Graham Ward Freelance Logo - headphones in a pointed marker with the top right corner folded over Image showing that I am IPAF approved

The Solution

a microphone stand with 2 short boom arms

This is a neat little solution to a problem I had recently encountered. I was in need of another short mic stand to mic up the snare for the support band but there were none left. however I did have two tall mic stands with short extending booms, so I took one of the booms off and mounted it to the end of the others boom. This meant I could get the correct upwards angle to go through the drum hardware without getting in the way.

Natural History Museum Ice Rink

View of the ice rink

Over the past 2 weeks I have been with SWG on and off at the Natural History Museum in London running power and light for the ice rink. it has been a good catch up with the guys and has bee very intense juggling jobs with different priorities as some things need to be done before or after other trades. Through out the build we kept it in time of the schedule with the clients very happy.

1 Day festival

view of stage from FOH

Another shift from SWG, today was for Audio, doing FOH & Monitors combined for their local next door pub. A good day with a lot to do but they did not under spec the kit. The pub who are always kind to the SWG staff and freelancers were again very hosting to them passing us complementary food from their BBQ ad some drinks too as we were busy keeping everyone entertained with the music.

Tiffany & Co Charity Polo Match

a view of Sydmonton estate

today I am setting up power for Tiffany & Co annual charity polo match for SWG Power, a nice easy day as there is not much power demand. Most of the time was to run the routs neatly so as nothing can be seen. this has my OCD in its element, it is always my philosophy that all cable routs no matter how hidden and out of the way even to technicians running the events, they should be ran neatly. This has several benefits, firstly it provides less of a trip hazard, secondly it looks more visually appealing and thus if seen it looks like it is meant to be there, thirdly it becomes easier to trace a faulty cable back to its components rather than trying to trace it through a braid of crossing layered cables that may waste valuable time in a time critical moment. This was more crucial for this event as I was only doing the setup of this event before handing it over to another SWG technician. between this cable running when i was waiting for the kitchen to be built and populated with equipment in its correct place I helped out the AV branch of SWG who where fulfilling the auction and entertainment side of the event. I am happy to help out other areas of the company when needed and dose not conflict with my roll I was brought in for as it allows for a calmer working place, this also meant I could catch up with these guys as I only occasionally work with these guys.

Newbury's Lantern Parade

stage view of event

Today was me doing lighting for a band on an outside stage, evented by the Corn Exchange who cannot fully staff it internally as it co insides with their Pantomime, they have called in local freelancers for this.

Drum Sub Arrival

Drum sub with monitor on top Joanne Shaw Taylor stage setup

Today the much awaited drum sub has arrived after being on back order and just in time for Joanne Shaw Taylor's gig. The drummer was happy to see that we had a drum sub saying that the amount of venues who neglect it and do not see the value in having one in a gig prominent venue is worrying. I have gotten a set of wheels for the setup to transport it around easily and a ratchet strap to keep them all secure and in place

Annual Hunt Ball

view from side of stage mix position

For this evening i was called out to mix a local covers band, The Extra Covers, who were playing for the Berkshire Hunt societies annual ball. this required me to mix from the side of stage which isn't the most ideal location. however with a good solid soundcheck and having worked with the band many times before allowed me to be confident with the mix location. The society and the band were extremely happy with the nights entertainment.

Big Band Time

Apollo Big Band at The Corn Exchange

I have been called back to my previous venue to mix for the Apollo Big Band, these were one of my favourite gigs to work on.

floor maintenance

Under construction sign

well it seems that the hardboard floor hasn't worn too well and needs a major touchup already, my thoughts is it is not binding to the surface, so after a bit of thought and weighing up pros and cons the plan is to pull up the hardboard, sand down the varnish on the floor, paint that black and revarnish it. this will provide a more professional finish as it wont have the grid of tape and will be better for dancers as they then only have the sprung floor underneath them and not have the hardboard dampening down its benefits. This took a week to complete with all of the stages and allowing time for the paint to dry and layers of varnish to cure

The Foo Fighters

Foo Fighters banner

this weekend was time for some rest and well deserved top on music. Iggy pop, Royal Blood and the Foo Fighters! This is the 3rd time I've seen Royal Blood this season first at Brixton O2 then at Reading Fest the previous week and this weekend they were still fresh. this wasn't the first time I've seen the Foo Fighters either, I have seen them before headlining at Reading Fest. the best part of the gig was the surprise 'superduper group' with Roger Taylor and John Paul Jones for Under Pressure Freddie Mercury tribute that was a brilliant one off addition to any gig I have seen!

Updating the sound stock

Product box delivered on a pallet

After nearly 9 years of the venue being active and little technical investment into sound there have been a few broken and missing items, the active monitors and some of the microphones. With the monitors they have had some misuse and abuse with no system protection on the signal feeding them leading some of them to be beyond reasonable repair to what they are worth. I managed to get some capital budget on top of the yearly budget as it will save on hire budget of monitors which we are constantly having to do to fulfil the technical needs of incoming bands. After demoing some d&b MAX 12 and some NEXO monitors I settled on some EM Acoustic M-10 monitors. Sonically there was not much difference until you got to the low end but with two EM Acoustic M-10 cupeled together they matched the rest with that fact and budget concerns I could get more units giving me 6 full lines of monitoring powered by Lab Gruppen IPD2400 with full system processing inbuilt. I could also afford an active sub for a drum fill. with all of these elements the venue can now self sufficiently cater for 95% of the incoming bands monitoring need and double up monitors on 60% of these. at the same time I upgraded the microphone stock with three e694's three e609, a beta52.

