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Inside Track: Audinate’s Will Waters

Principal product manager at Audinate, on sound mixing in houses of worship, hobbies and what attracted him to the company

Tell us about your background
I have been involved in audio production for nearly 35 years, and video production for around 20 years. It all started at a young age when I began experimenting with sound mixing in my local church. I was fascinated by the possibilities of manipulating audio and video on computers, especially with the rise of the Internet and its potential for distribution. Alongside my pursuit of electrical engineering training and degrees in music technology, I gained experience in live sound engineering, AV integration, and broadcast systems design. 

During the early days of live streaming, I had the opportunity to work with NewTek, promoting and then managing the TriCaster products. This experience allowed me to collaborate with a diverse range of storytellers, producers, vendors, and broadcasters who were revolutionising the industry by democratising video and audio production. I became deeply interested in leveraging the network capabilities of computers to push the boundaries of what audio and video workflows could achieve. This passion led me to work and promote IP connectivity in production and installations worldwide.

What attracted you to Audinate?
I was immediately drawn to Audinate because of the revolutionary impact they have made in the field of audio networking. Dante completely changed the game for transmitting and managing audio over IP networks. It’s truly remarkable how they have eliminated the challenges associated with direct cable connections and other standards. Dante challenges the conventional thinking that audio and video need their own specialised connections. It’s like discovering a new way of working with audio and video that is incredibly liberating.

The interoperability of Dante is nothing short of impressive. It seamlessly integrates with a wide range of devices from different manufacturers, providing a level of flexibility and compatibility that is unparalleled. With Dante, you have the freedom to mix and match components from various brands, creating a customised AV system without any headaches. It’s like a dream come true for professionals who want to build efficient and versatile audio setups.

What truly amazed me about Audinate is their commitment to continuous development. They keep pushing the boundaries of what Dante can do, introducing features like remote device management, redundant network configurations, and even support for video within the same ecosystem. These advancements greatly enhance workflows and make content handling a breeze. Audinate’s dedication to innovation and ability to simplify AV setups and distribution while offering extensive compatibility are why I was eager to become a part of their team.

What does your new job entail? What are your duties?
As a Principal Product Manager, my focus is working with Dante in software. I work closely with different teams to shape Dante’s strategic development and management. Together, we define the product roadmap, prioritise feature enhancements, and ensure that Dante meets the ever-evolving needs of our audio and video networking industry customers.

To do this effectively, I constantly gather insights from customers, keep an eye on industry trends, and conduct thorough market research. This input helps me identify opportunities for product improvements and innovations. Working hand in hand with our engineering teams, I turn these insights into actionable requirements and guide the entire development process from start to finish. I also need to collaborate closely with our sales and marketing teams to ensure that Dante is positioned effectively in the market, with clear messaging and successful go-to-market strategies.

Ultimately, my mission is to stay connected with our customer community, understand their workflows and pain points, and advocate for their needs within our organisation. By leading the strategic vision for Dante on computers, I aim to empower our customers to effortlessly create outstanding audio systems that are flexible, reliable, and cater to their unique requirements.

Outside of AV technology, what are some of your favourite hobbies?
As a native of Michigan, I’ve had the opportunity to travel widely. My Midwestern roots have instilled a deep appreciation for outdoor activities, particularly those involving lakes and rivers. I enjoy hiking and cycling, and I have a keen interest in gastronomy – I love to explore and savour the diverse flavours different cultures offer.

In addition to these pursuits, I have a profound affinity for engaging in meaningful conversations. I value the intellectual stimulation and social connection that come from such interactions.

However, the most rewarding aspect of my hobbies is sharing these experiences with my wife and daughter. My career in AV has allowed me to witness the wonders of the world, and now, I have the joy of rediscovering these experiences through their eyes. 

Any exciting developments coming up in 2023 for Audinate that you can discuss?
2023 is shaping up to be an exciting year for Audinate. We’re continuing to focus on both hardware and software offerings, and we’re seeing an all-time high adoption of Dante in the professional AV market.

We’re also looking forward to participating in key industry events, such as IBC 2023 and AES 2023, where we’ll showcase the latest Dante developments in audio and video, including the previously mentioned Dante Connect. Visitors to our booth will be able to experience Dante AV in action, with real-world application setups for corporate/UC, education, and live events. We’re excited to offer hands-on experiences and personal demonstrations to help attendees discover the benefits of Dante.

While I can’t disclose specific product developments at this time, we’re committed to driving innovation in the AV industry and providing our customers with the best possible solutions for their needs. Stay tuned for more exciting updates from Audinate in 2023!

What has surprised you the most about Audinate so far during your time with the company?
My excitement joining the team earlier this year was discovering the amount of innovation that occurred over the last two years around timing and connectivity between on-prem and cloud-based production environments. The dedication and enthusiasm of the team members at Audinate are truly remarkable. I have had the opportunity to collaborate with incredibly talented individuals who are deeply committed to pushing the boundaries of audio networking technology.

