Big Stage for AURUS
It can be hard to be surefooted on the international stage. AURUS manages to keep its balance not once but twice
Today the Count of Luxembourg, next week songs by Tom Waits and Kurt Weill, then the rock opera Gormenghast – this is a routine programme at one of Europe’s most renowned touring venues. The most distinguished touring companies from the French, English, and German speaking regions perform at the Grand Théâtre de la Ville, Luxembourg’s famous venue for opera, drama and ballet. A large auditorium with an impressive stage and classic theatre seating for 900 patrons and a smaller studio theatre, revamped in warehouse style with variable configuration and up to 400 seats allow for a multitude of diverse productions. It is this versatility that endows the house with a magnetic attraction for companies and the audience alike. Since the reopening for the 2003/04 season, almost every performance has been sold out.
Just in Time
It was just this versatility that demanded new technical equipment. New set designs, changing sound-reinforcement situations, and varying audio and video applications all require adaptable technology, especially in a theatre hosting so many different shows. A high degree of flexibility and short setup times are obvious benefits of digital technology, so the decision was quickly taken to equip the two audio-control rooms with routing and mixing systems by Stage Tec. Simple in-house interconnections, thanks to NEXUS, and the extensive configurations possible due to the mobile base devices were factors in this decision. Another criterion was simplicity of control. The technology should, if possible, be operable with little or no acclimatisation time, because the touring companies often bring their own sound engineers. Therefore, the intuitively controllable AURUS console, that became available just before the end of the reconstruction process, was the preferred option. Thus, the very first AURUS console outside Germany has been installed in a prominent location in Luxembourg!
Two halls, two control rooms, and two fixed-installation AURUS consoles with 96 and 64 DSP channels and 40 and 32 channel strips respectively – the basic concept was rapidly determined, and the architecture of the NEXUS network could be further simplified by using the STAR routers as AURUS hosts. The systems in the large auditorium and in the studio theatre are configured as separate audio networks, which can work completely autonomously. These two networks are also linked via MADI connections. This allows for completely independent work on different performances or other tasks without any danger of disturbance from one network to the other. At the same time the possibility of exchanging signals between the networks is provided for. There are also two additional mobile base devices, which can be used as extensions in either hall.
The Theatre also acquired a small, mobile console with 20 faders. This is used as a remote control for one of the main consoles. If the operator opens a fader on the mobile console, the corresponding fader on the main console will be automatically opened, and vice versa. In the Luxembourg Theatre this mobile console is mainly used for adjusting levels and programming snapshots during rehearsals from inside the auditorium, enabling one to one communication between the director and the sound engineer. All parameters, which have been adjusted and set during the rehearsal, can later be recalled on the main console during the performances. Increasingly often, it is also important to have access to the sound equipment inside the hall even during performances, for example in musicals using many wireless microphones, or to handle the FOH mix for a band. This second application for the mobile console is often required in the studio theatre, because it is here that most of the contemporary performances are staged, demanding a higher level of support from the audio technology. With the mobile console, this is simply not a problem because it can easily be connected in either of the two halls. The AURUS hardware, or more precisely, the AURUS’ RMC-card within the NEXUS STAR rack, already offers a connection for a second mixing console. Therefore, a simple fibre-optic cable connection between the mobile console and the AURUS RMC-card of the corresponding system is all that is required. There’s no need to program anything!
Small and Extravagant
The AURUS must prove its excellence on the studio theatre stage. Experimental projects are performed here, often demanding far more from the audio equipment than a classical opera or drama. Amplified musical instruments, miking of speech and vocals, and surround-sound experiments combined with the variable geometry of stage and seating will definitely be a part of the studio programmes. Accordingly, the technology is adaptable. Lighting rigs allow for flying loudspeakers in many ceiling positions. There is no direct connection between speakers and power amplifiers, instead a patchbay adds flexibility. Combined with the AURUS, which supports up to 128 buses – e.g. for feeding speakers and surround mixes - , this setup allows for almost limitless staging options in the studio space.
Made to Measurea
The modernization of the entire venue – a really significant project in the world of European theatre – is a major triumph. The new technology was perfectly customised to the requirements of the local users – to an even greater extent than with comparable projects. All this could only be achieved because the theatre retained their technical staff during the reconstruction phase and involved them in planning the new installations. This formed the basis for a close and fruitful co-operation between the theatre, the Gerling + Arendt company as general co-ordinator, and the SALZBRENNER as planners and suppliers of the audio equipment. The cooperation is amply demonstrated by many details, such as the made-to-measure panels to fit wall boxes and floor traps, the control rooms equipped with customized mobile racks and special furniture, and of course by the coherent overall concept with the AURUS at its core!
The AURUS Concept
Every AURUS system comprises a main console that serves as a remote control for the actual DSP unit. The mixing console DSP boards and the RMC consolecontroller board are installed into a NEXUS STAR router. Two consoles can be connected to a single RMC board. In Luxembourg, this is used to enable the mobile console to be used in either the great hall or the studio stage. The AURUS NEXUS STAR router is used as an audio router both for the internal console signals and the external routing. Here, the RMX board is the core of the star-topology audio network. NEXUS base devices connect to the STAR via proprietary NEXUS FOC fibre-optic interface boards. The Grand Théâtre implemented two separate audio networks, each with a NEXUS STAR, an AURUS mixing console, and one and four NEXUS base devices respectively. Signal exchange between the networks is provided via MADI. Two mobile base devices can be connected to either the audio network in the great hall or the studio-stage network.
After a complete reconstruction of the premises and equipment and a fiveseason break, the Grand Théâtre de la Ville de Luxembourg recently celebrated its reopening. Apart from the inevitable modernization of fire-protection installations and air-conditioning systems, the reconstruction phase conducted by Gerling + Arendt as general co-ordinator was also used to completely revamp the technological infrastructure and the stage equipment.