On Your Feet

standing mat

After finding my feat quickly in this venue I'm beginning to find that they are starting to hurt at the operating positions, I often operate with no shoes on where it is safe and appropriate to do so as I feel more relaxed, I have never had this problem before so have a period operating with my shoes on again. After a bit of investigation and trying out remedies I concluded that it is due to the hard floor surface that is causing the issues. Lifehacker have got an article on standing desks for offices and standing mats for them, whilst not strictly being an office the same principles apply in regards to posture for a standing desk so its natural to use the same products to ergonomically treat the environment and yes after a few days of using an anti-fatigue mat the discomfort has gone. I have followed Lifehacker for a while and they have a god set of useful content to follow.

Spot the error

rack with power blocking an XLR

Sometimes there is an oversight in the racking order and is not spotted until out on the road, this is one of those examples. This one is not the end of the world as XLR 8 can still be connected before the power gets connected. tour prep is a valuable time frame in a production as it is built tested in a controlled environment to iron out these bugs.

Paint It Black

painting the stage floor black

I see a bad floor and I want it painted black... Thats how the song goes right? Well the stage is in need of some maintenance, the tape holding the hardboard sheets together are looking scruffy, tape pealing up, bare strips where pant had been pulled up by tape, taped over several times over places and a few are broken and in need of a replacement. An easy job to redo and very satisfying, just in need of a full day to sort it all out as peeling scuffed up tape takes a long time and it needs to be done properly as we have a lot of conference in the venue. as you can see from the picture in the left is what the boards looked like and over in the right is freshly painted matt black using Flints Theatrical matt black paint with matt glaze mixed in in a ratio of 5:1 to give it a more durable finish to last longer. I have used this formula for a long while and find it can last almost a year before having to be reapplied with only minor touch ups every few months.

News

IPAF 3a Licance

Scissor Lift

As the rig at my new work is a fixed gird and I am the sole technician, a telescope cant be used so there is a scissor lift I need to go on some more training to get my 3a before I can use it adding to my 1b & 3b licence I already hold.

Taste Festival London

South West Group Power Logo

Just had a last minute booking for doing power for Taste London.

SoundWeb Design

BSS Audio Logo

Ive been commissioned by Dicot's Cornerstone Arts centre to reconfigure their SoundWeb 3088 unit as theirs had been reconfigured inefficiently without crossovers meaning the sub's where trying to replicate full range. This is a nice easy change from my usual freelancing work and whilst being more than happy to do so. all setup and implemented and the system optimized for the venue. another happy client at the end.

New Contract Job (yet again)

Arlington Arts Centre

It's Been a blast working at the Nuffield Theatre but their was a vacancy for a Technical Manager at the Arlington Arts Centre where I have freelanced regularly for years as a sound technician as well as other rolls so I know the venue, equipment and staff really well already. this is a great move as it cuts down my commute from 2h30m to 0h18m a day and improves the quality of life a lot, tough I will miss singing along to the radio endlessly.

War Of The Wolds

My Ticket

I've been waiting to see this show live for years but it always clashed with work that I couldn't get out of, this time I made sure I was going and was not disappointed by it.

Tallescope Training

Certificate

Had some training to be certified in the safe use of tallescops provided by work.

Feastival

View of the main stage with Fatboy Slim playing

Back to a snippet of my freelancing from which I had booked in before winning the permeant contract. a week of doing more power for SWG with great food provided by Eat To The Beat. managed to catch the headline set of Fatboy Slim who had a great sound, LX & video show.

Reading Festival

View of the main stage

Time to relax! I had a cracking time at Reading Festival as a punter this year after missing it last year because of the International Festival nice sounds from all the bands and stages I visited

The Saints

Into the new Job and after the set of graduation ceremonies for University of Southampton it is strait into their outdoor extravaganza for Arts at the Heart in the middle of Southampton's Guild Hall Square. This was formed as a wooden structure with raked seating ether side of a traverse theatre layout with a viewing gallery around the top as well, the intent was for it to mimic a football stadium mainly because the main production being shown there was called "The Saints" about a super fan and his troublesome life.

New Contract Job (again)

Nuffield sign light up at night

After being so awesome as their Emergency Sound Technician, I have been offered a full time job as their resident sound technician for there producing and receiving productions. so this draws my freelancing back down to the occasional few shifts.

I do wonder at times...

not a plug I would plug in some potentially leathal wiring

This is a culprit that tipped out every breaker in it's passage right up to the 400A main breaker directly from the generator tales. The client on site plugged it in hear a loud bang then everything turned off (the client was fine and had no shock nor did anyone else). apparently according to the PAT label on the side of the freezer it past the week before... I'm no so sure as you can see it would fail the visual even before the plug was opened, once opened you can see that the neutral is over exposed the live only had one strand in its terminal and the earth was floating and touching the rest of the live conductor. Naturally I chopped off the plug to it, then from the nice request of the client it was re terminated and tested before being plugged into the system.

Cheeky visit to Glastonbury

View of the Glastonbury sign in the distence whilst inside the site in the truck on the way

GLASTONBURY!!!

Freelancing some more for SWG

South West Group Events Logo

The summer is starting to get into swing now with some solid work being booked up. these 2 weeks coming are with SWG, a great bunch of guys who most of which I know from uni. This set is for the newly updated power side of the group starting with some Prep work in the yard before going with it to Henley Royal Regatta and setting up power there before handing it over to go to F1 FanZone in London to setup and look after the power side of things there.

