Musicians Institute recently opened its Live House venue in the heart of Hollywood, CA. A three-year project in the making, the 11,000 square foot performance space was designed and created by Michael Warren and his team at Los Angeles’ MW Audio Visual Inc., a leading system design and installation company. Warren worked closely with Musicians Institute’s Japan-based parent company ESP Gakuen and Jonathan Newkirk (Musicians Institute dean of the School of Industry Studies and program chair, Audio Engineering) to help Musicians Institute create a multiuse creative space that will be used for academia and for outside acts to perform live. After winning the bid process, Warren worked with Culver City-based firm Twichell Studio: architects to develop the space, and then Warren specified and installed all the audio and video equipment, including components from Focusrite’s RedNet range of Dante™-networked audio converters and interfaces.
For the grand opening, GRAMMY® Award winner Steve Vai shepherded scores of amazing guitarists on stage for a record-setting 52-hour marathon jam. The milestone event, which benefited Extraordinary Families, a leading nonprofit foster family and adoption agency in the Los Angeles area, was recorded start to finish through a Dante network that relied on two Focusrite RedNet HD32R 32-channel HD Dante network bridge units, which allow Dante Ethernet-based audio to interface seamlessly with Avid’s Pro Tools | HD and Pro Tools | HDX systems. Two RedNet HD32R units were connected via Cat-6 cables to Yamaha consoles at front of house and monitors from a 64-input stage box, allowing a pristine 96-kHz signal to go from the stage to the consoles and to the Pro Tools system used to record the marathon guitar jam session, while a RedNet PCIeR Card located in a small Thunderbolt expansion chassis provided the connection for the Apple computer. The event, which saw music luminaries including Dave Navarro, Moby, Dweezil Zappa, Al Di Meola, Steve Morse, Lee Ritenour, Andy Vargas, Souleros and many others take the stage, began at noon PT on Friday, September 28, and continued non-stop until about 5:45 p.m. on Sunday, September 30. A live stream of the jam was provided by outlets including www.jamathon.org, www.vai.com and Steve’s official Facebook page, alongside various websites, social media platforms, and cable TV stations.
“My mandate to Michael Warren was that this space had to be state-of-the-art and future-proof, as we were teaching the next generation of audio/video professionals,” stated Jonathan Newkirk. “It also needed to be set up for teaching during the day yet be a world-class performance space at night that would be attractive to top performers from all genres of the entertainment world. Michael nailed it, and our star-studded grand opening event was the ultimate proof of concept.”
The AV systems for the new 300-capacity Live House venue, which features live production systems and broadcast television studios, do not have a stitch of analog wiring in the entire facility. “It’s all 600-MHz Cat-6 cabling, and that’s why the RedNet was a perfect fit: it’s ready for Dante, which has become the standard for audio now.” Warren says he’s used RedNet in several major projects, including recently for a production facility where RedNet interfaces link two studios and 13 edit bays with Dante. “The RedNet stuff is rock solid, the signal quality is perfect, and the clock is impeccable,” he says. “RedNet is a solid performer, and that’s what you need for a critical facility. Plus, I really like the sound of the Focusrite converters.”
The day before the show, Warren put the system through its paces for the first time. “We never had a sound check until the day before the event – we never even fired up the system until then,” stated Warren. “However, I was fully confident that everything would be fine, as I spent a lot of time engineering out all the bugs and whistles.” On the day of the show, Warren and his MW Audio Visual team were on hand to handle the A/V duties for the marathon event.
“This event set all kinds of records,” says Greg Wurth, Steve Vai’s longtime engineer and a GRAMMY award nominee himself. “We went well over 52 hours and we never missed a note, and I have to credit the RedNet HD32R for much of that.” Wurth says he had initially been concerned about whether the recording platform could run uninterrupted for hours at a time without experiencing an incident requiring a reboot. “Pro Tools isn’t designed for something like this,” he notes, “but what is?” However, the HD32R’s ability to feed a steady, solid signal to the recording computer enabled it to run as long as six hours at a stretch, with Wurth using periodic stage breaks to give the computer a chance to cool off. “The stability of the signal was the big concern,” he explains. “I’d never worked with RedNet before, though a number of friends and colleagues had brought it up to me. But it was my first time, and the first time this venue did a show, and it was going to be a marathon longer than anyone had ever done before, and we’d be running at 96k — I was a little nervous about it going in.” Wurth says he sat expecting an interruption at the half-hour mark, then the 90-minute mark, but the system kept on rolling. And rolling. And rolling. After going as long as six hours at a single stretch, Wurth said the only time he had to stop was when the Pro Tools system hit its preset session limit at 24 hours, at which time a new session was begun. “Otherwise,” he remembers, “it never flinched.”
As exhausting as the marathon was, it was also a joyful experience, Wurth recalls, hitting a new record for non-stop guitar jams and raising money for a great charity. And he says he’s also been introduced to an important new piece of gear. “The next time I have to build a new rig, RedNet is going to be at the top of that equipment list,” he says. “It really proved itself under the most extreme circumstances here.”