Meeting Report: February 2020 Collarts Tour

About twenty members and guests assembled in the auditorium of the Collarts Wellington St Collingwood campus for a presentation on their audio education activities and a tour of their audio facilities.

Chairman Graeme Huon welcomed all to the meeting and introduced Collarts Head of Audio Production, Jason Torrens, who was to give the presentation and host the tour.
Jason was informally supported in the presentation by Dr Paul Doornbush (Associate Dean) and Dylan Mitrovich (Coordinator of Audio Production).

Chairman Graeme introduces Collarts’ Jason Torrens

Jason gave us a thorough run-through of the Bachelor of Arts in Audio Production course, explaining it was one of many arts-related courses offered at Collarts, and the title was to differentiate it from the Music Production courses also offered in the Bachelor of Arts programme.

He gave us brief bios of the key staff involved with their audio degree and diploma courses, and their individual specialities.

He then went on to explain the scope of the degree and diploma courses, and the employment outcomes such as studio tracking/mixing, mastering, and live sound. He commented that they were increasing their focus on AV, as an area of increasing career opportunities. Other areas were systems design, radio production, and post production.

He provided a quick run-through of the types and breadth of industry positions graduates have achieved.

Jason outlines Collarts’ audio education strategy – photo Rod Staples

He then moved on to how the teaching is done, with methods like providing a stream on the theory of a topic, then practical work to put it into practice

Jason then provided detail on how the College partners with industry vendors to provide technology demonstrations from leading companies like Waves and Digico.

He also explained the way Collarts is able, through close industry collaboration, to facilitate internships for students within industry-leading companies, and at major events like music festivals. He commented that often the internships can lead to permanent employment.

He indicated that they also provide students with workshopping opportunities with leading international practitioners, citing a recent workshop series with respected Los Angeles-based “engineer and producer” Andrew Scheps.

Paul Doornbush commented at this point that Collarts is a teaching institution – they don’t do research, but concentrate on teaching.

Jason then presented a table of the Degree/Diploma structure, describing in detail the course subjects, their content and rationale.

Audio Production Course Structure – source Collarts – reproduced with permission.

Paul commented that, right at the beginning, they ban audio fashion. All their teaching is evidence-based.

Jason then moved on to describe the facilities. He described the Theatrette, with Dolby Atmos capabilities commenting that it is one of only two colleges in Australia with Atmos capabilities. He explained that it exposed the students to the modern workflows involved with object-based audio. He commented that, unfortunately, the room is not Dolby certified because of a structural pole in the middle of the room – a “feature” whose removal was just not practical.

He then described the use of Echo360 for a collaborative online learning experience for students to revise and review classes, as well as for students unable to attend a particular lecture.

He also described the data storage methods available to the students and their use of cloud-based systems for storage and collaboration such as Dropbox and Google Drive.

Jason then ran through the facilities available:
Studio 1 – the flagship studio of this campus, with an SSL console, JBL M2 speakers, and a wide range of outboard gear.
Studio 2 – a smaller room for music production, with a range of synths available. This room is 5.1 capable.
Studio 3 – another smaller room, more suited for bands.
The Dolby Atmos theatrette as described earlier – also well suited to audio-for-video post production
Critical Listening Room – also set up for mastering (in the box) – with a pair of JBL M2s for accurate monitoring.

Dylan Mitrovich then explained the audio setup in the auditorium, covering the Digico console, radio mics, line array speakers, comms, and lighting which provide a very accurate representation of the sort of setup a graduate would find in the AV world.

At the end of the formal presentation, just prior to the tour was a short Q&A session covering performance rights issues, hearing protection, audio network storage arrangements, and studio booking challenges,

The group then started the tour at the Theatrette – which boasts a total of 22 JBL series 7 speakers. Here two samples of Dolby Atmos material were played – one created by a teacher, and one by a student. This content ably demonstrated precise audio placement within the space.

Jason describing Theatrette’s Dolby Atmos capabilities – photo Rod Staples

We then moved on to Studio 1 – where an SSL AWS console was installed, together with JBL M2 monitors. Jason showed the audio wiring, and how it was built to a high standard. He explained that the SSL console works as a standard analog console, but can double as a DAW controller for the room’s ProTools HDX system.

The SSL AMS Console in Studio 1
Jason describes the capabilities of Studio 1 – photo Rod Staples.
Some Studio 1 Outboard Gear

Then the group moved on to Studio 2 where a range of synthesisers is available, with 5.1 sound and ITB mixing ( “in the box” – a virtual mixer in software running on a computer) and then on to Studio 3, another ITB room with a small drum/vocal booth.

Studio 2 – where mixing is “In The Box” – photo Rod Staples
Studio 3 is ideal for small bands

We finished the tour at the Critical Listening Room, where we were given the opportunity to hear the exceptional JBL M2 speakers with a range of source material across various genres. Jason mentioned that the sound treatment of this room, which was designed by Dr Paul Doornbush, provided a very accurate monitoring environment.

In the Critical Listening Room, Jason let us listen to the JBL M2s on a wide range of music

We thank Jason, Paul, and Dylan for giving so generously of their time to facilitate this tour.
More details on the audio courses discussed on the night are available on the Collarts website at: https://www.collarts.edu.au/audio-engineering

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