New digs for the summer

the tent

seen as I am spending my time freelancing and have yet to get my towing license, meaning I cant pull a decent size caravan, I've opted for the tent rout. I managed to hit the jackpot on getting a near pristine 5mX4m canvas tent from gumtree at a bargain price of £40. I've upgraded the guy ropes and ground pegs to ones of which are used with a small marquee, after all who wants to come back to you tent being blown away after a good days work not me thats for sure. Another addition I have added is some LED tape lighting as it's small and discreet so it dose not impact on the living space, water proof (hopefully I wont need that as its inside the tent!), cool so it wont damage the canvas and can run off a 12v leisure battery for days when there is no 230v~ about. to top it off i got a double size futon mattress to chuck on an old bed frame to really make it a comfortable summer!

Dodgy Acoustic Set

Cartoonised image of Dodgy's band members

Tonight I had the pleasure of engineering sound for the band Dodgy who brought us the hit songs "Staying Out For The Summer" & "Good Enough" it was a great gig having a clear powerful mix coming through FOH and monitors (apart from 1 of the monitors that developed a fault mid show). It's great having a the Arlington Arts Venue with great bands regularly close by and as a regular occurrence for me.

Newbury Spring Festival 2014

Crew catering at the Vineyard Stockcross View of the stage setup for Maureen Lipman talks to Edward Seckeson

I have just completed this years Newbury Spring festival for The Company Presents as a dedicated event technician and providing and running sound for outreach events including Maureen Lipman talks to Edward Seckeson at Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber's private theatre on his estate, Anne Reid at the Vineyard Stockcross where I have had the best crew catering I have ever had and most likely ever will! and Jeremy Paxman talk on "Great Britain's Great War"

The Ladyboys of Bangkok

The Ladyboys of Bangkok Logo

This week I have been working on the Get-in for the "Ladyboys of Bangkok" tented tour to assist with the setup of the trussing & electrics. I have been such a help to them they have asked me back for the Get-out and my availability for other venues to assist with the get-in/out there to which I could only accept the Cardiff stop due to travel and other expenses.

Emergency Sound Technician

The Nuffield Southampton Logo

I have just received a booking from The Nuffield Theatre Southampton to be on some short term contracts to be there "Emergency Sound Technician" due to their sound technician leaving for a new job and not having a technician available with enough skills/confidence to act as the resident sound technician. as it stands far the shows I am on are "The Laramie project", "Laramie 10 Years Later" and "Tonight @ 8:30" and more to follow.

Lee Evans - Work in Progress

Poster image of Lee Evens - Work in Progress

Last night I was working at The Corn Exchange Newbury on Lee Evans "Work In Progress" show for the second time. In these shows he tries out his new material to a sold out Newbury audience before his forthcoming tour (in this case his "Monsters" arena tour). Although this was a simple sound setup with only intro/exit music and two Shure SM58's (one onstage one offstage intro/backup) Lee was happy and impressed that I remembered his preferences from his last visit enabling the soundcheck to go through quickly and him committing "I love playing my warmups here (at Newbury) as it always goes smoothly with a great outcome that the audience really enjoy, and that means a lot to me on theses sorts of gigs, well done!"

IPAF 3b licance

Image of new IPAF card and IPAF certificate

Shortly after my last update I went to ALS Safety in Bracknell and successfully completed the 3b mobile boom course. More skills to my library.

End of an Era Beginning of Freelance

Graham Ward Freelance Logo - headphones in a pointed marker with the top right corner folded over

After a great few months I am Sad that my contract at the FCTT has come to an end. After a tough decision I have chosen to not renew it, so I moving back south to Newbury, to carry on as freelance technician for sound, lighting, stage and power. I am currently adding IPAF Category 3b, to give me greater flexibility for working venues. Please feel free to Contact me for more information on myself an for my availability.

White Christmas

After a few years of working with Pantomimes, this year I had the chance to work on a christmas musical instead. This was a great run which I worked as stage LX for, with several trucks that needed to be plugged in and paged on&off with tight turn arounds. This left a nice balance of work during the show with breaks. The whole run went as a technical success apart from one incident when the automated show floor tracks locked up due to a component failure in the drive rack, however all of the stage crew managed to recover this without making it obvious to the audience leaving them unaware of the technical issue. The two panoramic photos are of Stage Left that i was in charge of.

Remote Show Cueing and Synchronisation Device

Image of finnished product

During the Opera, Lyon's Fidelio we where asked if we had any means to synchronise two mac's running Qlab (as a main and backup). As the sound designer/operator, wished to link them but did not understand how to do so. I ran him through some options of linking them over MIDI through external devices or over a network, unfortunately he did not have a MIDI licence or the budget for the needed equipment or the licence itself. through our problem solving a co-worker suggested having a USB "Y" split cable to control both mac's from 1 keyboard. This was a good suggestion but would not work, I explained to them both that device would not be able to register on both the hosts as conflicting signals from both host will be received that do not match the original packet and therefore discarded. none the less we made one and gave it a shot to prove unsuccessful. Another option I knew would work is an external remote control such as the ones made by Widgeteering Studios though this solution is less practical due to time and budget restraints for sourcing and hiring or buying as it is $299. Unfortunately it all came down to pressing the GO button as simultaneously as possible which is not ideal.

