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Author Topic: Digital Desk In-House for Theatre, any takers yet?  (Read 2256 times)

Ric Arnold

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Digital Desk In-House for Theatre, any takers yet?
« on: July 26, 2006, 04:42:01 am »

Hi All,
This is not a discussion of the Pros & cons of Digital Desks versus Analogue, I know the differences Smile Laughing

I am trying to convince my management to invest in a Digital Desk in an effort to future proof us for the next 5 years. It's been 5 years since the last lot of equipment has been purchased & I'd like us to keep up with technology. I do believe that Digital Desks & the digitised audio path are the way to go, with huge productivity & sound quality control improvements.

I've met resistance which I believe is purely due to management not understanding the path that technology is taking in the audio world. Rolling Eyes  I've been comparing to things like computer technology of 5 years ago versus now, and then the vinyl records versus CD, versus MP3's of now.

The problem I have is that I seem to be leading the charge, and can't find any Theatres locally that have installed Digital Desks. I do realise that desks such as the Mackie TT24 and the Yamaha M7CL, are breaking new ground & price points, and these are the desks I'm trying to push for. ( preferably the Yamaha).

My question:
Are any of you aware of any Theatres that have installed Digital desks as standard or are also contemplating it?
If so how recently & which desk?
Or if you've updated desk recently, and NOT gone digital, why not?
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cheers,
Ric Arnold
Theatre Technican
Werribee, Victoria Australia

Brad Weber

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Re: Digital Desk In-House for Theatre, any takers yet?
« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2006, 02:32:40 pm »

I've been involved with several theatres over the last couple of years that installed digital consoles as well as a number of churches, many of which when you get down to it are "religious theatre".  These included Innovason, DigiCo D series, Yamaha PM1D/PM5D and DM series and one with a SSL C200 at FOH.  But over the same period I've also had a number of theatres put in analog boards with some mixed such as digital at FOH and analog for monitors or vice versa.  The decision normally depends greatly on the specific situation and usually comes down to several factors.

Definition of "theater" - Is this primarily traditional dance, drama and musicals or a good mix of concerts as well?  What about special events or corporate presentations?  Typcially one night engagements or multi-night runs?

Budget - If they already have effects and there are other improvements that are priorities under the available budget, then people often elect to either go analog or postpone a new console entirely.  Budget often dictates what is possible.

Users/Operators - If the facility caters to touring acts that have techs that use the house systems but often walk in with their settings already on a card then using a common digital console likely makes sense.  But if the acts are mostly smaller local acts or have technicians that aren't familiar with digital boards then the familiarity of analog may make more sense.  I find that analog typically still works better for facilities that use volunteers or part time staff, although as digital consoles become more prevalent and more people are exposed to them that may start to change.

Project Conditions - If it is a brand new system and the facility has recurring events then a digital board may have advantages since they typically incorporate functionality such as common effects and scene recall, thus potentially reducing other expenses and setup effort for recurring events (one reason they're so popular in churches).  On the other hand, if the board is going in an existing system and the facility gets many last minute events then those functionalities may not have as much value.

Comfort Factor - Many people relate digital consoles to PCs, with good reason, and envision frequent lock-ups, glitches, etc.  A facility operator looking at the potential cost should a board go down versus the potential benefit sometimes sees this throwing the balance in favor of an analog console.

Rider Compatibility - Look at the riders for the type of acts that will be common.  What is commonly accepted and what is not?  More and more have both analog and digital consoles listed, but don't put in something that the majority of your potential acts won't accept.  This may be one reason that you do not see many lower priced digital consoles in theatres.

I don't think there is a 'one size fits all' answer.  Digital consoles have defintie advantages in specific applications and disadvanatges in others.  They are both tools and you have to pick the right one for the job, not assume that the latest and greates is necessarily best for every situation.
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Brad Weber
muse Audio Video

Kent Clasen

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Re: Digital Desk In-House for Theatre, any takers yet?
« Reply #2 on: July 26, 2006, 09:26:15 pm »

My company just finished an installation in a 2000 seat multipurpose auditorium.  We put in a M7CL-48.  It saved on rack space considerably and if you add up everything- rack, cables, efx, processors, patch bay, it saved on cost too.  Plus it has so many things you can't even do on an analog desk.  You lose a little bit of "anybody can walk up to an analog board and run it" (for better or worse), but I trained a guy that had never seen one in about 15 mins.  It takes a bit longer to master ALL of the features, but it is fairly easy for someone who knows what they are doing in the first place.  With 1500+ in the field, people will be familiar with it in a hurry.  If you are doing multi day runs or multi acts, the presets are handy, if you are doing 100% one offs of single acts, then pick what desk you like the best that fits your needs.  There are some good analog desks in that price range too.
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Kent Clasen
MSM Systems
Design & Installation

Ric Arnold

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Re: Digital Desk In-House for Theatre, any takers yet?
« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2006, 08:53:20 am »

To expand on the situation a bit more, I work for a Local Council, Community Venue. 477 seat Theatre. We've been open just over 5 years, in a gutted & rebuilt hall, which has been turned into a really nice small Theatre. 30 fly lines, 4 LX bars & FOH, Strand 300 LX desk, 96 dimmers, Orchestra pit.. etc. you get the picture.

The place was opened , unfinished and we've been playing catch up ever since.
18 months back I managed to get a large chunk of the FOH speaker system finished, ( 2 delayed flown Tannoys) and our room professionally tuned, delays adjusted etc. ( BSS Soundweb 8 in, 8 out to 2 mains & 2 subs & 2 delays), as well as purchasing choir mics, drum mics. radio mics...etc.

Use & occupancy have increased dramatically in the last 2 years. When the place was opened, like anywhere new, there were predictions made with gear & how it would be used.
5 years on we've got a pretty good idea of what works, and can predict the type of work here for many years to come.

Shows range from dance schools, small amateur plays, through school musicals & professional music acts.
Our Yamaha GA24 ( 20 mic channels) has been stretched to the limit many times, especially with school musicals & lapel/body mics & bands. I've typically had to compromise dramatically to get within channel limits.

I've been pushing for a new desk for 2 years, nearly had an analogue desk twice, but I wasn't in a position to push hard to get it.. but now am. Only recently have made the decision to push for digital, due to future trends of live performance ( more & more body mics !) digital audio snakes ( Ether sound /cobra Net) & wireless connectivity to PC's
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cheers,
Ric Arnold
Theatre Technican
Werribee, Victoria Australia

Josh Millward

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Re: Digital Desk In-House for Theatre, any takers yet?
« Reply #4 on: July 28, 2006, 11:01:54 am »

A local venue, Ruth Eckerd Hall (Clearwater, FL) http://www.rutheckerdhall.com/ recently underwent a renovation and installed a D&B C4 rig and also purchased both a 64 input Midas Heritage 3000, and a Yamaha PM5D. So, they are covering both the analog and digital realms at FoH, or they can use one for monitors and the other for FoH. It is nice seeing that flexibility.

They also included lots of Ramlatch interfaces so anyone using a standard Ramlatch snake system can get into and out of their house 54 channels at a time. Yes, there is a Ramlatch Patchbay in the patch room with all the KT active splitters.
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Josh Millward
Danley Sound Labs
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