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Musicians Perform Together, Hundreds of Miles Apart, Using Ultra Fast Networks and New Technology To Provide Crisp Audio and Video

Posted on Dec 01, 2011 by Meredith Lovelace
Tags: Arts & Humanities, Audio Video Communications Infrastructure, Communities & Groups, Internet2 Annual Meetings, LOLA, Performing Arts, Video

Internet2 recently worked with musicians separated by hundreds of miles to showcase advancements in reducing latency by using the latest audio and video technology over the network for remote, live performances.


Photo courtesy of Matthew S. Libera

During the Internet2 Fall Member Meeting, Violinist Marjorie Bagley, from the University of North Carolina – Greensboro School of Music, Theatre and Dance, and Cellist Cheng-Hou Lee, from the Northern Illinois University (NIU) School of Music demonstrated “LOLA” during a track session. The LOLA technology is a low latency, audio and videoconferencing technology that enables real-time, simultaneous, live musical performances across long distances over advanced research and education networks. The North Carolina Research and Education Network and the Illinois Century Network supported the demonstration. (Watch a video about LOLA and this demonstration.)

The demonstration over the network was from Northern Illinois to Raleigh, North Carolina. The technology got the latency down to effectively 35 milliseconds, which musically translates to 35 feet, like being on the opposite side of the stage from the musician. It is groundbreaking by providing lower latency than any interactive audio-video developed for this application so far, according to Dan Nichols, NIU School of Music multimedia specialist.  

“People are now talking of rehearsing in advance of guest appearances,” said Paul Bauer, director, NIU School of Music. “Normally you have the guest artist arrive the day before and have a compressed schedule. Now we could rehearse weeks or months in advance together before they come on site. This will produce a more comfortable and more artistic performance and listening experience.

High-speed data transfers and low latency are critical for simultaneous, live, video and audio performances. Some Internet2 institutions are starting to use LOLA, like the NIU School of Music, the New World Symphony in Miami.

Musicians are able to effectively play simultaneously and remotely with latency under 60 milliseconds round trip from microphone to musician. LOLA via an advanced network provides a round-trip microphone to speaker latency between 20-50 milliseconds depending on distance and network configuration. Most commercial services produce a round-trip latency greater than 200 milliseconds. Latency in digital audio equipment is most noticeable when a singer's voice is transmitted through their microphone, digital audio mixing, processing and routing paths.

LOLA was developed by Conservatorio G. Tartini in Trieste, Italy, and the Italian Research & Education Network, GARR. Also, Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics is involved in development and research on human interaction and latency. The developers are planning an extensive LOLA study in Europe to test the effects of different electronics on latency, and a "non stop" direct link on a virtual circuit. This is expected to bring down the network latency to the "speed of light" into the fiber, routers or switches at the ends of the circuit.

One of Internet2’s purposes is to further capitalizing on research and education to create new applications and innovation. LOLA shows that network research leads beyond its central focus and into many unexpected applications benefiting society.

A demonstration of LOLA and instruction on configuring a LOLA node will be presented at the Performing Arts Production Workshop, co-hosted by Internet2 and New World Symphony March 4-6 2012.   For details and to register, please visit http://events.internet2.edu/2012/nws/.