Canadian Concert Hall Upgrades Audiovisual Solutions with DiGiCo Products
Over time, the Jack Singer Concert Hall (JSCH) has undergone many upgrades to ensure it remains a state-of-the-art performance venue, including a complete overhaul and replacement of its seating and house lighting in 2017. Most recently, that process required a comprehensive retooling of its audio infrastructure that included an upgrade to the hall’s existing DiGiCo console and the purchase of a new DiGiCo Quantum 338.
While much has changed in recent years, the venue’s ongoing reliance on DiGiCo consoles at JSCH and throughout the Arts Commons complex’s other venues has not. Jack Jamieson, head sound technician at JSCH said, “I’ve been using DiGiCo since 2012. We started with a compact version of the DiGiCo SD8 in 2012 and we were so impressed with its reliability and flexibility that, in 2014, we upgraded from analog consoles to DiGiCo digital consoles throughout the rest of the facility.”
One of Calgary, Alberta’s premier and most versatile live performance venues, JSCH is home to the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as Arts Commons Presents’ BD&P World Music, and TD Jazz. It’s a very versatile venue, hosting events ranging from TED talks to comedy shows and full-on rock concerts. “There’s an interesting dichotomy in this room in terms of the artists that play here and the audiences that attend shows,” Jamieson said. “We have a symphony audience who want a very nuanced, quiet sound system that allows us to fold the amplified sound into the acoustic sound. And then there’s another demographic, coming to see rock and pop shows, and their expectation is an extreme amount of level.”
Given the wide range of programming, for the 2020 replacement of JSCH’s audio system, the venue installed a unique “double PA system” (consisting of Meyer Sound point source and line array loudspeakers), added the Quantum 338 console for monitors, two DiGiCo 32bit I/O SD-racks and upgraded their pre-existing FOH SD5 to include Quantum functionality.
“In Arts Commons overall, we have an SD7T for our 850-seat Max Bell Theatre, SD9T for the 450-seat Martha Cohen Theatre, and two SD11i consoles (one in our 185-seat venue in the basement and one for Jack Singer’s lobby). Our SD8 is still available as an emergency console, but we’ve replaced that in the booth with our previous SD10 monitor desk,” said Jamieson.
When the latest project began in Spring 2019, future-proofing was a primary driver for the choice of equipment across the board, and in JSCH’s ongoing reliance on DiGiCo. “One of the biggest selling points for DiGiCo is that there are upgrades available as their new technology comes out – more and better mic pres, I/O and additional capability with Waves,” Jamieson said. “So, you don’t have to sell your old console and buy a new one. With DiGiCo, you just move on to the next step in their product line.”
As for the Quantum upgrades, “One of the main advantages of the Quantum software is nodal processing, which allows you to – on any given channel or auxiliary – add an extra layer of compression and EQ just on that one channel,” Jamieson said. “So, where many people might use parallel channels (one being FOH, and the other being the monitor channel), Quantum lets you do that on one channel; you can peel off your auxiliary on a per-channel basis directly after the preamp and before you’ve done anything from FOH, after the FOH dynamics, or wherever you want. Then you can apply your preference, or a musician’s preference for monitors, on that particular channel for that particular mix.”
Translating an older system file to a newer system file can be complex, he admits that the use needs to understand the architecture of the system. Beyond that, given Jamieson and JSCH’s lengthy association with DiGiCo, and the fact the brand is so rider-friendly, chances are those coming in to mix are familiar with the workflow. If not, they can enlist the venue’s engineers to sort out any issues in short order. That redundancy is expanded owing to the fact JSCH has a full Waves package for both its upgraded FOH SD5 and the SD10, which can both be used for mixing and multi-track recording for live streaming.
The venue’s four SD Racks and one SD Nano Rack provide additional flexibility. “In terms of I/O at FOH there is a two-slot rack that can house any two cards. So, it could be 16 inputs, although in our case it’s eight analog inputs and eight analog outputs,” Jamison said. “But it could be whatever you want it to be, and that’s changeable on the fly; you just power the rack down pull out the card and put a new card in, power up again, and the cards are immediately recognized.”
In the end, they’re exceptionally happy with the result, adding that incoming artists and engineers expect to be dealing with industry-standard technology in a venue of this stature and size, and DiGiCo delivers that and then some. “DiGiCo make flagship products that people aspire to own. They have a large product line, but one of the things that’s special about DiGiCo is that you can configure the workflow to your preferences. So, when an engineer comes in and says, ‘I’d like to do that,’ or ‘I like this type of workflow,’ in a few minutes I can have the console architecture operating the way they want it so they can just focus on mixing.”