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Focusrite RedNet Routes Audio For Custom 27.2 Surround Sound Production
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Andreas Renhorn, chief sound engineer at the GöteborgsOperan in Gothenburg, Sweden, pictured with Focusrite RedNet units (lower right). Photo credit: Cecilia Bostr

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  Applications, Installations, Interfaces, Conversion, Focusrite, Surround Sound

Focusrite RedNet Ethernet-networked studio interfaces recently helped provide a solution for Andreas Renhorn, chief sound engineer at the GöteborgsOperan in Gothenburg, Sweden, when he was tasked with playing back 32 channels of high-quality audio, including feeding a custom 27.2 audio system, in the Opera’s modern riverside performance complex.

The production “The World To Darkness And To Me” is a new dance work by New York-based choreographer Richard Siegal, with electroacoustic music composed by Lorenzo Bianchi Hoesch of IRCAM in Paris.

Hoesch’s abstract, percussive electronic/sampled music directly complements Siegal’s “If/Then” dance method, which combines written choreography with options for the dancers to co-create in an almost game-like environment where they pick up and improvise around each other’s moves.

Hoesch’s music, which was created with visual music programming language Max, required enormous dynamic range to convey a great deal of light and shade, and was designed to be played back in three dimensions via a special 27.2 loudspeaker array installed for the production. Using MSP audio extensions and 3D spatialization plug-ins, he was able to achieve extremely powerful manipulation of the audio.

Hoesch utilized Ambisonic’s surround-sound system, which can recreate a three-dimensional sound field where sounds can be placed anywhere in space completely unrelated to the loudspeaker positions.

To replay this remarkable music in this advanced way, in this unique environment, was Renhorn’s primary challenge: “I needed to find equipment that was able to achieve the highest possible quality of digital conversion.” He also needed to get 32 channels of audio easily from one place to another.

Renhorn soon found that Focusrite’s RedNet 2 A/D – D/A units offered a solution. With 16 channels of line-level A/D - D/A conversion per unit, a pair of RedNet 2s provided the right number of channels for the main system plus auxiliaries, and made it easy to get the audio where it was needed due to the plug-and-play Dante Ethernet-based networking.

For the performances, audio was sent from a MacBook Pro running QLab, a cue-based multimedia playback software system designed for theater and live work.

Using the Dante Virtual Sound Card (DVS) driver – which is provided free of charge with any RedNet unit – the MacBook Pro’s internal Ethernet port was used to carry digital audio to the RedNet units via a standard NetGear GS716T switch, which sits between the RedNet units and the computer.

The analog outputs of the RedNet 2s were fed into the 29-channel d&b-based replay system via DB25 cables, with two additional channels for stage foldback and one more for voice.

Gothenburg-based firm AV-1 handled the supply and installation of the RedNet components as well as the playback system. AV-1’s Göran Blomgren states, “This was one of the fastest and smoothest installations ever. Supplementing the Opera’s existing front speakers, we installed 22 additional loudspeakers on the balconies plus five mounted 25 meters up in the ceiling – yet including the loudspeaker and Ethernet cabling, it was completed in under six hours. I look forward to our next RedNet installation.”

The Ethernet-based functionality of RedNet had some other unexpected benefits. Renhorn explains, “Hoesch was impressed at how easy it was to set up his laptop at the center of the auditorium on a 50-meter Cat-6 cable so he could fine-tune the feeds to the playback array. And he was also impressed at how easy it was to hook up a second laptop to the same network for recording by simply connecting an Ethernet cable between the laptop and the switch.”

The result was an impressive multimedia experience. Sound elements, often derived from samples of the Opera’s musicians, tumble around, across and up and down the 1,300-seat auditorium, in sync with the dancers in large and small groups and dazzling lighting effects. For similar performances in the future, Renhorn plans to use a RedNet PCIe card in a Thunderbolt PCIe chassis for better performance and minimum latency.

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