A bilingual, multi-disciplinary home to Canada’s creative artists, the National Arts Centre (NAC) supports the NAC Orchestra as well as offering dance, English theatre, French theatre, indigenous theatre performances. It works with artists and arts organisations, investing in new works, and the next generation of audiences. As part of a recent US$110m overhaul, Engineering Harmonics along with system integrator Solotech Toronto were brought in to service its needs for the next 15 years and beyond.

NAC Southern HallThe project required upgrades to three of the performance spaces contained within the brutalist building, replacing outdated equipment and infrastructure including items from the original fit-out. Covering the Southam Hall, Babs Asper Theatre and Azrieli Studio, the upgrade includes mixing consoles, loudspeakers, amplifiers, DSP, intercoms and an Optocore fibre-optic network.

The NAC has installed 54 Optocore units across three networks, serving each space individually. Each dedicated network supports a mix of permanently installed Optocore devices, and mobile racks that can be moved freely between connection points in a venue or from one venue to another for shows requiring additional I/O. The networks run at 2Gb with 96kHz sampling for optimum audio quality and channel count. In the Studio/Back of House network there are nine network IDs of a maximum 24, using 176 of 384 audio inputs with an unlimited number of outputs. The Theatre system uses ten network IDs and 208 inputs, while Southam Hall has 13 IDs and 376 audio inputs.

At the heart of each network is one of Optocore’s new AutoRouters. This can operate regardless of the network speed, and sample rate and can be configured with a mix of Multimode or Singlemode transceivers to support any infrastructure with fibre ports for up to 20 different network access points. The AutoRouter functions as a smart fibre patchbay; when equipment at remote connection points is turned on and starts streaming data into the fibre, the device detects this data and repatches its ports to accommodate the new location. When remote racks are powered down or disconnected, the AutoRouter adjusts its patching to maintain a redundant network and bypasses the now unused fibres. The AutoRouter saves operators having to manually repatch the network with jumpers or loopback connectors whenever a location is not in use, ensuring constant network redundancy.

The AutoRouter is format agnostic so it not only creates Redundant Star topologies for Optocore or Digico SD equipment (using Optocore as its onboard network transport protocol) but can also be used with Yamaha TwinLANe and Avid AVB networks in standalone applications. This is due to the AutoRouter’s ability to detect any incoming format of data and output it accordingly.

NAC StudioThe Optocore system in each venue is a mix of DD32R-FX, X6R-FX and X6R-TP interfaces, configured for AES and analogue audio, with additional DD4MR-FX units for Madi distribution. All three venues have similar systems with the largest being in Southam Hall. Network connections at two FOH positions and a monitor position allow for house or guest consoles to tie into the network via analogue or AES and distribute audio to any other network device.

With a number of pre-programmed macros in the Optocore control software users can quickly change the network’s routing to feed AES or analogue from any location to the main PA, monitor amplifiers for wedges on stage, or to installed monitor speakers. This set-up allows the main PA and monitor speakers to be quickly set up, no matter whether there is a monitor console or not, with any analogue or digital console and with whichever format they might want to use.

The X6R-FX-16AEs that populate the console interface racks can offer 16 AES I/O (eight pairs) per device. They are also equipped with sample rate conversion cards so that an incoming AES signal is reclocked automatically to the Optocore network’s sampling rate. Even though there is a master Nanosync wordclock generator in each venue that distributes clock to all the new equipment via Optocore, this allows for users operating their consoles at 48kHz not to have to change their sample rate, limiting their channels to tie into the PA network. It also ensures that there are no word clock errors that could occur from different pieces of digital gear operating on different clock sources. X6R-TP-8LI/8LOs give each location eight analogue inputs that can serve as patches to other locations or as feeds for the processors and amplifiers. The eight analogue outputs in each TP device allow for splits for the local inputs or for cross-patching any channel on the network from other locations.

DD32R-FXs act as the master interface for each network, both distributing word clock from the Nanosyncs to all devices and as a 64 channel AES I/O interface connecting outputs from the FOH and monitor consoles to Meyer Sound Galileo units for processing. The post Galileo signal is then fed back into Optocore and sent to DD32Rs in the central equipment rooms where they output via AES to amplifiers for the main PA, surround speakers, stage fill speakers and monitor systems.

NAC TheatreThe high AES channel count of the DD32R-FX (32 AES pairs per device) gives each venue lots of additional ports for future needs and distribution. The X6R-TP-8LI/8LOs that are attached via SANE, Optocore’s synchronous Cat5 protocol, to the DD32Rs give additional 16/16 analogue I/O for local inputs and outputs which tie into other systems, like QSC’s Q-SYS.

Madi distribution is also available within each system through multiple DD4MR-FXs located in control rooms, at FOH locations and in the mobile monitor rack. DD4MRs have two Madi BNC input ports and two Madi BNC output ports, each capable of 64 channels at 48 kHz for a total count of 128 I/O. Optocore’s 2GB network, with up to 768 audio inputs at 48kHz, is well suited to transport multiple Madi streams as the high channel count can quickly fill up space on other lower bandwidth networks.

DD4MRs give the operators at the NAC numerous options and flexibility including the ability to feed the PA system via Madi, output the shows for multitrack recording, transport Madi between the stage and FOH for guest consoles that would otherwise need a separate Madi snake, or tie into any production mobiles used for a performance.

Optocore rackThe Optocore systems were assembled in such a way that the system is capable of interfacing with any console that may come into the facility, giving ultimate usage and flexibility over time as different manufacturers and formats change. Furthermore, as the Optocore platform was built on open standards, they will continue to provide new products and solutions that will keep the NAC as a premiere facility with the latest technological developments moving forward.

‘The NAC’s venues receive many different acts of varying sizes and technical requirements,’ says Optocore North America’s Brandon Coons. ‘The new Optocore systems will give them the ability to support current acts and shows moving forward with the world class features you would expect from a new performance venue.

‘It’s now no longer a question of what the building’s systems are capable of, but of what they are asked for and how to deploy it.’

More: www.optocore.com

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