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A sound engineering is only as good as his or her ears – but until recently, I’d never actually had mine checked.
At a recent show the audience ranged from kids to octogenarians with twin heading aids. Despite hearing loops and my best efforts, those with hearing devices struggled with the bass sound of the band. It’s not possible to provide a warm, full sound for the majority of the audience without it becoming bass-heavy for the few with hearing difficulty.
In order to understand the problem better, I decided to have a chat with an audiologist – and get my own hearing tested while I’m at it.
Sandy at Specsavers Hearing Centre, Worcester, was able to talk me through the typical process of hearing loss. Hearing loss is typically the degradation of high-frequency sensitivity (that can be assisted with hearing devices), whereas bass response is less affected.
This explains why the older members of the audience found the mix very bass-heavy. Hearing aids are optimised for clarity of speech, but run out of puff if you ask them to fill in the full range of frequencies a band can create.
How about my hearing? Well the news is good – anything between 0 and 20 dB attenuation is considered normal hearing, and I have only small drop-off at 4kHz, typical of someone working in noisy environments. Sandy doesn’t think this would be significant enough to affect my mixing style, but I’ll be getting checks more regularly in the future.
I regularly wear ear-plugs while working, but if you haven’t got any yet, get your hearing checked by a professional and take their advice on the protection available.
There’s only one downside – it’s one less excuse for bad mixing.
Oh, and if the results are bad, you might have to start working the lights instead…
I first worked Winterwell in 2011, and was invited back to run main stage for 2012. I’ve written about this festival before, so it only remains to say that the fancy dress theme for this year was Wild West (A Town Called Winterwell) and the headline acts were Conershop (‘Brim full of Asha…’) and the Casiokids.
PA was KF730, desk were old-skool analogue MH2/3 and wedges were Microwedge 12/15s.
We also had to tow our vans out at 2am on Sunday morning using the team’s 4×4s.
After knockin’ them dead in 2011, I was back at the Warwick University Summer party in 2012.
This event happens at the end of June before the students knock off for the summer.
Last year I was monitors engineer, this year it’s lighting.
As with the Wychwood festival a couple of weeks before, this event also had a saddle-span roof (it appears all the orbit stages are doing Olympic/Jubilee things). Load limits on a saddle span roof are very low, so most of the rig was ground-supported on stands and trusses.
Lots more love for the light-weight, low-power-consumption Robe Robin 600 LED wash lights, which make rigging a show like this sooo much easier!
I also spent a day in the rain building PA flying towers for the L’Acoustics PA.
A couple of years ago I was arranging all the stage lighting for Wychwood festival – this year I’m on the main stage running the monitor desk.
Wychwood festival (located at Cheltenham racecourse) had a distinct alternative/folk theme about it this year – and this means lots of performers on stage, and lots on monitor mixes. We’ve moved on a long way from three mixes across the front and a drum fill, and are now providing up to 11 stage mixes, side fills, wireless and wired in-ear-monitors and click tracks.
All this is controlled by a Yamaha M7CL – in fact I was running a brand new desk, along with some brand new EAW MicroWedge 15 monitors.
Several acts came with their own monitor engineers and show files, making it very easy to get complex mixes on-stage as quickly as possible. We also provided an PM5D for James, as the 16 outputs of the M7CL where not sufficient for their set-up.
Front to house was covered with an M7CL and a Soundcraft MH3. PA was 9x EAW KF740 per side with 6x EAW SB1002 subs per side. Power was provided by Lab Gruppen amps.
Main stage was Wango’s saddle-span roof – a big purple affair that managed to keep the rain and wind off us all weekend.
The Shell Eco Marathon is an opportunity for engineering students to build and test fuel-efficient cars.
The European event takes place in Rotterdam, in and around the Ahoy exhibition centre. A temporary race track is built around the venue, and the halls used for garages, exhibitions and interactive features based around the theme of energy efficiency.
With 200+ teams and 2000+ students, it’s important to find somewhere for them all to stay. Adjacent to the Ahoy centre is a large municipal park, and my role was to turn a basic, empty park into a secure, safe and comfortable campsite.
