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Donavan

Oscar Technical Award BS.

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Donavan   

Zaxcom and Lectrosonics both get an Oscar, I call BS! Not to be rude to Zaxcom or Lectrosonics but when a company like Zaxcom and Lectrosonics both get Oscars for “Technical Achievement” you look at what they have achieved. Zaxcom created full digital wireless with on transmitter recording systems, Lectrosonics developed ½ of ½ of that and called it a hybrid digital wireless system. Please, Zaxcom has clearly advanced motion picture technology in a profound way and deserves a Scientific & Engineering Award from the Academy. This choice by the Academy cheapens the award because of the obvious inequity of the achievements.

This is like giving an award to Ford for its parallel parking assist system when the Tesla is searching the next parking lot finding a space without a driver at all. The integrity of the Academy has taken a step down. 

David Thomas, Lawrence E. Fisher and David Bundy for the design, development and engineering of the Lectrosonics Digital Hybrid Wireless Microphone System. The Lectrosonics system has advanced the state of wireless microphone technology by developing a method to digitally transmit full-range audio over a conventional analog FM radio link, reducing transmitter size, and increasing power efficiency.

Glenn Sanders and Howard Stark for the design and engineering of the Zaxcom Digital Wireless Microphone System.The Zaxcom system has advanced the state of wireless microphone technology by creating a fully digital modulation system with a rich feature set, which includes local recording capability within the belt pack and a wireless control scheme providing real-time transmitter control and time-code distribution.

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17 minutes ago, Mirror said:

I think Burger King has better burgers than Mcdonalds.

 

..with all due respect.

Mirror, you are one person, a person with an opinion, a preference. The Academy committee is supposed to arrive at those things which are worthy of the award, not just things which they happen to like. With what you've said, when looking at hamburgers, the Academy should give an award to both Burger King and McDonalds because they both make hamburgers that people like.

Also, "..with all due respect" refers to what? Respect for me, respect for Donavan, respect for the Academy?

I think the Academy committee also screwed up in their descriptions of what is being awarded. I would love to hear from someone at Lectrosonics if it was Lectrosonics that wrote the description and the Academy just did a copy-paste and edit. There are a few statements which I think are not factual: "developing a method to digitally transmit" is one of them. I'm pretty sure the "digital" part of Lectrosonics "Digital Hybrid" does not "digitally transmit" anything --- the RF transmission is standard analog FM transmitting an analog signal that has been processed digitally by the transmitter. This is not digital transmission. Quoting from Lectrosonics' patent: "Various methods and systems disclosed companded audio signals using signal prediction, followed by expansion and reconstruction" it is quite clear that what Lectrosonics has accomplished is a better compander.  Also, the claim that it is the Lectrosonics system that provided the benefit of "reducing transmitter size, and increasing power efficiency" is ridiculous. Again, I would like someone from Lectrosonics to explain, technically, how transmitter size and power consumption are affected by the use of this technology for which it is being honored. Lectrosonics "Digital Hybrid" system has been around for quite a long time and we have only seen real reduction in transmitter size in the last year or so. As for power consumption or efficiency, this is compared to what? Compared to what Lectro's transmitters power consumption was prior to adopting the digital hybrid system 10 years ago? Who knows what they're talking about here.

 

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2 hours ago, Donavan said:

David Thomas, Lawrence E. Fisher and David Bundy for the design, development and engineering of the Lectrosonics Digital Hybrid Wireless Microphone System. The Lectrosonics system has advanced the state of wireless microphone technology by developing a method to digitally transmit full-range audio over a conventional analog FM radio link, reducing transmitter size, and increasing power efficiency.

Glenn Sanders and Howard Stark for the design and engineering of the Zaxcom Digital Wireless Microphone System.The Zaxcom system has advanced the state of wireless microphone technology by creating a fully digital modulation system with a rich feature set, which includes local recording capability within the belt pack and a wireless control scheme providing real-time transmitter control and time-code distribution.

One is deemed award worthy for a certain set of features, the other for another set of features.

Now if someone fitted the zaxcom functionality into a belt pack of SSM size and power consumption, working at 48 kHz. ;)

Edited by pkautzsch
typo

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"One is deemed award worthy for a certain set of features, the other for another set of features"  That would all be well and good if the feature set and function stated for Lectrosonics was accurate --- it is not. Also, the award is not typically for a laundry list of features. As far as I'm concerned, I have no problem with the Academy honoring the fine products from Lectrosonics for whatever level of technical achievement, I do have a problem, however, with false claims. What I believe would have been fair and would represent what I thought the Academy Award was all about would be for Zaxcom to have been awarded the Scientific and Engineering award for pure digital wireless, on board digital recording, full wireless remote control, and for Lectrosonics to have been awarded the Technical Achievement Award for an improved DSP controlled compander. 

