NOVEMBER 25, 2014

Tring Park School Brings Avid to the Live Stage


Situated in England’s leafy Hertfordshire, Tring Park School for the Performing Arts offers specialist studies in dance, drama, musical theatre and commercial music. As well as gaining excellent academic qualifications, the majority of the school's pupils forge successful careers in the performing arts. Some of the institution’s most notable alumni include Julie Andrews, Sarah Brightman, Daisy Ridley, and Lily James. It is, therefore, no surprise to find that the school's theatre hosts a wide variety of performances, ranging from full-blown musicals and plays to concerts from student bands.

Faced with the increasing scope, size, and complexity of live sound requirements, the school determined that its existing live sound system was no longer able to perform to the level required by its productions and began a search for a more sophisticated and flexible live sound system that met tight budget requirements.

“Previously, we had hired a variety of digital mixing desks from Avid and other vendors,” says Jon Mardlin, sound engineer and music technology teacher at Tring Park School. “We kept coming back to Avid live systems, as they always give us more options in terms of I/O and plugins, as well as great sound. They’re flexible and easy to use due to their automation and the way the consoles are laid out.”

With Avid Everywhere, Mardlin and his colleagues at Tring Park School saw an opportunity to use live sound as a mechanism to far-more powerfully engage their theatre audience. And now, through its investment in the Avid MediaCentral platform and the Avid Artist Suite of creative tools for live sound production that run on top of it, the academy benefits from a tightly integrated workflow that amplifies its students’ performances and enables the delivery of exceptional sound productions to every audience.

To deliver the functionality Tring Park School’s performances required at a cost-effective price, they chose Avid's ultra-portable S3L System from the Avid Artist Suite because only the S3L offered HDX processing power and full integration with AAX plugins in a compact footprint.

As the new system is based on the Avid VENUE | Software platform, show files from previous rented Avid systems can be run on the S3L saving the school valuable set-up time. “We have a couple of cabaret shows that we've recently performed,” Mardlin recalls. “These were written on a Profile and an SC48 during the last academic year. It took just under five minutes before we were up and running with them.”

We had been looking at buying an Avid VENUE | Profile System, so when the S3L came out it meant we could have the functionality of that system at a more affordable price, but without compromising on anything.


Versatile sound solution

The S3L’s flexible functionality was another key determinant for the school’s investment. “The way VENUE handles snapshots is the real reason we opted for an Avid desk over any other digital console,” says Mardlin. “A snapshot can control just one parameter on one channel or can affect every input and output. This means I can control the band or the cast using different snapshots or control specific EQ or effects on individual cast members for one scene if needed.”

Avid’s solutions also streamline production processes, saving valuable time at Tring Park School’s recording studio, making it easier and more efficient for the team to manage productions.

“We can also record a band in the studio and use this to run smaller shows or cabaret performances but I still have full control over each instrument,” Mardlin explains. “Pre-production is done fully offline using the editor. I name all the input/output channels, patch routing for the inputs/outputs and then look at the snapshots. I read through the script and assign snapshots which change the live mics and VCA assignments.”

Portable and reliable

Mardlin says another consideration when choosing a system was the relatively small size of Tring Park’s theatre, which made the ultra-portable and modular nature of the S3L an added attraction.

The modular nature of the Avid solution means that Tring Park can add another Stage box when the school needs to add more inputs/outputs, according to Mardlin. “We can also move the I/O racks about the theatre for different shows, which has stopped long cable runs,” he adds.

“We are about to take our senior dance show to the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre,” continues Mardlin. “Last year it meant a bigger van, heavy lifting, and a large snake to connect into the theatre sound system. This year it will be a lot easier with the S3L and Stage boxes to link into their system.”

Having the S3L means that we take up only a few seats. Not only does this save space, it means that we can move the desk in and out of the theatre very quickly when we have a drama or dance show that needs no FOH position.


Variety act

Avid's S3L meets Tring Park School’s needs for powerful, affordable and integrated processing. It comprises a high-performance, HDX-powered processing engine running AAX plugins, scalable remote I/O, and a slim-line EUCON-enabled control surface, all networked together over Ethernet AVB. Intended for maximum versatility and efficiency, the S3L comes complete with award-winning Avid VENUE and Pro Tools software, and an integrated collection of professional effects and sound-processing plugins.


A standard musical production at Tring Park School now involves two Stage 16 remote I/O boxes, which host 24 Sennheiser radio headsets, two audience ambient mics for USB recording via matrix, and 16 outputs for Roland M48 Personal Mixers. A third Stage 16 remote box offers 16 inputs for the band (normally piano, keyboards, bass, guitar, three brass/wind instruments, and a drum kit). The E3 engine, which runs Avid's VENUE software, acts as mission control for the entire system and runs the Front of House LRC outputs and stage foldback. 

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