Hard work is no drama at the RSAMD

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The venerable Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD) is home to six performance venues. Of the six, The New Athenaeum theatre, true to the Academy motto ‘nil sine labore’ (nothing without work) has just come to the end of a lengthy and hard wrought period of refurbishment that included a total revamp of the audio system. Although the largest of the six stages at the RSAMD all are managed technically by a team of just five, no small task when you discover just how large it is, as audio technician Jevan Burchell explains.

“The previous system was ageing, under powered, lacking in vocal clarity, and really not suited to modern demands. We already do a lot of musical theatre in the Academy, operating Musical Theatre productions for the Masters students over the last three to four years, and even more so now the course has been opened for Bachelors. But the New Athenaeum caters for everything, dance, drama, opera even rock shows.” Existing technologies within the RSAMD influenced the equipment decisions, “Our Concert Hall has a slightly larger capacity than The New Athenaeum but is primarily for orchestral works, though we do many music gigs and musical theatre shows in there as well, complemented by the superb sound system and fantastic room acoustics. It already has a d&b system supplied by The Warehouse, with whom we have a long established relationship.”

Burchell had good reason to seek advice. “The problem of the venue is that it’s quite unusual, just three hundred and forty four seats spread across three layers, stalls, circle and upper and yet it has a very large proscenium for a room this size because it’s a teaching theatre and we need to present at every scale. The pros’ is very tall and wide, as tall as the London Palladium as it happens; while the stage is ten metres deep and over twenty one metres wide upstage of the proscenium, which itself is eleven point two metres at the opening. Beyond providing sound coverage into all three layers, the auditorium layout raised the question of where to place the subwoofers; the slips stage left and right go straight into the audience, with the Tormentors there as well there’s just no room. The pit is used raised or lowered so mounting into front of stage or even front of raised pit was out the question.” Solving these conundrums obviously required a lot of thought. “The support from The Warehouse and Gavin Jenkinson in particular has been absolutely brilliant at every stage, tech’ support, IT, anything.”

“Now we have a flown centre cluster, Q-SUBs in cardioid array with Q7s beneath. Its worked especially well, low end into the room is great. Even better is the fact that the position excludes LF energy from going onto stage and up into the fly-tower, so no colouration on stage. Lower down we have E12s which are just above stalls height down stage left and right; with the subwoofers so far above in the centre hang the E12s are great for powering enough low end to the stalls. The E12s go down to something like 50 Hz so provide enough power in the lower frequencies to allow the subs to be hung above the pros’ and still have enough oomph in the low end to give a balanced mix at stalls level. The upper floors were less important on this front as the subs are much closer and provide more power, allowing the left and right boxes to be covered by a smaller cabinet, hence the E8s. To complete the system E0s were fitted around the pros’ for fill and effects, and in delay positions around the balcony fronts; Gary Brunton our Head of Estates was especially pleased when d&b colour matched the E0s, it fits the venue aesthetics brilliantly; not just black boxes hung off the walls. A combination of E3s for flown stage foldback with MAX12 and MAX15 wedges for the musicians completes the monitor package, allowing for eight separate mixes to stage and the orchestra pit which is all fully patchable.”

Burchell is part of the technical crew who run the RSAMD venues, “For all of us, and for the variety of demands that are placed up in the audio system it was paramount this be a versatile system; the accuracy and power of the d&b products was pivotal, each of the three levels was addressed as a letterbox so we were able to maintain full HF to the back seats. For the more demanding productions, musical theatre and the occasional band, the power of the D12 and Q-SUBs exceed what’s needed for the room.” Or ‘Audimus: Operans est’ (‘we hear: it works’) as they said in Rome.

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