The main requirements were toilets, showers, a secure fence line, temporary offices, site lighting and fire safety.
In addition, we needed to arrange comms, plant hire and manager’s accommodation.
This was a large complex project, and there’ll be a case study about once I’ve got time to write it.
This summer I’m going to be out in the fields again, working festivals and other live music events. One of the pieces of kit we use around site is the telehandler – whether it’s unloading cable cases from trucks, carrying big desks to front of house or moving kit around site.
I recently spent a day down at C & G Training in Stonehouse in the company of trainer Ian Ison who worked me through the theory and basic training on the machine. They have a great digger playground where you can practise rough terrain driving, loading trucks, stacking pallets and high-level lifts onto scaffolding.
The novice course is usually 4 days, and with only time for one I wasn’t going to learn everything. We concentrated on the low-level work, similar to the stuff we do on site.
There’s no such thing as a license-to-drive this equipment – it’s all about competence (and being able to prove it if required). C & G were brilliant at tailoring a course for my needs (and without much time to plan) – top marks all round.
My new skills should prove handy over the summer – less pushing flightcases through mud, and more diesel power!
Last night Homebase held a charity dinner for key staff and suppliers, in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust.
This was a relatively small affair with a simple set, a rear-projected 4:3 screen, 4 ways of radio mics and some lights on stands.
Christopher Biggins (of Celebrity Jungle fame) is an ambassador for the Teenage Cancer Trust, and was on site to host a charity auction, which he carried off with much aplomb – including selling 13 bog-standard plastic buckets for £100 a piece.
Lots of cash for a good cause.
The Christie Spyder X20 is a one-box video processor set up for large-scale projection. It’s capable of working with 20 million pixels at rates of up to 120Hz – and that’s 3d speeds. With a standard 1080p HD screen comprising just over 2 million pixels, this box of tricks is for shows that require more than just a few Powerpoint slides.
As with most powerful tools, there’s an unavoidable level of complexity. To work around this, I recently spent a couple of days at Christie’s EMEA headquarters learning my way round the system.
Processing takes place in a 4U 19″ rackmount server, with either 8 or 16 inputs and 8 outputs. This is controlled using the Vista Advanced software running on a PC and connected to the server via Ethernet.
One advantage of this two-box approach is that it’s possible to configure and program a show offline on a standard PC. Once on-site, the server (called a ‘frame’ in Christie-speak) can be connected and the input sources and output devices tested.
All the pre-programmed layers, borders, shadows and animations are then uploaded to the box and you’re ready to go.
Many thanks to Kate Eve @ Central Presentations for helping to arrange the training.
The English Chamber Orchestra don’t normally need a sound engineer – especially when playing in a concert hall.
On the 4th Feb they travelled up the M40 from London to Warwick, and where hosted in Butterworth Hall at the Warwick Arts Centre, as part of their Concert Series 2011/12.
I was on hand to provide some sound reinforcement for a pre-show Q&A session with solo pianist Derek Han. The evening juxtaposed the work of Bach and Glass and the contrasts of this where discussed during the talk, with questions from the audience (who had braved the snow to attend).
The full program for the concert was:
Bach – Brandenburg Concerto No. 3
Glass – Company
Bach – Piano Concerto in G Minor, BWV1058
Glass – Symphony No. 3 (3rd movement)
Bach – Violin Concerto
Glass – Suite from The Hours
The Lancaster Hotel, Hyde Park was the location for the Best Western Annual Members’ Conference this week.
Set across 3 days, the event features two day long conference sessions (with workshops and exhibitions) and two evening functions.
This was the second time working this event – last year was Spain, this year UK, next year currently tbc. I was responsible for lighting the main room – a rig which needed to serve for both conferences, keynote speakers, evening dining and a variety of dance and music acts.
Generic lighting was the usual mix of Source 4 and fresnels, and movers were by Martin. The back wall of the set was LED uplit.
Control was via a Pearl Expert running the Titan software, and the LED fixtures were pixel mapped within the desk.
Event management was provided by Outlook Events.