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I-Mon AES Revisions

My plans for the I-Mon changed on the first day of the AES in New York, where I was informed that Netflix and possibly Amazon had decided on 9.1.6 as there home cinema format! I decided to include this format in the new I-Mon design. Unfortunately this will put back the release of the I-Mon Analogue immersive Monitoring system to January 2018.

Dolby also informed me that in most installations the Surround bass extension speakers are placed next to the LFE speaker. To simplify installation I decided to provide Surround bass extension via the main LFE output.

What does this imply for the I-Mon design?

The A-Mon frame has 32 inputs and 24 outputs with an extra 8 outputs if External Metering available as an option.

To optimise the use of inputs and outputs I decided to add the extra 4 inputs and outputs required by 9.1.6 to the 7.1.4 design using links on the board and software settings. This allowed the I-Mon to be configured for 9.1.6, 7.1.4 or 7.1.6 using links to assign inputs and outputs.

The metering switching also needs to be enhanced to allow all 16 outputs to be monitored in two banks of 8.

I-Mon Revised specifications for 7.1.4, 9.1.4 and 9.1.6

I-Mon Immersive Monitor Controller

Note. Links are used to switch between Cue Input 3 or T/B input 2 and L/B Mic input 2

Design Considerations for the I-Mon Immersive Audio Monitoring system

The I-Mon is our new 7.1.4 Immersive Audio Monitoring system, based on our existing A-Mon Monitoring system with a number inputs and outputs reassigned. The combination of the I-Mon and TMC-1 is a stand alone Atmos capable system for the smaller studio.

The problem with analogue circuitry is that unlike digital systems the routing is defined by the hardware. The modular design of the A-Mon enabled the I-Mon to be made by redesigning a single board.

I-Mon Specification

Inputs

::

Outputs

Main Input : 7.1.4

Alt Input: 7.1

2 dedicated Stereo inputs

2 or 3 Stereo and/or cue inputs

Stereo AFL input

1 or 2 Talk back inputs

1 or 2 Listen back inputs

Main Output: 7.1.4

Alt Output or Rear Bass Extension: Stereo

Mini Output: Stereo

4 Cue Send Outputs

Stereo Downmix Output

Optional External Meter O/P

Slate Out

You can download a I-Mon/A-Mon/XMon comparison chart  

comparison.pdf

The I-Mon uses the same chassis as the A-Mon and has the same number of inputs, outputs and internal switches, the design of the I-Mon involved some compromises and rethinking,

1) Remove some A-Mon features for listening to 5.1 and 7.1 on Stereo speaker or 7.1 on  5.1 speaker layouts - No Centre speaker, No Rear speakers, No LFE Speaker.

2) Reassign  2 Stereo inputs  as 4 Overhead inputs

3) Reassign 4 of the Alt outputs as 4 Overhead outputs

4) reassign 2 of the Alt outputs as Left and right Surround Bass Extension or Stereo Alt Output.

5) Cue input 1 can reconfigured as 2nd Talkback and 2nd Listen Back inputs.

6) Reassign SLS and H/P metering as Overhead input metering

7) Move Left and Right Metering to after Left and Right Source selection to allow SLS and H/P metering when PFL active

8) Add switching enabling the Cue Inputs be used as stereo inputs

9) Add an External metering output.

10) Add an Ethernet remote control connection

The PCB layout for the new card is now complete, we are now consulting with users before ordering and making the PCB's and metalwork. We welcome your input, especially before we commit the design to hardware!

Delivery for the I-Mon is currently about 6 weeks.

A-Mon External Metering

Currently there are 2 methods with the option for a third if requested

  • Using the 5.1 Output for Metering


Advanced menu 19 is used to select the Alt-Output function, select '5.1 Meters' to use this output for metering.

  • Connect a unused Cue output to Stereo meters

There are 4 cue outputs on the A-Mon, if you have an unused output it can be used to meter the Left and Right down mix by enabling 'Link' in the cue sends page. If you also enable the talk back to the cue output you can check that the talk back level is correct (thanks to Owen Curtin for this suggestion).

  • Modify the 7.1 rear outputs to feed Stereo meters

If your speaker setup is Stereo or 5.1 we can supply a plug in modification kit to route the Left and Right signals to the Rear Outputs. This will require a software switch added to the A-Mon which I am happy to add if/when a customer asks.

