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Soundcraft brings lighting and audio together on one console

Si Performer console is first of its kind to combine high spec audio mixing with integrated DMX lighting control functionality.

Harman Pro has made a daring move into the world of lighting with the pre-PLASA launch of the Soundcraft Si Performer range, compact consoles that combine high spec audio mixing with integrated DMX functionality. The range is targeted at small theatres and venues, houses of worship and the corporate market – ostensibly any application where one person can operate both sound and lighting. “We are not pretending this is a lighting console, first and foremost,” Andy Trott (pictured), president of Soundcraft Studer, told PSNEurope at the press launch at the Soho Theatre, London, last week. “It looks like an audio console, and if no one plugs a DMX input into it, it’s [still] a damn good audio console.” Trott acknowledged that, while there will already be some technicians familiar with both disciplines, there will be others for whom the Si Performer presents a learning curve. “We are starting a new era here,” he said. “It’s going to take time for acceptance, it’s going to take time for audio people to learn about lighting.” He added that – “sticking my neck out” – he believes that anyone who is proficient using the console in audio mode could learn how to use the lighting controls in “30 minutes”. On the audio side, the Si Performer is a step up from the Soundcraft Si Compact range. It offers 24 or 32 mic inputs (on the Si Performer 2 and 3 models respectively), eight line inputs and four FX return channels; using optional expansion cards from the ViSi Connect range or Soundcraft stageboxes, the number of channels to mix can be increased to 80 on all models. Lighting control comes by means of the integration of a DMX512 port – giving access to a single DMX universe. The console features four scene masters, with associated slave channels on the ALT fader layers. Individual colour intensities or parameters are set on the slave faders; an overall master level fader, which itself may be assigned to any of the main fader layers, gives simultaneous access to audio and lighting levels. DMX settings may be stored alongside audio settings in the snapshot system; either audio settings, lighting settings or both can be recalled automatically by a single button press or via an external MIDI command. “I’m really interested in business models,” Trott continued. “In small theatres, they don’t have much in the way of complex lighting. For them to be able to throw [the existing set-up], and do audio and lighting in one console, that means they can free up a seat, and that seat could pay for the console. Therefore, you have a [new] business model.” Why has no one put lighting and audio control on one console before, did he suggest? “I don’t think the technology has been ready for it to be done, and I think people are so focused on competing in this [compact console] space that they’re chasing each other. You can only chase people for so far, so long, before you’re just producing other me-too products. It gets really, really difficult to constantly innovate, and do something that competitors aren’t doing. I think we’re getting to that point now on digital audio consoles. They’re all pretty much similar, they’re all pretty good sound quality now, so it’s a case of what else? Where does it go from here?” Trott said he welcomes me-too audio-lighting consoles as Soundcraft has filed a number of patents for the integration of lighting and audio. “So bring it on!” In response to a question about how well the move into lighting fitted with Harman Pro’s bigger picture objectives, Trott said: “One of our mission statements is to expand our business. We are looking for horizontal areas to spread into. This is spreading our wings a bit.” At the launch for press, guests and Soundcraft staff, West End star Kerry Ellis performed Defying Gravity from the musical Wicked, followed by a set of pop and rock classics by covers duo The Beatniks. Pete Freeman at FOH mixed the sound and operated the lighting from a single Si Performer 2 – of course. Pricing and shipping times for the console will be available at PLASA next month.