Discussing the Draco tera | S6 from IHSE

Enno Littmann, managing director of IHSE, reveals how the new Draco tera | S6 KVM switch integrates with Avid’s Pro Tools | S6 control surface and streamlines the production workflow.

What is the Draco tera | S6 and how exactly does it fit into the audio production environment?

The Draco tera | S6 is a special version of the Draco tera KVM matrix switch. KVM switches allow operator workstations that consist simply of a keyboard, video and mouse to connect to a distant computer or computer-based editing tool. The special feature about them is that every workstation can connect to every computer through a simple command on the keyboard or control application – under administrator-controlled conditions, of course.

The key benefit to the audio industry is that operators can instantly switch between source devices. This is a task that they have to do regularly during an edit session as they move between tasks and need to access different digital audio workstations. One minute they’ll be working on a particular soundtrack on one Pro Tools system, the next they will be working on another soundtrack on another system. It is the switching between the two that the tera | S6 handles.

It also provides the added benefit in that all the source equipment can be located in a central, environmentally-controlled and secure equipment room far away from the users, with the obvious advantages of a quieter, cooler and less cluttered – and therefore more comfortable – environment. Media assets are more securely held as there is no physical access to USB ports on the computer.

How does the Draco tera | S6 version differ to your standard devices?

It is very similar. The tera | S6 came about because one of our major users in Hollywood had installed full KVM systems in some large post studios and felt that a switching solution that integrated into the Pro Tools | S6 surface would provide their client with immense benefits. Our engineers worked with Avid technical specialists to extend the API and create the direct interface between the S6 surface and the Draco tera. So the switch performs exactly the same as any other Draco tera switch; it’s just the interface to the Pro Tools | S6 that is different.

What are its specific features?

Switching between sources is instantaneous and accomplished by a single soft- or hard-key button press on the S6 Master Touch Module. The console-mounted screens and USB devices follow whichever Pro Tools workstation is selected by the operator. Along with a significant time saving, the switching operation is simple: there are no complicated commands and the process is achieved by the operator whenever they need to. The latest feature is fader-based switching, which gives even greater control and ease of use to operators.

Of course it retains all the administrator control to limit unauthorised accesses, third-party controller integration and redundancy options that the standard tera switch has.

Is it suited to all studios?

The tera | S6 supports as many DAWs as the studio has installed. Every Pro Tools | S6 installation with more than one DAW, or every facility with multiple editing rooms will benefit from it. There are several versions ranging from eight ports to 80 ports and one that has parallel HD-SDI switching for video preview streams.

A single switch is capable of handling all the source systems and all S6 consoles within a facility. So it can all be shared. Editing and mix sessions can be seamlessly moved between stages with minimal setup and turnover times. This is proving to be invaluable to audio facilities. They can assign rooms to meet the workflow, rather than dedicate individual tasks, with the work instantly recalled when a different room is used.

Is there scope for this type of switch beyond the Pro Tools | S6 application?

Yes, absolutely. In fact, this device came about because of a larger Draco tera KVM switch installation. There are numerous examples of the tera switch throughout the broadcast environment around the world, not just in post production facilities, but in TV and radio studios, outside broadcast vans and even in the broadcast centres of large venues, like the Han Show Theatre in China and at Hong Kong Jockey Club’s racetracks. We have installed our largest switches, with 576 non-blocking ports in a single chassis, in major broadcast facilities in the US and UK, providing critical communications throughout the buildings on 24/7 operational status.

Wildfire Sonic Magic in Hollywood has based its whole operation on a fully-centralised production networking around a single 128-port KVM switch. All its mixing, ADR/Foley stages and editing rooms are connected through a fibre backbone and can access over 250 Terabytes of storage and any of the vast range of audio systems. The central KVM switch allows any room to be dynamically assigned to any task.

Wildfire found that one of the significant advantages is the speed of switching: with nine or ten systems in use in just one room available to several operators, even a switching latency of 2-3 seconds can be too great over the course of a day. The instant switching and quality of the Draco tera overcame this, which was also an impressive feature in front of customers.

What has the interest in the market for this device been like?

Aside from the support from Avid, whose sales people and support engineers are actively demonstrating it, as they did at IBC this year, the response is extremely good. Dealers appreciate the benefits and actively promote it to their customers.

And finally, what’s next for it?

We are continuing to work with Avid and our dealers and customers to add additional features. We have a policy of continuous development and will add features as they are developed.