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Case Study: Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland

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Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland consists of three main campuses—the Metropolitan Campus, the East Campus, and the West Campus—each up to 20 miles apart from each other. To connect the audio recording, editing, and mix studios at each campus, an Aviom Pro64 A-Net audio network was installed.

Cleveland’s Cuyahoga Community College (known as Tri-C), recently completed construction of its stunning new Center for Creative Arts, designed to house the school’s new advanced creative arts division. The college consists of three main campuses—the Metropolitan Campus (the location of the new building), the East Campus, and the West Campus—each up to 20 miles away from each other. The first phase of the project involved the interconnection of the audio recording studios, audio editing and mix suites, and the black box theater within the 75,000-square-foot Metropolitan Campus structure via an Aviom Pro64 A-Net audio network. The second phase will use A-Net over fiber to establish a realtime link between select East and West Campus buildings and the Center for Creative Arts’ recording studios, further adding to the flexibility of the network. The Aviom Pro64 system allows for students and professors to efficiently share digital audio resources to bring sophisticated audio/video production capabilities to programs over three campuses, thereby unifying the educational mission of the entire school system.

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The college recently constructed a building to house its creative arts division on the Metropolitan Campus. The new facility includes a main recording studio (pictured above) that features an SSL Duality console and an Avid Pro Tools HD system. The new building also offers 83 other Pro Tools systems throughout the production, main tracking, and audio classrooms (pictured here).

The creative arts division covers recording arts and technology, music, jazz studies, theater arts, dance arts, and a new media arts program for digital video and filmmaking, and a television production program located on the West Campus. The Center for Creative Arts building, the linchpin facility for the entire program, is a four-story structure designed by architect Robert P. Madison International. It houses the main recording facility, Studio A, which features an SSL Duality console that can interface with an Avid Pro Tools HD system, a Sony/MCI JH-24 2in. analog tape recorder, and an iZ Technologies Radar V digital audio work­station to allow students to gain experience using some of the different capture formats in use by today’s audio professionals. The main recording space in Studio A is large enough to hold a small orchestra.
The Center for Creative Arts building also features a production control cluster of five different control rooms. Two are traditional recording suites with analog mixing consoles and small associated studio spaces. Two are surround music mixing rooms and one a dedicated mastering room. The facility offers 83 Pro Tools systems, 10 of which are HD systems in the production rooms and main tracking rooms and the rest of which reside in three audio classrooms and edit suites. A very large tiered audio classroom has been constructed as a 5.1 surround suite where each student will be able to have headphone access to current projects.
“This project has been in the works for over a decade,? says Tommy Wiggins, program manager for the recording arts and technology degree program at Cuyahoga. “We have worked very closely with Westlake Reed Leskosky, the design firm for the innovative technology for the project, and the results have changed the way we teach students. For example, the fourth floor is dedicated solely to music and music technology. The studios there fill our goal of allowing our recording arts students to work with the different music department ensembles on a daily basis. This is a dramatic difference for our students as they are recording acoustic music from 8 in the morning to 10 at night every day. This also impacts our music majors because now they have a hands-on understanding of the recording process.?
The wire runs from each studio to its respective console are traditional copper. The cue systems and audio network for the entire facility, however, are connected via the Aviom network and run over Cat-5e cable using Aviom’s A-Net protocol. This provides two benefits: The A-Net infrastructure allows the same audio signals to be shared with other users inside or outside of the Center for Creative Arts building through three Aviom Pro64 networks, and the Aviom A-16II personal mixers used for the cue systems in the recording studios allow the musicians to mix and control their own headphone cue mix. By installing three Aviom sub-networks along with Cat-5 patching, the various network subsystems can be combined in a variety of ways to allow students to work on multiple simultaneous events without compromising signal integrity or requiring complex IT-based programming and maintenance. The three Pro64 sub-networks are used for the core audio distribution. A separate Aviom Pro16 system is dedicated to distributing SMPTE timecode throughout the facility, and second Pro16 system is used for the monitoring and cue systems. The three Pro64 network sub-systems can be combined in virtually unlimited ways by using a Cat-5 patch bay to allow the operators to configure the building for multiple independent uses as needed.
The internal interconnect scheme for the entire building is based around custom production panels that have been installed in just about every room in the facility. Panels were also installed in entryways, hallways, stairways, and the roof. These production panels allow access to multiple formats including tie lines, SMPTE timecode, AES/EBU, fiber, video BNC, Cat-5e, phone lines, and cue systems that are interconnected within the entire facility. A project can be recorded just about anywhere and its source signals sent simultaneously to multiple locations. All the production panels tie back to the central machine room, where the Aviom network’s input modules, hubs, sub-system patching, clock, and dedicated SMPTE timecode network connections are located. All of this uses more than 400,000ft. of installed cable.

