio system?
Juan Manuel Bagato: A few days after completion of the AVL installation, an event tested the virtues of the system. Indeed, with an operating situation not foreseen in the project; it was the real test!
As a religious educational institute, the authorities decided to hold a Mass in thanksgiving for the completion of the work. Part of the activity would take place in the Auditorium, (remember it is at an sub-floor level), while a second part would take place in the own Chapel of the institute, which is located precisely at the opposite end of the building, on the second floor. This meant the two are about 100m away from each other.
In this situation we had to solve sending video and audio signals from the Chapel, so that attendees located in the Auditorium did not lose any detail. We decided to use the fiber optic infrastructure available to transport both signals. For the image, a camera was setup with an IP video output for screen projection, while the audio captured by the microphone, traveled on Q-LAN through a Q-Sys I/O-22 interface. That signal was processed with delay to achieve the perfect synchro with the video projection, and sent by the DANTE network to the FOH console (Yamaha CL1). Thus, we had full control of the remote interface, plus audio at the FOH console to facilitate the task of mixing to the operator. We achieved a result of such quality that received the best comments. For us, nothing more gratifying than a happy customer!

Showtools - Audionetworking

Showtools – Audionetworking What can you tell us regarding lighting and video?
Juan Manuel Bagato: Both elements were integrated into the system whilst keeping the premises of sustainable design.
Everything was carefully considered because of the limited height and other conditions such as the need to reduce heat generation and particular safety aspects.
Lighting systems were equipped entirely with LED fixtures. Architectural lighting was performed with Philips equipment, for specific purposes, and OSRAM, for general room lighting. Also, we used wallbar RGB type equipment for ambience, and spots with RGB-CMY mixing along with ellipsoidal LED for scenic effects.
In addition to the basic infrastructure available, the venue has dedicated boards for external equipment. Availabile at the 6 surrounding trusses at the stage, they are powered with individual protection, and feature connectivity for control via DMX-512 and dedicated network ports Ethernet Cat6, certificated for additional control via ArtNet, Pathport, sACN and / or RDM protocols. These resources are available across the network, through optical fiber in the FOH and other Ethernet nodes. All this provides an extremely wide integration into almost any current and future lighting control platform, without rewiring.

With respect to video, there were issues to be solved relating to the height limitations and projection distance. So, we use ultra-short throw projectors that facilitate educational and protocol activities, among others, which require interaction with the projection in front of the screen without affecting its image.

Video distribution presents double availability. There is compatibility with HDBaseT 2.0 standard (for this we used structured cabling which is UTP Cat6 certified), and integration through WiFi for multimedia devices’ wireless links. For example, in case of a conference where presenters uses their own equipment, we offer complete freedom of location and/or movement for presentations, without need for any physical connection.
Because it is a multipurpose space, flexibility was a feature we had to adapt. Currently, there is projection equipment with corresponding motorised screens, located at opposite ends of the room to create the possibility of two stages. In addition, the project includes other resources such as multi-screen mapping and interactive digital signage system Q-DSi, from Q-Better, which will be implemented in successive future stages.
Obviously, the integration of these systems are not included as technological virtues, but as to cover an essential human need: to communicate. In this sense, we designed installation to be as open as possible, using the Internet as a link from and to the outside world, whilst keeping IT security levels at a maximum. Local and external video sources (for example via Skype or IPTV) are integrated into the audio system by the same network, to be processed and assigned as needed. I read that, for example, during conferences, it will be possible to access simultaneous translations. Could you tell us how this feature works and what people need to access the translation to their language?
Juan Manuel Bagato: The answer lies in integration. That is why the authorities decided to give rise to the idea that we present to create media that allows to tear down barriers of various kinds, including language.
For this, we use Beyerdinamic equipment, capable of translation by a native language interpreter to three foreign languages. Currently, the system includes 30 beltpack receivers via RF with headphones, from which attendees can select the language and volume. The system still stands out with people with mild hearing disabilities, as it also has individual induction links that allows interaction with headsets compatible with these technologies.
In this case, we have not considered the translation system as an eventual necessity, but as an indispensable condition. Without this, we could not be truly talking about sustainability as the concept itself is based on the integration of people as the foundation.
But this is not the only example of where we have gone a step beyond the traditional. We have incorporated the BYOD [Bring Your Own Device] concept, which accepts and incorporates the use of personal devices in work areas. Thus, attendees will have access to the audio signals of different languages via streaming online. From any mobile device, they can access, via WiFi, local streaming services through a web site that will allow the downloading of the audio from the conference once finalised. This is absolutely innovative in Argentina. The system also offers multitrack audio recording during live presentations. Could you provide more details about this?
Juan Manuel Bagato: The audio system of the venue operates 100% based on networking, facilitating the capture of any audio signal, regardless of protocol, from anywhere on the network. It can achieve this by either capturing from the sending device and from the receiver. But also it’s possible do it from various internal points of the devices that were themselves pre-set in the project. For this, we have four recording modes independent from each other, which can operate simultaneously.
You can record the stereo signal of the FOH desk. In addition, a laptop is dedicated to recording by DANTE Virtual Sound Card; and Nuendo Live is also used for multi-track recording, also via DANTE. Besides this, the current version of Q-Sys Designer v5.0.50 allows the recording of up to 4 independent audio channels in .mp3, .wav .flac formats, within the same Core, simultaneously.
To give a practical example: you could record a mono mix simultaneously in 3 different formats within the Q-Sys Core, and at the same time, you can send a stereo mix to the FOH console where it would be recorded, whilst on the same network the signal would be captured via DANTE Virtual Sound Card on a laptop. Simultaneously, and in a synchronised manner, it could be possible to record the multi-track mixing from a mobile unit located outside of the venue. I believe that this functionality is extremely valuable because, at every stage, from the moment the analog source is captured to its destination recording, only one A/D conversion is done, with the rest remaining entirely within the digital domain.
Using Ethernet nodes provides the ability to interconnect any compatible external platform. Also, you can add additional Stageboxes, if you need them, or any other compatible equipment, without complications, as the facility has a fiber optic link from the auditorium, located in the sub-floor, to the street level. Thus, with a mobile recording unit operating under the AES67 standard, only need 20 meters of UTP cable or fiber optic is required to establish the link with the system.
In the hypothetical case that you would like to use devices under another audio IP protocol, it would not be a problem since there is sufficient space in the network, for example, to support RAVENNA, which operates at sampling frequencies up to 384kHz.
All this flexibility is comparable to that offered by a recording studio or Broadcasting station. But remember, we are talking about a private Auditorium; truly unique in this case.

Fabio García
ZioGiorgio Network

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