3.04.2010

More Than I Bargained For?

:: I've also acquired a few skills outside of my contract. My live production experience has shot up immensely; in fact, just three days ago we had to put together the audio for an important budget meeting with very little notice. Nine panelists, two Q&A mics, recording directly to CD, and terrible acoustics all had to be accounted for. I ended up drawing up the flow diagram for our setup as I gathered gear with Heidi (an EM student employee), and met with Giles and Jimmy (other EM student employees) at the lecture hall where the meeting was held. I actually managed to think of all the gear we needed and get it on the cart the first time, which had not happened before and was a really good feeling. Overall, the event went well enough that Les Purce commented on the setup after the event was over.

Another huge accomplishment was the annual Student Concert held in the Experimental Theater. This setup required several things: 5.1 surround sound for both live performance and playback pieces, video projection, direct-to-digital recording of up to sixteen tracks, and a stereo mixdown sent to the video feed. Let me break it down for you. On stage, we had a computer and audio interface for the performers to manipulate their digital sounds. We also had a few mics for them to sing or play into. Those two sources (digital and microphone) got mixed onstage by Kris Geffen. He then had to send his six channels of audio (there are six in 5.1 surround for those who don't know: left front, right front, center front, subwoofer, left rear, and right rear, in that order [usually] ) to my mix position at the front of house (FoH). Two performances did not need the computer or stage mixer, but they did need about fourteen mics for all eight or nine musicians on stage. The stage also had four monitors playing two different mixes for the artists to hear their own voices/instruments/effects/etc. My massive board, a Mackie 24-8, was receiving the stage mix from Kris. When the two large ensembles took the stage, I was receiving the fourteen mics they used. These signals were sent to me via a 24-channel snake on stage; the stage monitors used two of the return lines in the same snake. I was also getting two room mics that were hung from the ceiling (purely for the recording, not for the live sound). I also had to have six channels dedicated to surround playback from the computer next to us at FoH. Then for output, I was sending the two stage monitor mixes through two aux sends, routing a few vocal mics to a reverb unit through another aux send and return, sending the first sixteen channels via the direct outs to the digital recording, sending six sub outputs to the PA system in surround sound, and feeding the video the stereo mixdown of all of the above. An 8-channel snake then ran up to the second floor catwalk where we routed the signal to the amps for each of the six PA speakers.

As you can see, this was a complex setup. But not impossible!

Our schedule was where we faltered a little. We couldn't get started with the details of planning until Wednesday afternoon. Ben and I stayed late that night getting the main mix position ready, but still had questions about the most efficient way to set up. Thursday morning we came in to get everything else ready because the performers had to rehearse that day. We also hadn't really established a good leadership hierarchy beforehand, so Ben and I delegated jobs as we went. Friday was when we worked out the timing between acts as gear had to be moved on and off stage, and then the concert started that night. Except for a few minor problems, it actually went about 100 times better than I could have imagined. It was really due to a large group of people helping as much as they could; no one person could claim credit for that event's success. It was definitely stressful, but it was also majorly fun.

Live production aside, I also got some time in the studio to record a band for the album project. It's a catchy song, and the sessions went really smoothly, especially since the musicians were fairly well-rehearsed. I've finished tracking and need to start the editing and mixing process; unfortunately, I can't do any of this at home because I chose to record at 96kHz, which my home setup doesn't support. Being an intern does have its advantages though; I have keys to any studio I want to work in, as long as it's open and unreserved. I also have two more recording projects coming up. I'll be tracking the Evergreen Singers next Thursday and experimenting with some different mic'ing techiniques. In April, I'll be taking a weekend to record Marla Elliott's funk band. Those sessions should be pretty stressful since they have a large band and want to record several songs in just two days, but they should also be really really fun.

Next quarter, I plan on focusing more on my own work and less on jobs around campus for EM. Obviously I still work for EM, but this is the last chance I'll have to use these facilities. Graduation is coming up faster than expected, and it's a tiny bit scary, but it's mostly exciting. Time to get out of my comfort zone again...sweet ::