Bryanston School Pioneers RSS Digital Audio in its coade Hall Theatre
22nd July, 2009
Leading public school Bryanston is justly proud of its purpose-built theatre, The Coade Hall, sustained at the top of its field by an ongoing programme of investment in its technical facilities. Now this 650-seat theatre has become the UK's first educational customer to transform its teaching programme and performance standards with the installation of the complete suite of RSS digital audio control products, including the new M-48 live personal mixers.
Bryanston School in Dorset takes drama seriously, and its well-appointed Coade Hall stages 15-20 student productions a year, providing plenty of opportunities for pupils to perform, design, direct and practise stagecraft. With its large proscenium arch stage, orchestra pit and sophisticated lighting and sound set-up, the Coade Hall also hosts numerous productions by professional touring companies, 'am-dram' and outside groups.
Two years ago, technical manager of the Coade Hall Stuart Myles spotted the RSS Digital Snakes, and, with the help of local dealer Stage Electrics, integrated these digital transmission systems with the theatre's analogue control equipment. Last year, the RSS M-400 digital audio console was released, which. together with the Digital Snake, makes up a complete end-to-end digital solution providing the purest sound possible. Myles swiftly made the decision to install the M-400 at front-of-house.
"We've traditionally used analogue consoles, and were slightly nervous about going digital," admits Stuart Myles. "However, Simon Kenning from RSS kindly left us the desk for a week, so that we could get to grips with it without any pressure, and we were quickly on terms."
"The Coade Hall is receiving shows but we're also a school, and have to consider all our equipment selection in the light of teaching aids. The students have found the M-400 very easy to get around, and we've found that it is very easy to teach someone to use it, whether at a simple operational level or delving deeper into its extended functionality as one gains knowledge and experience."
In this substantial theatre, the RSS S-1608 Digital Snakes carry signal over CAT5e about 40 metres from the stage to the back of the auditorium, where the compact 48-channel M-400 front-of-house console is positioned under the balcony. Preamps on the stage provide the highest possible sound quality and intelligibility, and the Cat5e Snake eliminates the high-frequency losses inherent in analogue snakes. Onboard digital processing, channel DSP and routing eliminate any likelihood of buzzes from extra cabling and analogue-to-digital conversion losses.
Both Snakes and M-400 are flightcased, so that they can be moved around and deployed easily anywhere in the school. In the grounds, there is a 1500-capacity Greek amphitheatre, necessitating a 100m cable run for the Digital Snake. There are three other main venues around the school, and the RSS system has successfully toured them all!
"It's one of the best features of the V-Mixing System," says Myles. "An audio set-up that used to take an hour can now be done in half the time. We don't have to carry FX units around, just the desk, snake and stagebox. In fact, our analogue desk hasn't had an outing since we bought the RSS system!"
For teaching purposes, Stuart Myles uses several basic console models. "We start the students on analogue, because it's the best way for them to understand how sound works. Then we move them into the digital domain. One of the advantages of the M-400 is that it 'feels' analogue, so it's an easy and comfortable transition for the students."
The Coade Hall is pioneering the use of the new RSS personal mixers, ordering three of the M-48 units which have just arrived onto the UK market. These compact live mixers offer musicians the flexibility to control exactly what they want to listen to during their performances, and provide the highest level of sound monitoring quality for both headphones and IEMs (In-Ear Monitors) as well as for wedge and powered monitors.
"These add another teaching dimension," says Myles, "enabling students to understand fully how monitoring works, and allowing performers to design and sweeten their own mix." Bryanston School has a large music department, and has already deployed the M-48s in the orchestra pit and for battle-of-the-band type events.
Stuart Myles says he's been converted! "I always thought digital technology was too expensive, but RSS has been a surprise. We get free software updates, and great support from Roland - if we have any issues, we get an immediate response. And the system meets one of my main criteria, namely that we can get at least 5 years of use from it. I'm more than confident about that."
Simon Kenning, RSS's top tech who has long experience in both the theatre and the educational environments, confirms that the integrated RSS products - often referred to as the V-Mixing System - are starting to make inroads into colleges and universities. "These systems are straightforward and cost-effective, above all, they are easy to use, which makes them perfect for teaching purposes."