When a large regional venue outgrows its audio mixing system, major capital spending is needed for a replacement.
In the case of Norwich Theatre, investing in a Yamaha RIVAGE PM5 digital mixing system has maximised its long-term return.
Norwich Theatre comprises three venues – the 1300-seat Norwich Theatre Royal, the 300-capacity Norwich Theatre Playhouse and Norwich Theatre Stage Two, a creative hub with a 120-seat studio theatre, rehearsal studios and training spaces.
The Theatre Royal stages everything from major, multi-performance musicals through to one-night stand-up comedy shows.
In recent years its role has evolved, from being primarily a receiving house to doing more of its own productions and sound design. It has featured a Yamaha CL5 digital mixer for 10 years, which the most recent productions were starting to outgrow.
“The CL5 has been great for the bigger productions, while we have a Yamaha QL1 which is ideal for the stand-up shows,” said head of sound Darren Fuller.
“But with doing more of our own productions, we wanted to do more sound design, to go bigger, deliver surround sound and more. Things like our annual pantomime had started to run out of channels, we were using every I/O on the CL5. We also wanted redundancy, so we decided to upgrade to a full Dante network, with a lot of DVS.”
At the same time, the team at the Playhouse was also looking to expand its sound options. With the CL5 having many years of reliable life left, the decision was taken to move the CL5 to the Playhouse and invest in a Yamaha RIVAGE PM5 system for the bigger venue.
Together with TF3 and TF1 consoles in Stage Two, Norwich Theatre is now an all-Yamaha house.
Darren has long-term working relationships with Ben Noble at systems integrator Push The Button and Mike Walker at audio specialists Loh-Humm Audio, who supplied a RIVAGE PM5 system and HY144-D-SRC 144 channel Dante network card, to interface with 48khz sample rate personal monitors.
“We operate as a charitable trust, so every capital investment has to be justified. We plough a lot back into the venues and the community, we’re always renovating and giving productions and audiences the best we can,” said Darren.
“This was a once in ten years investment. It made complete sense to future-proof the Theatre Royal with the RIVAGE PM5, where we can always upgrade the engine in the future if we need to, while giving the CL5 a second life in the Playhouse was an obvious choice, because of its features and exceptional reliability.
“We are trying to make everything very user friendly, we want mixing consoles in all our spaces that everyone can use, which are both intuitive and ultra-reliable,” he continued, adding with a smile: “We do a lot of weekend concerts, so having Yamaha mixers gives us the reassurance that our technical team won’t be getting phone calls on a Sunday!”
Darren and his team are running the RIVAGE PM5 in theatre mode, which is particularly useful for the major productions in the Theatre Royal. “The dynamics recalls are incredibly useful, they make our lives a lot easier for the difference between speaking and shrieking, as it were, and the artist library saves a lot of time,” he says.
“More generally, the way the screens work is amazing, its user-friendliness, it’s very comfortable to use, the spacing of the control surface is great and users love the faders. Everyone seems to like it… and we still keep finding new things that it does!”
When it comes to logistics in a venue with two mix positions, the size and weight of the control surface is also proving its worth. “That’s definitely an issue because we’re moving it around quite a lot,” said Darren. “Not only that, but the case isn’t too big. We have to put it somewhere when the system’s in use, so that’s another benefit.”
Norwich Theatre is already looking to make further investment, this time for Stage Two, highlighting how Yamaha product development is keeping pace with the market as it evolves.
“Stage Two was originally set up as a training space, but now we’re doing a lot more with it. There’s a lot of creative development, people are developing their own shows with all the elements to push out for small regional tours,” said Darren.
“We do a lot of podcasting and streaming and are looking to invest in a Yamaha DM3 for that.”