Open Sound Control for the TMC-1

After publishing my initial idea's for a tablet interface to the TMC-1 using HTML, one of our users (James Chappell) suggested that I look at TouchOSC. After investigating OSC I have shelved the HTML interface and spent the past week developing an OSC interface.

The main advantage of using OSC is that users can design their own interfaces incorporating only the functions that they need, simplifying the user interface. Multiple pages allow for different applications. OSC applications are available for IOS and Android I have not found any for OSx or Windows.

You can see the two test interfaces I designed below The first includes input selection (user keys), metering, output level control and Level indication. It has been designed fot the TMC-1-Penta which can select between 8 inputs. I was impressed with the meter performance using an old Android tablet.  A nice touch is the battery status indicator

The second screen below is a cue source selection page complete with level controls and enable keys, This design may be used as a template and unused input and output controls deleted.

I have now finished two more test pages and I will be releasing this software for the TMC-1-Penta, -XMon and -AMon later this week - I also found how to label the tabs!

For the TMC-1-Penta only - Note :the latest Penta software has 32 Palette entries instead of 16.

The images above were taken from the design s/w, the Tablet and my phone look the same or better.

TMC-1 with tablet in my workshop - designs for the 3d printed cradle are also available.

Initially I intended  to use OSC-Midi commands but then decided to use direct OSC commands to control the TMC-1, if the controls are named correctly they will connect directly with the TMC-1. The user can define the label names but it is recommended that the TMC-1 updates User Key labels as they can be dependent on the interface (Penta, XMon, A-Mon) and can change when the s/w is updated. All controls are updated when the page is changed, the interface is bidirectional and updated in real time. The meter block uses a multi-fader graphic.

I am currently controlling the TMC-1 from a tablet and phone simultaneously.  The first command on either will update the display tothe current TMC-1 status. The [TMC-1] key is used to re-sync the display without change. To reduce Ethernet traffic I meters are only activated after an initial touch, as not all designs will include meters. Ping should be enabled with a 10 second delay to keep the meters running.

Push keys are made from three elements, the key, the label and the LED for status indication.

The cue routing keys are Toggle buttons that include on/off indication. The meters are made using a multi-fader. SPL indication is simply a Label. TouchOSC is available to download for $5, the design software is free and available for both Mac and PC.

I envisage other stand alone applications the firmware outside of the TMC-1, for example controlling Mic Amp's, GPIO, or Older Midi instruments from tablets or even mobile phones. Next week I will be releasing OSC enabled versions of the TMC-1-Penta/XMon/A-Mon as well as at least two templates.

For those who may wish to check out the beta test software a design package which includes firmware for the TMC-1, 3d designs for a tablet cradle and templates is available here-

TMC1_OSC.zip

TMC-1 web app for Computer,Tablet or Phone (Windows, Mac, Android or iOS)

I have spent the last week developing a web app for the TMC-1, I started because Toshiro Kobayashi from Tac Systems requested that we increase the Pallet size on the TMC-1-Penta, one of his customers needed to select from more that 16 inputs!   In the next software update I have doubled the size of the Pallet allowing a maximum of 34 inputs- Main, Alt and 32 inputs in the Pallet.

I saw a problem for users selecting the inputs from the pallet. Initially I thought to make a computer app as an alternative selection tool but on discussion with Daniel who works with me we decided that a web based app would be more useful. Daniel had mentioned if it was possible to add a tablet interface to the TMC-1 previously some months ago.

To implement the app the TMC-1 becomes a server, allowing one device to be connected. The web page is dynamic and both control the TMC-1 and display the current status. There main problems to implement this on the TMC-1, Memory size and Status indication.

Memory size:
A small DAW has 4 GBytes of memory, the TMC-1 has less than 1 MByte. To send a web page you must first know its length, as page is dynamic the software must first write the page in memory to calculate its length - the memory size determines how much can be displayed.

Status:
The best way to display the status is to use a web socket, however this requires a encrypted handshake and json on the server in this case the TMC-1. I decided that this was too much for the first implementation and to use polling, A new menu allows selection of 8, 4 and 1 second polling  as well as manual update. To reduce the overhead the TMC-1 will reply with no-change message unless a key is depressed.

Here is a screen capture of the output from a TMC-1-Penta

I may change the L/S keys for the TMC-1 User and Function keys, this will allow the user to select their function.

