Everything in Reach
An ergonomic channel design was the requirement, AURUS the solution for the new MDR Resident Ensemble control room
A deep black cube with a shimmering front mirroring its surroundings in the August Square, Leipzig, central Germany. This stunning building is home to the resident orchestra and choirs of public broadcasting radio station, MDR.
The building is remarkable not only for its architecture, but also for its impact on the Leipzig cultural scene. As the new home of Europe’s oldest radio symphony orchestra, Germany’s largest concert choir, and the only ARD (an association of all the Germany public broadcasters) children’s choir, it is already a landmark of musical excellence. The building’s neighborhood is also noteworthy. The Resident Ensemble building is located right next to the City Tower, MDR’s Leipzig headquarters, and the Gewandhaus, one of Germany’s well known and best loved concert halls.
Since 2001, the new building has also housed the MDR’s two Main Orchestral rehearsal halls, used not only for rehearsals but also for productions, events and concerts.
The concert halls are not the only innovation. The associated control room, located in the City Tower, has been equipped with state-of-theart technology.
Opting for an AURUS console with a NEXUS network was a wise decision for several reasons. The control room not only gained a powerful mixing console, but thanks to the remotely located NEXUS Base Devices, it was also possible to incorporate the other two buildings into a truly integrated network. The MDR broadcasting service was in an almost unique position, since both they and the Gewandhaus had been using a NEXUS system for some time. This considerably simplified integration with the orchestral control room. The MDR’s Base Device located at the Gewandhaus was just hooked up to the AURUS’ NEXUS STAR router. To prevent conflicts, user rights to patch sources and destinations within the shared audio network are strictly defined. For example, this allows MDR to have secure readonly access to all the sources from the Gewandhaus when recording a concert performed by the MDR Symphony Orchestra.
In a production environment like this, AURUS brings numerous benefits. In particular for live recordings, the lucidity of the console scores since the channel strip allows the operator to view and manipulate many parameters at the same time.
When it comes to mixing, every user has unique preferences. For example, the MDR engineers make considerable use of the central channel strip functionality. All parameters of the currently selected channel can be directly edited using this Channel Fader located in the middle of the console. This gives the operator convenient access to the more distant channel strips without moving from the monitoring »sweet-spot«. Another ‘power user function’ is the console zoom, which allows a complete eight-channel fader panel to be assigned to the central Channel panel.
Moreover, the MDR crew appreciates the ability to assign critical channel strips to each of the eight layers. This gives the engineer instant access to the most important sources regardless of which layer is currently active. Additionally, and unlike other mixing consoles, AURUS puts the input-gain encoder right at the bottom of the channel strip, above the fader. All these features help to enhance intuitive operation, indispensable in the Resident Ensemble’s control room where so many live recordings are made.
Close to the Microphone
MDR uses the NEXUS microphone-input boards featuring 28-bit TrueMatch converters. These not only provide linearity and thus offer an excellent sound but also offer a dynamic range so wide that the microphone can be plugged straight into the A to D converter, without any external analogue pre-amplification. In practice, this means that microphone pre-amp gain adjustment is virtually redundant. Even if the sound engineer decides it really is necessary to adjust the analogue pre-amp gain, the microphone input of the respective NEXUS board can be remote-controlled from the AURUS. The controlling encoder is also located at the bottom of the channel strip, concentric with the input-gain encoder. When setup schedules are tight, this feature saves a lot of time.
The AURUS console architecture also proved useful in the Resident Ensemble control room. AURUS is designed from the ground up to support multi-channel recordings. MDR often records important productions in multi-channel format to provide flexibility for future requirements. However, a stereo mix is still required for today’s broadcasts. AURUS enables both versions to be efficiently created at the same time! MDR had already enjoyed these multi-channel features. In the spring of this year, a performance of 16th-century music played on reproduction renaissance instruments was recorded in stereo and in 5.0 formats using the console’s new dynamic automation. On this occasion, the multi-channel and stereo mixes were both required immediately since the project was a co-production with the Leipzig Musical Instrument Museum and a commercial record company, which will release the mixes on two CDs and two SACDs.
A purely audio broadcast studio facility needs intercom facilities, although not of the same complexity required for TV production. For this reason a dedicated intercom system would not be cost effective. Therefore, the intercom paths at the Resident Ensemble control room are routed directly via the NEXUS, so the NEXUS optical lines are also used for communication. A customized subscriber unit, connected to the NEXUS, was designed for the supervisor’s workstation. It not only allows for selective communication with five different subscribers but also provides functionality for conductor open talkback, constantly routing the conductor’s talkback microphone to the producer. The entire design of the intercom functionality was based on the powerful logic functions of the NEXUS control program, Matrix 5.
Extended Access Guaranteed
The MDR crew uses a Sequoia multi-track workstation, connected to a central storage server, for their productions. The latest version of the Sequoia software enables the combination of console and workstation to be optimized. AURUS not only provides transport control functions for the Sequoia but also allows the tracks to be directly record-enabled from the corresponding AURUS channel strip. Again, the associated button is physically located where the engineer most often accesses the console – just above the fader.
Thanks to this multitude of finely crafted details, the AURUS has proved to be a great success in the MDR Resident Ensemble control room since March 2004. The longest established resident radio orchestra in Europe, the largest professional concert choir, and the only resident junior radio choir in Germany are all in perfect harmony with the technological excellence of the world’s most ergonomic console.