The NÃ¡rodnÃ divadlo (National Theatre) of the Czech Republic is a stunning neo-renaissance building, rebuilt in 1883 after the original theatre was dramatically destroyed by fire having held just 12 performances. With its imposing riverside location facing Prague Castle, the National Theatre is one of the most important cultural institutions in the country, home to three artistic ensembles – opera, drama and ballet – which alternate their performances on its prestigious stage.
The arrival of the two new audio mixing consoles completes a five-year programme of refurbishment of the National Theatre's whole sound system. In the final stages of installation this summer, legendary Czech film director Milos Forman used one of the Lawo mc²66 consoles to record a live DVD, but officially Lawo made its operatic debut in the auditorium with â€˜Carmen' and a drama production of Tom Stoppard's â€˜Rock â€˜n' Roll', which used both desks.
In conjunction with its Czech partner Mediatech, Lawo has given the National Theatre an audio control system that is endlessly flexible in its current configuration, yet still offers potential for future expansion. Based on the Nova73 HD central routing system and 4 DALLIS I/O systems, the network includes a 16-8-8 frame mc²66 console in the front-of-house control room of the main auditorium, and a smaller mobile 8-8-8 frame mc²66 which can be used in a variety of ways: for independent recording in a separate studio, as a stage monitoring console, or in the auditorium itself, where it may be used live as an extension of the main console for certain performances. It was therefore critical to the Theatre that the two consoles had the same type of control surface.
The Nova73 HD router, which offers a 3000 crosspoint matrix, is at the heart of the system, centrally connected to the DALLIS frames and all the I/Os; this central hub provides both consoles with access to all audio signals at any time. Access rights management allows all input signals to be shared between both consoles, although one will act as the main console for controlling I/O parameters and important functions; these can be switched between the two mc266 desks via User Keys or the GUI.
With 96 channels of DSP, the consoles also exploit the advantages of Lawo's plug-in servers, which bring a wide variety of FX under their control, saving the Theatre's sound operators from having to patch in external units. Effectively operating as a virtual effects rack, this facility allows any FX to be routed to any point in the desk, recalled and controlled via snapshot or dynamic automation, even selected via the console's GUI.
Key to the National Theatre's decision to go with the Lawo networked solution was the ability to include a degree of customisation of the systems. The mc²66 consoles now allow control of ProTools digital workstations via GPC faders or Mackie HUI. And an â€˜automated amplifier switching' for the theatre's 80 loudspeakers has been implemented via TCL programming so that, as soon as the physical output for one of the speakers is supplied with a signal, the amplifier is automatically switched on via relay.
Mediatech's Roman Kasnik led the project, from programming the consoles to training the National Theatre's engineers. Although they had to use existing cabling which had been there for many years and had no adequate documentation, the Mediatech team successfully completed the installation within a tight window during the Theatre's summer holidays, ahead of the new 2008/9 Season.
Lawo is a manufacturer of digital audio networking systems and consoles for a wide range of applications from small to large scale audio production in television and radio, post production, and live sound. Established in the 1970s, the company's manufacturing center is located in the Rhine valley town of Rastatt, Germany. For additional information on Lawo's mc²66 console and all Lawo products, visit the company online at www.lawo.ca.