The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA) has installed a Calrec Brio 36 broadcast audio console in its new campus TV and recording studio.

‘We had been developing elements of this module over a six-year period, building up the students’ understanding, but a lot of the opportunities were extra curricular,’ explains Lipa Head of Sound Technology, Jon Thornton. ‘We had a small fly pack that we could deploy for specific events - that culminated in a full multi-camera shoot, to televise a two week festival in the main auditorium last summer – all outside a formally accredited module.

‘We wanted to be able to do real TV work, so we had to have a desk with all the dedicated broadcast features you need. That counts out powerful but generic smaller desks from Yamaha or Allen & Heath, for example. But we also needed the space to be flexible, and to that end we were looking for a single box, small-format solution that features a significant number of onboard mic preamps for live work [24 in the case of a Brio 36]. The Brio is a unique offering that ticks all of the boxes.

Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts ‘We’ve been offering core modules in Performance and Sound Technology for years, but with LIPA graduates finding employment in places like Gearhouse, Riedel, and at Wimbledon, we started to think that we should update our “couple of cameras and gaffer tape” approach to vision,’ Thornton continues. ‘We want to produce graduates with the necessary skills to enter the world of broadcast, and hit the ground running.

‘It was time to create a module catering for vision. Because we’re an Institute for the Performing Arts we wanted to cover aspects of vision work, from traditional multi-camera capture, through non traditional uses of vision combined with theatre, and on into the growth areas of AR and VR.’

The decision was made therefore to repurpose one of the theatre spaces, The Sennheiser Studio, into a multi-purpose TV studio. ‘Everything here has to be flexible because every space has to be useful to multiple courses,’ Thornton explains, ‘This TV studio is used as part of the Sound Technology course, but also the new Creative Technology and Performance course. Having a TV studio allows students to practise the specific skill of acting to camera in a multi-camera set-up, as well as to live audiences, and there’s also motion capture for dancers. All of this helps to justify the investment, because the spaces can be of benefit to so many different courses.’

The new facilities comprise the TV studio with a full TV lighting grid, four Black Magic cameras and green screen, and a Vision Gallery with Black Magic vision mixer. Picture is recorded to Black Magic Hyper Decks.

Laid out a little like an OB truck, the Sound Control Room is at the end of the Vision Gallery. Then there are separate rooms for Colour Grading (featuring DaVinci Resolve), Motion Capture, and a small Post Production room with Pro Tools and a 5.1 Neumann speaker system. The design of the acoustically important spaces was carried out by consultancy firm Whitemark, which has a long-term relationship with LIPA, and give annual lectures as part of the Recording Technology course.

New Calrec Brio 36 at the Liverpool Institute for Performing ArtsThe TV Studio’s Sound Control room houses the Brio 36, Pro Tools, Neumann loudspeakers and a Bricasti M7 reverb. Unlike an OB truck, or the majority of sound rooms in large studio complexes for that matter, there is a window through to the studio floor. ‘That’s all part of the multi use requirement’ explains Thornton. ‘We can use the TV studio as a live space, and the Calrec for normal sound mixing, with direct contact between the mix engineer and the artists.’

Brio features a 36 dual-layer fader surface and a myriad of options for expansion, from additional I/O to option cards for all of the most popular digital formats. Elaborating on the decision to install the Brio, Thornton says: ‘I’d insisted that LIPA invest in a product from one of the “big broadcast audio brands”. In this way, students leave LIPA having used real software from a real broadcast company, and have experience of a console they are very likely to encounter in the real world. It’s the same reason we feature SSL in our main music mix room, and an Avid S6 in the main postproduction suite.

‘LIPA already has a good relationship with Calrec, who has been helpful in offering students tours of the factory in Hebden Bridge, and at least two of our LIPA graduates have ended up working there.’

The new rooms are all equipped with ten Cat6 and 12 fibre pairs for communicating with the main technical area, meaning the desk is already fully integrated with LIPA’s existing infrastructure. With Calrec’s option card structure and continually evolving networking capabilities, the desk is also future-proofed for any formats LIPA may decide to migrate to in the future, ensuring their facilities stay at the cutting-edge of broadcast and sound technologies for many years to come.

The console was purchased from Studiocare in Liverpool, and equipped with three option cards for Madi, SDI embed and SDI de-embed. Systems integration was implemented by Robin Howell of Wire Broadcast, with the furniture designed by AKA Design. It was supplied through official UK Brio distributor Synthax Audio UK and training provided by Broadcast Sales Manager Simon Roome, which Synthax offers to all of its Brio customers as part of the sale.

‘Brio is a real broadcast product, but flexible enough to fulfil our multi use requirements,’ Thornton says. ‘It’s also relatively cost-effective and so, in my opinion, offers an unparalleled bang for the buck. Thanks to Synthax Audio UK for providing the demo Brio to AKA down in London, so that they could cut the desktop for a precise fit at their factory. When the AKA furniture arrived, everything just fitted together perfectly, saving us valuable time.’


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