Image of finnished product

As the EIF had now finished, I started researching into the problem to see if any cheeper solutions existed incase this scenario arises again and I could have a solution to hand. I found a site that gave me an idea, it was a remote for another piece of software, that had been created from an Arduino board. It used the serial ports to create many USB links to be sent to many computers, individually sending a keystroke signal at the same time for testing purposes. It was my idea to add hardware switches to this for popular Qlab functions in a playback environment. I researched the programming of this and realised this would take me a while to complete. I searched again to see any quicker solutions. During this time, Cedar Lake arrived in the building as part of their UK tour. The sound designer of the show had created something similar himself. This is when I stumbled across keyboard emulators, these are more popular in the arcade environment for the controls on more modern arcade games and where relatively inexpensive, though these could only control one host at a time. I decided to take a risk and buy two and join the two sets of inputs in parallel to the switch. This works perfectly, the controller I used supports macros (such as Ctrl+Alt+Del from a single key) a shift function allowing each input to have two functions, it also supports a USB through so you can hook another USB device to individually control the host. As it supports both Mac and Windows it is easy to reprogram it can easily be changed to control other software such as CSC, Show Cue System, Photoshop or even your favourite computer game.

Edinburgh International Festival

Edinburgh International Festival 2013 logo

So just over a month into my new adventure, Edinburgh's International Festival kicks off for yet another year, bringing some of the worlds finest arts to the heart of scotland and to my venue. Opera Lyon with Fidelio set in space, using projection to different depths of the stage, giving an illusion of 3D holograms. Scottish Ballet with a number of different performances, including one that reverses the direction of the stage, adding an extra seating bank in the rear scene dock. Opera Frankfurt with Dido and Aeneas / Bluebeard's Castle on a 14m revolving stage and ending with Don Quichotte du Trocadéro. All of these shows, demanded a lot of tech work to put on and get performance perfected, as some where from companies who would not normally tour. All shows ran on time, smoothly to great audience reviews, a fantastic experience in, on the spot tech management and adaptation.

New Contract Job

Festival Theatre & Kings Theatre in Edinburgh

Festival Theatre logo Festival Theatre logo

Short but great contract as "LX Senior Technician Sound/Lights" I'm moving out of Berkshire and up to Edinburgh, otherwise it will be a very long commute!!! Starting in the second week of July, I have to quickly learn the venue, before the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival began in August. My first gig at this new venue is none other than Scotland's, Susan Boyle!!! Shame I will miss Bill Bailey as he was playing the weekend before but hey, you cant have it all and I'm sure he will be playing in a venue I am teching at in the future. Anyway, I can tell you it will be great up there, EIF will be an experience.

Glastonbury 2013

La Pussy Parlure Nouveau

Glastonbury in the style of the ''Hollywood'' sign

This week I have been working as Mics & Patch on the "La Pussy Parlure Nouveau" stage at Glastonbury for South West Group. A great change from theatre, but not without it's own difficulties beginning with stage size and a last minute change to the venue specification from the client, though it all pulled trough in time for the public to enjoy the artists playing this stage. being the first time working with SWG I did not know any of the crew other than a few who studied alongside me at university, they where all allocated to different areas of Glastonbury apart form one on my stage. the other crew including LX and Stage I got to know quickly and got on well with them as they where all great people who where great at there jobs which is crucial to having a successfully run venue at a festival due to tight turn arounds of complex setups.

Allen & Heath GLD-80

Image of GLD-80 with Chantel McGrogor's preshow state Image of one of the GLD-80 internal FX units showing an out of date PAT sticker running out in September 1987

Back up at Arlington for some more gigs Chantel McGregor and Boo Hewerdine & Brooks Williams, this time with a new toy!!! The Allen & Heath GLD-80. this is my first time using the GLD in a show environment, whilst at Plasa last year I had a good long play with it around there stand, with a quick demo as I knew Arlington where planning on purchasing the desk and where just waiting for finance to sign off the extra budget consent. it was easy to get around the basic menus of the desk and to assigns and move channels to the fader strip that you want. to get to all of the processing for the channels and busses with nice detailed and easy to understand graphical representation of the processing especially with the dynamics seeing the output audio in a graphical form scrolling underneath the effect making it easy set up the dynamics. One of the bigger drawbacks was the naming of the channels, I found it difficult to name a large number of them quickly, having to select a box on the touch screen then turn one of the multifunction encoders to get to the channels before selecting the name box then typing the name and repeating the process, there may of been a quicker way of doing this however this was not essential as for these gigs as they had a small channel count. the soft keys provided a flexibility for the user, I would of liked some more choices with the soft keys such as using one (or a separate button) to activate send on faders then the soft keys becoming the mix bus select (much in the same way that the yamaha desks perform with there custom user defined keys in combination with there mix/matrix keys) though the added surface custom rotary encoder was a nice addition as I often like to adjust the FX send level without wanting to loose control of the actual channel fader of only there where more custom keys here too. another part I like about the GLD is that the guys programming it had fun whist doing so, putting an out of date PAT (saying it ran out in September 1987) sticker on on of the back of the unit where you can rout it in the desk.

