Despite a year that has been badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, Guildhall has delivered a successful program of education, performance and remote broadcast with the installation of SSL’s System T S300 production platform and Origin analogue studio console.
The Guildhall School is ranked as one of the top ten performing arts institutions in the world (QS World University Rankings 2020). “We have two main campus buildings that are directly across the road from each other and within the school there are six large state of the art performance spaces built six and seven years ago: a concert hall, theatre, studio theatre, Music Hall, opera theatre, and so on,” explains School’s Head of Recording and Audio Visual, Julian Hepple. “Solid State's System T gives us access and lines from each one of those performance venues and 24 classrooms as well. We've got a big Dante network that sits alongside a big NDI video network as well, to allow us to pull in and out of any room we want to and push anything anywhere, as well as do big multi-channel records and all that kind of stuff.
“As a result at the start of term we were able to deliver the country's first full scale, socially distanced Symphony Orchestra, with 94 musicians in four different rooms, linked together by System T, who can all see a conductor on-screen via the NDI video network, as well as a multi-view of all the other rooms. I think we’re the only people doing that.”
Hepple is a two-time Grammy nominated Producer / Engineer, and through his wealth of contacts pulled together what effectively amounts to a DIY installation of the new system. Liam Halpin from Datasound Consulting put in the Dante, Guildhall engineer Sam Ziajka was responsible for networking, and the project was managed by Dylan Bate Project Management. It was a two day install by SSL followed by a further two days of training, and the team has been doing two gigs a day since the start of September.
The full kit list that went into the School over those truncated few months is headlined by its 32-fader S300 console supported by a T25 Tempest Engine, and, in terms of IO boxes, a “bunch” in Hepple’s words of SB 32.24s, an A 16.D16, and an A32 stagebox that sits in front of an analogue SSL Origin console used primarily for jazz recordings and which sites it on the Dante network.
“And then we've probably got 70 or so non-SSL Dante devices that sit on there too,” Hepple says. “All our little classrooms have little rack mixers in them basically with a Dante card in the back. And we've got a whole bunch of two channel in / two out Dante little no-tricks boxes that we can go and throw in a room.
“The Origin allows me to teach students in a totally analogue workflow in there, so I can teach them proper gain structure and signal flow and all that kind of stuff,” he continues. “So in one building we have this absolutely glorious SSL analogue environment. And in the other building, we've got this equally glorious SSL digital setup. And the link between the two of them is just brilliant for us; it’s just really flexible.”
That flexibility has been the key to some of the School’s achievements in the past few months, with one of the biggest impacts being made by the TeamViewer application on the S300 and the way it enables remote working.
“On the S300 I can sit and mix gigs from home,” adds Hepple. “I've got a member of staff that's currently having to self-isolate, so they’re prepping all the show files and putting them on there. With a combination of wider access Dante networks, the S300 and a couple of streaming plugins, we can do stuff from anywhere, it’s absolutely brilliant. We had a big band gig last night and I mixed the audio from my home and one of my engineers vision mixed from his home. That’s fantastic.”
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