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Just to clear up a few technical issues contained in this thread:
1) The Digital Hybrid System is compandor free as far as the actual audio is concerned. The transmitter does transmit an error signal and for this a compandor is employed, but as the name suggests the error signal is not the actual audio signal and the compandor does not affect (or even "touch") the audio signal

2) there is indeed a digital signal involved. The audio gets converted to digital in the transmitter and is then transmitted over an analog RF link. At the receiver the signal gets reconstructed and converted back to analog. Presumably now with the new AES output options the signal will simply stay digital.

So there is a digital audio signal being transmitted, but over an analog link, so it's hard to say if the wording of the Academy is correct or not, but I would seriously doubt that Lectrosonics would write a description of their technology (for which a patent has been granted, and in which the system is explained in great detail) which might be inaccurate.

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davidm   
1 hour ago, Jeff Wexler said:

I'm pretty sure the "digital" part of Lectrosonics "Digital Hybrid" does not "digitally transmit" anything --- the RF transmission is standard analog FM transmitting an analog signal that has been processed digitally by the transmitter. This is not digital transmission.

Lectrosonics Digital Hybrid does not transmit analogue audio! The scheme uses FM modulation to transmit a digital signal. Note that it is a digital signal, not a complete stream of compressed or uncompressed digital audio.

From Lectrosonics White Paper on the subject:
 
"The audio entering the transmitter is first sampled at 88.2 kHz and converted to a 24-bit digital audio stream. The digital audio is analyzed by a DSP-based algorithm that attempts to predict the next audio frames on a continuing basis. The prediction is then compared to the actual audio stream that follows and a difference (error) signal is generated.

The error signal is delivered to the output of the transmitter and transmitted with a wide deviation FM modulation. A compandor is applied to the error signal to improve the signal to noise ratio of the radio link, but no compandor is applied directly to the audio.

Inside the receiver the same predictive algorithm is operating. The error signal is received and then applied to the predicted audio stream to restore the original digital audio stream. The 24-bit digital audio is then converted back into an analog audio output"

It is an innovative transmission scheme in it’s own right and thus patended (applied for in 2002). 
 

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The definitions of terms in play here are endlessly contentious (around here).  Perhaps the Academy just wanted to acknowledge the advances made in wireless mics avail to productions today, and were told that Zax and Lectro were the 2 leading players in that field in the US anyhow.  I congratulate both and don't think it's appropriate to spoil their big moment with yet another argument over which system is better etc etc.  Yay to both!

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Mirror   

I think that Burger King and McDonalds BOTH deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.  One for it's secret sauce and the other for....um...oh, whatever it was that Obama won his prize for.

 

...with all due respect to In N Out.  And Jeff...and whoever else wants a dose of it.

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Thank you for that, Eric, but I think it is a little off topic in this thread wouldn't you agree? I hope you're not going to try and get us to give you an award for starting the RAMPS NAB party 27 years ago. 

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9 hours ago, Jeff Wexler said:

Thank you for that, Eric, but I think it is a little off topic in this thread wouldn't you agree? I hope you're not going to try and get us to give you an award for starting the RAMPS NAB party 27 years ago. 

No not at all Jeff. I just thought adding a bit of semi off topic levity would take the edge off the comments. Sometimes you have to look at the big picture.

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codyman   

Oh no, not this whole song and dance again.  Can we all just agree that both Lectrosonics and Zaxcom make excellent wireless products which both have their pro's and con's yet both sound great and help get the job done?  Do your homework and buy whichever one suits your jobs best, then take the energy you'd normally be using to argue with strangers on the internet about this kind of stuff and try to find jobs that you can actually use your gear of choice on.

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"Can we all just agree that both Lectrosonics and Zaxcom make excellent wireless products which both have their pro's and con's"

I think everyone DOES agree that both Lectrosonics and Zaxcom make excellent wireless products, that universally held truth, however, is not what this topic thread is all about. Additionally, the fact we all do agree that both Lectrosonics and Zaxcom make excellent products should not serve to nullify the awards discussion.

"Do your homework and buy whichever one suits your jobs best"

I think you are confusing this current topic with another topic that was discussing which wireless to purchase. This discussion, the inequities of the Academy's awarding and the inaccurate descriptions, should NOT be used to determine what wireless and from what company one should purchase and use. There have been more than enough guidelines in the other topic thread that addresses this.

"take the energy you'd normally be using to argue with strangers on the internet about this kind of stuff and try to find jobs that you can actually use your gear of choice on"

Strangers? I certainly think that at least for me, the majority of people engaged in this topic (and probably most every other thing that happens on this site) are not strangers --- I don't think any of us would be discussing something like this with strangers.

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Ok, as we have been asked to comment (indeed, a demand from JW - “ I would like someone from Lectrosonics to explain”), we will do so.

First, I stand by my earlier heartfelt congratulations to Zaxcom for their achievements. I also stand very proud of our engineers and staff for theirs. Both companies have been deservedly recognized for technical achievements and contributions to the motion picture industry. Both should be proud. Both have earned it.  One award does not preclude or supplant another, nor does it diminish it.  Should we feel less honored because Zaxcom was also a winner - or visa versa?

A participation award? Both companies have put too much blood, sweat and tears into their efforts to have this diminished and dismissed so easily.

