Optocore GmbH was founded in 2003 to manufacture and distribute the Optocore fibre optic digital network system created, trademarked and patented in the early ’90s, and supply a range of devices to accompany it.
But the Optocore story really begins more than a decade before that. In 1991, Optocore founder Marc Brunke was a teenager playing saxophone in a band. “We were onstage somewhere, and the sound system had a very bad snake, with noise, hum, and all sorts of problems,” Brunke recalls. “I thought that professionals would be using fibre optics for their snakes and did some research to find one. But I discovered that, in fact, no one at all was making them — so I started to build one.”
Still at school, the following year he entered the design he had created into the Bundesjugend Forscht, a German science competition for students. Receiving more than 10,000 entries a year in seven subject areas, it is the largest competition of its type in Europe.
Brunke won, which garnered him meetings with then Chancellor Helmut Kohl and other government dignitaries. As a result, in 1993 Brunke began to develop his optical network system in earnest. This marked the birth of the Optocore system — celebrating its 20th birthday this year — as it became the world’s first fibre optic network system designed explicitly for transmitting real-time digital media.
Optocore achieves lift-off
By 1996, Brunke was ready to unleash his vision on the world, and the first Optocore modules were shown at the Frankfurt Musik Messe/Prolight+Sound expo. A digital fibre optic network system was radical way back then, and this was the first year any network designed for digital audio had been shown. While the Optocore system was more powerful and technologically advanced than the Ethernet-based systems that were appearing at the same time, there is often resistance to change, and fibre optics was a less familiar technology to the audio community. And so educating the market became one of Brunke’s top priorities.
By the time three years had elapsed, the market was steadily responding to Marc Brunke’s innovations and demand for Optocore products was increasing. The dotcom wave was peaking at that time, and developers were in high demand. Brunke Electronic, as the company was still known, was growing.
The first optocore devices in 1996
Around the same time, Marc Brunke met Rüdiger Bormann, who would become Optocore’s head of analogue R&D. Bormann was then working for loudspeaker manufacturer Opal Audio Vertrieb GmbH, and saw potential for synergy between the two companies. Brunke agreed and the two companies combined forces. The first fruit of the collaboration came quickly, with the launch of the first LX4 devices (stage and FOH ADA boxes for live sound) in 2000. The outcome was the reliable, fibre optic snake that Marc Brunke had first set out to build seven years earlier.
Permanent installation like stadiums, theatres, opera houses and congress centres are the key markets for Optocore. Increasingly, theatres and opera venues around the world began turning to Optocore networks to meet their needs, sensing that the Optocore system not only satisfied their current requirements, but provided a growth path to the future. The Parma Theatre in Italy, the Cirque Royal / Koninklijk Circus in Brussels (Belgium), the Mozarteum in Salzburg (Austria), the Bastille Opera in Paris (France) and the America Gardens Theatre at Epcot in Orlando (USA) were just some of the permanent installations that took place during the early part of the millennium.
Sports stadiums nowadays double as event locations and sophisticated sound and network systems are expected for spectacular shows. Two of the most outstanding stadiums featuring Optocore networks are the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, which has been relying on Optocore since 2004, and the GM Place in Vancouver, which started working with a complex Optocore network in 2008.
In the five years since, major Optocore solutions have been provided in large scale venues throughout the world. Some of these include Opera Bastille and Opera de Lille (France); Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi and Royal Opera House Muscat, Oman (Middle East); Swedish Theatre, Helsinki, Stockholm Concert House and Aarhus Theater, (Scandinavia); Metrapark Arena, Montana, Banff Centre, Canada, Luxor Hotel, Las Vegas and Fantasyland Theater, Los Angles (North America); Cheong Sim World Peace Center, Seoul, and Tokyu Theatre Orb, Japan (Far East) and High School for Musik Karlsruhe and Düsseldorfer Schauspielerhaus (Germany).
Besides the permanent installation market, broadcast was always one of the key markets for Optocore devices. One of the first radio stations equipped with Optocore was Polskie Radio, Warsaw in 1996. With the ability to transport numerous audio channels, video and data safely over extremely long distances, with redundancy (and virtually no latency) Optocore started to find a home in OB vans all over the world — for instance the NBC in New York (Saturday night show), BBC TV and Radio OB trucks in the UK, the CBC Radio OB van in Canada and more recently Mediaset, Italy.
