Source Control Central: Digital Consoles

Digital audio consoles, with their near-instant reset capabilities and powerful DSP, are ideally suited to theater environments, where quick changes between events or between scenes in a performance are commonplace.
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Keeping tabs on the Yamaha CL5 installed at bergenPAC are (l-r): Ralph Grasso, monitor tech; James Cioffi, Boulevard Pro; Joe Feola, tech director; Paul Denise, audio department head.Digital audio consoles, with their near-instant reset capabilities and powerful DSP, are ideally suited to theater environments, where quick changes between events or between scenes in a performance are commonplace. Use a digital desk in such an application and you will likely wonder how you ever managed with an analog board.

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“I used to do the Grand Ol’ Opry with a pair of Paragons!” laughs Kyle O’Connor, an engineer at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. “We’re spoiled now.”

According to O’Connor, flexibility and the ability to quickly reset the entire console were important criteria for the selection of an Avid Venue SC48 for the institution’s new 800-seat CMA Theater. “Our theater has been open for six months now, and we’ve done everything from R&B bands, orchestras and corporate shows to solo acoustic artists,” he says.

In fact, the venue acquired three SC48s plus a Profile from Avid, allowing the audio crew to provide whatever system is required at any of the three performance spaces, which also include the 1,200-capacity Event Hall and the compact Ford Theater. “We can swap show files, we can go from building to building, or room to room,” he says.

“On shows where I’ve got a band performance followed by video playback followed by audio playback followed by an orchestra, the faders can be where I want them and everything can be on pages,” he elaborates. “I do a lot of shows where record labels or management groups will showcase six, seven, eight acts. A band will play, then someone will talk at the podium while the next band is setting up. I can use recall saves and keep the channels I need hot while editing other scenes for other bands, bouncing back and forth, all without losing time or having to stop the show.”

Each of the venue’s three engineers can also save a personal console-wide template, O’Connor adds. “We’re all a little different, so I can bring up my starting point for the theater with my routing and effects and go with it.”

In late 2013, New Jersey-based pro audio sales, rental and installation company Boulevard Professional installed a pair of compact Yamaha CL5 digital audio consoles—one at FOH, the other at monitors—at the Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC) in Englewood, NJ. “In a theater like bergenPAC, or any roadhouse where there are multiple acts of every possible genre going through on a regular basis, the thought was to get the most flexible audio console possible to be able to handle as many inputs as possible,” says James Cioffi, co-owner, Boulevard Pro.

“Yamaha’s CL5 is scalable, meaning you can always add-on inputs with stage boxes,” he continues. The bergenPAC system is configured with 64 inputs and 32 outputs, not including AES outputs, he says. “It could be 48 out; that’s very powerful in that footprint.”

The ability to fire off scene changes was also a major attraction for Marc Waithe, audio supervisor at The Juilliard School at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York. Waithe, who started working for Juilliard in the early-1990s, and also consults with The Museum of Modern Art and The School of American Ballet, oversaw the addition of a DiGiCo SD10T and SD10-24T—providing both redundancy and flexibility—at the school’s Peter Jay Sharp Theater.

“With the changeover between the different shows and sometimes different days, I can have the set-up change just by the push of a button, rather than having to physically move everything around on the console. That’s huge,” says Waithe. Further, saving templates significantly speeds up set-up by providing a starting point for any event, whether it’s dance, opera, big band jazz or any other performance, he says.

“Being able to save cues in the board is the best thing for live theaters. Then I don’t have to mute and unmute everyone individually; I can just hit one button,” says Paul Deutsch, house sound technician at the Paramount Theater in St. Cloud, MN, which installed a Soundcraft Si3 as part of an all-Harman rig that also includes VRX line arrays and BSS London Soundweb system processing. “We do everything from plays and musical theater to rock bands and choir concerts,” he says, which makes the ability to save templates invaluable. “The board also has a little bit of internal memory—not just on a USB drive—where we can save basic ideas of how we start shows out.”

Marc Waithe, audio supervisor at The Juilliard School at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York, oversaw the addition of a DiGiCo SD10T and SD10- 24T to the school’s Peter Jay Sharp Theater. At bergenPAC, another point in favor of Yamaha was its Audinate Dante networking capabilities, according to Cioffi, noting that bergenPAC controls its Lake processing from the CL5. “In a theater situation, there are multiple zones, and it seemed to be a very easy way to have complete control at somebody’s fingertips. It’s embedded in the console with a simple MY card.” He also notes, “We’ve done multitrack recording onto a hard drive many times using the Dante Virtual Sound Card.” The Steinberg interface additionally enables easy multitrack or stereo recording, he says.

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“We have a recording department that records all of the performances in the school,” says The Julliard School’s Waithe. “I run off Optocore for the racks, but to send to recording, I’ll run off the MADI split. The fact that the new version 6 software allows me to change the MADI stream, so I can send any input to any MADI outputs, was huge, too. We’ll send a feed of whatever mics we have with the MADI split through an RME interface.”

Waithe also uses the Dante Virtual Sound Card for playback, via two DiGiCo Dante cards in the stage racks, but has another reason for utilizing the Audinate network: “I’m interfacing with the console using MADI-to-Dante and then coming off the computers back into the console through a Focusrite RedNet 6 interface; that’s a futureproof thing. I have the Lake LM44 processors, so I’m running AES now, but might move to Dante in the future.”

CMHoFM’s O’Connor found the Pro Tools system integrated into the SC48 to be of particular use when initially setting up the new theater’s PA rig. “We were able to listen to individual things in the room before the first show. We could listen to individual inputs and band mixes and see how the room reacted, and get it dialed in as we needed before even getting any musicians involved,” he elaborates. The Pro Tools system can also host plug-ins, of course. “We use the standard plug-in package. I also have the C6 from Waves. I’ve had that for years; it’s my go-to, save-everything plug-in. It’s so handy to have a dynamic EQ,” says O’Connor.

Paramount Theater’s Si3 came standard with four Lexicon effects engines, observes Deutsch, who reports that the console replaced a Soundcraft Series 2 at the venue. “It’s really nice, coming off an analog system, having the compressors and gates and the other features on every single channel.”

bergenPAC’s CL5 includes an Effect Rack with VCM analog circuitry modeling and a Premium Rack that includes Rupert Neve Designs Portico plug-ins. “The Rupert Neve plug-ins are very good sounding,” Cioffi reports.

Waithe is running a SoundGrid server with the SD10T system in order to host Waves plug-ins at The Julliard School: “I’m mostly using the L1 and IR-Live reverbs. I bought them in June and am just setting it up now.” Using SoundGrid, Waithe can also apply processing when setting up and running monitors from FOH. ““Having Soundgrid integrated into the console, I am able to put processing on the auxes and groups so effortlessly. All that stuff is like a dream. I have wireless hooked up, too, so I can control it from my tablet.”

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