NATCHITOCHES, LOUISIANA, JUNE 8, 2008—At Northwestern State University, an Aviom Pro64® digital snake (InfoComm Booth 6117) is providing theatre students with the experience of using the most-up-to-date and innovative technology to give them a professional edge for today and for tomorrow in the workplace. The university added the Aviom Pro64 system, including one of the first installations of the new 6416m Mic Input Module, as part of a major renovation and upgrade of the audio infrastructure in the A. A. Fredericks Auditorium, the campus' main theatrical performance space, funded by the Louisiana Board of Regents.
Between the school's two production seasons, the theater hosts three musical productions, six non-musical theatrical productions and one major dance concert as well as various student and organizational events. The Aviom system's modular design lends itself well to versatility and adaptability — a major consideration when creating the department's system.
"Due to the nature of modern theatre and the requirement differences between the two seasons, all of the equipment we use must have a great deal of flexibility," says Shawn Parr, sound design faculty member. "For example, our last summer season musical was produced as a dinner theatre show with the audience placed on stage at tables in a circular pattern and the actors in the center. Our front-of-house mixing position was in the orchestra pit, and with this system, we were able to get audio flowing back and forth between the two as well as to our booth location. With our wireless mic rack backstage connected via two 6416m Mic Input Modules, and the ability to add an additional 6416m wherever the orchestra is situated, we have unlimited freedom to reconfigure our audio network according to the needs of each individual production."
The four 6416m Mic Input Modules that the theatre uses each deliver 16 state-of-the-art mic-level analog inputs to their network. On the 6416m, each remote-controllable analog input channel has a continuously variable gain setting, multi-segment signal level LEDs, and an individual on/off switch, allowing the operator to easily reconfigure the system as needed without requiring any PC programming. Because it's a learning environment, the university required a system that was simple to set up and easy to configure and operate so that students could get a solid introduction to working with a digital snake without it being too complex. From their experience with the Aviom Pro64 system, students can easily learn about the setup and functionality of a digital snake.
The new system at Northwestern State University starts in the main booth location with an Aviom MH10 Merger Hub that provides an A-Net® connection, Aviom's high-speed digital audio transmission protocol, to a 6416o Output Module, a 6416i Input Module and several other locations throughout the theatre. Similar to an Ethernet switch, the MH10 is designed specifically for audio applications and allows for parallel connections without sacrificing the ability to distribute signals bidirectionally.
A Cat-6 data run extends from the MH10 to multiple locations in the theater, including the stage, orchestra pit and regular front-of-house mix position. A rack with an additional 6416o and 6416i is located at the FOH location and provides 32 inputs into the mixer. To accommodate the theater's ever-changing production requirements, additional racks of Aviom input and output modules enable the sound designers to create a digital snake wherever necessary.
Parr adds that while the school could have taken a more traditional route by incorporating a copper wire snake, working out the logistics of running the wire, creating transformer splits and keeping track of breakouts, boxes and mutlipin snake extensions would have been very expensive and difficult to track.
"With the Aviom system being as configurable as it is, especially having the ability to daisy chain boxes, I feel it is a more elegant and easier solution to deploy," says Parr. "Since audio distribution and digital snake systems are starting to be used in many theatre venues now, it is a hot topic in the industry. By training our students on an Aviom system now and incorporating classroom discussion on the differences between other systems, our students will be very valuable to the industry when they graduate."
Along with its main production space, the university has two additional theatrical spaces, and although they are not equipped with a permanent Aviom infrastructure, the modular nature of its existing components allow the technical staff to put together quick, easy and effective ad-hoc systems whenever necessary. For such applications, Parr notes, using the Cat-5 and/or Cat-6 cabling offers a great advantage.
"It is readily available, relatively inexpensive and so small that running it through public spaces and scenery is much easier and safer than with a traditional snake," he says. "We never have to worry about an audience member tripping over cable. It's a perfect solution."
Aviom pioneered personal mixing with its Pro16® Monitor Mixing System and continues to break new ground with the revolutionary Pro64® Series of audio networking products. With tens of thousands of products in the field today, Aviom has set the standard for high performance, scalable digital solutions. All Aviom systems harness the power of A-Net®, Aviom's innovative digital audio technology that simplifies system design while enhancing flexibility and fidelity. All Aviom products are designed, tested, and manufactured in the USA.