According to Johannes Goebel, Director of EMPAC, “The EMPAC building will provide a wide variety of performance venues and studios, all of them built to a very high standard, and all of them designed from the start to accommodate both the traditional performing arts and also contemporary works—especially those for which digital technology is a sophisticated, aesthetically experimental, integral part of the production. To accomplish this, we recognized the need for highly sophisticated audio/video networking and management capabilities. With audio being such an integral part of the overall picture, we also wanted superior mixing and audio processing facilities. All of this led us to Lawo and their recognized leadership in these areas.”
After a protracted search, Goebel and his associates elected to build EMPAC’s A/V infrastructure around a Lawo Nova 73HD router, two Lawo mc²56 digital production consoles, and a VSM (Virtual Studio Manager) management system. When the facility is completed and all aspects of this massive undertaking are implemented, the project will not only represent the first installation of Lawo’s new mc²56 consoles in the US, it will also be the first complete VSM implementation covering both video and audio in the US.
The system’s I/O architecture revolves around the Nova 73HD router—equipped with twelve DALLIS frames for I/O and tied to a series of moveable stage boxes located throughout the facility. The two mc²56 consoles—each with its own Lawo plug-in server for DSP (digital signal processing)—are networked with the router and can share the various inputs and outputs. To accommodate a wide variety of productions, exhibitions, workshops, and other events, both consoles can be moved throughout the complex as required. Microphone and other inputs are accessed via the stage boxes while outputs for recorders, sound reinforcement systems, and other equipment are also handled through the router.
In addition to the extensive audio routing, mixing, and processing capabilities, EMPAC’s audiovisual facilities will be controlled by the VSM control software. EMPAC’s VSM system will be comprised of 14 virtual displays and, in its final state, will encompass all audio routing, both mc²56 consoles, plus the interface for the facility’s HD video production equipment, including video source selection, as well as control of both the video router and video switcher.
EMPAC encompasses a concert hall with a seating capacity for 1,200 people, a 400-seat theater with fly-tower and computer controlled rigging, two black-box studios, one being 3,500 square feet by 40-feet high, and the other being 2,500 square feet by 30-feet high, a 1,500 square foot rehearsal studio, four artist-in-residence studios, plus a café and lobby area. EMPAC’s design architect is the British architectural firm Grimshaw. All venues are designed to a maximum noise level of 15 dB under full video and theatrical lighting conditions and are structurally isolated from each other. To obtain the quietest environment possible, all dimmers in the building are sine-wave dimmers, which do not excite the filaments of the lighting instruments.
“Upon completion,” says Goebel, “EMPAC will provide a technologically, intellectually, and artistically charged environment. It will supply links between science and engineering research on one side and the sensory impact of art on the other; between the human aspiration toward clarity and precision and the equally human experience, so often felt in art, of life as a stumbling quest for answers. After a tremendous amount of planning, our vision is now within reach. Everyone involved in this endeavor is genuinely excited about the prospects this new facility means for generations of students, artists, researchers, and scientists. With sound being such a vital element in all that will take place here, we are delighted to have the networking and audio expertise of Lawo involved with us in this project. The company has been extremely supportive and has even loaned us two mc²66 consoles while our mc²56 desks are being assembled and configured. It’s hard to imagine having a better partner.”
For additional information about Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s new Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, visit them online at www.empac.rpi.edu.
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 all Lawo products, visit the company online at www.lawo.ca.