The next Blog entry will detail the Beta test version of the software

   

TMC-1 Ashly ne8800 DSP Monitor Controller Interface

In response to customer requests we have now interfaced the TMC-1 to the Ashley ne8800 DSP processors.

Ashley ne8800

The Ashly ne8800 is an interesting unit, limited by having only 8 inputs and 8 outputs with summing, but unlike the NTP digital router it has DSP on both inputs and outputs - Summing, Equalization, Delay, Crossover and Dynamics. Supplied with Analog in/out as standard  AES/EBU and Dante are available as an option.

The Summing allows  the TMC-1 to implement down mixing, I have included the standard TMC-1 set of formats:

  • Mono Sum

  • Stereo only

  • Stereo Down Mix

  • 5.1 Down Mix from 7.1

  • 5.1 with side surround routed to both side and rear

  • 7.1

  • Atmos (7.1.4 on this implementation).

The first unit shipped with Ashly software is a PD-3 which combines a PD-1 with a TMC-1. The PD-1 is improved by adding a OLed display, ethernet port and the new PD-2 software.

PD-3 Film Monitor Remote

The limited number of inputs and outputs made designing systems with the ne8800 a challenge, however the TMC-1 is able to talk to multiple ne8800's increasing the possibilities.

The initial request was for a 7.1.4 film post production room which used two ne8800's. one for the 7.1 inputs and outputs, the other for the 4 overhead speakers, There were 4 unused inputs and outputs on the second ne8800, by routing the Left and Right outputs from the first ne8800 through the second ne8800 we were able to add a stereo input and a mini stereo output.

The initial design has a fixed configuration but if there are a requests for further systems I will write a system configuration program similar to the TMC-1-Penta2 program that will enable users to define inputs and outputs by their unit and channel number.

Using the AES/EBU and Dante inputs or adding a further ne8800 it is possible to select more inputs. To add Cue Inputs, Cue sends, AFL, talk back and listen back would require a third ne8800. It is possible to make a large ATMOS system from multiple ne8800's all controlled from a single TMC-1.

A-Mon Stereo Down Mix Revisited

Stereo Down Mix

The A-Mon Stereo Down Mix feature is used to monitor 7.1 and 5.1 on a Stereo system or to check how a 5.1 or 7.1 mix will sound in stereo. The A-Mon design allows for variable ratios but they are currently fixed as follows:

When using the Down Mix I realised that because the Solo and Mute were implemented on the outputs it is only possible to Mute/Solo Left or Right total when Down Mix is enabled. To overcome this I re-wrote the firmware on both the TMC-1 and A-Mon so that when Down Mix is enabled the Solo and Mute control the inputs instead of the outputs. 

Conns

The drawback switching solo and mute on the inputs is that this will also change the stereo feed to the cue sends. 

Metering

Stereo display

A new stereo display enabled when Stereo is selected or by menu choice shows Left, Right, Studio L/S feed and Headphone cue outputs.

External Metering

The 5.1 output may now be defined as a Meter output with level adjustment and channel trim.

XPand Metering

Whilst modifying the TMC-1 and A-Mon I also looked at metering from the XPand, whilst not possible when using the XPand with XMon, I have now implemented XPand Metering when using the XPand with A-Mon.

The meters on the TMC-1 will switch from A-Mon to XPand when the Mute or Solo keys are assigned to the XPand Outputs (Repeated depressions of the Mute and Solo keys will switch between speaker banks).  

Next .... 5.1 Down Mix

The current 5.1 key is used to switch the the rear speakers to the side signal when listening to 5.1 material on a 7.1 system. My next task is to add a 5.1 Down-Mix key that will monitor 7.1 on a 5.1 system, this will be more flexible than the current Menu setting.  

OSX Sierra - Drivers and Programs

I am currently receiving a lot of emails from customers about problems with OSX Sierra, I have upgraded my test Mac from El Capitan to Sierra, the original MacLow2p3 driver remained in place and working, I ran the TMC-1 and TMC-1-Penta2 programs without problems. I also ran the Latency test program, here is a screen shot.


As you can see latency is between 1 and 3.5 mSec using this very crude program with a maximum recorded of 7.175 probably when I prepared to make the screen shot!

