University of Sydney Launches “X-Lab” with Dante Media Networking

21
Nov 2014
 

Dante network intelligently distributes lecture audio for multiple classes in large “wet lab”

PORTLAND, OR – The University of Sydney in Australia recently unveiled the X-Lab, a 40x20 meter space that houses up to eight classes using advanced live lecture streaming.  Using a multipoint distribution strategy based on a Dante network from Audinate, the IP-based architecture efficiently streams lecture audio to ensure as many as 240 students receive a targeted, immersive, engaging and uninterrupted educational experience.

Similar instructional laboratories previously relied on streaming live lectures to radio headsets, which created usability and safety concerns.  The University of Sydney instead chose to use Dante to stream audio to hyper-directional loudspeakers positioned above each student.  The Dante network delivers ultra-low latency streams over a standard network infrastructure, maintaining signal integrity and quality across the architecture to guarantee exceptional speech intelligibility at all loudspeakers.

“It was essential to digitize audio as quickly as possible from the source – and keep it digitized all the way to the output, which is the amplifier rack driving the loudspeakers,” said Paul Menon, technical manager, audio visual services, information and communication technology at the University of Sydney. “Dante is providing the scalability and modularity we require to achieve these goals, while playing a major role in the noise immunity across the various student benches.”

The university partnered with Sydney-based systems integration firm Fredon Technology to build out the entire AV system, which also includes key video encoding and streaming systems at each workstation.  Both parties agreed that the X-Lab’s success was critically dependent on choosing the right audio technologies, given the complex challenges of managing audio for eight classes in the same lab.  For the networking solution, they wanted to move beyond CobraNet, used elsewhere on campus, to a Layer 3 technology like Dante that can seamlessly integrate a variety of products and support future scalability.

“A Layer 2 protocol with networking limitations was not going to work in the X-Lab for a number of reasons, including channel count, latency and future-proofing,” said Nick Orsatti, general manager, Fredon Technology.  “We very quickly decided that a Dante network was the right option, especially with the wide variety of Dante-enabled products available.”

A Symetrix Radius AEC was specified for digital signal processing, given its higher channel count capacity and built-in support for local echo cancellation of incoming Dante channels.  The Symetrix architecture includes a Radius at eight instructional locations, each feeding to a Radius EDGE that routes Dante audio to a central amplifier rack.  The audio is then distributed to 45 loudspeaker zones, reproducing high-quality lecture audio at each student workstation.

The Dante network extends to instructional communications, where Shure Microflex Wireless microphones establish flexible two-way audio paths between an instructor and an assistant, or between instructors and students. 

Orsatti notes that the Dante network implementation simplified the overall integration process, reducing costs and eliminating the complexity of running wire and cable throughout the lab.  Having worked with the university on many previous projects, the process of integrating Dante for the X-Lab was simple and straightforward.

“Dante enabled the University of Sydney to deliver a unified system that took advantage of the existing network, with an uncomplicated integration based on standard IT principles,” said Orsatti. 

“Dante is a Layer 3 system leveraging the existing network infrastructure, which saves on audio-specific cabling,” added Menon. “The installation of the Dante X-Lab network was fast, cost-effective, and more importantly, delivered a very flexible solution.  It is a dynamically switchable architecture with highly directional sound immersion, and the user experience blows people away.”

Video: Student Workstation, CPC X-Lab at the University of Sydney 

Video: Demonstrator Workstation, CPC X-Lab at the University of Sydney

Case Study for this unique Dante audio networking application in education