The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts has chosen the Calrec Brio 36 broadcast audio console for its new campus TV and recording studio.
Established by Sir Paul McCartney and Mark Featherstone-Witty (founder of the BRIT School) in Paul McCartney’s old school on Mount Street, LIPA maintains the highest reputation for the quality of its teaching and facilities, producing huge numbers of highly talented graduates each year in both the performance and technical aspects of the performing arts.
Jon Thornton, Head of Sound Technology at LIPA, recently spoke to Calrec’s official UK Brio distributor Synthax Audio UK, about why the university chose the mixing desk for its new multi-purpose, state-of-the-art TV studio.
Training was provided by Synthax UK’s Broadcast Sales Manager, Simon Roome, which Synthax offers to all of its Brio customers as part of the sale.
“We had been developing elements of this module over a six year period, building up the students’ understanding, but a lot of the opportunities were extra curricular,” explained Jon. “We had a small fly pack that we could deploy for specific events – that culminated in a full multi-camera shoot, to televise a two week festival in the main auditorium last summer. All outside of a formally accredited module.
“We’ve been offering core modules in Performance and Sound Technology for years, but with LIPA graduates finding employment in places like Gearhouse, Riedel, and at Wimbledon, we started to think that we should update our ‘couple of cameras and gaffer tape’ approach to vision! We want to produce graduates with the necessary skills to enter the world of broadcast, and hit the ground running.
“So it was time to create a module catering for vision. Because we’re an Institute for the Performing Arts we wanted to cover several aspects of vision work, ranging from traditional multi camera capture, through non traditional uses of vision combined with theatre, and on into the growth areas of AR and VR.”
The decision was made therefore to repurpose one of the theatre spaces, The Sennheiser Studio, into a multi-purpose TV studio. “Everything here has to be flexible”, Jon continues, “because every space has to be useful to multiple courses. This TV studio is used as part of the Sound Technology course, but also the new Creative Technology and Performance course. Having a TV studio allows students to practise the specific skill of acting to camera in a multi-camera setup, as well as to live audiences, and there’s also motion capture for dancers. All of this helps to justify the investment, because the spaces can be of benefit to so many different courses.”
The new facilities are comprised of the TV studio with a full TV lighting grid, four Black Magic cameras and green screen, and a Vision Gallery with Black Magic vision mixer. Picture is recorded to Black Magic Hyper Decks.
Laid out a bit like an OB truck, the Sound Control Room is at the end of the Vision Gallery. Then there are separate rooms for Colour Grading (featuring DaVinci Resolve), Motion Capture, and a small Post Production room with ProTools and a 5.1 Neumann speaker system. The design of the acoustically important spaces was carried out by consultancy firm Whitemark who have a long-term relationship with LIPA, and give annual lectures as part of the Recording Technology course.
The new TV Studio’s Sound Control room consists of the Calrec Brio 36 mixer, ProTools, Neumann speakers, and a Bricasti M7 reverb. Unlike an OB truck, or the majority of sound rooms in large studio complexes, there is a window through to the studio floor. “That’s all part of the multi use requirement” explains Jon. “We can use the TV studio as a live space, and the Calrec for normal sound mixing, with direct contact between the mix engineer and the artists.”
Calrec describes the Brio 36 as ‘the most powerful and compact digital broadcast audio console in its class’. Equipped with a comprehensive broadcast feature set, the Brio features a 36 dual-layer fader surface and a myriad of options for expansion, from additional I/O to option cards for all of the most popular digital formats.
Elaborating on the decision to install the Brio, Jon says, “I’d insisted that LIPA invest in a product from one of the ‘big broadcast audio brands.’ In this way, students leave LIPA having used real software from a real broadcast company, and have experience of a console they are very likely to encounter in the real world. It’s the same reason we feature SSL in our main music mix room, and an AVID S6 in the main post-production suite.”
“LIPA already has a good relationship with Calrec, who have always been helpful in offering students tours of the factory in Hebden Bridge, and at least two of our LIPA graduates have ended up working there.”
On the specific attributes of the Brio36, Jon explains, “We wanted to be able to do real TV work, so we had to have a desk with all the dedicated broadcast features you need. That counts out powerful but generic smaller desks from Yamaha or Allen & Heath, for example. But we also needed the space to be flexible, and to that end we were looking for a single box, small-format solution that features a significant number of on-board mic pres for live work (24 in the case of a Brio 36). The Brio is a unique offering that ticks all of the boxes.”
The Calrec Brio was purchased through Studiocare in Liverpool, and equipped with three option cards for MADI, SDI embed and SDI de-embed. Systems integration was implemented by Robin Howell of Wire Broadcast, with the furniture designed by AKA Design.
The new rooms are all equipped with 10 Cat6 and 12 fibre pairs for communicating with the main technical area, meaning the desk is already fully integrated with LIPA’s existing infrastructure. With Calrec’s option card structure and continually evolving networking capabilities, the desk is also future-proofed for any formats LIPA may decide to migrate to in the future, ensuring their facilities stay at the cutting-edge of broadcast and sound technologies for many years to come.
“The Calrec Brio36 is great,” finishes Jon. “It’s a real broadcast product, but flexible enough to fulfil our multi use requirements. It’s also relatively cost effective, and so in my opinion offers an unparalleled bang for the buck.
“Thanks also to Synthax Audio UK for providing their demo Brio to AKA down in London, so that they could cut the desktop for a precise fit at their factory. When the AKA furniture arrived, everything just fitted together perfectly, saving us valuable time.”