Budding media moguls get technology boost

Students in Sandnes, Norway are offered a unique blend of technology and teaching to set themselves on the way to a profession in music or the arts.

Vågen Videregående Skole roughly translates to Harbour High School. Located in Sandnes, Norway, the media and performing arts college has recently re-located to a brand new facility.
850 students aged between 16 and 19, and 120 staff are now able to enjoy a unique educational experience in Norway, in terms of the levels of technical equipment and facilities on offer for learning.
Principal Mats Bryne, speaking to Editor Chris Fitzsimmons, said: “What we have created here is a fantastic opportunity for our students to participate in our programmes of study. We combine music, drama and media, with standard curriculum subjects. The idea is that students will be afforded the same opportunities and facilities as they will in professional life, in terms of software and hardware.”
Nothing quite like Vågen has even been attempted before in Norway, and it represents a massive investment on behalf of the Sandnes municipality to the tune of €2.1 million on technology alone.
Consultant Frode Bye of COWIS took the lead, and was responsible for system specification, design and managing the tender process for the school, as well as overseeing the installation work, which was carried out by Viju Norway. Viju’s project manager for the college was Gunnar Aasland.

The new building, which also houses a local cultural facility called “Sandnes Culture” contains a mixture of teaching spaces, range from 24 conventional classrooms, to a fully featured performance theatre. In between these come four dance studios, ten group music rooms, a dozen small music editing suites and several auditoriums as well as a large sports hall.
The college also boasts a TV production studio, two audio recording studios and a TV Editing suite, all of which are equipped with professional grade equipment, in keeping with Principal Bryne’s vision. There is opportunity throughout the college for students to work on either side of the technology, both on performance and in production.
To this end Vågen benefits from a site-wide single-mode fibre network, which is used to run signals from various classrooms and facilities back to the main recording studios. Digital signals are transported via MADI, with a mobile Allen & Heath iDR I/O box, with MADI – fibre cards onboard, able to be plugged in at a number of points throughout the college. Industry standard software such as Pro Tools or Cu Base is available on Mac computers in all the recording studios.
A Navori digital signage network, with NEC 50” LCD panels as endpoints, also permeates the campus to show scheduling and other information, as well as media content created by the student body.
In terms of more conventional AV technology, Extron’s MLC control, source selection, and switching equipment is installed in all the classrooms, music teaching rooms, and dance spaces to give staff simple to use control of media.
The dance studios are a case in point. Each of the four is equipped with a simple equipment rack. It contains Extron MLC switching and source control, a local PC, as well as a Pioneer DVJ-1000 CD/DVD player. This unique device was specified as it is one of the few on the market able to fulfil the college’s requirement for jog-dial skip/search of both music and DVD tracks. It enables a choreography teacher to swiftly select a section of a video or audio track.
Audio reproduction is via self-powered JBL Eon 515 cabinets, coupled with a pair of 518 subwoofers. BSS Blu-100 processors are also included in the equipment rack to provide EQ, and Viju’s programmer created special drivers allowing the Extron MLC system to integrate with them.
Also of particular note are the college’s six auditoriums. These hold between 80 and 100 students and are equipped one of three ways.
The so-called music auditoriums, have a smaller seat-count but provide space for live performance at the front of the room, including access to the fibre network for recording. The three remote learning auditoriums are all equipped with Tandberg C60 videoconferencing equipment, and the cinema auditorium includes a projector upgrade to a projectiondesign Ceneo 32 and JBL surround sound speakers.
Other than these variations, the specification is largely the same: A teaching position is equipped with a Smart Sympodium 22” tablet, AverMedia document camera and Crestron touch panel.
In the equipment rack is Crown CTi amplification for the JBL ceiling speakers (required for compliance with Norway’s UU disability access legislation), Ampetronic induction loop amplifiers, the Crestron CP2E controller, and a BSS Blu-160 processor for EQ. Sources include Yamaha Blu-Ray and Denon CD players.
Programme audio reproduction comes from more JBL EON 515 loudspeakers, which are wall-mounted. Projectors in the non-cinema auditoriums are from NEC, and these are illuminating Euroscreen motorised projection surfaces.
The heart of Vågen college, on many levels, is the main concert hall and performance theatre. It servers as a showcase for the students, a venue for them to demonstrate all that they have learned, as well as an entertainment venue for the wider public and an important revenue generator for the institution.
To that end, it’s one of the highest specified such spaces in the country, remarks Frode Bye: “It’s designed for all kinds of performances from Ballet to rock music, as well as film screenings.”
There is a L-C-R configuration of Meyer Sound M1D powered line-array, supported at the low end by HP100 subwoofers. Cinema programme sound comes from JBL 8350 wall mount speakers, driven by Crown CTi amplification and Onkyo processing.
16-channels of Sennheiser wireless covers the microphone side of things, and more BSS BLU-160 processors are on hand  for feedback elimination and EQ duties. The audio system is all controlled from a central FOH position, which boasts a Digidesign AVID console, as well as a GrandMA 2 lighting console, as well as the equipment from a teacher’s podium (the 22” Sympodium panel and document camera).
In keeping with its variety of applications, the theatre actually features two separate projectors. A projectiondesign F32 covers cinema duties, whilst a lower resolution NEC model is used for backdrops and theatre effects.
There’s no doubt that the college is a rather unique venture. It certainly doesn’t fit the usual stereotypes for an educational facility. The standard classrooms themselves being relatively bland in comparison with the innovative blend of teaching and professional grade technology that exists in the rest of the campus. 
It’s clear from all concerned, including the Viju team, Frode Bye and principal Bryne that this is exactly the result they were looking for.

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