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Newham College

Article from The Mix, May 1995

An East End education boots up the digital revolution

The mixed media revolution is up and running, and a new breed of Music Technology course is springing up for students who never stray from the digital domain. Desk Top Publishing, Video capture and Multimedia presentations are just as important to the new, emerging disciplines as digital recording or production processes. Newham College in East London is one forward-looking site, whose course tutor, Graham Morgan, has grasped the multimedia bull by its synthesised horns. Roger Brown does some virtual homework.

Class tutor Graham Morgan in the Production Studio.

Anyone seeking to learn about Music Technology these days, faces a huge learning curve. The exponential growth in digital technologies has seen the growth of a new discipline called multimedia, which draws upon a whole range of computer-based skill which the traditional approach does not address. Graham Morgan at Newham College realised the conventional approach had become increasingly irrelevant to what was actually required of students leaving college. How does it look from where he's standing?

"Kids leave other courses, and all they know is traditional multitrack recording. As you know, jobs within the recording industry are scarce, so they wind up applying for positions outside of the business, where computer skills are also in great demand. When they leave Newham College, they have experience of using computers in a wide variety of applications, and consequently their employment opportunities are not as limited. Add to that the growth of multimedia studios, and it's obvious simply learning multitrack recording is becoming a dead-end."

To advance his vision, Graham set about equipping Newham's music technology labs with the latest in computing, sampling and recording technologies. The facility is divided into two suites, the MIDI Studio and the Production Studio. In the MIDI Studio, students all work at their own Apple-Macs, equipped with either Cubase or Notator Logic, a master keyboard and Yamaha TG100 sound module. The Macs are also loaded with other IT software, so students can begin acquiring basic computing skills. Here they can program up their own tracks, in preparation for moving to the production studio, where they work in individual pairs or small groups.

A student at his Mac in the MIDI studio
These pictures were grabbed from a Hi-8 video camera using a Video capture card in the college's Multi-media suite.

The production studio is extremely well equipped, with 5 Apple Macs, including a Quadra 950, Quadra 660AV and a Performa 630. All of these feature hard disk recording, with Notator Logic Audio, video and multimedia capability. To capitalise on this, they are loaded with a suite of programs, including HyperCard 2.2, HyperStudio, Adobe Premier and Macromind Director.

A Sony Hi-8 Video editing suite is also a major feature of the production studio, allowing students to produce their own final videos from source material generated by the Macs. This is a facility I have never seen in any music technology course before, but as Graham explained, it has a growing role:

"Post production work in video editing is a major source of employment for music technology students, yet no course in my experience actually caters for this. So I decided it had to be an integral part of Newham's facility. You simply cannot hope to get a foothold in the burgeoning field of multimedia, without in-depth knowledge and hands-on experience of video editing and digitising techniques."

Students at work in the production Studio

Sound recording doesn't play second fiddle in the production studio, however, and the equipment list also includes ADAT and Fostex multi-track machines. Mixdown is to cassette or DAT, fed through a range of mixing desks including Allen & Heath, Studiomaster and Fostex. Thus students are able to learn traditional analogue multitrack recording, alongside the newer digital multitracks and direct to disk methods.

Signal processing equipment includes Alesis, Lexicon and Zoom units, while there is a wide range of samplers to work on, including an Akai S2800 & 950, Roland S760, Emu ESI-32 and Emax II. There are numerous MIDI keyboards, including the industry-standard Kurzweil K2000, as well as a host of drum machines and microphones. The Production Studio is completely equipped with two isolation booths, which were being used for sample manipulation while I was there, but are equally well utilised as vocal booths.

As if all this were not enough, Graham plans to double all of this equipment by September. A new MIDI and mixed media suite is in the process of being renovated, and this will house several Power Macs, which will form the basis of a new, more intensive multimedia training facility. Panasonic S-VHS and Sony Hi-8 machines will also feature here. The new studio will also include another production room, with extra digital and traditional multitrack recording machines.

A selection of digital kit makes the production studio a joy to work in

Graham has been talking with interested local community organisations, with a view to developing links on a long-term basis. One local community group is in the process of opening a recording studio, and Graham has already helped them choose equipment. This involvement will continue, and with the establishment of the studio, Graham's students will be able to gain hands-on experience working there. Similarly, a local community radio group's trainees attend Newham, and Graham's students reciprocate by helping man the station during the times they are on air. In a more commercial move, Newham has established a link with Edwin Shirley Productions, who operate a rehearsal studio in the area, and Graham's students enjoy the luxury of using this facility.

The courses available at Newham include a one year part-time introductory course, aimed at beginners with no previous qualifications or experience. This is a day or evening course, and completion of this course enables students to apply for the BTEC National Diploma or Certificate in Music Technology. The minimum requirement for the BTEC course is an interest in Music Technology, plus at least 4 GCSEs at grade C or above. This latter requirement is waived for those applicants who are over 21 and without formal qualifications, but who are able to demonstrate outstanding ability or previous experience.

In a community like Stratford, courses like Newham's can mean the difference between people becoming proficient programmers and being left out of the digital revolution. In the fast lane of the information superhighway, forward-looking tutors like Graham Morgan make the difference between just keeping up, and forging ahead.

For more information contact Newham College of Further Education, (Contact Details).

Digital dream team

As if Newham College's equipment list wasn't impressive enough already, it's being added to by new multimedia and post-production studios. What follows is a listing of the equipment in use at the time of my visit:

MIDI Studio
16 Macintosh LCIII's each equipped with: Cubase or Notator Logic
PC200 Master Keyboard
Yamaha 16160

Production Studio
Macintosh Quadra 950
Macintosh Quadra 660AV
Performa 630 X 3
All the above with:
Notator Logic Audio
Macromind Director
Adobe Premier
HyperCard 2.2

2 x Atari STEs with Cubase

Sony Hi-8 Video Editing Suite
Alesis ADAT
Fostex R8
Sony DAT

Allen & Heath, Studiomaster and Fostex 32 channel mixing desks

Akai S2800, S950
Roland S760
Emu ESI32, Emax II
Kurzweil K2000

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Publisher: The Mix - Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.

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The Mix - May 1995

Donated by: Colin Potter

Coverdisc: Nathan Ramsden

Sound Advice



Feature by Roger Brown

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