The physical infrastructure of Belmont University’s Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business has grown since its start in the 1970s to encompass an impressive collection of performance spaces and audio/video production facilities, including its flagship 250-seat Dolby Atmos theater. Many of these resources are located in Belmont’s Johnson Center, where audio networks were integrated into the architectural plans – as central to the design of the building as any other utility.
Michael Janas, chair of the Audio Engineering Technology department at Belmont, recalls that, prior to the Johnson Center opening in 2015, “We were running out of space, we were juggling a lot of stuff around, and we had to expand.” Senior leadership at Belmont approached the Curb College faculty with a proposition, “Okay, envision it… what do you want out of this building?”
The Audio Engineering Technology faculty began a discovery phase, which included trips to several film studios in California. A dominant suggestion was to equip the facility with a next-generation audio-over-IP infrastructure, which could be expanded without needing to retrofit equipment.
“We started hearing about RedNet equipment and the Dante network,” recalls Janas.
Dante’s affordable cabling requirements (Cat 5e or better) and ability to use the same off-the-shelf switches as conventional LANs, along with Focusrite audio quality and its RedNet line’s growing reputation for flexibility and reliability led the faculty to spec a wishlist of Focusrite RedNet equipment. A new hire was brought on to lead the roll-out of the system: Ron Romano, an experienced network engineer and former owner of an AV integration company, serves as technology specialist at the College, and his role is to oversee not only the audio infrastructure and other AV systems, but also several hundred computers and other IT systems.
“We wanted to make sure that we had a facility that had a lot of great-sounding gear in the individual rooms, but also the ability to interconnect rooms and move audio around the facility,” says Romano. “My first experience with RedNet and the Dante network was really that eye-opener that any tech would have; it almost sounds too good to be true until you initially fire it up.”
From a staging post, Romano and his team used Dante Controller’s networked device subscription controller for device-specific control, alongside Focusrite’s RedNet Control networked device controller, to set up the whole campus-wide system in one room; they then deployed it across the building as spaces were completed.
A total of six facilities have Dante equipment permanently installed – RedNet 5 Pro Tools HD bridges, RedNet 6 MADI bridges for connection to the console and out to the Dolby RMU, RedNet 4 eight-channel mic preamps remotely operated using RedNet Control and rolling racks containing RedNet 2 16-Channel A-D/D-A interfaces to provide up to 80 channels of I/O to any corner of the campus with a network port.
“Now that we’ve moved into an audio-over-IP system with the Dante network and the RedNet gear,” says Romano, “the possibilities are endless, and we just continue to be blown away with its capabilities – I don’t think we’d be able to do some of the things that we do if we didn’t have the Dante network and the RedNet equipment,” Romano adds that students benefit from learning the technology. “Now they can say ‘I know how to do audio-over-IP, and I’ve used Dante Controller and RedNet Control.’ That’s a huge benefit before they get out in the real world.”
Belmont’s next building project, set for completion in 2020, will be fiber-optically interlinked to the Johnson Center, with Dante and the new line of RedNet interfaces critical to the audio infrastructure.