The Sound Of Music

Well I am not going to lie, this week has not been my favourite within my life as a sound engineer. who can blame me though? as they all say "don't work with children or animals", and I tried my best not to. However as the resident sound engineer, in the end I had little choice, so I just had to suck it up and get on with the week long production. The majority of it went very well, the main technical problem being a cable/contact issue between the sound desk and the compressor over the group of radio mic's controlling the children failed, causing me to loose the whole group at the beginning of act 2 (where they are all used) on one of the performances, this temporarily threw me off as I was not expecting a cable/contact failure within the desks tails as I have never had one before. At the time I just quickly stood back took a breath then PFL-ed the channels and saw there was signal from the radio mic's, checked the graphic processing return channel was not muted then the routing from all of the children's radio mic's was assigned correctly. This part happened over 10s, which dose not sound a lot but is always 11s too much! In the end by a process of elimination I decided it was to do with the compressor which at that point I just pulled out the insert cable in order to get the show going again before later confirming the cause of the problem, all I can say is for the rest of act 2 I missed that compressor over the group to smooth out the dynamics between each of them.

On a lighter note, the new ambient microphones the Corn Exchange have are worth their money giving me a greater signal before feedback ratio due to being (compared to the previous AKG CK91 which dropped straight down) angled to get a more direct sound, as they where a smaller it allowed me to lowered them closer to the stage before being too noticeable, the main reason the CK91 where noticeable was from the shadows casted from them when they where hanging inline of the FOH luminaries beam path. with the new mic's being smaller this was less of an impact due to the lighting optics. a pair of CK91 where still used as the up-stage ambient microphones as there where not enough new Pro-45's to be placed over the US area too.

Into the 2nd week

Picture of SPL meter stating instantaneous level of 89.1dBa and peek level of 108.5dBa

Not a lot to say now that it has been up and running other than I have been continuously getting good reviews and feedback from other crew, staff and audience members, having been script free since the 7th show I am very confident and relaxed about the panto which is a big change from my previous yeas when I was operating. so now I am currently cruising through the show run using the time in between shows and the interval to crochet to keep my sanity. The biggest struggle for me now was to keep my hearing at 100% as the kids are loving the show and are being very interactive, which unfortunately for me is loud with peaks over 105dB(a)on most shows (highest recorded was 108.5dBa see top right of picture to the left of text), this is a problem when being out in the auditorium especially when mixing off centre as one ear is effected greater than the other, I tried using my attenuators one show but quickly abandoned them as it was too quiet for the rest of the show to accurately mix, instead I ended up mixing the loud audience interaction sections from a high quality reference microphone which I rigged for this reason through some well padded headphones allowing me to reduce the volume to my own ears whilst keeping the balance for the audience and cast.

Panto production week

View of FOH sound desk and play back by QLab for Cinderella

It has been a good and very productive week for me behind the sound desk, having my design setup and running in plenty of time despite having a slight delay with setting up the radio mics as there was a lack of internet to download Sennhisers "Wireless Systems Manager" to check the clearest set of channels, I would of preferred to run this most of the previous week to get a better average spectrum profile for the building but unfortunately the EM 300 G3 did not arrive until the production week and was put strait into action. Again I used SMAART to accurately determine the frequencies that where feeding back within each part of the system (radio/ambient, FOH/fold-back/front-fill) and adjust the system processor accordingly to reduce these without impacting the the rest of the source signal, whilst of course using my own ears to make sure it is still pleasing to listen to.

This year I programmed the bands backing track system using QLab which they haven't used in previous years, they where very pleased to see that it was easy to setup use and navigate compared to CSC Show Control which they had been given to used by the previous designer which seemed in both of our opinions to be difficult to use and program and seemed to be fairly unreliable often ending up in the show reports which is never the aim of the game

Having gone to a number of the rehearsals I managed to work out the groupings of the actors and managed to replicate this with there assigned radio mic channels upon the sound desk and from the tech and dress runs this has proved to be a lot easier than placing them in order of who sound checked when

Heres to a good run

Recording Backing Vocals

make shift vocal recording booths made from scene flats and backdrop curtains make shift vocal recording booths made from scene flats and backdrop curtains with sound desk and computer in view make shift vocal recording booths made from scene flats and backdrop curtains with actors singing into the microphones

Rehearsals have been well underway for the Cinderella and it is now time to record the backing vocals for some of the tracks. not having access to a true studio and a very limited budget i came up with the idea of making a temporary studio space within the arts centre where rehearsals are being held. I used some black scene flats to give a slight bit of separation (acknowledging that these have low acoustic properties but still work better than nothing) from the booths either side ant to stop reflections from the room bouncing back to microphone, with a heavy back cloth and gauze behind the microphones to stop reflections from the imeadit walls and left the back open as other reflections from the room entering here will be very low in level and amusingly absorbed by the actors bodies. using high quality large diaframs to record them onto Cubase through my Allen & Heath ZED-420 5 channels at a time for Bass, Alto, Soprano, Baritone and Tenor to keep a good amount of control when adding them into the backing track and also allowing the Musical Director to auto tune them more easily if required. so they could all hear themselves i used part of my budget to buy a headphone amplifier and a set of headphones, which for the budget i could only find open format headphones which was not ideal as the track will be picked up in the mic however this should blend into the track itself. appart from only having one feed to the headphone amp they had to hear all of there voice and not just the track and there own vocal or vocal groups.

