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DiGiCo Consoles at Helm of Full Sail University’s 'Full Sail Live'

Four years ago, principles at Full Sail University commenced planning to create a multi-purpose, live performance venue. The award-winning school located in Winter Park Florida was created more than 30 years ago as a private learning hub catering to arts design and entertainment media. Over the past three decades, Full Sail has flourished to offer a broad spectrum of accredited, degree programs encompassing music and sound, as well as film, design, show production, games, animation, web design, and music business.

After a year-plus of construction, “Full Sail Live” is finalised and slated to be one of the largest, dedicated sound stages for live concert training at an educational facility. Full Sail Live will serve numerous campus-wide events including live musical performances, monthly graduations, open house events, multi-visual presentations, guest lecture appearances, 16-speaker surround movie screenings and live concert student training sessions. The building is flanked by a new audio recording facility and linked by fibre for audio and video interfacing. DiGiCo SD7 and SD8 consoles were selected for installation to serve at FOH and Monitor engineering positions respectively, and round out an impressive arsenal of 50 dedicated live production audio consoles currently used on campus.

“The console purchases were based on many elements,” explained Director of Audio Programs, Dana Roun, who developed Full Sail’s Live Production training curriculum in 1981 while working as a touring engineer before coming onboard full-time in 1988. “We took into consideration superior technology and reliable service, industry acceptance, cost and value, as well as relationship and trust. As an educational facility - and this venue being the largest of six live production facilities on the campus - we have a responsibility to provide our Show Production students the full range of live concert industry tools, including lighting, video and audio. We knew we wanted a flagship console, and we knew its usage would need to cover a very wide range of functionality. The hitch, however, was that in planning our budget for the building four years in advance, the console purchase line item was merely a placeholder; I didn’t want to lock into our console until the last minute to ensure we were getting the most current technology available.


While researching consoles for the new Full Sail venue, Roun requested a demonstration of the latest DiGiCo console technology. His lengthy experience working with DiGiCo consoles over the years was a big factor in that decision. “We owned a D5 for many years, so we were very familiar with the quality of the DiGiCo consoles and the responsiveness of the technical support staff (very important in a 24/7/365 environment!). I was introduced to the SD7 at a tradeshow years ago and considered it a bit out of our price range at the time. I had been waiting to see how the SD7 consoles would be received, and last year we had grads on the U2 tour that advised us to get a good look at an SD7, which renewed my interest in the console. Other graduates—and we have many out there on tours and operating in the shops of top rental and production companies—reported having used SD7’s on their tours with great success, and SD8 consoles were seen on corporate and regional shows. Their insight into what consoles are actually moving out on current tours and corporate work is invaluable to us.”

DiGiCo’s Product Specialist Matt Larson set Roun up with a preview of all the DiGiCo models, which kicked the process off to a great start. “Matt and I had done business together over the years, and I was excited to find him now working with DiGiCo. I have wanted to work with [Group One President; US DiGiCo distributor] Jack Kelly for years and I’m happy to say it was worth the wait. Lastly, I have always enjoyed Bob Doyle’s expertise and passion for the industry. Bob has worked with me to supply our students with equipment at Full Sail University for decades; he is the real deal and clearly understands our educational needs. Many of the live production consoles we have here at Full Sail were directly related to Bob’s influence and expertise. Just prior to his move to DiGiCo in 2002, he wouldn’t discuss anything about his future and we needed to obtain the next step in consoles. (For those able to remember, the emerging digital live console selections at the time were very limited). I decided to wait for a while longer and then it all made sense. I imagine we were the first school in the world to purchase a DiGiCo D5 for training, and looking back, the D5 really helped our students to prepare for working in the touring industry. The console gained industry acceptance quickly and we were once again in the right place at the right time. Over the years our DiGiCo D5 console has been very reliable and I expect no less from the new SD7 and SD8 models.”

Dave Dean, the school’s long-time Department Chair for Live Production (and an active FOH engineer with KC And The Sunshine Band) echoed Roun’s raves. “The D5 console held up remarkably well considering the hundreds of live production students that used it year-round during that 5-year span,” explained Dean. “Our desire was to keep up with the top-level riders in the industry. That, coupled with feedback from friends that had used the SD7 in the field, and our great experience with the D5, we were very excited to get our hands on the new SD7 and SD8.”

“I have used DiGiCo consoles on multiple tours in the past including R. Kelly, Smashing Pumpkins, Marilyn Manson and now with Axl Rose and have gotten used to how easy they are to mix on,” added John Sheldon, touring engineer and part-time Advanced Show Production Lab Specialist. “DiGiCo’s ease of use and clean sound made it a easy choice for live sound.”

The all-in-one functionality of both the SD7 and SD8 consoles—and the transparency of sound notwithstanding—have made them highly regarded among all the school’s veteran audio engineers and educators. Ken Robinson, Full Sail’s Advanced Show Production Lab Specialist, summed it up. “The SD7 and SD8 have raised the bar on what can be expected from a digital audio console. From functionality to features to sonic quality, these consoles are leaps and bounds above the competition. It's no wonder that so many engineers are beginning to move in DiGiCo’s direction.”

“I had been asking around to see what engineers thought of the sound quality of the SD7,” offered Roun. “My friend Buford Jones, who comes from a small group of seasoned engineers I totally trust, had commented about the exceptional sonic qualities of the console, and that he was very happy with music recorded on the SD7. His stamp of approval was another vote of confidence to back up our purchase.”

“While discussing the signal flow of the new building,” elaborated David Arias, Production Manager for the Show Production department, “I realised that the presence of several MADI I/O ports on the consoles would allow us to eliminate the bulky analog snake I/O that we would typically use to interface our video playback sources from the mezzanine production spaces. In the past we have sub-mixed the decks and only sent a stereo pair out to the FOH and Monitor positions. We can now easily send discrete channels everywhere, easily.”

The revamped SD8 Overdrive software update was among the staffers favourite features on the monitor console, bringing onboard many of the features found on the SD7 including FX, dynamic and graphic EQs and multi-band compression. “The Overdrive option greatly improves an already feature-rich console,” said Dean. “The effects, increased bussing and frequency dependant dynamics are a very useful upgrade.”

Robinson agreed. “The SD8 definitely takes our industry to a new level as far as sonic quality is concerned. The onboard gates and compressors sound incredible and are extremely intuitive. I have found that as I teach students how to use the SD8, as well as the SD7, I keep saying, ‘This is the first console I've ever seen that can...’ over and over again. There are almost too many things to list: dynamic EQ, multi-band compression, LCD meter bridge, back-lit knobs and even the snapshot automation features that let you program every single parameter independently per channel. It’s absolutely incredible! WOW is about all I can say!”

As the venue moves closer to completion and becomes fully functional for both entertainment and education, Roun is excited to get the new students up and running and in rigorous training on the new consoles. “We have been training live production technicians for almost 30 years, and one of the keys to success in this business - besides work ethic and attitude - is the ability to understand the basics and learn to use the tools. The purchase of both the SD8 and SD7 consoles will properly prepare students for success by offering them two comparable yet distinctly different consoles that lend themselves to different applications and production challenges. As long as the team at DiGiCo continues their relentless commitment to the live production industry they will always have a place here with our students.”





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