NAT WALKER: Hampton Court Palace, London

Audio engineer Nat Walker has joined the API team as a regular contributor, specialising in how the sound teams at various venues go about choosing the right audio system.

Recently picked as one of Audio Pro International‘s Rising Stars, Walker currently works as the production manager and in-house engineer for The Bedford, an historic live music venue in Balham, UK.

Our first instalment focuses on Hampton Court Palace…

Hampton Court Palace was built in the early 16th century by Cardinal Wolsey and expanded over the following two centuries by King Henry VIII and William III. It is now a tourist attraction, cared for by the independent charity Historic Royal Palaces, and is home to countless events and occasions every year.

Daniel Smith, who is responsible for delivering technical production across all the HRP venues, spoke about the main challenges that arise when working in such a complex venue. “Due to the sensitive nature of the building there are limitations on what can go where," he said. "Keeping our conservators happy is a must, so every event calls for lots of improvising. We’ve favoured active speakers over passive due to restricted get-in times and limited access.

"We usually use active FBT Verve speakers for FOH; the eight-inch driver models, although compact, are great for speech reinforcement and applications where that bottom end isn’t required. Despite that, they still pack a punch for their size and pair up nicely with additional subs if required. The larger versions go out for the more rock n roll scenarios.”

The palace contains eight different spaces, ranging in capacity from 60 to 400, plus the gardens which host a number of events in the summer months. Prior to Daniel’s appointment, all event production at the Palace was outsourced. “The day I joined, the inventory was a Soundcraft Powerstation 600, a pair of T&M Systems speakers and a Trantec S4000 wireless handheld mic. We invested heavily in lots of kit early on and the list has been expanding ever since.”

The most recent addition to the Palace’s kit is a Sennheiser eRack, a four-channel wireless system with SKM 300-835 G3 handheld transmitters. The equipment list also includes Audio-Technica ES915ML for lectern applications, AKG Perception 170s, and Sennhesier SK300 bodypack transmitters with ME2 clip-on microphones. The Palace utilises the Presonus 16:4:2 StudioLive for most FOH applications.

“It was selected on the basis that it’s very portable and a breeze to use," Smith added. "It’s the easiest digital console I’ve come across and any visiting engineer can find their way around it within minutes. It’s integration with remote iPad control is useful for when you’re restricted to less than ideal mixing positions, and the accompanying software includes wizards for frequency and delay tuning which are very handy too. It’s a common requirement for all our production to be in and set up within the hour.”

Because of this, Daniels’ future plans at the Palace include investing in Shure’s dedicated point-to-point audio system in an attempt to almost eliminate cabling and reduce get-in times even further.

Hampton Court Palace is just one example of an ancient and celebrated building moving with the times to remain at the forefront of live audio production. For more information on the venue, click here.

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