Introduction and History
Rupert Neve first formed Neve Electronics in 1961 and his name became synonymous with professional mixing consoles in music, broadcast and post production following the release of the world’s first commercial transistor-based mixing console in 1964.
Neve Electronics was acquired by Siemens in 1985, and after Siemen’s acquisition of Advanced Music Systems in 1990 the two were merged to form AMS Neve in 1992. The company has been under private ownership since being bought from Siemens in 1995, continuing to trade as AMS Neve to this day.
AMS introduced the first fully dedicated digital audio post production system, the Logic 1, in 1988, incorporating an Audiofile editor within a digital mixing environment, with the Logic 2 and 3 following in 1990 and 1994 respectively.
The Digital Film Console – DFC
The Digital Film Console, DFC for short, was introduced in 1996, following AMS-Neve’s post production success with the Logic 2. The DFC was designed specifically for large format film & TV mixing, using established SSP digital audio processing cards, with routing of 250 individual paths, delivery formats including Stereo, 5.1 and SDDS and 6-stem surround sound capabilities and the powerful Encore Automation System. The first DFC consoles were installed at Warner Bros in Los Angeles and the Matrix was one of the first films featuring a soundtrack produced on a DFC console.
DFC development accelerated based on user demand for more power, leading to the successor to the SSP digital audio processing card, the ESP, doubling the routing and mixing capabilities to 500 paths. Offline Encore software is also launched at this time, allowing offline configurations created on a standalone PC to be instantly installed in the desk, Encore also facilitates offline editing of automation data, which proving crucial to multi-room studios and large projects using studios in different cities or even countries.
The MIOS (Modular Input/Output System) and the AES960 intelligent IO racks are introduced in 2002, delivering an integrated solution connecting the DFC to digital recorders and analogue I/O. The MIOS rack allows up to 6 modules to be fitted in each rack and the available module types include a 4-channel mic/line input module, a 16-channel analogue-to-digital converter and a 16-channel digital-to-analogue converter. Each rack connects to the DFC using MADI to ensure ease of connection, reliability and operating quality is the best available. Each AES960 rack provides a bi-directional connection to compatible AES-based digital equipment and also uses MADI to communicate and pass audio to/from the DFC’s digital audio processing. The parameters of each rack can also be controlled from the DFC console surface or the rack itself.
The DFC Gemini is launched in 2003, introducing major new features; TFT metering for visual feedback, the digital processing engine sees another upgrade with the introduction of the XSP processing card, the automation engine jumps to Encore Plus. These combined new features continue to ensure that the DFC meets the demands of increasingly complex mixes.
Processing power takes another step up in 2007 with the introduction of the USP digital audio processing card. The USP allows multiple ‘engines’ to be connected together, to build what AMS Neve describe as the most powerful digital audio supercomputer available, delivering the capability for mixing over 1,000 paths at 96kHz sample rate. Stems are doubled from 6 to 12-stems, catering for increasingly complex speaker matrix considerations to accommodate all major surround formats.
The Encore Automation platform receives an increase in power and speed with the introduction of the Encore 2 platform in 2009, this is followed by another increase in the DFC Gemini’s mixing and routing power, Skywalker Sound use this upgrade to produce the first ever 7.1 surround format soundtrack, for Toy Story 3. Demand for large-format surround mixing capabilities starts to accelerate at this time and the DFC Gemini introduces native production of the Auro3D surround format. This is followed by work with Dolby, on their development of the Dolby Atmos surround format. The DFC Gemini is subsequently used at Skywalker Sound to produce the Tom Cruise blockbuster ‘Oblivion’, the first ever film with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack, mixed natively on the DFC.
A further power increase in 2014 sees the introduction of 192 busses for improved multi-format support, with 16 wide stems and 16 wide pre-dubs providing routing options for the most demanding productions.
Most recently AMS Neve have upgraded the DFC platform to the DFC 3D, with major updates to both physical and operational aspects of the console. The internal communications architecture has changed to Ethernet, providing faster communication and increased operational reliability. The automation platform is upgraded to Encore3, catering for the increased demands of large automation data handling. Additional surround formats are integrated, with extended support for Dolby Atmos, IMAX12, Auro3D and others. Physically, the console surface received an update with the introduction of modular sections, allowing facilities to make a console surface physically larger or smaller depending on the requirements of the session. This hybrid approach continues to keep the DFC3D at the centre of the studio, bringing multiple sources and multiple pieces of equipment together to create the best possible audio production.
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