Furthermore, I have been pleasantly surprised by the strong sense of community within Audinate. There is a genuine sense of teamwork and a collective drive to create innovative solutions that address the needs of our customers.

Overall, the passion, expertise, and collaborative spirit at Audinate have been truly impressive and have contributed to a dynamic and rewarding work experience.

What do you find the most interesting/innovative about Dante AV?
I find the innovation of Dante AV to be a game-changer in the realm of audio-visual technology. The integration of audio and video into a single, unified platform is not just interesting, but it’s a significant step forward in streamlining the way we manage and distribute multimedia content. It is also necessary for the AV industry to evolve and stay relevant to an infinitely connected world. Let me give some details.

Firstly, Dante AV’s unified platform approach is a breakthrough in the industry. Traditionally, audio and video have been managed separately, often leading to inefficiencies and complexities in workflows. With Dante AV, these two elements are seamlessly integrated, allowing professionals to manage and distribute audio and video streams from a single platform. This simplification of workflows can lead to significant time savings and increased productivity.

Secondly, Dante AV’s innovative technology eliminates the need for separate infrastructures for audio and video. This is a major advantage for organisations, as it can lead to substantial cost savings. By reducing the need for multiple infrastructures, organisations can save on equipment, maintenance, and operational costs. This also means that the setup and management of these systems become much simpler, reducing the need for specialised skills and training.

Lastly, Dante AV’s scalability is another aspect that I find highly innovative. Whether you’re managing a small setup with a few devices or a large-scale operation with hundreds of devices, Dante AV can easily scale to meet your needs. This flexibility makes it a versatile solution that can cater to a wide range of applications and industries.

Dante AV is not just an innovative protocol; it’s a transformative solution that is set to redefine the way we handle audio and video, and also manage those devices whether they be in hardware or software. Its unified platform approach, cost-saving benefits, high-quality streaming capabilities, and scalability make it a truly vital ecosystem in the audio-visual industry.

What was your first impression of Dante?
My first impression of Dante was that it was a breath of fresh air. Having worked with systems like CobraNet and AVB, I was immediately struck by Dante’s ease of use and flexibility.

In the past, working with analog systems often meant dealing with a tangle of cables, complex routing, and signal degradation over long distances. Transitioning to digital audio networking systems like CobraNet and AVB brought about improvements, but they also came with their own set of challenges. CobraNet, for example, was a pioneer in audio over Ethernet, but it had limitations in terms of latency and channel count. AVB, on the other hand, offered improved synchronisation and quality of service, but it required AVB-compatible hardware, and was not easy to ensure interoperability.

When Dante came onto the scene, it addressed many of these issues. Dante’s ability to transmit high-quality, uncompressed, multi-channel audio over standard Ethernet was a game-changer. It meant I could use the existing network infrastructure for audio distribution, eliminating the need for specialised audio cables and drastically reducing setup time.

What impressed me most about Dante was its low latency. In live sound situations, latency can be a deal-breaker, and Dante’s ability to deliver low-latency audio was a significant advantage over other systems.

Moreover, Dante’s automatic device discovery and easy routing made it a joy to work with. It was a stark contrast to the manual configuration required by systems like CobraNet and AVB. This ease of use, combined with its robust performance, made Dante an attractive solution for a wide range of applications.

Have there been any standout moments since you started?
There have been many highlights since joining back in late March of this year, but the most exciting opportunity is being able to get Dante Connect over the finish line and onto the market. Seeing the result of the team’s hard work come to fruition and receiving immediate feedback from the market is very gratifying.

For those that may not be familiar with Dante Connect, it is a suite of tools that allow broadcasters access to Dante audio and devices in their cloud-based productions. Production in the cloud has promised a lot of things such as scalability, simplification of workflow, accessibility, and cost efficiency. But the real advantage of cloud-based productions is the flexibility it gives to create more content for more refined audiences.

Cloud production was an idea a few years ago, and then the pandemic forced many to move that way out of necessity.

One lingering problem has been the challenge of properly tying high-fidelity audio that is on-premise or on-location with audio production equipment in the cloud. Typically audio either rides asynchronously, tied to bespoke video streams, or on its own in an independently compressed medium.

The highly skilled team of technologists at Audinate have ingeniously addressed these challenges by integrating advanced gateways and virtual soundcards. These sophisticated components effectively manage the complexities of latency and clock synchronisation, providing a robust and efficient solution to these common issues – not to mention the added benefits of using an entire Dante-enabled ecosystem in the cloud.

Being able to take this product on, bring it to market, and now work with our customers to break out new workflows is nothing short of amazing..