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Upgrading: How have you broached the subject? Mixers (Digital)
Old 4 weeks ago
  #1
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Upgrading: How have you broached the subject?

Hey all, I am brand-spanking new on this forum, so if this is the wrong place to post this pleaaaase let me know.

I have now been working for 7 months as the lead audio engineer for a 1,400+ seat performance hall at a medium-sized Christian college. For the curious, we're rocking a Midas Heritage 2k 48ch, and a d&b line-array.

We have chapel 3 times a week in the morning, and two worship services on Sunday night. We also host all of the universities major music recitals, performances and concerts ranging from orchestra to jazz band to choir performances, and we also have a fair amount of outside clients coming in to use the space (think high school orchestras, choirs, etc.)

The job has been a blast so far, but one of the things that I have come to notice is that there hasn't been a major audio investment in the hall in the past 8 years (upgrading our PA to the current d&b line arrays), and the current level of our budget really only functions to help maintain our current level of equipment and make smaller investments into audio/lighting needs. The last time we upgraded the board was around 12-15 years ago I believe (to the Midas 2k)

My supervisor and I have had conversations about how we would like to make the investment to move to a digital soundboard, as this would make the hall much more flexible as we could have show files for chapels and orchestra concerts and cut down on the amount of time it takes to prep for shows. Unfortunately, our budget situation simply prohibits us from making that big investment in the hall without massive amounts of creative financing that, in the end, will severely handicap our operations for 2-3 years.

So to all the tech-directors/hall managers/lead audio technicians out there: How did you begin seriously talking about upgrading? What arguments did you make for it? What arguments were made against it? Did you make proposals and cost-benefit analyses? I want to know how you all did it so that I can make sure that I'm doing the best job going to bat for my department and ultimately helping to make a wise investment in our capabilities going forward.

Thanks in advance!
Old 4 weeks ago
  #2
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You have to know all the reasons why you need to / should upgrade and that knowledge will bet at the basis for any arguments you put forward. Every situation is different and therefore an argument that is not applicable will not help if it gets challenged, furthermore it is in your own interest to be convinced that a change is actually necessary and beneficial to the operation of the place.

My suggestion is that you do a careful study of the situation and make a list of reasons why this change is necessary and how it will be beneficial, and that will be the basis of your argument when you make your pitch. If you can't convince yourself it will be unlikely that you'll convince anybody else. Plus, as you pointed out there will be big consequences, and sacrifices will have to be made, so you should weigh the new console against the consequences to be sure that you are actually making the right (long-term) move for the operation of the facility.

I could be wrong, but I think the arguments should be genuine if only for your own professionalism and peace of mind that you are in fact doing the right thing given the situation.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #3
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Thanks for the reply Samc, all of that makes sense. I definitely wouldn’t take arguments from different venues and try to shoehorn them in but seeing the process and the approach would definitely help in constructing our own plans.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samc View Post
Plus, as you pointed out there will be big consequences, and sacrifices will have to be made, so you should weigh the new console against the consequences to be sure that you are actually making the right (long-term) move for the operation of the facility.
One thing I forgot to mention in my previous post is that, while our budget is fairly stable year to year, the hall is a part of a larger institution, and one that has put a lot of work into expanding and improving academic spaces around campus. Is there anybody who has had experience in making pitches not only to utilizing our budget to make large purchases, but in pitching ideas and trying to get the university to “re-invest” in the hall.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #4
S21
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The hall and its facilities deliver particular capabilities to the institution. Explain that the current equipment is fully depreciated and that while it is not yet a liability, at some point in the next decade it will be.

Find out how proposals are written up and submitted in your institution. Write a proposal for a capability refresh, or more likely an upgrade. Every space should be becoming an AV space in this modern world.

There will be managers and accountants who want this upgrade too. They just don't know what is required technically and financially. Let them know.

Expect your proposal to evolve through a few drafts as people converge on a new vision for the hall. Now that your proposal is written, it will probably sit around for a few years until it can be funded, but at least it is now a plan that is ready to execute.
Old 4 weeks ago
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steelwing92 View Post
Unfortunately, our budget situation simply prohibits us from making that big investment in the hall without massive amounts of creative financing that, in the end, will severely handicap our operations for 2-3 years.
What do you consider a 'big investment?'

The Midas is a <64 input console. New was >$25k, idk.

There are many new 64 input consoles that are <$10,000.

So every 7-14 years an org may simply expect to spend a similar amount for equal capability. Fortunately, consoles are much more capable now!
Old 4 weeks ago
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brew View Post
What do you consider a 'big investment?'
Considering the level of equipment we’d like to get, 30-40k at the low end. We want to be investing in equipment that other similarly-sized halls are equipped with, and in my neck of the woods our main “rivals” use either Yamaha or DiGiCo.

That’s not to say that I’m against other consoles, or cheaper options, but I don’t want to go from the Midas to an X32 or an M32 just because it can do the same channel count or is cheaper.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #7
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I'd make a detailed outline of the features/capability necessitating any "upgrade" or expansion. Sonically, I doubt you'd be able to get much if any improvement in audio QUALITY over the 2K, so I'd keep it and focus on expansion. You needn't have much room to put a digital mixer alongside your Midas for tasks where scenes, show files and the like are required. Add a digital stage box running Cat5/6 or AES and send a stereo mix to the house via a stereo line input on the Midas or use a good line mixer/splitter to route both/either console to FOH. The Midas is worth a LOT more in situ than you'll get for it on the market, so use it. If you want to hage it spiffed back to original specs it won't cost a lot and it'll be good for another 20-30 years.

