During the summer recess, Digital Village put the finishing touches to a complex recording and broadcast studio (with editing facilities) for South Thames College, completing the first stage of a major project in an area in which they specialise.
The company had already provided a JBL/Crown sound reinforcement infrastructure, for many of the College’s other suites and studios in the building’s new ultra-modern wing earlier this summer. This had sensitively been tied in to the College’s original 1926 Grade II-listed building in Wandsworth by main building contractors BAM Construction.
JBL in-ceiling speakers and Crown amplification have been used throughout — but it is the complex switching and routing requirements of the 12 studios that have made the College the perfect environment for BSS Audio’s new generation of Soundweb London DSP’s.
The new wing represents part of an overall £100m investment by the College designed to boost vocational training. The second phase of development (for which £30m has been earmarked) will continue back at the original building, where the auditorium is to be replaced with a theatre. Students will not only be able to record from any source in the recording studio at the touch of an interface but live recording will be enabled from the theatre itself.
Digital Village are renowned for networking multiple spaces, and the South Thames contract was awarded following the integration of similar, larger academic recording environments at Newcastle College Performance Academy and The Atrium, for the University of Glamorgan.
“One of the lecturers at South Thames College had studied in Newcastle and we were recommended as a result of that, and after the architects and heads of department had visited and seen the studios first hand,” explained Digital Village installation manager, Gareth Bevan.
But he adds that it has been the arrival of the latest generation of Soundweb London BLU-160 and BLU-120 processors that has made the construction of a digital switching matrix a lot easier.
Working alongside BAM Construction, DV first had to equip the lower areas of the new building, which incorporates basement sports hall and various Health & Fitness, Drama, Dance, Hair & Beauty Salons and a Learning Resource Centre behind its four-storey glass façade.
Multiples of recessed JBL Control 24C ceiling speakers dominate most of these suites, run in 100V line off modified Crown MA160 mixer amps. The exception is the Dance Studio where a higher SPL and greater dynamic range was required, and here DV have plugged the ceiling with no fewer than 20 x Control 26C’s (with 6in driver) accompanied by six JBL Control 19CS 8in ceiling subs, and driven by Crown CDi 1000 amplifiers. All the control in the Dance/Drama studios is contained in a lectern.
Gareth Bevan explained, “All speakers had to be unobtrusive but with such a high SPL needed in the Dance Studio — almost at club sound levels — there is hardly a spare inch of ceiling space left.”
Elsewhere the Control 24C background systems are either fed from iPods, residing in a Harman docking bay, or by a teacher’s PC via the Crown amplifiers. In total 44 x Control 24CT’s have been deployed.
But the real achievement has been upstairs in the new block where Digital Village programmer Sam Brandon has constructed a flexible BSS network.
“We’ve always worked with custom analogue matrixes for 24-input switching in the past but we wanted to get away from that, and came up with the BSS solution,” says Gareth Bevan. “There are six live areas and seven control areas, and via the Soundweb, any of the live TV, radio and recording areas can be selected from any of the control rooms.
Rather than use a conventional BSS touch screen wall remote (or ‘Jellyfish) DV are utilising the custom control panel features within the HiQnet London Architect software, the Harman Pro proprietary software. This has been installed on seven touch-screen PC’s to offer a vast amount of local control, allowing the user to access any input across the six live areas with remote phantom power control to be turned on or off.
Analogue Input Cards provide software configurable gain in 6dB steps up to +48dB per channel and software selectable Phantom Power per channel. This is the big benefit with Soundweb, says Gareth — and it has helped with DV’s future-proofing of the establishment. “The difference between analogue and digital is that you can pick each individual tieline independently and turn the phantom power on and off. There are so many options — there’s nothing you can’t do.”
Sam Brandon has designed this network around a combination of 3 x BSS BLU-160 (0x16), 7 x BLU-120 (0x16), 1 x BLU-120 (4x12), 6 x BLU-120 (16x0) and 2 x Soundweb Original SW9016 Audio/Video Matrix Switchers — offering a total audio matrix of 100 in x 172 out (DSP split across the 3 BLU-160s) and a video matrix of 8 x 8. All 256 digital audio channels provided in the BSS BLU-link bus have been used.
“Due to the number of touch panels in this system requiring ease of control, BSS have added some features to the next release of London Architect for us, such as the ability to store auto log-in information to speed up the system boot up procedure,” says Gareth. “There’s no need for any additional dynamics as all the processing is just being used to take care of the matrixes.”
The analogue cables from each wall box run back to the hub room with the Soundweb devices inside the rack wired with Cat 5 patches.
Once Phase 2 is complete, the University will be able to select any of the tielines from the theatre in the listed building. “There are video tielines everywhere and we are using the BSS SW9016 audio/video routers to select different video feeds via the touch panel interfaces,” says Gareth. “It’s very innovative.”
Digital Village have also provided future headroom in the form of analogue looms “so that when new things come on-stream they can plug straight into the system.”