Panto Designing

Corn Exchange Newbury Pantomime 2012 Cinderella

Its time to get designing again, with this years pantomime of Cinderella at the Corn Exchange Newbury only a month away, I have been asked to design the sound setup on top of operating it for the show run. this shouldn't take long as a already have a sound design for the CXN which is closely setup for a show of this nature from previous AmDram shows, all I will have to do is to make minor tweaks in the design and for through all of the processors with a fine comb when the set is in an up to tune it properly. in the mean time Ive only to go through my SFX library to pre pick out some that i know will be used without even looking at the script such as thunder as there is always thunder in pantos for the evil villain and midnight clock chimes

Beverley Craven

Beverley Craven with full band from the mix position

Tonight's gig was Beverley Craven, originally meant to be her solo after selling so well in the there she decided to play with her full band it was a great gig to be mixing. having such a great clear voice I automatically gave her a Beta87 rather than a SM58 as it was more suited to her. the sound check was a breeze with the sounds easily and quickly falling into the mix around each other only leaving minor tweaks and level adjustments for solos and such.

Bucklebury Beer Festival

view of The Mini Band from mix position view of Cliodhna from the front view of Cliodhna from mix position

Today was a sound for a small scale beer festival with 6 band of various genres over 10 sets proving to be an easy day with a 16ch desk to play with. lots of great ale's and ciders, just a shame i was working and had to drive back with the equipment else i would of been sampling them myself.

Demo Of A CL5

view of the Yamaha CL5 with the Apollo Big Band on stage in the background

Well after not a lot of stuff happening sound wise in the Corn Exchange after the summer maintenance period i had managed to get a demo desk of the new Yamaha CL5 after speaking very nicely to them at PLASA. having used the LS9 and M7CL throughout university and freelance work i managed to get my head around the new desk very quickly. with the plug and play AUTO setup of the Rio Dante racks saving any headache of configuring IP and MAC addresses that could get people confused if in a rush. It was really nice having the ability to soundcheck with the Stagemix app on my iPad, as the Midas is permanently placed to the far auditorium left hand side at the back of the stalls where you don't get a true representation of the mix (the CL5 was placed here too for the demo period).

For the demo period I used it on 2 shows, The Apollo Big Band, and NOMADS production of Footloose.

Cold Ash Ball

The Extra Covers playing in the Parkland Suite for the Cold Ash Summer Ball

It's time to properly test the new kit I have purchased with The Extra Covers, and as expected I was not disappointed. along with the EAW subs I use they provide a nice full range cover with allot of headroom. the EMS-81 proved to be fantastic as well with keeping used floorspace to a minimum which is always needed in small venues such as pubs, community centres and hotels

New Gear

EM Accoustic EMS-121w and EMS-81 with EAW sb250z

I found a set of speakers worth buying for my freelance adventures. A pair of EM Acoustic EMS-121w for FOH and a set of 4 EM Acoustic EMS-81 as fold-back/delays as needed. I decided to buy these as New Greenham Arts (sister to the Corn Exchange) updated there FOH rig a few months ago to one EMS-121w a side and an EMS-81 as a centre fill (that had been there previously to the EMS121w addition). Having mixed through these before and finding them reproducing the mix clearly with a great depth of detail I would be more than happy to use them for my own use. currently I am driving these through 2 QSC-CX404 4ch amplifiers one for the EMS-81's (1ch each) going through a Soundweb 3088, with another bridged into a 2ch amplifier to drive the 2 EMS-121w's going through a Soundweb BLU-16 which also crosses over for some EAW SB250R's (Corn Exchange equipment) powered by a channel of QSC-CX1102 amplifier each.

Chenobble Gig For Leo

Band on stage at the Waterside Center in Newbury

Another gig today, for a charity event benefiting a group of Chernobyl children over here to have test and a well deserved break. It was another successful gig, though it appears i may need to get a bigger car or even a van as it a very careful and well planed game of 3D tetris to fit it all in!

Time for some more freelancing

This week I've been freelancing for The Company Presents for the Boxford masques show and for Petworth Festival. This involved setting up and erecting scaffold towers, temporary stages and marques along with lighting, power and sound assisting with Loh Humm who provided the sound reinforcement setup. working with Loh Humm was a great experience, with great philosophy of sound setups and great well maintained stock of high quality equipment.

Gee's Top Tips #001

Another annual school kids dance show, and one that I've worked with since 2007 whilst back at school needless to say I still have the disc, though it has been through the wars after being in my old car for years as can be seen here with some rather large holes in the data foil and did not get recognised by anything. it turns out that if you put packing tap over the holes this helps it to be read though only from track 3 onwards in this case, even more could be read with black PVC tape on top and now plays all the tracks, with the exception of all but the last 15s of track 1. Not bad going hey?

Data side of the CD showing holes in the data foilTop side showing parcel and black PVC tape covering up the holes in the data foil

Technical support for a production week

Another production week at the Corn Exchange, this time for the show "Mass Observation". Looking at the technical spec they had two projectors to setup, and amazingly enough they where the smaller Panasonic projectors that I used on the outdoor show and funnily enough because of this I was put in charge of the projectors as well as setting up the surround the sound system. This time the projectors are to be setup to overlay each other in order to gain a greater output whilst under theatre lights and to regain the ability to project completely different content (hence why one bigger projector was not used). not too difficult I though when merrily sitting there lining up onto the back wall until the director says that they want to project onto the set as well as the back wall, hummm different throw distances to simultaneously focus onto from 2 identical but ever so slightly off shifted projectors will require some head scratching even more so for a part time video guy, at least I had 4 days to do this... I think about it whist setting up the sound and Google it over the dinner break. After doing so I find out that as I expected it just isn't possible (one projector for one focal point at any one time), however as it was a professional projector could be controlled over LAN and RS-232 and therefore could theoretically be controlled by QLab (running the bulk of the video) through something along the line of an AppleScript cue to talk to the projector to refocus to the different focal points, though this was out of my knowledge depth and everyone else's (they where amazed I can control it from my iPad and phone over LAN) and therefore thanked for the legwork but decided not to pursue as the difference in the focus did not differ too much (at least in this venue) to dedicate one technician 4 full production days to problem solve and teach the operators of the show to work and tweak from venue to venue. in all another show to build up my video skills.

