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Sound glorious sound – three Yamaha digital consoles consider themselves at home on West End production of Oliver !

Apr, 2009

With two leading characters cast via a primetime reality television show, audience expectations of the new West End production of musical Oliver! were perhaps higher than for any other theatre show in history. But with three Yamaha digital consoles and a DME64N digital mix engine at front of house, sound designer Paul Groothuis and his associate John Owens have made sure that nobody will be disappointed.

Paul has been specifying Yamaha digital consoles since he first used two linked Promix 01 mixers (then just-launched) on A Little Night Music at the National Theatre in 1995.

“One of the big advantages I have always found with Yamaha’s digital consoles is that they have always made the user interface very intuitive, which gives a great sense of security,” he says. “Some digital desks also have a particular switch on routine which you have to follow. With Yamaha you just switch on and off you go, the interaction is very transparent and instinctive.”

While many people treat digital consoles as an ‘all in one box’ solution, Paul’s approach is rather different. In order to get the very best audio quality for Oliver!, he specified three consoles.

Supplied, along with the rest of the audio system by Autograph Sound Recording, a PM1D is used as the master front of house console, using the desk’s small footprint to maximum seat sales on this most popular of shows. Dovetailing seamlessly with it are a DM2000 for the orchestra and an 01V96 mixing the sound effects.

“It’s a very well-known show and the big songs are familiar to almost everybody,” says Paul. “Staging it in a large theatre nooks and crannies meant that my main challenge was to try and bring the same joie de vivre of the production to every seat.”

To achieve this, Paul designed a large, multi-layered system in which the vocal, orchestra, sound effects, surround and foldback systems are effectively all separate.

“My approach is to make everything sound good individually, so once one element sounds good you don’t have to change it when you bring a different one in,” he says.

“I don’t follow the culture of using one box for everything. I find that you end up with it doing everything OK, but not making all the different elements of a production as good as you possibly can.

“There is nothing wrong with a complex system if it provides the best end result and a big advantage of using multiple Yamaha consoles is that the different models all do their individual jobs very well, but are similar enough for the user interface to be consistent across them all.”

“It also means that you are not making changes to the master console when the orchestra and other elements come in during production rehearsals. It’s a lot safer because you’re mixing on a separate desk and simply bussing that mix into the main console.”

Another reason for Paul of using multiple consoles is because one of the PM1D’s inherent advantages to theatre productions.

“The PM1D‘s small size is very advantageous for seat sales, but that means I would be leaning over the show operator to make adjustments to the orchestra and sound effects mixes. I think that’s unfair on them and having the multiple desks completely avoids it,” he says.

With 48 cast radio microphones, 40 orchestra channels, 12 sound effects channels and many outputs to the comprehensive speaker system, Paul also brought in a DME64N to manage many of the ‘secondary’ systems like foldback.

“It seemed pointless to hog 12-14 outputs on the main PM1D when I could take one output to the DME which would distribute the sound throughout the foldback system, etc,” he notes. “Plus its versatility also means it can control the delay times and EQs on the surround system.”

He concludes, “The very high public profile of the show before it even opened meant there was enormous pressure to deliver a system which lived up to audience expectations. The Yamaha products have allowed me to design a system which not only delivers optimum sound, but their inherent flexibility allows me to easily work in my own, long-established way to deliver the expected high standards.

“Many other digital audio products don’t have that flexibility and I believe it is a huge selling point.”


Products PM1DV2 , DME64N , DM2000VCM

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