Freelance Sound Engineer
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  • More outdoor fun!

    Posted on July 26th, 2010 No comments

    I write this while on an early morning train to Edinburgh. For the last 3 years I have worked at the Edinburgh festival for Assembly venues, and I have to say it has been some of the fondest memories I have ever had. As previous blog posts will tell you! As such it was hard this year to say I wouldn’t be coming back, due to other work commitments!! However I am available for work during the get in and as such I am now on my way up there for a weeks hard work (and by equal or greater measure) and drinking! I am very excited to see everyone again!

    However I have been rather busy over the last 6 weeks on numerous projects.

    The Hammond School
    The private dance school in Chester was having its 2 Production weeks and myself and dBS Solutions team were called in for technical services. The shows are getting more and more complicated and this year was no exception with a large increase in video, set and even an orchestra. As such the team grew this year with me taking the role of Production Engineer and AV Operator. While Olly Durran (No.1 Operator of Blood Brothers) took the mixing helm, with “newbie” Richard Pomeroy as his No.2. Kim Hale as Stage Manager and Chris Bogg on LX completing the team. Including the fit up it was a very long 3 weeks, with as always some politics! But I’m pleased to report the show was very successful with good reports all round. The Qlab system yet again suffered no problems throughout, on its toughest shows yet and I was generally impressed with how it handled the large amount of video. And as the first half of the show was all run consecutively with no stopping i had to come up with some creative QLab programming to allow all the video and audio to run smoothly! I was a little nervous pressing Go on a cue that was basically the entire Act 1! But faultless again! I think I need some time off dance shows for a bit now though!

    Children of Halton Sing
    Still with dBS Solutions straight from the Hammond to this interesting job for AJB. Amplifying a choir of a 1000 school children at the end of a stadium (Plus a Band on the pitch) to 4000 people at the sides of a stadium. The stadium in question was Halton Stadium. After working out a system based on 6 stacks of PA spread across both sides, I then ended up using Google Earth to work out the cable runs! The choir were miced with a mix of Audio Technica Shotgun mics (rapidly becoming a favourite of mine!), and Rode Condensers. The day worked out really well, even with some rather poor weather, the turn out was good. The band sounded great before doing much to them and after some work we were able to get enough choir over the top of the band! Even if it sounded a little shouty (I think i’ll be forgiven)! With most of the cables now wet and covered in sand and dirt the load out was less fun! Check the pictures out below!

    Warrington Music Festival 2010
    After 2 long days of prep we were then ready for this years Warrington Music Festival. I never usually get to do this gig as I am on the Hammond show’s, but this year the dates did not clash so I jumped for the chance to do it.
    Last year suffered major problems with council noise restrictions, and as such the festival moved location right into the centre of Warrington at Golden Square. This had its advantages of being under canopy already and having mains on site as well as being right in the action. My role on this gig was to manage the main stage, and having completed some of the planning and system design I was looking forward to getting stuck in. I have old friend and mentor John Attewell on FOH, alongside friends Sam Proctor on MONS and Olly Sucking on LX. And what a team and weekend it turned out to be!!

    Due to the shops the load in couldn’t start until 7:30pm, well it would of but the staging company was late due to problems getting onto site. As such we didn’t really start work until 10pm. That coupled with a few problems including the fact the site was on a tilt meaning the scissor lift was beeping all over the place! We didn’t finish the load in until 5:30am… so we decided to get 2 hours kip in the production office, which was… a Disused Early Leaning Centre. 4 guys sleeping in Tesco bought child sleeping bags on the floor of a disused ELC was certainly an experience. Bonus was we woke up in a room with a kettle!

    Each day at the festival was split into 2 parts. More acoustic and chilled artists during the day as not to anger the shops, then after 6pm, we turned up to 11 and rocked! Each band had a 20 minute slot with 10 minute changovers, so time was tight! I conjured up a proper shout system this year so my wireless handheld could talk to FOH and Mons quickly for cueing and information and they could talk to each other too. It made line checking very easy, as well as allowing for last minute changes (I might add a wireless IEM for me next year though! Heehe). The new patchable stagebox made sticking to the festival patch simple and quick, and myself and sam became wizards at changing bands around. I would sort out there requirements off stage and design the patch, then we’d do the changeover and i’d relay the information to John and Sam over the talkback system. It worked like a dream all weekend! System wise we ran 8 stacks of Ohm TRS with a further box for infill. With 5 mixes on stage, and 2 LS9’s. Aside from sound Olly did a fantastic job on lights, on stage it looked OK but from FOH it looked simply amazing! See the pictures.

    We got alot of good complements on our teams performance and the general smooth running of the festival this year and we may have even managed to keep Mr Attwell out of retirement! The final photo of us in the rock star poses says it all! We had a great weekend, if not a tiring one! The festival has moved forward massively this year and I look forward to taking it forward again next year hopefully with the same team!

    CODYS – Billy Elliot
    While the festival was going on we also had to work on another CODYS show. This time it was a production of Billy Elliot, with the cast fresh from performing there version of the musical to the actual Billy Elliot creative team in the West End! While i entered the show later on with the system already installed, my main job was to help Chris programming the on demo Digico SD9. After 15 minutes on the desk it was all coming back to me and I got stuck in. We both got confused as we when we thought making a channel “Input Safe” would stop it from recalling Gain and Phantom settings, but we discovered this was in fact a different option. All “Input Safe” would do would stop the channel changing its input. This was a good thing in the long term as it let us do what we wanted to do better, but took us a while to get out heads round it, especially as we had already programed the 25 scenes for the show. But with a little bit of scene focus later we had it solved.

    I liked the desk and loved the fact it was so powerful, however sometimes when I just wanted it to do something and take the initiative it didn’t. For example making Macros. I love the fact I can program a macro to do trigger a pyro, change the scene and boil a kettle! I do. However when I just quickly want a sends on faders shortcut, why does it take me 20 minutes to program? No presets? We also felt you couldn’t make use of the overview screen as much, only really being able to send a couple of things to it. And an SD9 thing only no desk LED to tell you what scene your in! Crazy! Although you can do it by dragging the Scene Notes page to the Overview Screen, really not ideal! Given the time to program this desk is brilliant, and in theatre shows spending as much time as possible on scene 1 cannot be overemphasized! There are so many ways to safe things on this desk its easy to forget one! (We forgot Matrixes and Graphics). However one thing that can be said, is it sound quality really is in a different league of its own! The reverbs sounded phenomenal for onboard ones and the headamps did not disappoint either. The new Stagerack was brilliant and so easy to get setup and working (Learn here Yamaha!) and, when our Billy lost his voice the alternate input option was great for allowing us to quickly switch to an understudy.

    I think for theatre or touring, jobs with time to prep there is no better desk range than Digico’s SD desks. But for one day gigs or corporate jobs, I don’t think I could leave the reliability and walk up ease of a Yamaha desk. Still a very successful show and I would argue the best sounding CODYS show to date, and without a doubt some of that is the desk… I look forward to using one again.

    Right then I have just passed Carlisle… Its Edinburgh time!!!


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