AV Police Squad

The DSP Artist: A Few Words On Elegance


Coco Chanel once said, “Elegance is when the inside is as beautiful as the outside.”

I dig that. I dig that a lot.

As commissioning agents, we see a lot of different audio site files authored by a lot of different types of people. The typical engineers have as many processing blocks thrown in the mix as the DSP will support, just in case they are needed. More than half of the modules are bypassed because they are not required. The site file looks like the virtual version of a rats’ nest of cables, and it is really difficult to navigate: nothing is labeled, blocks are overlapping, lines are haphazardly drawn…it’s a nightmare.

A true DSP artist, on the other hand, boils down the system to its bare requirements. There are no extra blocks. Everything is color coded. There are explanatory notes everywhere. There are home-brewed modules peppered throughout the design. It’s beautiful. It’s elegant.

If I had to guess, the AV industry is split between the two in an 80/20 ratio. 80% of us just slap site files together to get through the job and make the system work. 20% of us have it down pat, and understand that taking the extra bit of time to keep thing elegant will save hours down the line. Not only that, but that extra time spent on elegance will most likely save us time on the next design because it is easy to group processes together for commonly used signal chains and to use it again.

The question is how do we specify elegance at the outset of a project, or check for it during the commissioning? It should be required for AV flow drawings, control system programs, audio site files, EDID plans for video systems, networking topologies, etc. Short of the client owning and providing these conventions to the project team, I don’t know how they can assure they are implemented on every project, no matter the designer, installer and/or programmer. It is such an important aspect of a system, but it is mostly subjective at the same time. There may be six ways to skin a cat, and if four of them are color-coded and work flawlessly, who’s to say which is better?

My opinion on the matter is: As long as the signal chains can easily be followed and changes can be made with little effort, I would consider said document elegant enough, a.k.a. little-black-dress-worthy. Put a different way for a different audience, it’s when there is just as much chrome under the hood as on the body of the car.

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