New York theatre goes digital

The David H. Koch Theatre, part of the Lincoln Centre for Performing Arts in New York City has implemented a digital audio system as part of a multi-million dollar renovation. A DiGiCo SD8 console was specified to handle the theatre’s requirements.

The theatre has been home to ballet and opera performances since opening in 1964. Formerly the New York State Theatre, the historic structure was originally built as part of New York State's cultural participation in the 1964-1965 World's Fair.

During a multi-million dollar renovation that began in 2008, funded by billionaire philanthropist David H. Koch, the massive overhaul encompassed structural and architectural improvements, and eventually included a revamp of the theatre’s main audio system from analogue to digital. Abe Jacob, a renowned audio mixer/sound designer and the theatre’s sound supervisor worked in tandem with Lew Mead, director of Autograph A2D, and Group One Ltd, both U.S. DiGiCo distributors, to specify an SD8 console. Both decided that the SD8 was a good fit, in terms of size and onboard features.

“Two years ago, the first part of the renovation was in essence to increase the size of the orchestra pit and to allow for a better stage for the performers,” explains Jacob, who is also the audio consultant for City Opera. “At the same time, the stage was put on a lift so it could be raised or lowered to various heights, and the electrical infrastructure for the lighting, sound, communications and video was replaced. As the renovation got more detailed, the work included architectural renovation to the theatre sidewalls and removal of the carpet to make it more acoustically friendly for the onstage vocals, which has always been a major problem since the theatre was originally designed for dance.

“A section of the original continental seating was removed to include two side aisles, which did improve the acoustical response, but still nothing in respect to the sound had been discussed. As we got more involved, bringing the theatre up to code for ADA accessibility requirements, an epaulet in the new area had to be installed. The only place to do so was the area of the existing sound booth. What was small to begin with, was literally cut in half in overall size. I was able to use that as a pressure to replace the existing analogue console, which would’ve been too large for the new space, with the DiGiCo SD8.”

The desk physically met the requirements for the space and could also handle the sound enhancement and reinforcement required by the City Opera and the New York City Ballet, who are the two main constituents of the theatre.

The primary function of the SD8 is to provide 14 channels or so of orchestral microphones that feed the onstage monitors for the dancers and singers. Futhermore it can handle another six to eight area mics - depending on the show or the opera - to feed backstage program, listening-impaired system, and various program needs throughout the building. “We are using internal effects in the desk for some reverbs, a lot of the audio delay and EQ functions,” Jacob adds.

In addition, the SD8 is used for the stereo direct-to-disc archival recordings of each of the first performances. “The Ballet records on DVD and the Opera records directly to audio,” adds Jacob, “and so we have a simple stereo mix out of the desk to those audio capturing devices.”

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