Tech Focus: Education, Part 2 — Pro-Audio Manufacturers Fill in the Learning Gaps

Pro-audio manufacturers have always offered some basic levels of training on their products and platforms, with the extent of the instruction generally commensurate with the complexity of the technology involved. But, recently, the amount and sophistication of product-centric training has been on the rise. This is due in part to a more cluttered pro-audio market and the level of nuance that comes with a mostly digital market, one in which layers of software hide reams of additional functionality that’s not always intuitively available.

Training has a marketing component: it helps a brand and its products rise a little further above the din of the market. This aspect becomes even more important in broadcast, where large corporations look for platforms with the greatest market penetration to ensure that their freelancers are conversant with whatever capital-equipment investments they make.

But, at a time when broadcast sound barely registers within pro audio’s substantial education infrastructure — there are more than 1,000 schools and programs teaching some level of audio production in North America — the training that equipment manufacturers do is welcome and necessary.

Studer’s Broadcast Academy certification events have taken place periodically at the company’s campus in Northridge, CA, for more than five years, providing training modules for the Vista series of consoles aboard the Soundcraft Studer truck, which also travels to other locations for onsite tutorials. More recently, Studer added an online component, which can go where the 73-ft. truck cannot. Last year, Studer launched a partnership with Phoenix-based Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences: the online Studer Broadcast Academy is a lesson-based training initiative that uses Virtual Vista software to emulate the experience of working on an actual console; the school owns two Vista desks for classroom training.

The online model has proliferated. Lawo caches several dozen how-to and marketing videos on its YouTube training site. Like other manufacturers, the company leverages the huge pro-audio–school infrastructure, making its regional product specialists in audio, video, and networking/control systems available to professional and technical schools, “in support of their efforts to educate and train the next generation of audio operators and engineers,” according to the company’s literature. Attendance at the company’s periodic regional training sessions as well as one-on-one training sessions can be arranged.

In 2013, DiGiCo and its U.S. distributor Group One Ltd launched a series of in-person training seminars, DiGiCo’s Master Series: From Power On to Expert, showcasing the company’s current line of SD Series systems. The training modules focus on live sound, but, this year, the company will add its Broadcast Masters Series, with an agenda to be announced this month.

Calrec is also working on bringing video tutorials on its new Summa console to the Internet this year. In addition, the company has produced two documents, available in print and as a PDF file: Audio Primer and Networking Primer provide an introduction to audio consoles in broadcast and to various types of audio-networking protocols and platforms.

“We have an open-door policy for freelancer training in our California office,” says Dave Letson, director of sales for North America, Calrec, “As long as an operator gets to the office, we will provide free training and access to our demo room for them to play with and become familiar with [the equipment]. We have seen a great turnout, and I estimate that, since the office opened in 2012, we have had between 40 and 50 operators visit.”

Marketing Manager Kevin Emmott adds that Calrec has been offering freelance mixers free, one-day training sessions on its Apollo platform for two years at its offices in London and Manchester, UK, training about 150 operators.

The DTV Audio Group, which introduced its first online training module in 2013 — backed by funding from ESPN/Disney, NBCUniversal, Fox Sports, and Turner Sports, it focused on loudness monitoring and management — brought a second module online in December. This one covers 5.1-surround mixing for broadcast. The online modules are offered without charge, and a skills evaluation done at completion of the course can be used to show potential employers that an applicant has successfully completed it.

According Executive Director Roger Charlesworth, the loudness module has been accessed more than 1,000 times, although it’s too soon to tell how many have accessed the 5.1 tutorial yet. Two new training modules are currently under consideration: on object-based audio and on edit workflows around 5.1 surround sound.

“We’re chipping away at it,” he says of the education challenge for broadcast audio. “Combined with more attention being paid to it in schools and ongoing manufacturing training, education is looking better than it ever has.”