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Planning a new school Music Tech facility

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Planning a new school Music Tech facility

Postby BJG145 » Thu Jul 11, 2013 2:07 pm

I've been asked to help spec a new school music tech facility, and would appreciate some input.

The basic plan is for:

1) A classroom with 17 new networked PCs running Cubase/Sibelius.

2) A separate cluster of 7 PCs in a kind of 'control room' area with a window onto a live performance space, one acting as the recording machine with some kind of mixer or control surface.

I'm hoping to be able to set this up in such a way that all the computers are on the main school network for logons, Internet access, etc., but with a separate dedicated server hosting the music projects. In the past they've run a handful of Cubase client PCs with the audio files held on a basic server with a couple of large IDE drives, without too many problems, but I'm thinking they might need something faster with SCSI arrays and suchlike as they scale up.

I don't know much about setting Cubase up for a network and I'm a bit hazy on the best way to approach it. (The projects really need to be on a central server in this situation, with roaming users who might log onto any machine to access their work, and a need for centralised backups etc.)

For the recording facility, I'd have been tempted to go for a multi-channel interface and control surface, but they want to be able to teach pupils about mixing desks so this might not be so appropriate.

Maybe SOS would like to do a feature on it and come and set it all up for us!
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Re: Planning a new school Music Tech facility

Postby Pete Kaine » Thu Jul 11, 2013 3:22 pm

with a separate dedicated server hosting the music projects.

(The projects really need to be on a central server in this situation, with roaming users who might log onto any machine to access their work, and a need for centralised backups etc.)

Ok, I'm a bit lost, I think I know what your gunning for, but it might make this easier if the requirements are relaxed slightly.

I think you've already got the basic idea down and you can certainly authenticate them as normal via the regular authenticaion service and set up the machines in the room to backup/save to a local NAS/Server solution.... shouldn't be all that hard to do if the central network is already in place, up and running.

If you want it to be local with a central backup you can do that from the music room subnet onto the central network, if you want it accessible via the central server however and able to access it from anwhere but want the data physically on the subnet and not on the central server (i.e. backup only outside of the music room subnet) whilst still having the building wide access, well then it get's fun.

So do you want to permit access to the files from anywhere in the building or anywhere in the music lab?

It's quite an in depth question you've asked here, I'm sure some people will be able to get into it for you but if you can't get all the answers you want via here, I've a couple of education guys on staff who could probably work through this with you if you want to talk the options through with someone as this sounds not unlike a few other jobs we've done recently.
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Re: Planning a new school Music Tech facility

Postby DGL. » Thu Jul 11, 2013 5:21 pm

From what I can gather you want to have a load of computers dedicated to recording which would have a different setup to the other school computers which would use a separate storage location that the one used for the students normal files but would still have access to the main server for these other files and user authentication.

What could do the job is a server (with a large RAID array (HDD storage is so cheap that a few terabytes would be possible), and a script/software on each machine that would be set to automatically backup the contents of the users project on the computer during logoff and to automatically copy that data back to the local machine when they log in again (removing the need for users to use the same machine all the time, direct network access could possibly work (where all the project files are stored on the server and never on the computer running the recording software) but bandwidth/latency would probably be a limiting factor here if lots of users are accessing it at once.

As for the computers, either create a set of DVD's (or if they have blu-ray drives a blu-ray, even better) that has the base system setup image on it (OS & Programs), so that if a pupil manages to fudge a machine it can easily be restored. This could even be done using Ghost over a network form one machine to another.

As a control surface/mixer option if the budget would allow then the x32 producer looks like a good option, would have a multichannel USB interface (firewire is being dropped due to discontinuation of the DM1500 chip), control surface and mixer in one.
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Re: Planning a new school Music Tech facility

Postby Mixedup » Fri Jul 12, 2013 11:46 am

I can see where you're going with this but I'm unclear on the *need* for this complicated a setup. What does this allow you to achieve that working with 17 standalone machines does not? (other than transfer data over the network). Any student wanting to learn about this should also be learning about data storage, retrieval, archive and so on, so you could make the use of external hard drives a learning point.

Also, remember if running with any dongle-authorised software that you can attach them via internal USB ports to minimise risk of theft!

For the control surface/mixer it all depends very much on the budget. I'd be less inclined to go for a digital desk like the X32, and more for something that combines analogue mixer with control surface or interface eg. Focusrite (formerly Audient) Control 2802, A&H ZED R16 or GSR24M etc. I can't imagine young students not being perfectly happy tweaking a DAW with a mouse/trackpad etc — or even have an analogue 'mixerface' and an iPad-based control surface for the DAW, if you feel the need for faders.
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