Theatre and Playhouse, Churches Invest in DiGiCo Consoles

When the Royal Theatre and McPherson Playhouse in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada needed to upgrade their digital consoles, they turned to DiGiCo and are delighted with their investment.

“In 2002, we decided that we were going to have some of the most technologically equipped theatres in Canada,” recalls Warren Busby, Head of Audio / Assistant Technical Director for both venues. “We undertook a multi-million dollar renovation of the 1416 seat Royal Theatre and with that, purchased new technical equipment. We continued to be state-of-the-art for many years and then, in 2012, we decided it was time to replace the existing console.”

This started Busby’s console search. He had already seen the SD8 and SD10 a few years prior, but wanted a console that offered multiple screens, but wasn’t going to use his entire budget.

“As we host a large number of operators, having multiple screens to work on while they are busy mixing was rather important to me,” he explains. “I demoed a number of different manufacturers’ consoles, and when it comes down to spending this kind of money, any of them would have worked and sounded OK. However, after speaking to people that own (and service) them, I began to lean away from most of them due to parts and servicing issues not to mention lack of software updates.”

“Shawn Heines [from Gerr Audio, DiGiCo’s Canadian distributor] and I had an understanding; when DiGiCo had something with more than one screen that would fit within our budget, we would talk more!”

When DiGiCo launched its SD5, Warren knew that it had everything he wanted and needed.

“Shawn and Gerr’s President Bob Snelgrove knew this and invited me to be their guest at a small trade show Gerr was hosting in Toronto, where the SD5 was going to make its Canadian debut,” he continues. “DiGiCo’s Tim Shaxson was kind enough to join us from the UK and spent time with me one-on-one explaining the features of the console. He also provided information on the DiGiCo console ‘trade up’ program that was being offered with the SD5 by Gerr. It turned out that we would be the first to have an SD5 in Canada.

After Warren returned from Toronto, the theatre’s Technical Director Blair Morris and he decided it made sense to take advantage of the trade in incentive. He started working with a couple of local dealers to finalize price quotes, with the final bid awarded to long time Vancouver Island audio production and supply company Pacific Audio Works.

“Rob Mayor from PAW was able to work with Gerr Audio and fit not only the SD5 into our budget, but also an SD10 to replace our ageing analog monitor console,” says Busby. “The final system consists of the SD5 and an SD-Mini Rack at FOH, an SD-Rack stage right and a D-Rack with optical stage left. All pieces are on an optical loop with patch points for the SD10 monitor console either stage left or right. The two consoles gain share the SD-Rack.

“After all this planning for the Royal Theatre, and to stick with our mandate of providing cutting edge technology, we decided to purchase an SD9 for the smaller 772 seat McPherson Playhouse. We decided it was important to have continuity of equipment between our two theatres as there are multiple operators and the SD9 Rack Pack was too good of a deal to pass up on!”

The Royal hosts everything from high school graduations, to symphony, opera, and rock and roll and the only shows the console is not used for are the touring acts that bring their own. “But, if they don’t have a DiGiCo themselves, they are always curious to check it out when I turn it on,” Busby smiles. “I have hosted many FOH engineers that started the day not liking the fact they had to use my console. After a quick lesson and a soundcheck they tell me they can’t believe how good it sounds and how easy it is to get around. They always seem to leave with their show file and a smile on their face. The SD10 is only deployed when we have an act that requires multiple monitor mixes and is a breeze to set up – just two optical cables and one AC line!”

“The McPherson Playhouse is more community oriented, with a large number of amateur theatre and dance performances. We also host a number of musical acts from Elvis impersonators to Bryan Adams acoustic shows, most of which take advantage of our in-house production.

“I personally love the SD9 and only wish it had a couple of small features I’ve become accustomed to on the SD5. I mix a large number of theatre shows on it with up to 30 wireless mics and enjoy the ease of use and flexibility of the snapshots section of the console.

C3 Church Selects DiGiCo
Only two years since it was founded, the C3 Church in California’s Silicon Valley has already proved so popular with worshippers that a major upgrade to its audio mixing facilities was required. A DiGiCo SD9 has made a massive improvement.

Located in the city of Palo Alto, in San Francisco’s Bay Area, the church started out with an entry level digital console, but consistent congregation growth and the maturing demands of the worship team meant that an upgrade became essential.

Working closely with Nick Burns, managing director of supplier Forefront Productions ALV (whose head office is in NSW, Australia, but with local support for the US out of LA and Orlando), the church’s production manager Andrew Thomas chose the DiGiCo SD9 because he knew it would be the ideal solution.

“With 48 mono or stereo channels, we knew the SD9 would be able to handle anything we throw at it,” he says. “We realised that mixing would be very easy, thanks to all the controls being laid out exactly where you’d expect them, the powerful touchscreen and easy to navigate banks. The EQs and compressors sound great and the built in FX rack makes you wonder why you’d ever need any outboard.”

He continues, “We also have a lot of volunteers, many of whom are new to the world of audio, so I knew being able to load up presets at any scope of the session – from a single EQ to an entire show – would really take some of the load off of them, allowing them to focus on mixing.”

With the SD9 installed, Burns spent two days on site training church staff and programming an initial live setup, impressing everyone with the instantaneous improvements delivered by the console.

“Everyone I talked to about the SD9 had nothing but the best to say about it. But when it arrived, I was blown away,” says Thomas. “The sonic quality alone made the purchase worth it – the openness and clarity of sound made our PA sound brand new. But on top of that it has so much more.