Products: Olympic rings meet Optocore rings
The dawning of the new millennium found the digital revolution finally taking hold in audio production outside of the recording studio and permanent installations, bringing with it the need to move multiple channels of digital audio into and out of Optocore networks. The first response to this requirement came with the release of the DD32 in 2002, which allowed 32 AES/EBU streams to be interfaced with the Optocore system. With the ability to move many channels between the Optocore system and either the analogue domain or the predominant digital audio format, the system quickly came into its own and the world started to take notice … so much notice, in fact, that Optocore GmbH was finally founded in 2003.
The new company lost no time in its development programme, adding interfaces for getting signals in and out of the Optocore network, and releasing the X6-series 16 channel analogue-AES/EBU converter units. These can be fully integrated into the Optocore network by the DD32E and serve as converter units in stand-alone applications.
The incorporation of Optocore happened not a moment too soon, as 2004 proved to be a big year for the firm. While business generally boomed, the clear highlight was the use of the Optocore system to carry the audio for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens. For the Olympic Stadium, packed with 72,000 spectators, more than 40 Optocore devices, connected by more than four kilometres of fibre, in two separate redundant rings, carried the audio for the spectacular opening pageant, as well as for the parade of dignitaries and host of Greek musicians that graced the Closing Ceremony.
Scaling Olympic heights
The successful use of Optocore technology for the Athens Olympics brought an unprecedented amount of attention to the system, and made 2005 the year in which it became the ‘must have’ technology for massive events, including New Years Eve in Times Square, the U.S. Presidential Inauguration ceremony, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and the Pope’s World Youth Day in Cologne. Many events made use of the new DD32E, which, for the first time, added the ability to synchronise an OPTOCORE network to an external word clock. Over the next two years, Optocore maintained its brisk pace, releasing five new products and supporting an increasing number of prestigious events and installations worldwide.
New Year’s Eve 2008 heralded a banner year for Optocore, with the foundation of the audio system used in the renowned Times Square celebration. As the year progressed, Optocore continued to supply signature events, while cementing its role as an open network platform (with transport of open standards such as AES/EBU, MADI, DMX or MIDI in full size), establishing technical partnerships with industryleading digital console manufacturers such as Studer, Soundcraft, Neumann and Digidesign to augment its existing relationships with Yamaha and DiGiCo. The 2008 release of the DD2FE Optical MADI interface added seamless interfacing with Studer and Soundcraft consoles.
In August, Optocore was once again called on to serve as the backbone for the audio system at the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Beijing Summer Olympics at the Bird’s Nest Stadium. And barely a month later, Optocore North America, Inc. was set up in Toronto, Canada. It seemed that the company would find it difficult to top such a year — yet it managed to do so in the first month of 2009, when the Optocore system was selected for use during the historic inauguration of U.S. President, Barack Obama. In fact the company has kept up these traditions, supplying huge fibre infrastructures for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies at the London Olympics last year and two major networks for President Barack Obama’s second presidential inauguration on January 21, 2013.
Other recent developments for Optocore have been setting up of several successful OEM partnerships. First they enabled Clear-Com, the global giant in voice communications systems, to offer digital fibre and SANE CAT5 networks for real-time data, network, word clock and audio signal distribution. Then they produced similar versions of their V3R-INTERCOM-FX and X6R-INTERCOM-FX devices for RTSTelex before partnering with Duran Audio to produce a digital audio interface for the Dutch company’s Intellivox range of AXYS® products. It took the world 15 years to catch up with Marc Brunke’s vision of a reliable, highquality, versatile, cost-effective network for audio, video, and data. But the Optocore system, having been proven time and again to be all of those things, is now the professional’s choice for critical applications.
In the past few years, Optocore has continued to go from strength to strength, pursuing a path of extending partnerships with other manufacturers, developing a much greater eco-policy with the development of the more efficient ‘R’ series and taken a much more dynamic approach to providing MADI interfaces. It has also played a major role at the London Olympics Opening and Closing ceremonies … while still finding time to set up a dedicated sister company, BroaMan, whose products are aimed primarily at broadcasters and any applications requiring customised SD/HD/3G video transport or routing solutions.