This article originally appeared in the June 2021 issue of Pro Sound News. Innovations is a monthly column in which different pro audio manufacturers are invited to discuss the thought process behind creating their products of note.
When I was approached by Pro Sound News to compose a manufacturer-focused article on the birth of a new or challenging technology, it immediately struck me just how far we’ve come at Avid with a product concept called “Unified Platform.” As with many concepts in product manufacturing, ideas as broad and sweeping as Unified Platform are often times driven out of necessity, but also fueled by a vision of a better experience for everyone involved—manufacturer, reseller, vendor and, of course, end user. Unified Platform certainly fits that billing.
The first steps were taken with Avid’s acquisition of Euphonix in 2010. The decision was made to continue the development of an upcoming Euphonix hardware concept and deploy it as the core design for Avid mixing consoles. For the first time at the company, a centralized group of engineers and specialists would provide direction for all audio mixing products—recording, live sound and broadcast—all using a common hardware design.
The end result is the S6 line of DAW control surfaces and the S6L line of live sound console systems. The key thing to realize in the S6 and S6L control surfaces is that under the hood, they use the same fader topology, the same switches and assemblies, and the same OLED hardware and interconnection concept, all in a common modular form factor. What results is a unified design process, meaning that the company can design, engineer, manufacture and QC one thing—and then assemble it into different console and system sizes across a broad swath of markets.
This was not a simple process. It’s not hyperbole to state that the future of the Avid’s entire live sound product line was placed squarely in the hands of those of us tasked with transforming a Euphonix hardware design into a VENUE mixing console. I’ll give away the punch line and tell you, it was the most challenging work of my career to date, but what sprang from our approach was truly groundbreaking and transformative not only for Avid, but also for the live sound industry. The live sound eco-system would be fully realized with the emergence of the “VENUE S6L Unified Platform.”
The results speak for themselves. Within 24 months of its launch—less than the traditional time needed to conceive and bring a single mixing product to market—the platform launched five different control surfaces, three different mix engines and multiple I/O offerings that included numerous expansion cards and even the inclusion of the first third-party hardware with the addition of Waves Sound Grid Servers to the Unified Platform menu. The systems also fully embraced open-standard AVB networked audio, allowing 128-track Pro Tools playback and recording for all systems on the platform via simple Ethernet connection.
The benefits of Unified Platform are multi-fold:
For the resellers, upon launch, they immediately have product offerings that span a wide breadth of pricing and capability without having to wait for additional products in the line to trickle out over extended periods of time.
For vendors, they can have incredibly flexible inventory that will have a much longer lifespan, challenging traditional expectations for obsolescence, and which all exists under a single upgrade path for hardware and software.
For end users, they have incredible flexibility in terms of scaling and rescaling their systems, eliminating the concept of console “classes” or “tiers” in that, with Unified Platform, there is zero difference in build quality, sound quality and user interface for hardware and software.
Also, when improvements are made to one product via a software or hardware upgrade, the entire line is improved in one fell swoop, as was recently experienced with our landmark VENUE 7 software release. There’s now a singular path of development as opposed to multiple teams developing multiple tiers or classes of consoles.
The market has responded very positively to the model, with S6L surpassing the original VENUE revenue numbers within just a couple of years in the marketplace. Of course, the final validation for the Unified Platform is in witnessing competing manufacturers adopting the platform concept in their language and their product releases, much as they did with plug-in processing and multi-track recording—all hallmarks of the VENUE legacy. What a ride it has been. Now, what’s next?
Robert Scovill is a multi award-winning concert sound engineer and senior live sound specialist at Avid Technologies.
Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com