Note: The driver has moved and is now called AppleUSBFTDI.kext and is located in /System/Library/Extensions
With Sierra Mac have added  System Integrity Protection (rootless), to rename or delete drivers, this needs to be disabled - I did not need to do this when I upgraded the operating system! For more details read the following articles

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/System_Integrity_Protection
https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT204899
https://www.igeeksblog.com/how-to-disable-system-integrity-protection-on-mac/
http://osxdaily.com/2015/10/05/disable-rootless-system-integrity-protection-mac-os-x/

I am not sure why others are having problems that I have not, it could be that some directory names/drivers have changed  and they are present on my upgraded Mac but not on a clean install. Pleae let me know your experiences and I will try to work out what the problem is. When I have some time I will try to make a clean install on my test Mac, but first I have to check that there are no important files that I may lose if I wipe the drive!

Thanks to Jonathan Martins I have added a new pdf file to the USB-422 web page "MacSierra.pdf" with step by step instructions on how to disable the Mac Driver on MacOS Sierra.


New Year updates for the TMC-1

One of the advantages of using the same controller with four different systems is that it new functions can be introduced for one system that are then available for all or some of the other systems. The following updates have been made to the TMC-1 software

All versions - Extra Menu

1) Adding advanced menu 17 to limit the maximum gain of the main output, four settings +20, +12, +6 and 0dB. Note not all versions allow +20dB gain.

Engineers Headphone output

TMC-1-Penta and TMC-1-DMon

Engineers Headphone output allows the engineer to monitor inputs, cue inputs and cue outputs without disturbing the main monitor output. A window has been added to display the current headphone source  The following user keys are provided for the D-Mon Headphone feed:

[Ph Source]

:   

  Access the Phones source selection pages, two pages are available with a [More] and [Less] keys to   switch between the pages.

[Ph Follow]: 

  Headphones follow output selection, (hold down and use knob to adjust phones gain)

  This key also allows you to A/B between the current monitor output and the selected source.

[Phones]

:     

  Headphone Enable, hold down and use knob to adjust gain

[PFL->Ph]

:  

  Route AFL/PFL to Phones

Slate from Talkback Microphones

TMC-1-Penta and TMC-1-AMon 

[Slate] and [SlateX] user keys for Internal and External Slate allow the talkback mic output to be enabled and the level controlled, the outputs can be used as an extra talkback channel or as a source of take information to the DAW.

Cue Send PFL User Keys

TMC-1Penta, TMC-1-DMon and TMC-1-AMon

Cue Output Pre Fade Listen switches

[SLS PFL]

and

[H/P PFL]

 on A-Mon, D-Mon and Penta

[Q2 PFL]

and

[Q3 PFL]

on D-Mon and Penta

Stereo Metering

TMC-1-Penta and TMC-1-AMon

Stereo Meter display option added with 6 meters showing the Main, SLS and H/P cue outputs.

Eight Input Selection and Sum

TMC-1-Penta only

Using a second input selection page the TMC-1- Penta can now select and sum up to 8 inputs. The Main and Aux inputs are displayed on both pages.

Multi-Studio TMC-1-Penta Software

New  TMC-1-Penta resource control software allows multiple TMC-1's to be used with a single DAD/Penta/MTRX unit to be used with up to 4 studios each with their own TMC-1. The original TMC-1-Penta used all of the NTP summing resources for a single studio, the new software allows resources to be assigned to each studio.

Please contact us for beta test versions of the new software

AES70 - CB Electronics to join the OCA Alliance

One of the prime reasons to visit the Los Angeles AES this year was to investigate ethernet control.

For the past 30 years CB have specialised in machine control using the Sony P2 protocol. For some time we have looked for a way forward using Ethernet but could not find a unified control protocol. There is AES67 but it does not define a method by which audio streams are discovered, connected or controlled. This year the AES published AES-70 specification based on the OCA (Open Control Architecture) protocol. AES-70 can be used to control audio streams and networked audio devices.

As a result of our discussions with the OCA Alliance, we felt is important to participate in defining the standard.  CB have started a project to develop applications using AES 70. Initially we are adding AES 70 to the TMC-1 - to enable control of networked inputs and/or outputs as the first stage in developing a networked monitoring system.

For the past 25 years interfacing old and new technologies has been a part of our business model. We will design  similar solutions to integrate AES 70 devices with existing and new technology.

New PD-2 Software for the PD-1

We have released the first version of the new PD-2 software for existing PD-1 users.

