Jim Duvall talks about the audio design process for Columbus, our 4K multi-purpose mobile unit

When Gravity Media (as Gearhouse Broadcast) decided to build Columbus, a 4K truck for the US market, most of the gear was already planned and purchased. Lawo, VSM would be the control system and the Imagine Platinum IP3 for router, but it was the audio that was still undecided. We finally decided on the Lawo mc256 48 fader surface. It just made total sense. I felt the Lawo had more to offer for our needs and would give us the flexibility to grow with the fast-changing world of audio. Of course, the integration with VSM made the decision easier as well. We added VSM panels to the audio room to make things easier for the A1’s. You have the ability to set up routes, AVF’s, CCU mic gains and the multiviews on the monitors with a push of a button. It really gives a lot of control to the A1 without having to ask the EIC for things.

Columbus was built to be a multi-purpose truck, sports one day, entertainment the next day. It’s nice that VSM makes that happen easily, but with the audio, we made the decision to have a large DSP count and enough IO inside and outside the truck to support us for any situation. To handle this we built out the Lawo mc256 core with 7 DSP cards (600 plus channels) and 5 MADI cards with 8 ports on each card, 2 x AES/MADI cards, which gives us 32 AES pairs and 4 MADI ports per card.  To make sure we are ready for the future we are AES67 ready, hence we added a RAVENNA card with 4 ports. On the outside, we have 3 x DALLIS stageboxes with 32 mic/line ins and 32 line outs, and 3 x DirectOut Andiamo 32 line ins & outs. I know this sounds a bit OTT but it’s with good reason. Being in a live environment you need to have redundancy, and the beauty of the Lawo, is that it does for us, whether it’s a DSP, IO card or a cut fiber. So, half of the MADI ports and one DSP card on the mc256 core are set up for redundancy. We could lose a DSP card and/or IO card and the Lawo will do an auto take over.

We did a tough job back in May 2017. 10 days, 7 cities. This was a logistical nightmare as far as cable runs. Most of the cities we were in, there was about 1,500 feet from truck to finish line, while the longest run was 3,000 feet from the truck to the finish line. Plus, all the interconnects between 4 trucks. You basically build the show, go live and then tear it all down in the same day and off to the next city and do it all again. So, using DT’s wasn’t an option due to the long cable run and the precious storage space the DT’s would take up in the truck.  It was an easy decision for us to use TAC fiber for connectivity to the trucks and the runs to the start and finish lines. We would just drop a DALLIS and/or an Andiamo where needed and run a TAC 4 fiber for the main and redundant cards on the both boxes. Easy and never worried about noise on the lines.

I’m happy that we made the decision to buy the Lawo console, and I am looking forward to our next ob wherever the Columbus might take us.