How Blue Note Used Network AV for Remote Jazz Gigs | Industry trends

Currently marking the 40th anniversary of the opening of its first Blue Note jazz club in Greenwich Village, New York, the Blue Note Entertainment Group (BNEG) has been synonymous with live jazz around the world, operating or licensing venues in countries like Brazil, China, Italy and Japan.

Like many other performance-oriented music organizations, it has explored various options for staying active during the pandemic, including hosting live concerts and, more recently, some social distancing in-person events.

But arguably the most innovative of these projects was a series of shows in late June featuring ensembles performing together despite the musicians being located separately, hundreds of miles apart.

It all started with a suggestion from Amit Peleg, founder of design and integration services company AV Peltrix, who had previously worked with BNEG on a pioneering internet concert series at his New York club in the 1990s.

Blue Note Amit Peleg

“I admit that I like to take technology to the next level,” he says. “It’s a lot of hard work, but you can be really excited and inspired by what is being achieved.”

With considerable experience using Audinate’s Dante audio over IP technology, Peleg wanted to explore the notion of remote musical performance with Dante as a basis.

“Music was the driving force here because there is no app that is more time sensitive,” he says, adding that although the idea was born before the pandemic, it turned out to be more a “need for locking”. There has been a lot of talk about whether you can do a show where the musicians are located separately but are able to perform together in real time.

Peleg’s main collaborators at Audinate were platform architect Glenn Dickins and senior technical training manager Patrick Killianey.

“We left with an acceptable latency range and [the knowledge that we would] eliminate any latency that didn’t need to be there. We really needed to run after every millisecond, ”Glenn Dickins, Audinate

“Dante has been used in remote applications, crossing public and private networks,” he recalls. “It had even been used in music production, but the musicians never felt connected. We knew part of this was link latency – we had to find the threshold that was acceptable.

Chasing every millisecond

Before creating a remote network connection, the team started with testing to determine acceptable latency for musicians. Since jazz is music where the interaction between musicians is paramount – and where there is no tradition of using tracks or click guides – it was inevitable that one had to focus precisely on obtaining the lowest possible latency.

Audit Glenn Dickins

In September 2020, BNEG provided three musicians and a venue, Sony Hall in New York, for a test exercise. The musicians were placed in acoustically isolated rooms, connected by a common sound system. They could hear themselves instantly, but using a matrix of delays and mixes, the test leaders adjusted the time they would hear from other musicians. This has proven to be a perfect substitute for remote connection, providing the ability to experiment with different values ​​in a short period of time.

At Amit’s request, the BNEG chose musicians who had never played together before.

“I didn’t want them to fall back on familiar habits to compensate for the latency,” Peleg explained. “I wanted them to play based on what they heard – nothing else. The booking agent chose musicians whose styles overlap, so that they can form a group quickly. And my boy, did they do it! “

The team developed latency ranges labeled green, yellow, and red. Dickins recalls, “We came away with an acceptable latency range and [the knowledge that we would] eliminate any latency that didn’t need to be there. We really needed to run after every millisecond.

With those ranges still somewhat vague in mind, they approached telecom operators with a view to whether the proposed links would work. If the suggested system didn’t meet their latency goals, they just wouldn’t build it; instead, they would keep looking for the right configuration. Peleg Notes: “Research it all took 3 months. “

Audit Patrick Killianey

The design started out as an audio link only for musicians, not least because Dante AV – the AV solution most recently introduced by Audinate – was not available when planning the project began. But Killianey recalls, “As we went along, Dante AV and this remote performance project came to fruition at just the right time. “

In the end, that was Peleg’s call: “We felt comfortable with Dante AV and decided to use it for performances.

Real world preview

Organized over four days at the end of June 2021, the four concerts featured three different ensembles, conducted by Robert Glasper, Lisa Fischer and Maurice Brown. Members of the group were scattered across three locations – New York, Washington DC, and Nashville – with a range of 750 miles. Using both Dante and Dante AV audio networking technologies, Dickins said it was possible to link cities with Dante broadcast latency “between 6.5ms and a hair’s breadth more. of 14 ms ”.

At each site, a sound engineer mixed on a Yamaha console (two PM7s in New York and a single CL5 elsewhere), used in conjunction with pairs of RSio64-D interfaces. Each of them was equipped with a trio of MY16-Dante-AUD2 cards.

Blue Note Dante 2

On the RSio64-D, one Dante port handled the latency remotely, while the other provided locally split signals at a more useful local latency of 0.5ms for recording, intercom, and other audio requirements. . Meanwhile, video was captured with Bolin D220 Dante AV cameras and Patton FPX6000 Dante AV encoders / decoders. Images were shot at 1080p and 30fps, although some live video displays for musicians operated at 720p / 60fps.

As expected, a 1 Gbps Layer 3 shared fiber connection was found to be sufficient to route both audio and video around the three-slot configuration. While the video production required some special adjustments and the support of Audinate’s R&D team, the audio aspect was entirely achieved using solutions already on the market. Killianey notes that the Dante AV products that ship today “would work fine on your local network. For the remote video connection, a few features are being refined for release later this year. “

With the June shows rated as a major success, the project was the subject of a recent webinar featuring all major stakeholders. “There are discussions about future projects in this direction,” says Killianey. “The idea of ​​a classical concert at a distance has been suggested, and we have already spoken with a few organizations to show that it is now a possibility.”

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Willie J. Johnson

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