Minnetonka Audio Tools Server
Automated Piece of Mind
Broadcasters and larger post houses have broadly similar specifications for administering and processing content in a file–based environment, and benefit from flexible, resilient and automated processing configured for their particular needs. With one versatile system, AudioTools Server extracts audio essence, processes the data in a wide variety of ways, and reconfigures channel assignments as required prior to repackaging.
AudioTools Server provides:
- Loudness measurement & correction according to current ITU, EBU & ATSC standards and practices, including dialog anchoring with Dialog Intelligence™ Channel mangement & program replacement
- Encoding & decoding using SurCode for Dolby® E, SurCode for Dolby® Pro Logic II & SurCode for Dolby® Digital Plus
- Directly replaces Dolby’s DP600 "program optimizer" hardware, providing a far wider range of functionality
- Sample rate conversion
- Pop, click & dropout detection
- Program correlation & channel detection
- Upmixing and downmixing to both LtRt & LoRo
- Validation, modification, correction & reporting of metadata
- Flagging and quarantine of impaired or unacceptable elements
Agile & Complete
AudioTools Server is sold as an individually configured, turnkey software package, designed to address your specific workflow needs and use cases.
Just as “agile” loudness control is the key to preserving artistic intent, agility is key to accommodating and managing any asset that comes in–house. As a pure software platform running on commodity hardware, AudioTools Server is flexible, customizable, and immune to obsolescence as your workflows and workplace requirements inevitably change.
A highly modular design ensures that AudioTools Server can adjust to future formats and requirements by quickly adding codecs and processing functionality to an existing environment, enabling easy customization of standard workflows. AudioTools Server is composed of three layers, with the foundation being the Server application itself. Running on the server are the AudioTools Server modules that provide wrapping/unwrapping, quality control plus signal measurement, evaluation and processing. The third layer is AudioTools WFC, an optional module that provides command and control according to your business logic and workflow requirements.
AudioTools Server modules can communicate directly with each other, being driven completely by AudioTools Server to achieve automated processing that’s easily integrated into your existing production. Or, they can be managed by AudioTools Server’s workflow controller, AudioTools WFC, which enables chained jobs with more complex, conditional workflows. Via SOAP and XML, AudioTools Server also interfaces directly with your existing DAM, CMS or DBM workflow manager.
Many Workflows entail source files in a format other than linear PCM. Dolby E is an example of a common audio format that must be decoded prior to further action. Video containers are another common format in many workflows, where the audio essence must be extracted from the container before that material can be processed.
For audio within QuickTime or MXF containers, AudioTools Server extracts audio essence without accessing, copying or altering the video essence. This saves time and ensures video integrity.
AudioTools Server can not only decode Dolby E, but it can also distinguish between “pure” linear PCM and PCM carrying a Dolby E payload. This allows your Workflow to automatically handle mixed un–encoded and Dolby E encoded WAV files. AudioTools Server will also detect whether the material is stereo or multichannel and, if surround, which channels are front, center, surround and LFE.
These discrimination operations are all performed on the essence itself since headers or metadata alone cannot be trusted. This small but valuable part of AudioTools Server’s repertoire enables unattended operation in environments where a wide variety of source files are expected.
Measurement & Validation
Once your audio material has been validated, extracted or decoded, it can be processed further. One of the most pressing issues in today’s broadcast environment, program distribution and OTT content management today is assessment and control of perceived audio loudness. AudioTools Server has two measurement modules available, AudioTools Loudness Measurement and Dolby® Media Meter 2. Both modules measure subjective loudness according to the ITU-R BS.1770-1, BS.1770-2,
ATSC A/85:2011a and EBU R 128 standards. Both also feature Dialogue Intelligence™, a patented technology that automatically detects speech in your audio tracks and only then measures loudness.
Whichever module you use, all mandated metrics are supported, including Program Loudness, Maximum Momentary and Maximum Short Term Loudness plus Loudness Range, Average ITU (LKFS), Maximum Sample Peak Loudness and True Peak. The BS.1770-2 specification includes optional and adjustable amplitude gating. AudioTools Server can be specifically configured as an AudioTools Loudness Control Server turnkey package.
After measurement, it’s often necessary to alter audio essence so it conforms to local standards. Many loudness control solutions employ audio processing, left over from NTSC and PAL workflows, that shoehorns your content into a pre–defined loudness envelope. As part of an agile loudness control system as recommended by the ATSC, AudioTools Server can be configured to apply a single gain correction to the entire program, without dynamic range modification or peak limiting, which ensures the best possible fidelity. If correction is applied, AudioTools Server can modify or replace missing metadata to direct the consumer’s decoder to the desired playback gain. It can also validate and correct Dolby Digital and Dolby E metadata and Dolby E framing errors based on a prior measurement step. As a versatile loudness engine for any file–based loudness control strategy, this is only one of several loudness control Workflows that can be realized with AudioTools Loudness Control Server.
For material that already meets predefined parameters, AudioTools Server bypasses any processing and leaves the file untouched. On the other hand, for exceptional material, a multi–band dynamics package can be brought into play, to expand, compress and peak limit as necessary. Alternatively, AudioTools Server can set aside any file that cannot be processed sensibly, so manual intervention can take place.