The Berkshire Giant

End result of the projection onto a building late at night

This week has been busy prepping, organising and running the video equipment for the finally of "the Berkshire Giant". being a while since I've done video it was a nice change from the norm. the setup was one 10k projector on top of a scaffold tower to give an image on a building 8m by 1m. easy stuff no blending or overlaying to be required, I had to do that in a few practicals at university and it was a headache! looks nice when its done right but I don't do it often enough to confidently do it under time constraints yet. first off when the kit (Panasonic PT-DZ110X) arrived from hire like always, I tested it and had a play like a (pretty much like a kid with a new toy!) which was very useful as i found out it could be controlled by LAN and after a short google search to find the user/password I was in, the easy rig just got easier as being sceptical of the range from it IR remote I could control it from my iPad with greater range of control and a greater range of test pattens allowing me to note in grater detail the position of the projected image to match it the next day when resetting and aligning it as the equipment was not safe to leave out overnight.

Projector setup upon a scaffold tower during the day time

For the tech and show I ran the 30s clip from QLab which was smooth and easy program. not having the video or full licence of QLab, I found the rental licence very economical and easy to order and install.

The Jubilee

Cold Ash Picnic On The Green

setting up the band and PA on a two tiered truck stage

I was asked to do sound for a local community jubilee event for 9 bands/artists over 11 sets throughout the day. Challenge accepted!

Without a budget for the equipment it was time to beg and borrow, thankfully the Corn Exchange where kind and offered the equipment hire free of charge to support the community event. However they only had 16Ch desks available to be used, this was limiting what i could achieve. Considering the input list for the most demanding band would benefit from 23 inputs i would have to come up with a solution in order to keep the quality of the sound as high as possible. as a solution I ended up with the idea of "double stacking" two 16Ch desks into one 26Ch desk with AUX and L R sent into the "master desk" from the "slave desk" to keep the full flexibility of the mix whilst keeping it simple. It would of been possible to run the whole gig on a single 16Ch desk though with absolutely no changeover time between the acts allocated there would not of been enough time to change the patch, gains, Eq's or Aux Sends. Therefore using a "double stack" arrangement would allow for each channel to be used for a dedicated role throughout the day with only the need for gain alteration and minor Eq and AUX sends alteration to the preference of the artists and style of music.

The Rig consisted of one EAW SB250z (one bridged crest CPX1500 per one driver working per side) and one Mackie 1521's per side for FOH and two pairs of Logic CM15's powered by one crest CC301 amp and a generic active monitor with a slave (from the band) as the foldback. The desks where an Allen & Heath MixWizwizard3 16:2 as the "slave" and an Allen & Heath GL2400 16Ch as the "master" desk. the FOH and holdback GEQ where a mix of Klark Teknik and Yamaha.

The Mini Band where a pleasure to do sound for, being of the ages between 8 and 11, they played solidly together I can see why they have won the south west heat final of live and unsigned and are to play in the O2 on 14th July

The AmDrams are in and up

Midas Verona 400 and Qlab playback with the stage in the background in theatre lights

Its been a busy beginning of the week for me, after creating a solid configuration for the my soundweb devices I have been fine tuning the configurations of the dynamics and Eq's within it in order to eliminate the issue of feedback from the ambient and radio mics used in the show. As i am planning to use this configuration for all future larger shows in this format i was very picky with the setup taking my time and using a PC running Smaart V.6 to view the frequencies that were causing problems going through the FOH, stage foldback and front fill speakers. As planned it allows me some extra headroom to get the vocals over the band when mic'ed giving a fuller sound across the production and giving me control over the mix

This new design to the sound system seems to be making a noticeable difference to the performance as some of the more experienced cast are complimenting me on the onstage foldback levels of their vocals and the key parts of the band to keep them all in time (such as the piano) as well as SFX for reference. The very experienced MD for the society has also complimented me on the sound saying it was "a much needed improvement". and with no feedback since the technical rehearsal and 2 show runs in it is proving to be successful.

Panoramic view of the stage from the rear centre of the auditorium stalls with the sound mix position in view rear of stalls left in working light with the cast on stage in costume getting notes

Moonlighting at a pub

The Extra Covers playing at the White Heart in Thatcham

Tonight I was helping out a local cover band that I've been promising to help for a while but not being able to, as the nights they have been playing have clashed with work. I usually arrive to my local to hear them playing the last 3 or 4 songs and give them a few bits of advice which have always helped them along their way. they appreciated my help making it sound better and have asked if i might be available provide my skills as a professional for some weddings, open air and other similar events. As with touring bands I'm always pleased to help local bands, after all the big bands had to start somewhere too.

Gig time at the CXN

Stage and auditorium in preset lighting with te sound desk in view

As a change to theatre its gig time, as part of the young corn exchange takeover scheme that allows young people to get involved in the Arts industry. This event was all planned by them, as well as setting up and operation of the 3 band gig, the variety show and comedy the day before. Me and the other resident technicians were there to oversee the production and to help them with any problems as well as teaching them tricks of the triad along with shortcuts.

