NEW YORK CITY, 29 February 2008 — Sometimes things just seem to fit together perfectly. Which was very much the case at Jazz at Lincoln Center recently as Aussie ex-pat Howard Page mixed a show called Australia Plays Broadway on a console that he had more than a bit of a hand in helping to develop.
That console was the new Studer Vista 5 SR. Page is the director of engineering at Clair Brothers/Showco, which recently purchased multiple Vista 5 SRs, and not only does he hail from the “land down under”; he was also instrumental in developing the SR version of the Vista 5 right down to spec’ing the viewing angle on the desk’s touch-screens.
“A couple of the engineers saw the broadcast version of the Studer Vista 5 and we immediately recognized that the interface would be just incredible for live work,” says Page. “We approached Studer about developing a dedicated live version and they were very responsive. They added fans, made the chassis more rigid and the rack that holds the DSP much stronger. We were able to explain to them that we require beyond a military spec because gear takes such incredible abuse on the road. Most manufacturers of install equipment just can’t understand that.”
Australia Plays Broadway, a show Page calls “one of the most complex I have worked on in many years,” was the kick-off of a four-day event celebrating Australian culture, art, business, trade, tourism, food and wine, and the organizers aimed for nothing less than to showcase the breadth and depth of Australian talent to an American audience. Fittingly, the bill went beyond the merely diverse.
“We had rock bands next to opera singers next to a concert pianist next to a didgeridoo next to twin cellists, and we had to put the whole thing together in one day,” says Page.
As Page is quick to note, a show like this is usually a three-day process with one day for load-in, one for rehearsals, and the morning of the show for final tweaks and “tidying up.” But, in this case, rehearsals ran until minutes before doors opened to the public. “I had all 96 inputs full and more pressure than I have had in years and years,” says Page. “I was creating snapshots and assigning them to cues – basically building the show right up to the last second – and even then I was changing VCA control groups on the fly.”
Page says it is the intuitiveness and power behind the Vista 5 SR that made the show possible to pull off. “In terms of the power within the footprint, the Vista 5 SR is deceptively simple looking. And it sounds stunning,” he says noting that at the Rose Theatre he took up so little space that they were able to put multiple lighting boards next to the audio console. “I also love the simplicity of the setup of the console. Three pieces – the worksurface and the case that holds the processing (which the worksurface sits on top of) and the stagebox all connected with one piece of fiber. We are able to get the console going in eight minutes maximum.”
Studer has also responded to user requests in software updates adding features such as solo follow select, which Page says makes the SR “even easier to use.” Note that this is not feint praise coming from someone who has designed a few consoles himself, including Showco’s ShowConsole, a digitally-controlled analog desk that was the precursor to today’s digital boards and that still ranks among the favorites of many engineers. In fact, Page credits the “brilliance of the Studer and the Vistonics software for making this very complex show possible at all.
“The software is brilliant. It’s intuitive. It’s stunning. You can do almost anything with it. You really are limited only by your own creativity,” he says.