RePack & ReConfigure
Enterprise–class automation demands more than simple unwrapping and rewrapping. Complete post–processing channel management requires unwrapping, essence manipulation and channel re–configuring prior to rewrap. All are easily accomplished with AudioTools Server’s ability to remap channels and transcode formats as needed. For instance, four stereo pairs can be upmixed to 5.1, an LtRt can be generated, and the resulting 3/2 + 2/0 files can be inserted back into their parent container or, re–encoded with SurCode for Dolby E. Format and file type changes, up/downmixing, channel management, watermarking or any other required audio processes can be inserted between decoding and re–encoding.
Always On The Job
AudioTools Server supports automated, semi–automatic, and manual modes or a combination. For instance, normal operation can be automated, with manual exception handling. Utilizing AFP and SMB protocols, semi–automated operation can be driven by watched folders, while file access can be local or networked. AudioTools Server employs two separate watch folder methods, Watch–for–Content or Watch–for–Job.
With a Content–driven Workflow, files dropped into a Watched Folder are copied to undergo predefined processes or processing chains, and are then output to a specified location. Incoming XML job descriptions power Watch for Job Workflows, where a Watched Folder acts as a clip bin for incoming XML job descriptions, processing directly on shared storage.
Always Up To Date
Got a new Workflow you need to implement? Simple Job setup is easy with AudioTools Server’s Job Wizard, which guides you through the process of creating a novel job or template. For more elaborate Workflows, the optional AudioTools WFC module is available in conjunction with Minnetonka Audio’s professional services team, who can help tailor complex, conditional and adaptive Workflows that address your specific production needs.
Each AudioTools Server is delivered with stock job definitions and Workflows. To completely leverage your investment and utilize every aspect of its flexible and powerful personality, the professional services team will assign a dedcated engineer to adapt your current working methods to an automated, hands–free approach.
Layer 3 — Enhanced Workflows with AudioTools Server
AudioTools WFC is a turnkey, autonomous workflow controller for AudioTools Server, customized to suit your production environment. AudioTools WFC adds decision logic to AudioTools Server, defining more complex and conditional tasks. AudioTools WFC is also used for load balancing and can distribute the workload across multiple AudioTools Server systems.
Command & Control
AudioTools WFC is the command and control option for AudioTools Server, the third layer in the tri–layer ATS architecture. An optional module running on AudioTools Server, AudioTools WFC systematizes the Server, enabling stand–alone operation along with support for load balancing and dynamic reconfiguration of Workflows on the fly. Differing layers of processing and control structure lead to different uses for an AudioTools Server installation, where ATS Jobs are instruments in a Workflow toolbox, and AudioTools WFC combines two or more Jobs into a comprehensive sequence of file and essence processing.
With conditional branching and a range of functional options, AudioTools WFC enables your required Workflows on several levels. Multiple Jobs can be combined into new and novel configurations, since AudioTools WFC manages varied programs in single or multiple containers, channel configurations and file types. Programs can be linear PCM in WAV, BWF or AIFF format, or can be multiplexed within Dolby E, MXF or QuickTime containers. Audio channels within an essence can be reconfigured and/or replaced prior to downmixing, transcoding, re–encoding or re–wrapping. In addition, metadata validation and repair or replacement can be applied, along with loudness measurement and correction. All of this processing is input file–aware, since AudioTools WFC maintains a record of each source file’s state prior to processing.
If your production environment dictates frequent operator intervention, AudioTools WFC can handle your routine tasks, while allowing for exceptions and contingencies. AudioTools WFC can either quarantine exceptional files and continue to process the queue or, can halt a Workflow and idle until the exception is addressed.
Talk SOAP To Me
AudioTools WFC is driven with a powerful XML scripting language tailored to control audio Workflows. Since AudioTools WFC runs on AudioTools Server, SOAP is another service that can be brought into play for interoperation with your existing DBMs and DAMs. This SOA architecture allows AudioTools WFC to be loosely or tightly bound to your other business intelligence. With AudioTools WFC, your output processing can be conditional, recursive and dynamic, adapting to the input files or content as it appears in watched folders. Flexible decisions are made based on your business logic and workplace requirements.
Watched Folder or Web Services
Using a flexible XML specification, AudioTools WFC can execute multiple simultaneous Jobs via Watched Folders or Web Services integration. Workflows can be fully automated with conditional breakpoints for manual intervention based on Workflow parameter conditions. All Workflows can be monitored and controlled remotely via a web browser interface.
In today’s tough business climate, infrastructure upgrades often take a back seat. Seeking a reduction in rework and repetitive tasks while freeing up valuable human resources for more challenging tasks and special projects? Would improved quality, greater uniformity and faster turn around times be valuable? At Minnetonka Audio Software, we do audio. A systems approach to your daily audio processing means both your video–centric equipment and audio experts are freed up to handle the tasks they perform best while your audio workflows are processed by an automated expert system tailor made to your prerequisites.
Manual QC and loudness adjustment have their place in any workflow but lack the predictability, consistency and productivity that only strategic automation can deliver. AudioTools Server is a mature, interoperable problem solver that scales from modest to massive. With the assistance of Minnetonka Audio’s sales and engineering staff to help you define and refine your workflow requirements, a versatile and open AudioTools Server system can free your production personnel to do what they do best: be creative. Contact your local Minnetonka Audio dealer or call direct to find out how easy it is to integrate AudioTools Server into your existing workflows, immediately saving you time and money.