It was agreed that they would sound check (in reverse order) and mix the first two bands and the acoustic set that filled in the the set changes and I would sound check the headliner, first, so they had good idea of how a soundcheck works and what to look out for whilst doing one. I was also to mix for the headliners too as they did not have a touring sound engineer and the young corn exchange crew wanted to make sure that the headliners were definitely a success with no hiccups.

Stage in Working light showing the FOH PA

They felt that as it is a rock gig it was worth hiring in a PA stack for the rock look as well as having a the speaker stack placed appropriately as the in house rig is permanently fixed flown position apart from the subs which wouldn't make much difference sitting on the stage rather than under it where they are usually positioned. The stack that we requested (2 stacks of 2 d&b C7 tops and C7 subs) was unavailable for hire between the time of arranging it and the gig day causing us to get an automatic upgrade to 2 stacks of 2 d&b C7 tops and a JSub instead. Although i have worked with d&b systems before on previous gigs, I have never mixed through them myself and I can tell you that I was in no way disappointed with the sound that came out of them. it kept the clarity of my mix and the punch from the kick with the most headroom I have ever had to my disposal, I’m sure if i kept upping the masters the rig would just keep on going as clear as it was at the lower volumes it was running at for the house music and acoustic set.

Me mixing Kazabian with the Young Corn Exchange observing

The headliner Kazabian (a Kasabian tribute band) where a great bunch of lads who not only where very accurate musically they knew what they wanted as a FOH mix and through there monitors and trusting me to replicate it for them, making the whole soundcheck smoother. I hope they have a great success with their future gigs.

Back at Arlington Arts Centre for the weekend

Charlie Dore on stage mid sound check

This Weekend I have been at Arlington doing sound for Charlie Dore (top image) and for Da Vinci (centre image) . both were successful and are definitely worth going to see them if they are playing a gig near by.

Da Vinci on stage mid oundcheck with projected backdrop

Due to circumstances of available equipment for Da Vinci I ended up using a Shure SM57 as the kick drum mic (bottom image) which resulting in a superb sound after a little low end Eq-ing to compensate for the frequency response roll off on the SM57 overall coming to a close stone throw away from the Beta 52A, which I will still use when given the availability as it reproduces the deeper boom of the kick more naturally which is a must for Rock 'n' Roll which luckily they weren't. Its always good to know that different setups work well and what their limitations are for those tight turnarounds and get ins or when equipment breaks or is missing and there is no time to get replacements.

Shure SM57 being used as a kick drum microphone

It helped that both Da Vinci and Charlie Dore are great bands knowing exactly what they wanted through FOH and their own mix and trusting me to replicate it rather than twisting and turning their choices and hoping to by chance come across what they want or just end up saying the very disheartening "that will do" when they don't. don't read this the wrong way, of course I want them to have exactly what they want as it is there sound is what makes their band, but if they can't explain it clearly enough to me (or other engineers) they don’t know it well enough themselves and it will only get lost in translation resulting in a lot of glitter being used throughout the set.

Time for some programming

BSS Audio Logo

It's time to start to do some planning and programming for the upcoming AmDram production of "Anything Goes" at the CXN in April. With a pair of soundweb 9088ii's racked up in house already doing the FOH matrix and system processing and a newly purchased personal stash of a 3088 and a Blu-16 (currently 4x12) there should be a lot of flexibility and a huge amount of processing power to keep the feedback away from the show.

my current plan of action is to keep the two 9088ii's as they are doing the in house system processing (as they were installed in a place that's awkward to get to except maintenance) though probably placing the delays for LCR at 0. then I'll be sending the group outs of the desk (Vox, band L, band R, SFX L, SFX R, DS amb, US amb feed to stage) to the 3088 where they will be matrix mixed to the outs of L, C, R, Front fill, onstage foldback, with parametric Eq's dynamics and delays as necessary to keep the sound image on stage and give the illusion that I am not there at all. its most likely that the Blu-16 will sit this one out until i buy another input card to make it 8x8 unless more inserts of dynamics are needed over the channel inputs as there are only 6 compressors to use.

Currently the CXN has radio microphone sets of sennheiser G2's and G3's. unfortunately the microphone capsule aren't nice sets of DPA's or similar, but rather a set of low cost microphones, though for the price that they are they are very good especially when compared to others in that price range, but they still have a floor of being very prone to getting a lot of breaks in the cable which is particularly seen with the AmDrams my technique of getting around this is to snip the moulded locking jack off, then running a length of clear heatshrink up the wire to provide extra reinforcement then an extra bit near the tail before terminating it again with another locking jack.

A step in the right direction

Full view of the Corn Exchange Newbury auditorium from the control room rear centre of the balcony

After working at the Corn Exchange in Newbury as the permanent part time sound engineer for the past 18 months, they have re-jigged there budget in order to make me a full-time member of the team. this is great news for me as i love my work here, with the other technicians, FOH and general office staff. I’ve having a great time at this venue with its Midas Verona 400 desk and its L'Acoustic rig processed by a pair of BSS Soundweb's 9088ii to switch between stalls, control room and 35mm projection feeds among other things.

The beginning of my website

Under construction sign

I've decided to create my self a website so please be patient with me if its not 100% there at the moment, I will be continually updating it so it should be good one day (hopefully not in the too distant future!!!) i should even have a mobile version of it too when i am done. so i can experiment but mostly just because i can