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DiGiCo console provides technical upgrade for historic Manchester venue

Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre has invested in a new DiGiCo SD10T audio console to meet the changing technical requirements of the productions staged at the venue

The theatre is a self-contained, heptagonal steel structure of which only the ground floor seating and stage rest on the Great Hall floor, the module is actually suspended from four of the building’s massive, original columns.

Sorcha Williams is the theatre’s head of sound and was closely involved in the specification of the theatre’s new DiGiCo console, supplied by Autograph Sales & Installations and delivered with dual SD-Racks fitted with the OpticalCon options, T-series theatre software, a redundant engine and fader pod.

“In a relatively short space of time, the technical requirements for sound design have rapidly changed with advances in technology. That, coupled with the Royal Exchange now producing a big musical every year, has meant that we have had to invest in equipment that can cater for the diverse range of productions on our stage.

“That means being flexible with how we programme and operate shows, and where we operate from. Our usual sound op area is not suitable for mixing a musical, so we create a secondary ops area. Our previous in-house desk was a great desk to use, however not practical to move. We therefore hired a DiGiCo every Christmas for the musical and whenever we had a larger scale show that required live mixing mics, most recently on our co-production with Manchester International Festival ‘Fatherland’. With the increase in the need to hire, it made sense for us to invest in our own digital console to replace the existing one.

“DiGiCo is what is always requested by sound designers and the features and expandability it provides mean we can cater for almost any requirements.

“The decision to purchase the spare engine and fader pod is to provide the redundancy needed when running a large show. Personally, I have never been in the position where I needed to use an RE! The first DiGiCo console I used regularly was an SD7 and I never had to switch engines, but knowing that you can gives the operator peace of mind. We are currently in the middle of tech-ing Guys & Dolls and the associate sound designer has found it useful to jump onto the RE fader pod to make slight adjustments to group or aux levels without disrupting what I am doing on the main console. The previous console didn’t have any form of redundancy, so we were increasing the risk of losing a show if anything happened.”

Several years ago, Williams upgraded the theatre’s QLab systems to run a redundant system, so it made sense to also do that with the desk. The SD10T was also specified with the dedicated T-series theatre control software.

“While I find that setting up some of the features with the T software can be time consuming to begin with, ultimately it makes the workflow during the tech so much quicker,” said Williams. “The recall features it provides allows for much more detailed scene by scene programming.”