The first Studer Vista 8 digital audio front-of-house console to be used in Paris' theatre district has been installed at the 1000-capacity Theatre de la Ville, which has chosen Studer as the digital platform for an extensive refurbishment program that will take place over two years.

Once known as Theatre Sarah Bernhardt for its association with the legendary French actress, this popular municipal theatre now offers the top names in contemporary dance, innovative French theatre, and evening concerts of jazz and world music.

In 2003, the audio production team, led by Pierre Tamisier, began the search to replace the theatre's 12-year old Studer 900 analog console. Having examined digital technology from several other leading manufacturers, the group still wound up at the door of Audiopole, Studer's French distributor, with an order for a 32-fader Vista 8 with 10-fader extension remote.

"There are many reasons for choosing the Vista 8," explains Tamisier, "but the most powerful one is the extension remote panel, which we now use most of the time. With the main console in the sound control room, the remote can be taken down into the auditorium to set up the show or to mix it. It has a very small footprint and it is easy to move, providing up to 60-fader capability in a 60-cm wide unit that one person can lift."

The sound control booth at the Theatre de la Ville is located high above the last rows of audience seating, with compromised sightlines to the stage. "When we bring in external productions, visiting sound engineers often prefer to work at seat level, and the Studer remote is ideal for this. Our team sets it up, and the ergonomics make it very simple for the visitor to understand and use; we can provide him with backup because we can monitor his actions on the main Vista 8 in the control room."

This is currently an ideal solution to a problem, but the Theatre de la Ville has a longer-term plan to build a new control studio, close to seat level, which will also enable the venue to record productions. As well as installing the Vista 8, the team from Audiopole has already put in place the stagebox and optical fiber infrastructure for this next phase of the upgrade program. Fiber optic connections have been used throughout; all sources are already digital, including a MADI interface from the Vista 8, enabling the sound operators to mix up to 48 mic inputs directly on PC.

Tamisier and his colleagues, Alain Frouin and Victor Koeppel, are still investigating the capabilities of the new Vista console. Quickly, they have identified the benefits of snapshots and recall, which now allow them to prepare two productions in the same day. They are impressed by the mic preamps on the new console and are enjoying the much greater dynamic range afforded by the Vista 8. Visiting companies have already made enquiries about using 5.1 surround sound capability, and the Theatre de la Ville team is looking forward to its first multi-channel production.