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DiGiGrid flows throughout Jo-burg’s Abbey Road Institute

DiGiGrid flows throughout Jo-burg’s Abbey Road Institute

DiGiGrid flows throughout Jo-burg’s Abbey Road Institute

South Africa:

Having first opened its doors in February 2020, the Abbey Road Institute in Johannesburg – based at Mastermax Studios in Midrand – teaches a professional one-year Advanced Programme in Music Production and Sound Engineering. Drawing on the expertise that is the hallmark of Abbey Road Studios, a high standard of theoretical teaching is allied with a well-supported, “hands-on” experience, guided by leading industry professionals. Students have access to the latest state-of-the-art equipment, including the presence of a number of DiGiGrid products as standard at each DAW across the classroom/lab and production suites.

The institute’s managing director, Johan van der Colff, is a noteworthy industry professional with an impressive list of credits. As well as running Mastermax Studios, he also heads up the international postproduction facilities network Post|City, whilst his talents as an engineer have been recognised with a SAMA (South African Music Award) for his work on Sahara’s album Loliwe. He is also regarded for his work with Mumford and Sons, One Republic, Jennifer Hudson and Westlife, as well as on a host of movies. Passionate about education, his role in the Institute includes giving regular lectures.

“I was first introduced to DiGiGrid products by a friend at Waves,” recalled van der Colff. “At the time, I was doing a lot of large channel count multitrack recording that required MADI connectivity – I was first introduced to the DiGiGrid MGO and MGB products which I started using as the interface for the events I was recording.”

That was seven years ago and, since that time, van der Colff has further explored the range of products available. This led him to the decision to further investments in DiGiGrid for the benefit of the local and international clients that record at Mastermax. By the time the Abbey Road Institute was brought into the facility, DiGiGrid was very much at the heart of the operation and the devices were incorporated into the classroom.

“We wanted to place the Abbey Road Institute’s educational programme directly alongside our commercial operation, believing that the only real way to learn this craft is with hands-on, on-the-job, apprentice-style training,” explained van der Colff. “The system allowed us to be very creative with the way we think about routing and in-class participation – since the whole classroom is on the SoundGrid network, students can easily share what they’re working on with the class by just assigning the classroom D interface to the students’ computer core audio.

“It also allows us to demonstrate to the students the future benefits of networked audio. We can sit in the classroom and access any device, in any room in the whole studio complex, be able to listen to what’s happening in other suites, do collaborative recording between different rooms and really just push the system to the maximum of its capabilities. One more very important determinant was that the students have dedicated workstations in the classroom that they use for assignments, so we needed high-quality I/O devices for each one.”

In the classroom, DiGiGrid M units are used for each student workstation, with a D at the lecturer’s station connected to the room speakers. In Studio A, an IOS and a DLI bridge AVID 192 IO interfaces, while a D is situated in the control room for local I/O and room monitor outputs. The production suites, set up with a home-studio vibe in mind, are equipped with D interfaces and are used by students in terms one and two to learn how to manage resources and extract the best from smaller setups. Another IOS is deployed in the mix suite, feeding into an SSL SIX – the suite is set up as an analogue/digital hybrid to maximise creative flexibility. Because all the rooms are on the facility-wide DiGiGrid network, all rooms and workstations can access each other’s I/O and servers if not utilised. There is also a plan to introduce some IOX and IOC units for portable use anywhere in the facility where more I/O capability might be required.

“Students are using the units on a daily basis to expand their knowledge, work on assignments, and to record and mix projects. The DiGiGrid devices and SoundGrid network tick all the boxes for a future-proofed training platform which teaches students the possibility of networked audio bundled with the quality of super analogue circuitry,” furthered the owner.

Within a month of opening, the Coronavirus pandemic had resulted in a hard lockdown in South Africa, forcing van der Colff and his team to get creative. “We certainly had to adapt fast,” he said. “Whilst the theoretical side could be taught over Zoom, the fact that we were using the DiGiGrid M interfaces made it easy for us to give the students their in-class workstations to take home. This meant they had the right tools to properly complete their assignments and continue their learning experience in the best possible way. Interestingly, an immediate consequence of the pandemic was the appetite for content that was generated by people being stuck at home. Consumption of films and TV, music and podcasts all went through the roof, underlining exactly why the skills we are teaching are essential in the creation of a huge range of content, whether for music, film, broadcast or gaming.”

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