September 2017 saw the launch of BCU’s new Birmingham Conservatoire, a state-of-the-art project that was several years in the making and took two years to construct. The world-class Conservatoire, which was granted a Royal status just two weeks after it opened, cost £57 million and features five public performance spaces, including the 500-seat concert hall, 150-seat recital hall, and a 100-seat organ studio. The building also boasts the UK’s first permanent conservatoire-based jazz space, which seats 80, and a flexible and versatile black-box studio called The Lab where students can experiment and innovate.
The project’s principal contractor, Galliford Try, faced the unenviable task of finding partners capable of delivering the extremely high specifications required by the Conservatoire team. Convinced by the extensive experience of Vanti, Galliford Try brought us on board to provide audio-visual and lighting services across the five performance spaces as well as their control rooms and technical suites.
- Audio-visual design and installation across five recording studios and five performance spaces (designed for different uses and acoustics, and built to meet PNC 15 and NR 20 standards).
- Digital and analogue recording facilities in every venue.
- Full sound system for each performance space.
- Mastering and editing suites fitted with state-of-the-art technology and surround sound.
- Video production suite with facility to broadcast live concerts.
- Full control over lighting, audio, cameras, projection, CD and Blu-ray playback and microphone volume and retraction via intuitive touchscreen control panels in each performance space.
- Option to connect external devices via HDMI or VGA for presenting.
- 1920 x 1200 resolution NEC PX1004UL laser projectors in each performance space.
- Retractable projector screens in custom-built housing.
- Robolights Wall Connection Panels located in several venues, allowing users to plug and play microphones, outboard equipment and video equipment, or access the network.
- Vaddio RoboSHOT 30 QCCU full pan, tilt and zoom cameras in each performance space for recording, controlled by touchscreen controller.
- GDS MainsSystem and ArcPro lights for house lighting, triggered by motion.
- ETC lighting for performance, controlled by the ETC Ion Control Desk.
- Flexible rigging for loudspeakers and lighting.
- Video feeds from cameras in teaching rooms accessible in control rooms.
- Specially-modified speakers with different amps designed to achieve the exact specifications required.
- Custom-designed and built enclosures for lights and projectors to minimise the background hum.
- A range of audio technology designed to allow students to gain experience with a variety of makes and models.
- A fully networked campus, enabling performances to be recorded from elsewhere in the building.
- Illuminated signs to indicate when recording is taking place in each venue.
- Paging and show relay system for communications.
The music technologists at the Conservatoire had an ambitious vision in mind for the new building – it was to be the first of its kind to offer both analogue and digital recording in every performance space. This added an extra layer of complexity to the project, as we needed to ensure that all the AV and lighting equipment and cabling didn’t have a negative impact on the acoustics of the rooms. The projectors in each space, for example, have been housed in custom-built cases so the hum they emit whilst operating doesn’t interfere with recording quality; using this housing prompted us to opt for laser projectors rather than the traditional lamp-based models which need more regular maintenance.
Because our approach focuses on the end user’s experience, the Conservatoire’s performance spaces were built with usability in mind, with each room featuring at least one intuitive touch-screen control panel. This allows students and lecturers to control lighting, audio, and video equipment, including top of the range GDS house lighting, ETC performance lighting, Vaddio cameras, and NEC projectors.
We were also pleased to be able to work with some industry-leading sound technology companies like Meyer Sound and SSL in order to deliver a state-of-the-art experience for the Conservatoire’s users. Our technical ability enabled us to understand the complex challenges we were faced with and develop solutions alongside music technicians from the Conservatoire and the other partners involved in the project.
What BCU used us for:
- Audio capture and playback
- Audio mixing
- Video capture and playback
- AV systems architecture
- Performance lighting
- House lighting
The new Royal Birmingham Conservatoire provides an exceptional experience for everyone using the space, whether they’re music students, lecturers, technologists, or simply individuals wishing to enjoy the many spectacular events the venues will play host to.
Through Vanti’s work, the Conservatoire boasts performance spaces with specific acoustic tolerances that can produce incredible, consistent audio experiences. These performances can be mixed using advanced consoles and recorded in both analogue and digital as per requirements. This fusion of traditional and contemporary technologies makes the Conservatoire the first of its kind, allowing BCU to attract the very best musicians from around the globe.
Further cementing the Conservatoire’s credentials as a world-class institution is the venue’s ability to host and broadcast live performances. With multiple cameras in four out of the five performance spaces, concerts can easily be filmed in crisp HD; the Concert Hall also supports the use of outside broadcast units, enabling the Birmingham Conservatoire to host internationally-renowned artists and exciting events that can be transmitted around the world in real time.
- “From our initial introduction through to the final phases of our build, working with Vanti has been a pleasure. The collaborative ‘can do’ attitude of the Vanti team has been invaluable in the successful implementation of The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s complex and varied technical fit out. Due to the multifaceted nature of building a conservatoire for the 21st century and beyond, it was fantastic to work with an open-minded and forward-thinking installation company who consistently went the extra mile, applying creative and aesthetically pleasing solutions to complex problems.”
Richard Cornock, Music Technologies Manager / Birmingham City University /
- "We have worked closely as a team over the last couple of years with Vanti, delivering the complex and demanding Royal Birmingham Conservatoire project, which includes a high density of production venues and studios. Vanti have a very capable in-house programming team who are not phased by unusual control interfacing challenges, which has proven to be a particularly major asset for the successful delivery of show relay, stage management and lighting control systems for the project. Vanti have responded quickly to challenges arising during installation with clever and practical solutions. They have always been positive, proactive and happy to innovate together. The team have gone the extra mile and genuinely care about the quality of the end result, particularly the user experience.”
Mike Bedford, Associate Director / Hoare Lea Intelligent Buildings Group /
- “This project was highly challenging in terms of complexity and due to the central role AV and lighting played in the spaces we were working in. It was vital that we were able to implement the technology that would make the Conservatoire state-of-the-art without compromising the acoustic quality or soundproofing of the rooms. Alongside BCU’s music tech managers, we worked closely with technicians from world-class partners such as Meyer and SSL to achieve incredible results. We’ve installed a range of extremely high-quality equipment across the performance spaces so students can gain experience with different makes and models of mixing console, speakers, and lighting.”
Raj Patel, Technical Director / Vanti /