Brussels Opera House upgrades with Optocore

The 18th century Brussels Opera House has recently undergone a full technical upgrade based upon an Optocore optical network solution.

For the past seven years the Belgian landmark, which accommodates an audience of 1,700, and hosts plays, operas, concerts, recitals and orchestras, has enjoyed a relationship with audio specialists Amptec, and it was to the house technicians that the Optocore platform was proposed as a key part in the renewal of their audio visual infrastructure.

As a result of Amptec’s work on the site, the former master control room has been upgraded and repurposed with the installation of a multi-track recording and post-production studio. The audio specialists also took care of the acoustic design and made-to-measure furniture, while the renewal of the stage call system and producers desk were also included as part of the project.

Jo Nicolaï, head of the Opera House’s Theatre’s sound and video department, had tasked the installers with creating increased flexibility by identifying three basic requirements: the service relating to the artists (foldback and monitoring); creating various soundscapes and amplification, and recording and digitising.

“It became clear that an optical network would be quintessential in this — and Amptec suggested the Optocore solution since it was high end, flexible and reliable, and would meet all those criteria,” he said.

Amptec PA and theatre sales rep David Liebens, explained that the optical network was initially designed to distribute video and MADI streams, and Optocore was seen as offering the most flexible means of single-channel distribution from different formats.

Proof of concept had previously been established when Amptec introduced Optocore into one of the Opera House’s external productions, deploying an LX4AP digital network system, connecting the Yamaha digital desks via Optocore YG2 cards and at the same time supplying a DD4ME MADI interface for recording.

In the new design, the existing analogue cabling remains and all the distributed boxes arrive at the central analogue patch, with an Optocore LX4AP normalised on the analogue patch along with 24 channels of Crookwood preamps, brought into the Optocore network through a DD32E AES-EBU interface.

The Yamaha PM5D, installed in the direction room, is also fitted with Optocore YG-YS cards while a DD4ME device provides MADI to the post production facility for multi-track recording in ProTools (this facility is located across the street, 300 metres from the central patch). There is also a separate Yamaha DM1000, equipped with YG-Y2 cards, for different mobile applications.

“The Optocore system is controlled from a PC in the direction room, enabling the technicians to control the complete network from one spot,” explained Liebens. “We installed optical cabling throughout, terminated in a central optical SC patch, based on fusion splicing technology, so that Optocore, video or Ethernet can be distributed throughout the entire building.”

The new system is in daily operation as Liebens continued: “The PM5D handles the monitor mix, with FOH FX mixing from the signal feeds of the LX4AP and Crockwood preamplifiers (via the DD32E). Multi track recording is also part of the daily operation using the DD4ME to get the MADI signals to the Pro Tools.”

But the Optocore system enables the technicians to go a few steps further, he concluded. “An OB van can be easily connected via the (second) MADI port on the DD4ME. Since our Flemish national broadcasters (VRT) also use LX4AP and LX4B devices, if their radio crew needs to make some recordings their Optocore devices are incorporated in the Optoocore ring — removing the need to install their own stage boxes in the theatre.”