There have been some inspiring stories to come out of the adversity of the last few months, where AV solutions have proved enabling forces for good in maintaining or in some cases reimagining operations for organisations across the professional spectrum.
One recent story that has come to light is how Dante audio networking helped London’s renowned Guildhall School of Music and Drama to reimagine its annual award for The Gold Medal, a performance competition that is a key part of the school’s curriculum, and has taken place every year since its inception in 1915.
Scheduled to take place in May, the 2020 iteration of the annual performance was postponed as all teaching moved online for the summer term. “Because of Covid we needed to be swift in our response to ensure things like The Gold Medal could occur and, very importantly, that in-person classes could still take place with full scale participation,” said Julian Hepple, head of recording and audio visual at Guildhall School. “To make that happen we quickly turned to Dante and Dante Domain Manager. And, in September, as we returned to in-person teaching, we were able to hold The Gold Medal and broadcast the performance online.”
Audinate’s Dante distributes hundreds of uncompressed, multi-channel digital audio channels via standard Ethernet networks, with near-zero latency, and allows audio, control, and all other data to coexist effectively on the same network. In addition to the live performances, the school was also able to employ Dante to help with its virtual learning environment.
The Gold Medal performances were spread out across four separate rooms on the campus, with the largest space used by those on string instruments and the piano, all socially distanced. The woodwind and brass sections were based in separate rooms while the conductor was located in a fourth room.
“We had 90 musicians in total across the different rooms and building,” Hepple said. “We needed to manage a number of inputs and outputs across the space and have them be as latency free as possible. They needed to be able to perform synchronously with one another.”
To do this, 40 Neumann, Rupert Neve Designs, Schoeps, and DBA directional microphones were strategically placed across the space to capture instrument audio. These feeds were brought into SSL, Yamaha and Neutrik preamplifiers where they were translated into Dante-native channels and fed out to Cisco and Dell switch infrastructure across two buildings, and then routed to a Solid State Logic System T mixer that allows for broadcast-specific processing. The audio feeds were then delivered out to two locations: to the broadcast mix for live playout via a live production system, and to the other performers via headphones.
“With Dante we were able to deliver the correct mix to the different rooms with an imperceptible level of latency,” Hepple added. “Our conductor went into rehearsals on day one, and within 20 bars he said he was ready to go. This is someone who has decades of experience in the classical performance space, and it was an immediate acceptance of the new set-up.
“There was a time when we were worried this could be cancelled,” Hepple said. “However, with Dante we were able to keep it alive. And that’s a big deal right now because our rooms, which are normally alive and vibrant, had been silent for six months. Bringing the music back was important for everyone.”
Across the campus, a total of 35 rooms are ‘Dante enabled’ by way of 70 different devices. Those Dante-capable devices include:
- Neutrik NA2-IO-DPRO & DLINE microphones (Preamps and IO units)
- Yamaha (CL, QL &) TF-Rack digital mixers
- I/O units from both SSL and Yamaha
- Multiple computers utilizing Dante Virtual Soundcard
- One SSL System T broadcast platform
“We really are performing together while apart,” Hepple concluded. “Because of Dante our entire campus is now one big studio. We have 70 more live performances planned in the coming months, available to watch online for free at www.gsmd.ac.uk/autumn_2020. Everything from live music to dramatic performances will be enabled by this Dante workflow. The faculty is emotional seeing performances return. The students are excited about this technology and the creativity it can enable. And the families and friends and fans of the performers get to see performances again. It’s beautiful what we’ve been able to create with Dante.”