Jan 07, 2009



--Broadcast and recording students benefit in new Creative/IT school

Last year City College Coventry moved its various Technologies Departments into phase one of its new, purpose-built £50m Swanswell Centre.

In advance of this relocation Mick Dabrowski, head of the college’s Music, Multimedia & Computing sections (known collectively as the School of Creative & Information Technologies), set about specifying new, mission-critical facilities for learners who had previously been using repurposed buildings, to create a truly cutting edge department.

The new facility would include three identically kitted out broadcast studios, using Soundcraft mixing consoles — these house the College’s ‘Synergy FM’ radio station, operating with an RSL over a restricted ten-mile radius. Meanwhile, on the top floor, two high-end studios for recording and mixing and a flagship commercial studio still to be specified would join four heavily-used project studios (also equipped with Soundcraft). All would support a wide range of industry standard software, available on both Mac and PC.

Dabrowski contacted Peter Knowles, managing director of Total Audio Solutions, who had earlier built and equipped various music and radio studios at the college’s previous facility, located in Tile Hill.

“The contract had to go out to tender,” acknowledges Mick Dabrowski, “and Total Audio beat everyone else’s prices hands down. Peter Knowles is extremely knowledgeable, helpful and affordable, and is always a pleasure to work with.”

The college had enjoyed a long and successful relationship with Soundcraft mixing consoles stretching over nearly two decades and Dabrowksi had himself enjoyed using a range of Soundcraft desks, including the classic 1600 and 2400 series consoles, during his early days in various London recording studios.

Brought in by Mick Wheeler, who set up the first radio course at Coventry 16 years ago, he started out teaching Studio Techniques and Music Production as part of a new National Diploma Course, eventually taking over the running of the Music Department.

“We first introduced a BTEC ND Music course and then an HND, followed by a range of Multimedia and other lower level courses,” he said. “When it came to the relocation I tried to establish what we needed in the way of purpose-built studios, with maximum compatibility between each.”

This time he wanted an identical set-up in each Synergy FM studio, which would still be intuitive to radio students in a learning environment. At Peter Knowles’ suggestion he upgraded the old Soundcraft Series 5 desks to the more sophisticated Series 10s in each of the three radio studios. “These are perfect for learning purposes and have had a very positive impact,” he acknowledged.

Peter Knowles himself says, “The reason I enjoy installing radio studios is that it’s a totally level medium. You can engage students at any given level — it’s not about the technology but having a good toolbox. We like the Series 10 because it’s a good size, it feels like a proper analogue worksurface, it sounds good and it’s highly functional.” The studios include Adobe Audition (formerly Cool Edit Pro) editing facilities.

His views are echoed by Mick Wheeler himself: “We hadn’t had the luxury of identical studios before — we’d used a mixture of Series 15’s and Series 5s. Our package from Total Audio included changing over to Series 10s which is ideal because our students can go into any of the studios and not be phased by having a different desk set-up. They quickly find the technology very easy to use.”

Another key feature, he says, is that the Series 10 looks significantly superior to the Series 5. “This means when students come in for interview they see three identical, professional looking studios that function really well.”

The Series 10 is a fully modular on-air mixing console, which has been designed to offer total operational flexibility and a wide choice of input frames, comprising Mono, Stereo, Telco and Source Select Modules.

Students graduate with a National Diploma in Media (Radio Production), with the majority progressing to university.

Similarly the Soundcraft Ghost was specified by Total Audio Solutions for use in the project recording studios upstairs by BTEC First and ND students — as well as being recommended by one of the tutors, who has successfully operated a Ghost in his own home studio for several years.

The four project studios — sharing two large performance spaces — are all fitted with identically configured, 24-input desks. One of the control rooms is also cleverly laid out with a conventional classroom back-end.

Peter Knowles says there is no other desk on the market that would have met the criteria. “Ghost is the only analogue console that has tape returns — it’s a standard really and ideal for developing a basic workflow.” He also reasons that when building a studio in the educational sector it’s important to do so with the staff in mind as much as the students. And again Ghost meets the essential criteria.

Designed to deliver audio precision, Soundcraft’s analogue console demonstrates the superior quality and high-specification control features of a big studio desk (such as ProMic preamp, EQ, computer-based machine control and mute automation) at a low price tariff.

Mick Dabrowski confirmed, “We had wanted to move up from what we had before; Ghost represents good value, everyone loves them … and we also like the fact that they are British.”

And with large, fully-equipped TV studio facilities also on the fourth floor, the new Creative Technologies section at Swanswell is looking towards a bright future.

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