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An Aviom network connects the cue systems and audio network for the new facility over Cat-5e using Aviom’s A-Net protocol. This infrastructure allows users inside or outside of the Center for Creative Arts building to share the same audio signals through three Aviom Pro64 networks; the Aviom A-16II personal mixers used for the cue systems in the recording studios allow the musicians to mix and control their own headphone cue mix.

To augment the permanently installed networking infrastructure, the school also has Aviom Pro64 input and output modules and Pro16 monitor system components installed in portable racks, which can be moved to any location in the facility as necessary. Devices can then be connected to the production panels as needed, adding them to the audio network or providing cue mixing and audio I/O.
“An important element of this educational initiative is to give students the chance to learn hands-on how to record and create mixes on a daily basis,? says Mark Baker, technical support manager for Cuyahoga Community College. “The Aviom Pro64 audio network allows the school to implement its curriculum by providing audio distribution throughout the four-story, 75,000-square-foot structure.?
Beyond interconnecting the audio recording studios within the main facility with an Aviom Pro64 network, Tri-C has plans to connect the East and West Campus buildings to the Center for Creative Arts’ recording studios using A-Net over long-distance fiber. This will allow productions taking place on any Tri-C campus to send multichannel audio and timecode back to the Center for Creative Arts for recording and processing with less than 1 millisecond of latency and with no loss of fidelity.
“It was very important to be able to send the highest quality signal from anywhere to anywhere and so we looked at a lot of different ways of moving audio signals around,? says Raymond Kent, CTS, associate AIA, LEED AP, EAVA, associate and director of innovative technology design for Westlake Reed Leskosky, the audiovisual and IT consultant for the project. “Through our research, we found that the Aviom Pro64 system would exactly match our specifications by delivering a low-latency, low-jitter audio signal over extremely long distances while preserving exceptional audio quality. An engineering student in the Center for Creative Arts can actually remote control a mic preamp in the West Campus. Pretty amazing!?
To interconnect the campuses, the system design includes Aviom MH10f merger hubs that each include two ports of fiber connectivity for the network. Each fiber port can be configured with single-mode or multimode fiber-optic SFP modules as needed to tie into existing fiber running between locations. The West Campus, for example, will employ an MH10f that ties into the inter-building fiber run and then into the general West Campus Cat-5e runs for the distribution of A-Net digital audio signals within the building itself. Tri-C owns its internal gigabit fiber network, but the lines going from campus to campus are leased from AT&T. Employing Aviom networking will help to solve the inherent delays associated with a 20-mile run between a performance space and the recording studio, guaranteeing reliable signal transmission and keeping latency under 1 millisecond.
This extensive new install is on the cutting edge of today’s digital audio networking technology and will provide students with a great insight into the future of audio production. By allowing system resources to be used throughout the Center for Creative Arts—and across the multiple Tri-C campuses—more efficiently, the Aviom audio network has enhanced the school’s educational offerings while significantly reducing cost inefficiencies.

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