Lawo Powers IP Production for Germany’s WDR Philharmonie

Lawo technology was installed in the “Philharmonie Production Complex” of Cologne-based German public broadcaster Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) as part of a fundamental modernization. The Lawo equipment was integrated into the audio network, which had also been upgraded. Internally, the overall project responsibility was on the WDR Department for Music and Production, and it was carried out by the WDR Planning and Project Engineering Department. The system integration was implemented by the Cologne-based company Mediatec Video- and Audio-Service GmbH. The renewal of WDR’s own infrastructure in the auditorium and the structural measures in the control complex had to be completed within six weeks during the 2018 summer break. Until the completion of the new control rooms, the recordings and transmissions of the concerts were taken over by an OB truck, which was already using the new hall infrastructure. The entire project was completed on schedule after three months.

The Cologne Philharmonie in close vicinity of the cathedral is not only used for productions and concert recordings of all WDR music ensembles (WDR Symphony Orchestra, WDR Big Band, WDR Broadcast Orchestra, WDR Radio Choir, but is also the venue for a wide-ranging cultural program, including concerts of various styles and readings.

The heart of the modernized audio equipment is an IP-based Lawo mc²96 Grand Production Console in the recording control room for mixing and recording concerts and transferring audio signals to a new sapphire compact radio broadcast mixing console installed in the on-site speaker’s room for moderation and broadcast-relevant contributions. The new installation had become necessary because the console of another manufacturer, which had been installed so far, could no longer guarantee operational reliability due to its age and could no longer meet the constantly increasing requirements for ever more ambitious music recordings in 96 kHz with increasing channel volume and correspondingly more DSP performance and routing capacity. The decision for the Lawo console was preceded by an evaluation process in which the flagship of the mc² family was ultimately chosen. The contract was awarded by WDR at the beginning of 2018.

Depending on the production and quality requirements, the new mc²96 can be operated with a sampling rate of either 96 kHz or 48 kHz. With a processing capacity of 192 (384) DSP channels at 96 (48) kHz, a router board with 8192 x 8192 crosspoints and 72 faders on the user interface, the console offers numerous options for future projects.

Important issues for the decision to install the mc²96 were, among other things, the possibility of using the integrated screens to display the DAW PCs, and the flexibility of user-definable functions that can be operated via user buttons. Comprehensive redundancy – router card, DSP card, and redundant power supplies — ensure maximum operational reliability.

The sapphire compact is located in the speaker’s room of the Philharmonie and can be operated either independently or in combination with the mc²96. For live broadcasts from the Philharmonie, it is used for moderations before and after the concerts as well as for interviews, and for this purpose is looped into the transmission chain during the current program – triggered via router of the mc²96 from the console’s surface – without clicking. In order to avoid level jumps during the takeover, the sapphire’s takeover control is set to the correct position by remote control from the mc²96. The transmission signals in 5.1 surround and stereo are then transmitted from the mc²96 via RAVENNA connection to the main control room of the WDR radio station and transmitted live, e.g. on the WDR 3 Classic Wave.

In the course of the modernization, a new cabling concept for the microphone paths via DALLIS I/O systems as stage boxes was implemented, as well as a new connection to the hall technology, FoH and monitor position (concert operation) and transmission technology (television broadcasts and streaming). Thanks to short cable routes to the microphone preamplifiers under the stage and in the ceiling as well as the connection of the mc² HD core and the signal distribution via fiber optic, the signal quality could be further increased. Modern electric equipment, the renovation of the facilities and the optimization of the acoustics in the control rooms also led to the optimization of the listening conditions.

In addition to the symphony orchestra, the Philharmonie production complex also houses the WDR Big Band, which uses the facilities also for concerts and recordings. Since the Big Band postproductions of its recordings are done in its own control room with an mc²66, the new Lawo mixing console in the Philharmonie contributes to the efficiency of the music production, since sound engineers who work in both SCRs can use a familiar working surface. An additional advantage of this solution not to be underestimated is that Lawo already has considerable know-how of Lawo equipment, both in the production areas and in the service department.

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