A disused soap factory formerly owned by Kone Ab lies in the heart of the old city of Helsinki. Not unattractive, the factory building, though squat and angular, is made from softly textured sandstone. It is barely a hundred years old, yet has just recently undergone extensive renovation.

The reason? It’s been taken over as the new home for the State Theatre School. A major project, the fifth floor of the North Wing is home to 11 large dance studios, while downstairs, surrounding two sides of a roofed courtyard, are five separate, though admittedly small, theatres. Other facilities include lecture halls, a gym, make-up room - just about every possible theatrical discipline is catered for - as well as admin functions being contained within the factory’s ample interior. The funding is all from the government, as is the full digital TV studio just installed at the Helsinki University of Technology.

Although these facilities are decidedly state-of-the-art, they don’t appear profligate; the equipment is there, but not in excessive quantities. On the day of my visit, 300 new students were enrolling at the State Theatre School. These will swell the ranks of an existing 600 second and third year students who were previously trained at various locations around the city and further afield. The department of Lighting and Sound Design, for example, was housed at Tampere, 200km away.

For that reason alone, this new central unitary facility will save the school immense amounts of money. And what do the students have to contribute towards all this? "Just 400 Finnmarks per year (a little more than £40) for medical insurance," according to my host Kurt Nyback from Oy Hedcom Ab - the company responsible for installing the technology.

Equipment-wise, the State School is more about facilities: they have the rooms, space and tutors to make it work and if they stage productions, then kit is sub’d in. Although the paint has still to dry, I did spot Nexo PS15s, 10s, and 8s dotted about the dance studios and theatres, all driven by EV amps with Nexo processing. There was an extensive dimmer room under construction - the wiring looms for several hundred channels were already in place, though not the hardware. It can’t be long before all this will be completed; after all, four lighting and three sound operators are already on the payroll.

Over at the Helsinki University, Hedcom had a much greater project on its hands. The University’s full digital TV studio. The studio itself is 300sq.m with 80sq.m of spectator space on the lighting gallery on level one. The walls are fully encircled with a white cyc, blacks and chroma key (a two-camera Virtual Studio system will be installed soon). The back wall can be opened to join it to the 650sq.m University film studio behind. A full lighting grid is home to 41 Gis remote control hoists, 100 various DeSisti studio luminaires and a further 36 DeSisti manual hoists. These are run from a DeSisti Icarus system and the Gis hoists can track left/right as well as up/down. All the lights are controlled from a Compulite OvationD console with 2000-channel capacity with Ethernet or DMX options. The dimmers are likewise Compulite, 222 channels of 2.5kW digital dimming.

The video system is built around a 32-channel Philips DD-35-3 digital mixer, with three Philips LDK-100 studio cameras, a 32 by 32 Venus matrix, Grass Valley DVE and 30 Barco monitors. But it’s the audio side where Hedcom has had most fun. The studio houses a 48-channel AMS-Neve Libra digital console with a custom in-built digital matrix. The Neve can be used in tandem with the 128-channel SSL which Hedcom also installed next door for post-production movie sound. Off-board tools include Lexicon 91 and 81, BSS 4048s, a TC Finaliser and M5000. The post production suite includes Dolby Surround 5:1 and Lucasfilm THX Certification.

Finland has one of the highest levels of income tax of any country within the European Union. In spite of wh

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