Bite-Sized Upskilling for Audio-Visual Professionals- IP Networking Fundamentals Part 1

Data networks have been exploding in the Audio-Visual field over the past few years.

You may have heard of the Dante audio networking standard, which allows for fast two-way audio transmission of hundreds of audio signals over a single network cable. This standard can now be found in over 1000 products, including mixing desks by Yamaha, Allen & Heath and DiGiCo.

ACT Lighting’s GrandMA series of consoles and accessories often communicate over MANet, which can send hundreds of commands to thousands of lights per second over the IP network.

Whether Dante, MANet, NDI, Artnet/sACN, Videoconferencing, Webcasts, Internet or Speakers Prep networks, a baseline understanding of IP networks is absolutely necessary in today’s world of Audio-Visual.

The Glossary Basics, Part 1

Ethernet Cable / Network Cable / CAT5 Cable / CAT6 Cable
These are all terms that generally refer to the same thing- the often-blue cable connecting two pieces of networking equipment together.

Network Switch or Network Hub
Network Switches and Hubs allow multiple devices to be connected together, by forwarding data between them.

Hubs work in a similar way to any active splitter, such as a DVI/SDI/HDMI DA, in that they take a data signal in and split it out to each output.

Switches are a little smarter, in that they actually read the data sent to them, and work out which output it needs to be sent to, ignoring the others.

IP Address
Each device on a particular network needs its own unique IP address. This changeable address, along with the device’s unchangeable MAC address, are how two devices select who to talk to on a network.

The IP address should be unique within one network, but not necessarily throughout the world.

For example, a device directly connected to the Internet will have an IP address unique across the entire Internet. A laptop which is only connected to the printer on your desk may only need an IP address unique to those two devices.

MAC Address
A MAC address is a generally-unchangeable address assigned to a particular network device. This number is assigned from the factory.

DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol)
If a network has a DHCP Server, it can automatically provide a newly connected (or re-connected) device with an IP address and other related settings necessary for it to work on the network.

Without this, these settings would have to be manually entered whenever a device moved between networks.

Link-Local Addresses
If a network doesn’t have a DHCP server, and hasn’t been given an IP address manually, there is still one way for devices to try to talk to eachother- by assigning themselves a Link-Local address.. which might look something like:

One example of an Audio-Visual networking protocol that uses this is Dante. All devices on a Dante network must have a link-local address. In this way, basic Dante networks require very little configuration, and do not need a DHCP server.

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