“The console operation is unbelievably flexible and can accommodate pretty much anyone’s workflow. The ease of routing and navigating menus – plus the fact that there are at least three ways to do anything – means I have been able to make a workflow that fits me perfectly. And the fact that pretty much everything is ‘flexi’ makes it even better.

“We also have to set up and tear down every week, which the console saves us considerable time in doing. It’s also helped by the build quality being second to none.”

As well as the console, Andrew is full of praise for the service provided by Forefront and DiGiCo.

“Nick was a great teacher and made the daunting process of learning a new desk so easy,” he says. “He taught us everything we needed to know to run it, but also went in-depth about the many powerful functions, including some that probably would have taken me hours of reading tutorials to even realize were possible! The experience with both Forefront and DiGiCo was truly next level.”

Second Baptist Church Gets Second Round Of DiGiCo Consoles
Christmas services this past December never sounded better at Second Baptist Church’s 400,000-square-foot West Campus in Houston thanks to a recent audio system upgrade to two DiGiCo SD5 consoles. Installed by local HOW systems integrator Covenant Communications, the new consoles replace a pair of legacy DiGiCo D5 Live FOH and monitor desks for the church’s 5,000-seat “in-the-round” worship center, which also televises its lively services.

Second Baptist Global Tech Director Mark Sepulveda notes that after seven years of duty, the time had come to retire the previous consoles and make an upgrade. “The SD5s were chosen based on what our team thought were the best overall live audio consoles on the market that continued to give us superior audio with the DiGiCo brand, continued ease of hands-on functionality, easy firmware updates that will continue to add new features in the coming years, and the ability of the SD software to integrate with Waves SoundGrid for a seamless plug-in experience,” he says.

Covenant Communications has largely handled Second Baptist’s audio/video/lighting needs for the past four years, and the eventual upgrade choice came after considering various options. “I put a few things in front of Mark,” notes Joe Smart, Covenant’s sales manager. “Our role is to be objective; it’s not an emotional decision, but one to find the best solutions for them.” The SD5’s flexibility was perfectly suited for the church’s typical need for a quick “flip around to different worship styles” – from traditional to high-energy contemporary sound – and “recording audio for future TV broadcast,” notes Smart.

Smart points out that Second Baptist required more than the 128 inputs processed by its previous system: “The new spec required close to 160 inputs, no doubt in part to accommodate the fairly large band, including 12 to 15 rhythm players and 20 to 30 string players. That doesn’t include the enormous choir of up to 180 singers, 24 of those members being wirelessly close-miked and processed for a massive choir sound.”

Sepulveda notes that the DiGiCo consoles play a major role in the church services being broadcast. “The broadcast engineer takes direct feeds via tracking of the overall mix as well as 12-16 of the individual ‘money’ and room mic channels for the broadcast mix that is edited and mixed at the Main Campus’ (Woodway) broadcast studio,” he explains.

There wasn’t much of a learning curve moving from the D5 Live to SD5, notes Second Baptist West Campus Director of Audio Nathan Wells, because “the basic operation and layout of the SD5 was very familiar to both myself at FOH and our monitor mix engineer, Matt Howard, from working with the D5 consoles. So we were able to get into our mixes pretty quickly with little trouble. In other areas, such as the software menu options, the amazing in-depth snapshot detail, audio I/O setup via the software, session structure setup and, of course, the second function button, the ‘learning curve’ was more sizable but a very welcomed change from the D5 with the expanded features of the SD series software and hardware.”

According to Wells, several particular features on the SD5 console help his team members do their jobs better. “At FOH, the addition of Waves integration is huge, of course, and also being able to set up the console screens in previously unimaginable ways – such as combining input and output channels on one bank of faders and using multi channels and set spills to condense the channel layout – has been very useful in making things even easier to get to at any critical moment,” he says.

In addition, for monitors, “obviously the 56 mix buss count is a major upgrade,” adds Wells, also citing the second function button assisting in pre/post selection, layers for the output channels, and being able to assign talkback to any aux at any time. Both positions are also greatly impressed with the flexibility of the 40 macro buttons and virtually unlimited flexibility of the snapshot creation.

Wells further notes that by upgrading from the D5 to the SD5 “gave us the ability via the fiber network to access any I/O from any console and being able to arm the control of individual I/O cards in each rack for any one console on the network, all done with ease from the GUI on the consoles.”

That the SD5 incorporates FPGA technology (the reprogrammable semiconductor devices are based around a matrix of configurable logic blocks connected through programmable interconnects) allows for easy upgradability via download from DiGiCo, he also points out.

Summing up, Sepulveda can’t say enough about “the warm analog sound from these SD5 consoles and racks. It is amazing and also a really surprising improvement from the great sounding D5 desks. With very little channel EQ and not much processing needed of any kind, the SD5 has been a wonderful upgrade right out of the box.”

Second Baptist employs as many as 30 full-time AV staff, and 70 total when combining the volunteer force across all of its five campuses, which collectively comprise the US’ largest Baptist congregation and second largest house(s) of worship overall.

In addition to the two new desks that went into Second Baptist’s West Campus, the Woodway Main Campus very recently upgraded its monitor mix position with the church’s third new DiGiCo SD5. Commenting on this Sepulveda adds, “We have plans to bring the remaining campuses up to date within the DiGiCo family of consoles in a systematic, as-needed upgrade over the next few years.”