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West End’s First Major HelixNet Comms - Supplied By Autograph

Very much part of the fabric of London’s West End theatre scene for well over a century, The Aldwych Theatre is presently undergoing a major refurbishment programme. The multi-million pound investment made by owners Nederlander Theatres will bring every aspect of the Grade II listed building up to the very latest specifications and return it to the original Edwardian grandeur of its opening in 1905. Scheduled to reopen in late November 2017 with a production of the The Olivier Award-winning ‘La Soirée’, the Aldwych will also host the West End debut of ‘Tina: The Musical’ which opens in March 2018.

The refurbishment includes essential upgrades to the technical infrastructure, now such a vital part of staging contemporary productions. Project-managed by Richard Kiernan (Property Director of Nederlander Theatres (Aldwych) Ltd) and led by Technical Consultant / System Designer David Stone of DJS Technical, on reopening the theatre will boast the very latest in comms technology - a sophisticated Clear-Com HelixNet / LQ system supplied by Autograph Sales & Installations. David Stone takes up the story:  

“Last year I was approached by Richard to be technical consultant for the Aldwych Theatre refurbishment. A large part of the project was the design and installation of a totally new technical infrastructure for the theatre which included new dimming, lighting bars, LED houselights and an extensive system of facility panels distributed around the theatre servicing sound, lighting and video with the entire system being centrally patchable. The main brief for the project was to make the theatre as technically flexible as possible to be able to accommodate any size of show with a range of technical requirements.”  

“The purchase of an installed comms system ties in perfectly with this idea of flexibility and offering a smooth service to incoming productions. Comms is something that is often overlooked and can become a burden on technical teams, especially in production periods where requirements are constantly changing. I’ve been a fan of HelixNet from my first install of the system a couple of years ago at the Dominion Theatre during their refurbishment, so knew that it could achieve the flexibility required. Shortly after the install I started Beta testing the V3 software with Clear-Com. I got in touch with Ben from Autograph at PLASA last year and we began to put together a system spec.”  

“HelixNet is the definition of flexibility when it comes to comms systems. There’s no huge looms of cable and with the network of facility panels, comms packs and base stations can literally be deployed anywhere around the theatre in minutes. The ‘Roles’ feature in HelixNet really helps us out with this - it doesn’t matter where you’re going, just grab a pack and select what you need to hear when you get there and twelve channels of comms down a single cable is perfect for busy production periods.”

The total inventory of HelixNet at the Aldwych includes a single Master Station, ten HXII-BP-X4 Beltpacks, five CC110 and five CC300 headsets, three Speaker Stations and one remote station. However, the need to accommodate visiting productions prompted the additional specification of Clear-Com’s LQ (a single rack space device providing eight more inputs (four x 4-wire and 4 x PartyLine, distributing audio over IP) as David explains:

“Obviously having an installed system is great, but there is a need for visiting companies to add their own systems into the network - either for expansion or maybe the DSM (Deputy Stage Manager) just really likes the old MS-704 panel front! This is where the decision to use LQ came in.”  

“With the V4 software, LQ integrates seamlessly with HelixNet to provide all the expansion and interfaces needed to facilitate the largest production comms systems. Any XLR3 or RJ45 socket in the building can be routed to an LQ interface, so analogue and four-wire systems can be added into HelixNet extremely simply with a few configuration changes from the web interface. With four 2W (two-wire) and four 4W (four-wire) ports, the system can take standard analogue PL systems, wireless systems and radio basestations without any additional hardware and everything is talking in minutes.”

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