Central School of Speech and Drama students at work on one of the three Yamaha DM1000’s
Founded in 1906, The Central School of Speech and Drama (www.cssd.ac.uk) is one of the pre-eminent Drama schools in the United Kingdom, offering undergraduate and graduate degree programs and training for the dramatic arts and the performance and media industries. Central has built an international reputation for “total” theatre training―working closely with the theatre and performing arts industries to provide both traditional and up-to-the-minute knowledge and skills across the wide range of disciplines necessary to create live performance.
Graduates from Central can be found all over the globe, making, producing, designing, managing and performing in the full spectrum of the performance industries, from major commercial theatre in London’s West End to Hollywood film, network television and the cutting-edge work found in local, regional, and fringe performance enterprises, including schools and community centres.
Designated in 2005 by the Higher Education Funding Council for England as the Centre For Excellence in Training for Theatre, the school has been funded to work as a national resource, developing learning and teaching methodologies for vocational training in the performing arts. Central has recently become an independent federal college of the University of London - the only specialist academy of the dramatic arts in the University-- confirming Central’s world-class reputation for academic excellence and high training standards.
Significantly, Central offers degree-level training in all aspects of theatre production, management and design, and is the only UK-based institution that offers a full-time degree course specifically in Theatre Sound Design as a separate design discipline. Sound Design is one of the most rapidly developing of the specialist theatre disciplines and digital technology has dramatically increased the practical potential for the creation and realisation of sonic environments as part of the dramatic narrative.
The School has recently acquired three Yamaha DM1000 V2 digital mixing consoles to support the delivery of the course. Gregg Reed Fisher, head of the Theatre Sound Design program at Central and a professional theatre sound designer himself, is impressed by the multiple and creative roles the DM1000’s play. “We are delighted with our new DM1000s. The synergistic (and cost-effective) combination of small footprint, portability, immense flexibility, expandability, and audio quality make the DM1000 ideal for our many requirements. In Theatre Sound, we need to control sophisticated audio material in acoustically challenging environments, which can often mean complex psychoacoustics, large numbers of speakers, multiple delays and a desk sufficiently flexible to control it all. The DM1000 fills that bill.”
Students at Central learn by doing. In this summer term, Central have at least 15 productions underway which will be performed in a variety of venues both on and off-site ―from the “main stage” Embassy Theatre, to the Minack Theatre in Cornwall, to a cupboard adjacent to the main foyer. “Obviously it’s vital that we can easily adapt our audio to any number of difficult playback and reinforcement situations,” Gregg says. “The DM1000 is perfect at coping with anything we throw at it. Presently, we have two DM1000’s cascaded in the Embassy Theatre for an upcoming major production. Ultimately the project-based ‘hands-on’ curriculum is about equipping the students with the core skills and understandings they need to work effectively and creatively in theatre sound design. They need to work, in school, with equipment and concepts that they will actually encounter in the industry. The digital technology embedded into the DM1000 allows us to pursue those goals.
But theatre productions are not the only way the DM1000’s are used. One of the consoles is currently dedicated to an exciting new experimental studio facility which is exploring protocols and interoperability between lighting, sound, video and projection. Gregg continues: “Our students need to train for the “real” world. They need to understand, and work with, digital audio transmission networks and integrated computerised show control protocols. Our new Experimental Studio is designed to facilitate those explorations, with a fully specified DM1000 being the command centre for digital and analogue audio applications. Working alongside a battery of high-spec computers, running a variety of different audio design, RTA, and show control software (and Studio Manager, of course) the DM1000 is the core audio networking distribution point for the facility.”
Yamaha has been a major player in digital audio for as long as there has been digital audio and Central has long pioneered Yamaha digital consoles, from the early days of the Pro-Mix through to the O1V’s and O2R’s. However the support received from Yamaha is a significant aspect of the school’s relationship with these products- “it’s what comes with the products that matters most and Yamaha training and support is invaluable “ says Gregg. “As the Centre for Excellence in Training for Theatre, we look forward to expanding our relationship with Yamaha as an industry partner, and are excited about the possibilities of investigating a variety of national and international research, development and training initiatives with the company.