The main advantage of the new software is that you can record on up to 128 tracks on one protools or 2x64 tracks two protools. There are now 16 stems each of which can be up to 16 tracks wide. To access the extra stems/tracks the [Assign] key becomes a [Bank] key. To allow for object stems of greater than 16 tracks I am in the process of adding a link command that will allow multiple stems to be linked. Print Master Stems and Linked stems may be placed on the second bank as they do not need to be accessed as often.

The new Mac/Windows app. allows you to define the stem layout. The first version on this software is suitable for users with a single PD-1 and I am working on an new version that will allow users with two PD-1's to define different stem layouts on each PD-1. Here is a screenshot

After showing this to a PD-1 user they suggested an alternative layout which I worked on below

Whilst the traditional layout worked well with track counts up to 48, I can see that the alternative layout fits on a single screen with no scrolling required. When object stems of greater than 16 tracks are added they spill across multiple stems which are generated automatically.

You can download the first version of the Mac/Win app. now, if you decide to try it out you can install the firmware in your PD-1 and use it for about a week before it will demand that you pay for a License! I will issue a revised version of the app with a firmware upgrade before the end of the year.

For the future I am developing the PD-2. This includes a OLED display and Ethernet connection to allow both of the PD-1 serial ports to be dedicated to machine control and the possibility of 192 tracks or 2x128 tracks. A hardware upgrade should be available for existing PD-1 users.

The PD-3 which combines the PD-2 with a TMC-1 is available now

To Fit the PD-3 in an S-6 Module we had to make a compromise and lose the three keys on the left. The PD-2 will include these keys.

New! PD-1 software for Atmos

We will be releasing a new version of the PD-1 software soon that will enable both ports to be used to control DAW's this will allow a single PD-1 to record and monitor up to 128 tracks. Atmos requires 10 channel wide stems for the 9.1 bed, to accommodate this we have changes the [Assign] key to a [Bank] key and changed the way the stems are accessed. The Bank key will allow access up to 16 stems in two banks of 8  each stem can have up to 16 tracks in two banks of 8.

The only drawback is that this will not allow the use of two PD-1's in daisy chain, to accommodate this we are working on new 4 port processor board which will also be available as an upgrade to existing units if there is enough demand.  

TMC-1-XMon/A-Mon RJ45 Breakout Box

A large number of studios are now flood wired with CAT5/CAT5e/CAT6 STP/TP cable. The circuit below is for the optional breakout box to connect the HD-15 on the TMC-1 to a RJ-45

There should be no problem connecting the RS422 control via Ethernet cable, depending on the cable type and cable length it may also be possible to feed the Headphones down the same cable – if not then use a audio cable and connect to the Headphone in socket


Note: The T/B Mic output should be fed via audio cable or possibly a separate STP Cat5e/Cat6cable.

We tested this today in the office and it worked well with RS422 and Headphones in the CAT5 cable and a separate cable for the Talkback mic. I now need to find a much longer RJ45 cable as I only had a 10M cable to test with!


TMC-1v2-win/mac

I am about to release a new version of the TMC-1 configuration program, now that there are four different versions of the TMC-1 (Avid XMon, NTP Penta, Trinnov D-Mon and CB A-Mon) it has become more difficult to keep the TMC-1-win/mac configuration program in sync with the changing User key setup. Two changes were needed to solve this problem!

1) Save user functions by name, the method of saving the settings, the original TMC-1 program saved the settings as the offset in this list, not a problem if you do not change the list order - but this makes problems when adding functions in appropriate order. Saving by name solves this problem.

2) Read the user functions from the TMC-1, instead of keeping and updating a list of the user key functions in the TMC-1 program - read them from the TMC-1, that way the two programs are always in sync!

Two simple changes, like most solutions obvious once you see them!


TMC-1, A-Mon and XPand Manual Updates

I have spent the last two days updating manuals and some web pages with Daniel Gollety our previous French Distributer and my friend of more than 30 years. This was exhausting for both of us but we are happy with the results - especially after updating every screen shot of the TMC-1.

It was important for me to have both an outside proof reader and someone for whom English is not their first language, in English as in most languages there are many different ways of saying the same thing - some are easier to understand than others. It is well known that I do not write the best manuals!

The English versions are now on the web, the French versions will be on the web next week.

Thank You Daniel!