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Yamaha Commercial Audio hosts digital audio seminars for theatre professionals and students

Dec, 2008

With digital audio evolving so quickly, audience expectations of what can be achieved in live and installed sound are rising at a similar rate. Experience of 7.1 home surround systems, superclubs and large scale West End productions means that, when it comes to regional theatre venues, audiences are no longer prepared to accept what they may feel is second best.

With this in mind, Yamaha Commercial Audio UK has initiated a series of training seminars to introduce theatre audio professionals and students alike to the key digital audio protocols, while raising awareness of the possibilities that are now available to mid-and small-scale productions

Presented by deputy general manager Karl Christmas - a man with 20 years experience in digital mixing - and installation manager Scott Fraser, the first of these seminars took place at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama in late November.

“As a company, we have extremely broad knowledge of audio networking technology,” says Karl. “The half-day course is intended to be a thought-provoking introduction to the subject, covering a range of digital protocols and examining which is best for any given situation.”

Although using Yamaha equipment for demonstration purposes, the course is designed to be as ‘non-partisan’ as possible, focusing on the technology rather than recommending any particular product over any other.

“The theme of the seminar is ‘from air to air’,” continues Karl. “In other words, examining signal flow from microphone to speaker via the most commonly used digital audio protocols - primarily CobraNet, EtherSound, optical and MADI.

“Things such as digital radio microphone technology, stage box solutions, digital mixing, audio networking, matrixing and monitoring are covered, including Aviom personal mixing systems.”

As well as examining the expected areas like audio quality and the wide range of digital mixing options, the course looks at less obvious issues. For example the reasons for choosing Cat5, copper or fibre optic for cabling, the pros and cons of using radio mics with different stage box solutions, the potential cost savings between different digital systems and so on.

“This is something that is currently right at the forefront of the live and installed sound industry,” says Karl. “Audience expectations are rising fast and, with the technology available to large productions now filtering cost-effectively down to the smaller-scale market, this technology is being used more and more.

“20 years ago someone could go and learn the basics of analogue audio, then go into any situation and apply that knowledge. Nowadays that’s not the case, because there are different systems which are much more suited to different situations.

“On top of that, the sheer speed of progression in digital audio systems is such that professionals really need to be aware of all that is happening. Because of that, it can be a complex subject to get your head round, so this seminar breaks it down into bite sized chunks.”

Offering the introductory course in collaboration with relevant educational establishments, Yamaha is ensuring that the technicians of tomorrow are aware of what is possible but, by also inviting local professionals, venues in the area are also able to benefit from the unsurpassed level of knowledge that Scott and Karl can pass on.

“We are intending to stage these seminars around the UK and hope that, from these, attendees will be encouraged to do more in-depth training, such as our digital networking seminars,” concludes Karl.

“Digital audio forms a major part of a tremendous array of entertainment now and the more technicians there are who have the right knowledge, the better choices they can make in order that theatrical venues and productions can choose the best sound facilities for them.”


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