Now let us look at some of the accusations.

Jeff Wexler brought up the specter of “false claims” by Lectrosonics, a serious accusation. The process by which our award was granted was the same as for any other company being considered for a Sci-Tech award. It is NOT a popularity contest or a political process.  Last fall, we learned that the Academy was considering wireless microphone technology for an award, so we put in an application. The application process specified a description of the technology for consideration, timelines, patent numbers, any prior art to consider, the contributors, and the impact on filmmaking including a list of films made using our products.

The process is then furthered by a committee of highly qualified engineers and technicians who are members of the Academy. Based on the information in the applications, they chose potential award candidates, then asked that each company to do a five minute presentation, meeting certain requirements, at the Academy last fall. In all categories that was roughly 40 companies presenting that day.

A few weeks later the committee set up a phone conference with us where the technology was brought under much more intense scrutiny by the committee. I can tell you during this step - I was present -, the engineers from the Academy who conducted the interview were highly critical and required very detailed explanations, challenging all claims in the application. By their credentials (Dolby Labs for example) and their questions, they were highly qualified to review the subject matter. They had thoroughly read our patent, (which says it all)  and had a complete understanding of what we are doing with this technology. The interview was detailed and addressed the very same technical issues brought into question here on JW Sound. Their judgment does not and should not deserve to be questioned by those less qualified.

Now again, to the question of “false claims”. The statements in the awards themselves and the subsequent press release were written by the Academy, not by us. And not by any other company, either. But we agree with their representation and feel that it is clear to them our technology has contributed to the art of filmmaking, which is, after all, the spirit of these awards.

Jeff, do you or anyone else dispute our contribution to the film industry?  If so, this would fly in the face of the number of films made with our technology during the past decade since Digital Hybrid Wireless was first introduced, including most of the Oscar winners and nominees for “Best Sound Mixing” during that time. Case in point: all five nominees for Best Sound Mixing in 2016 (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Martian, The Revenant, Bridge of Spies, and the winner, Mad Max: Fury Road) used Lectrosonics for production sound. 

Indeed, we have been a presence on award winning sets since 1989 (Glory and Driving Miss Daisy).   

And you state that “we have only seen real reduction in transmitter size in the last year or so.” This is simply not true. The SM transmitter was introduced in 2005, and with only the exception of the Q5X Quantum and the Lectrosonics SSM, the SM  is still the smallest standard unit on the market, and is about the same size as the Sennheiser SK5212, introduced at roughly the same time.

There is room in this industry for innovative companies. Indeed, it is competition that drives technical innovation. We welcome it. I have been in this industry now for over 28 years, and I find it interesting that we have good relationships with Sennheiser, Sony, Shure, Wisycom, Audio Ltd.,  and others, with mutual respect between ours and their engineers, management and staff. All companies innovate differently and address the market needs in their own ways. To discredit the contributions that we (or any of us) have made is simply misguided. 

Zaxcom is an innovative company.  So are we. 

Lectrosonics is a vertical manufacturer where we make everything we possibly can under our roof.  In doing so, we give full time employment with benefits to over 140 people – machinists, surface mount techs, design engineers, assemblers etc.  We actively support the sound community though the RAMPS gathering at NAB, the Atlanta Sound Mixer Mixer and many other events such as the Sound Summit.  We have worked hand in hand with Sennheiser, Shure, and Audio-Technica in the efforts to defend your spectrum and technologies with the FCC.  How is it we are villains for doing so?

In closing, I repeat -   The Academy determined that we earned this award and we are honored.  Just as Zaxcom earned theirs (congratulations, Glenn and Howie!). 

Personally speaking, I am weary of this singular argument about what Digital Hybrid is or is not – it’s been 14 years already.   Look forward to the future.   I know that’s where our attention is directed.  

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Well said, Gordon, and thank you for a clear and thorough response (which I didn't "demand" I only requested some clarification). The one thing that still puzzles me, and it does relate to false claims (probably a harsher term than I should have used) regarding what the Digital Hybrid system is or isn't. The Academy's description clearly does state that the technical achievement by Lectrosonics is "developing a method to digitally transmit full-range audio" and after reading Lectrosonics White Paper and the Patent documents, and having what I thought was a clear understanding of the system, it is not a digital transmission or a digital transmission of digital data.

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glenn   

 

Both Zaxcom and Lectrosonics have different technologies and methods that are in use every day providing superior wireless products and technologies to the production sound industry. Almost all productions now use wireless by Lectrosonics, Zaxcom or a combination of the two on the same production utilizing the best aspects and features of both systems. It is an honor to be in the company of Lectrosonics to accept the award from the Motion Picture Academy for our contribution to production sound and the development of the Zaxcom Wireless Microphone system.    

 

Congratulations to Gordon and the Lectro team.

 

Glenn Sanders

President Zaxcom Inc

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Dutch   

Congratulations to both on your recognition for fantastic products. Those are the tools of the trade, and we stake our reputations on your products. Keep up the great work!

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