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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…
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!
Gents prepare your faces – Movember is coming soon!
If you’ve not met it before, a little introduction:
Movember is a charity organisation who rasie money for men’s health – predominantly prostate and testicular cancer research. Started in Australia a while back, it’s grown at a phenominal rate over the past few years and has raised £106m worldwide since 2003.
The UK launch party was held at the very trendy Village Underground in Shoreditch last Thursday. I was tasked with providing video projection in two areas – one to run some films illustrating the growth and passion of Movember, and another looping some cow footage.
The cow footage was projected onto a brick wall using a 15k lumen projector, and some basic projector mapping enabled us to fit the wooden window frame in the VT to the indents in the wall.
One of the guests caught some video footage of the event which illustrates the concept nicely:
The DigiCo SD11 is a small 19″ rack-mountable mixer that packs the punch of the larger DigiCo desks. Dominated by a large touchscreen, there’s lots of control available as well as powerful dynamics and FX processing.
This is my first introduction to a DigiCo desk, and it took a while to get used to the way of working. The trade-off between power/flexibility and instant user-friendliness is tilted towards the first – I’m not sure you’d want to dry-hire this desk to an untrained operator. There were several moments where I had to refer to the manual – but that may just be that I’m steeped in the procedures of other desks.
There’s no patchbay as such, and all patching is done on the channels themselves. Likewise, there’s a master screen that can be configured to suit the show. All this power is great if you have a chance (and time) to set the desk up to your liking – I’d need to be a lot more familiar with it before I could use it live on a festival stage.
Overall, the pedigree of this desk is obvious in it’s power and control. There’s reams of functions you just don’t see on other desks of this size, and there’s the define feel of a premium audio product for professional use about it.
Oh, and that big touchscreen means it looks spookily like a MagicQ. Beware of confused lighting engineers!
A few days back working at Warwick Arts Centre gave me the opportunity to get my hands on the Soundcraft Si3 for real recently.
First up was two nights of comedy – Mickey Flanagan and Sarah Millican gave us a slice of both bloke and girl humour in the theatre. This was mixed (if you can mix one microphone…) on the in-house Soundcraft MH3.
On Saturday and Sunday operations moved to Butterworth Hall with Chinese New Year, followed by the One World Week fashion show. This was my chance to use the Si3 for real.
It’s significantly different to the Yamaha desks I’ve been using recently. There’s no screen to speak of, and you rely on the OLED displays over the faders a lot more. At first, it’s a bit weird not being able to see all the channel settings in one place, but it soon becomes more natural.
One advantage of digital is the ability to share mixing responsibilities - while the students mix on the left-hand set set of faders, I can place a copy of the same channels on the right-hand set to save them from feedback or clicks & bumps with having to fight for the same piece of desk. You can’t do that with analogue!
Birmingham Children’s Hospital held their fund-raising carol concert last night at Birmingham Cathedral.
The evening featured local choirs, bands and readings, including accounts of a Christmas day on the wards, and personal accounts of how the hospital has helped children, parents and the local community.
I was sound engineering the event with a Yamaha 01v and some Meyer UPA speakers. The venue provides a couple of challenges – there’s no loading dock so the van has to rely on hazard lights to protect it from the Birmingham traffic wardens. In addition, no tape can be used on the cathedral floor, so we had to be extra neat and tidy with the wiring up.
CPhI is the worldwide exhibition for pharma ingredient suppliers. This year it was in the Villepinte exhibiton centre near CDG airport.
I was on site for a week, setting up and operating a number of small seminar venues. Exhibitors gave a series of 30-minutes presentations to introduce new products, highlight company services or illustrate new discoveries and innovations.
In addition to usual laptop/projector/powerpoint combo, sound was captured using headset mics and reinforced with D&B E30 speakers. Unlike lapels, headset mics allow sound levels high enough to overcome the high ambient noise of an exhibition hall without feedback problems.
I’ve been asked to light some festivals this summer and am in the middle of preparing lighting rigs and flying plans.
3D visualisation of a 15m orbit stage
To help illustrate the concepts to the client I’ve been creating 3D models of the stages and rigs involved. This has really helped to plan out the motor rigging point, lighting angles and cabling requirements.
There’s the added benefit that it’s much easier to illustrate to the client what the final rig will look like. Anyone who’s looked at traditional theatre lighting plots will know that they’re not the most user-friendly bits of paper produced.
Wednesday saw me in Birmingham for some long-overdue training on the use of powered access equipment – that’s scissor lifts and cherry pickers to you and me.
A one-day course at Facelift (a cherry-picker hire company just off J1 M5) gained me a qualification in the use of MEWPs (that’s a Mobile Elevated Working Platforms). The qualification is overseen by the IPAF (that’s the International Powered Access Federation) and includes a credit-card sized photo ID card to present when necessary.
As you may have gathered, there’s a lot of TLAs in this business, but any job that involves working at height (especially over public places) deserves to be taken seriously.
The Yamaha M7CL
The Yamaha M7CL is a popular digital desk for mid-size gigs, and it’s not hard to see why.
Yamaha have only slightly more money than God, and the R & D they put into their desks shows. This is a 48 channel desk with 16 outs, dynamics on every channel and a whole bunch of EQs and effects on tap, yet it’s pretty easy to get round.
If you’ve not used this desk before, there’s some excellent online training videos on the Yamaha site first, but it only takes a couple of hours hands-on to learn this desk.