Best of both worlds.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steelwing92 View Post
One thing I forgot to mention in my previous post is that, while our budget is fairly stable year to year, the hall is a part of a larger institution, and one that has put a lot of work into expanding and improving academic spaces around campus. Is there anybody who has had experience in making pitches not only to utilizing our budget to make large purchases, but in pitching ideas and trying to get the university to “re-invest” in the hall.
Apart from noticing that there hasn't been a major upgrade in 8 years do you have specific upgrade needs that would improve the usability and functionality of the hall? When you know exactly what you want to do, have a casual conversion (or two) with the person(s) who have to support or approve your effort just to hear where they are, and what might nudge them over the edge. You will have to be sure that being without some of your budget for the next 2 to 3 years is a good compromise for the hall.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #9
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FWIW, a professor friend at a university once told me that colleges are the most political places in the world. Not in a political party sense, but in a relational sense. Sometimes things get done because of relationships and other times they don't because of relationships and maybe not so much because of merit. So there is that aspect of who has the pull to get what done at your college.

Then there is the financial.

You've already mentioned that your college has a budget to maintain what it has. Typically, they are looking at X dollars coming in from donors and student tuition and Y dollars in expenses that always seem to be going up. If something isn't broken, an upgrade that costs very much could be a hard sale because the mindset is to hold costs in order to continue to operate.

Institutionally, you may have an uphill task to get anywhere not so much because of merit, but other factors.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steelwing92 View Post
. Is there anybody who has had experience in making pitches not only to utilizing our budget to make large purchases, but in pitching ideas and trying to get the university to “re-invest” in the hall.
I presume you've had at least 12 years of formal education if not more. During that time did you not learn to make an outline? If you want to present your ideas in an academically coherent fashion and compare the pros and cons of the status quo with an enhanced production capability, try starting with the outline format.

5 Steps to Create the Perfect Outline

Good luck. Be prepared.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wyllys View Post
I presume you've had at least 12 years of formal education if not more. During that time did you not learn to make an outline?
No need to be demeaning or belittling. I am simply asking for peoples experiences. I’m have never asked anyone to do it for me. I’m looking for similar cases to the situation that I’m in so that I can learn what good methodology. I highly doubt that I am the only audio engineer in the world to have old equipment and a budget insufficient enough to be continually moving forward. I want to learn, and I want to do a good job, and I’m simply putting my questions out there.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steelwing92 View Post
No need to be demeaning or belittling. I am simply asking for peoples experiences. I’m have never asked anyone to do it for me. I’m looking for similar cases to the situation that I’m in so that I can learn what good methodology. I highly doubt that I am the only audio engineer in the world to have old equipment and a budget insufficient enough to be continually moving forward. I want to learn, and I want to do a good job, and I’m simply putting my questions out there.
We're not there, so specifics would tend to be method rather than content. My experience as a system designer/installer is to:

1. Analyze the existing situation. Include input from all offices and individuals involved.

2. Using the input from step one, determine what will move you forward and the costs associated including design, hardware, installation and maintenance.

3. Organize the information in an outline and create a power-point presentation.

4. Setting a budget figure and figuring how to spend it is bass-ackwards. Figure out what you need, then either pay for it directly or develop a plan for phased phased implementation.

This will be better than just passing on random feedback from an internet forum.

Good luck.

Last edited by Wyllys; 4 weeks ago at 02:30 AM..
Old 4 weeks ago
  #13
At the local college they recently upgraded their sound system in their main concert hall. I was just there for a concert by an orchestra that my intern plays in. They were using the system for announcements only and it sounded terrible. The old system was in place for 30+ years and sounded a whole lot better. Their reason for the update was to "modernize" the system and they said they could no longer get parts for the old system. IMHO it was a complete disaster and sounds like the brown stuff. Modernizing and updating are fine IF THE SYSTEM is bad or needs a lot of TLC to keep working. Just upgrading for no real reason except that the tech wants a "digital console" or more "bells and whistles" so they can brag to their friends is IMHO not a good reason. FWIW
Old 4 weeks ago
  #14
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I've worked for a lot of educational institutions in different ways this past decade plus, and this is the approach I normally take:

"1) We had this event planned and everyone wanted to do it this way, but we were unable to because our equipment is old and outdated. This kind of thing happens all the time, here's a couple more examples. Or even better: we had part of a big event go badly/fail because our equipment is so obsolete or so inadequate or is being held together with gaff tape and chewing gum. [That's "even better" for the pitch, not better in general.]

2) Also, this piece of equipment is getting old. What do we do if it breaks? We don't have a backup, it could take weeks to fix, and things break when they get old."

Depends on lots of politics and internal relationships, who you're pitching to, etc., but that general approach has almost always worked well for me. Be patient, sometimes you plant a bug in people's ear near the end of a fall semester and they're ready to upgrade just before the beginning of the next fall semester after the fiscal year has rolled over.

And if you can't immediately think of a scenario for bullet point 1, then you don't need to upgrade.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #15
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you did not mention any outboard gear you have: expanders, compressors, efx devices, house eq? depending on what you have, do not expect processing blocks built into a digital desk to sound much or any better at all: a digital desk per se does not sound better than your very decent h2000.

although you have a d&b line array, you might need a center, front fills, a larger array, more amps for better control, under balcony fills, more wedges, better directivity/less rear levels from subs...

ugrading on a functional level or sound wise? the former needs an experienced contractor, the latter an experienced sound engineer. - is everybody's mic technique and is mic positioning at optimum? - how about adding a small digital desk for things you want to recall?
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