Long Distance Production and Performance Made Possible with Dante Domain Manager

PORTLAND, Ore., May 13, 2020 – The annual Innovation In Music conference is an
international music event that brings together researchers and professionals
who are shaping the future of the music industry. The event welcomes academics,
artists, producers, engineers, music industry professionals, and manufacturers
to come together and hear presentations and discussions on a wide range of

The most recent conference was held at
the University of West London’s Ealing Campus and covered a number of topics
including music production, performance and composition, studio technology
innovation, and platforms for music sale, streaming and broadcast, to name a

Dr. Paul Ferguson, Associate Professor of Audio Engineering from Edinburgh Napier University, has been exploring the potential of long-distance creative collaboration over IP networks. This years’ conference keynote was sponsored by Dante licensee, Focusrite Pro, who was very interested in exploring the possibility of using their products and Dante technology over a long distance.

“My area of research for several years
has been in looking at remote music performance and production over high-speed
networks; we’re very fortunate that in the education world, we’re connected by
high-speed networks for research purposes,” said Ferguson. “At Napier, we use
Dante to link studios and resources here on campus, but I always predicted that
local and long-distance collaboration could come together.”

A First-of-its-kind Performance

Dante is the de facto standard for
digital audio networking, and distributes hundreds of uncompressed,
multi-channel digital audio via standard Ethernet networks, with near-zero
latency and perfect synchronization. Dante allows audio, control, and all other
data to coexist effectively on the same network.

At the conference, Dr. Ferguson and
Edinburgh Napier University co-researcher Dr. Dave Hook worked with the London
team to demonstrate a performance featuring a total of eight musicians playing
together. Several musicians were spread out in different spaces around the
University of West London — all using Dante-enabled Focusrite RedNet interfaces
— and one of the musicians was in Edinburgh, Scotland, some 400 miles away.

“As far as we know, this was the first
time that Audinate’s Dante was used to connect performers over a conventional
network of such a distance,” said Dr. Ferguson. “This was a real game-changer
because it demonstrates that studios, education establishments, and performers
ultimately will be able to collaborate over a great distance and use Dante just
as they are now in connecting resources locally.”

The workflow demonstrated at the
Innovation In Music conference has since been successfully repeated between
Edinburgh and Berlin, a distance of more than 1000 miles.

“We’re very excited about this,
especially in terms of what’s happening now with COVID-19, we’re all desperate
to connect,” said Ferguson. “With a Dante network and with Dante Domain Manager
controlling the zones, we know we can now connect education establishments, and
I’m sure studios and production houses will jump on this quickly. This is one
of those things once you know it’s possible, then we’ll get loads of people
doing it.”

Dante Domain Manager is
network management software that enables user authentication, role-based
security, and audit capabilities for Dante networks while allowing seamless
expansion of Dante systems over any network infrastructure. Dante Domain
Manager organizes a network into zones called “domains” that each have
individual access requirements, making it clear and easy to know who can access
any area of the system. All activity is logged, tagged, and date-stamped so
problems can be quickly identified and solved.

“We all know that Dante Domain Manager
allows you to create and manage separate subnets — connecting various types of
studios, workstations, and resources within a facility — but usually within the
same building or campus, perhaps just a few miles away,” said Ferguson.
“But what happens if a studio needs to connect to a broadcaster that’s
geography separated by a great distance? The problem, it turns out, was with

Global Synchronization

Commercial streaming of audio over the
internet is now common and works at long distances, but that type of audio is
unsynchronized, compressed and generally very high latency due to the lack of
reliable timing. Using a long-distance network, Dr. Ferguson realized that with
two new Dante Domain Manager features — support for SMPTE 2110 / AES67
compliant devices in Dante workflows, and support for GPS Synchronization —
would allow for a completely synchronized, lossless system that spanned
hundreds of miles with incredibly low latency.

“This was an excellent advancement
for network audio; basically, we can forget about clock issues. Now each network
subnet can be locked to a GPS satellite clock in its immediate proximity,” said
Ferguson. “Those satellites are all linked and have a common shared time, so
wherever you’re connected and clocked around the globe, it’s effectively the
same world clock. This is a huge and immediate win for universities and
education establishments around the world using Dante networks and Dante Domain
Manager can now connect to and collaborate with other locations within their
education system, or connect with other universities, such as we have.”

GPS synchronization allows for each zone to be governed by its own master clock, keeping the devices at each site locked. With clock limitations overcome, a Dante network can perform over any distance, passing the full bi-directional channel count without a glitch. Full technical details and system diagrams from the December event can be found in the Focusrite case study here.

What About Latency?

Because Dante distributes uncompressed,
multi-channel digital audio with near-zero latency and perfect synchronization,
users experience excellent audio quality with precise time alignment of all

Ferguson’s live performance demonstration, latency was undoubtedly a concern.
Yet, even with a firewall to contend with,
early tests revealed a 9.5ms round-trip time for data packets sent from London
to Edinburgh and back. But with the nature of the university network being
live, it meant that at peak times, the traffic would force this round-trip time
to 15ms or more, with occasional peaks of up to 30ms.

“There’s certainly a trade-off between
acceptable latency for the musicians versus system performance,” said Ferguson.
“We erred on the side of caution and set the buffer on our interfaces to
20ms at each side for a total of 40ms overall, an absolutely usable threshold
for the synth textures we were getting from Edinburgh.”

With the success of the demonstration,
Dr. Ferguson now predicts that long-distance collaboration within education
will flourish, but also sees the capability having logical equivalents for
commercial use.

“Unfortunately, the COVID-19 virus has
brought a new perspective to performing, and for gigging musicians, this GPS
clock capability potentially allows musicians to safely connect and collaborate
over hundreds of miles,” added Ferguson. “What happens when artists want to do
their next album or collaborate with others? Until our work lives return to
normal, this presents an excellent, next-best-thing-to-being-there option. And
even after the ban is lifted, this will be an economical and efficient way to
bring creativity together over great distances.”

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