Copyright 2016 A L Technical
Back to my roots
Ash has been on the road with The Courtesans, an up and coming band, playing some club and live music venues recently, heres what he has to say about it....
Not touring any PA at all can be a scary experience at times, one which has given me the opportunity to use some kit I perhaps wouldn't otherwise have got my hands on. Recently we played the Ruby Lounge in Manchester where I was thrown in the deep end with a Pro2c. I've been unashamedly Soundcraft Vi or Digico for a long time, having used the Vi3000 and the SD9 quite a few times, and as a result I didn't really give the Pro series the time of day, I certainly wouldn't have spec'd one for any of my jobs!
Like any diligent engineer I did my homework and checked out what to expect when I hit the desk. YouTube is a great resource and there are a load of great tutorial videos for lots of different kit these days, so I checked out some tutorials to get an idea of what to expect.
I have to say the desk really did surprise me. It has some great features like the midas "pop" groups and DCA control groups, with the ability to pull to the surface the channels within a VCA or Group at the touch of a button, and the sound doesn't seem to have been compromised by anything Behringer.
Any complaints I have are aimed at the EQ controls, for a desk of that pedigree I really dislike having to press a button to select which band I'm working on, it lends itself to mistakes and slows down my workflow a bit. That said once you get your head around the quirks of the system it becomes pretty straightforward to use and quite a natural workflow. I still work in quite an analogue fashion and to me faders are all important so perhaps I would be sold on a Pro6!
Being at the mercy of house engineers can be quite an enlightening experience! I've been lucky enough to mix on rigs from all the major players now: Meyer; L'Acoustics; d&b; Turbosound etc etc, and as such I've heard some great and some not so great examples of most! The luxuary of touring your own PA soon becomes apparent when you turn up to a room with little time to tweak the rig, and don't necessarily agree with the house engineers perspective on things! Having to hack away at the graphic to get things smooth is generally indicative of something fundmentally wrong with the set-up. I like a nice present system thats smooth and detailed, I do not like to have my face ripped off buy 3.15k! Especially in a small venue with a big rig where bands like this can easily hit 115db at the desk. Getting the sound you're after, at the sort of levels we're looking for, whilst keeping it clean and minimising any feedback issues really keeps you on your toes. It's no bad thing, and I'd encourage anyone, even experienced engineers, to get out and do it from time to time, it's a great way to freshen your perspecive!
Allen and Heath Digital
It's been very much an Allen and Heath winter for our sound department.
Currently looking after FOH for That'll be the Day, Ash returns once again to mix on the iLive. A powerful performer given its price bracket, this system can sound quite good once its set up properly.
Regular engineer Richard Dickerson has done an excellent job building a robust touring network for this 220 date per year touring show. Revolving around Dante, the network comprises a Vi3000 on monitors looking after the pre-amps and providing a Dante digital split to FOH. The signal passes through managed Cisco switches with a complete redundant backup, which performed faultlessly during testing switching from A to B without dropping a beat.
The only let down with the digital split is the inability to control your own pre-amps, a trade off given that the soundcraft pre-amps are a little warmer anyway, and in this case Monitor Engineer Ben Webb is on the ball and keeps well on top of the gain structure.
Dante also picks up playback from the AV computer on stage and the FOH computer for walk in/out and other incidentals as well as allowing full multitrack recording for the annual DVD/CD package, recorded direct into pro-tools and mastered by Ollie Gray, the tours Lead Guitarist, vocalist, second drummer, track producer and all round nice guy!
The final duty required of the network is to distribute Midi triggers. Computers at LX and FOH, as well as both the LX and Monitor desks, send triggers to the AV computer, which in turn triggers some LX cues and snapshot changes on the Monitor desk. Each station can trigger various aspects of the AV content and fade outs ensuring AV and LX trigger and fade seamlessly.
We once again took charge of the audio install for Panto season at the Roses Theatre in Tewkesbury. Ash has a long standing history with the Roses, dating back to his first ever professional theatre job! Back in 2014 we assisted the venue in a long overdue upgrade to the desk and audio infrastructure. The heart of the system is a GLD80, chosen because of its simplicity of use, its size but more importantly its great sound.
Panto fit up and production is always hectic, lots to do and very little time! We relied heavily upon the GLD's excellent offline editor to do a lot of pre-production work, setting up effects and programming VCA assignments. The ability to bring the show file home to make adjustments, knowing that it will transfer straight back to the desk seamlessly is one of the great advantages.
The system this year incoroprated the 24 way Audio Rack on stage to pick up the RF rack, and to distribute PA and foldback returns, with further 8 way expansion racks in the pit taking care of the band inputs and their monitor returns. Further playback inputs from Qlab via a Dante network completed the system, which was then distrubuted to a Martin audio PA installed specially for the production. The 8 strong company (7 professional actors and one very talented young star!) were all mic'd with MKE2's and Sennheiser 300 series packs. The results were great and we had lots of positive reaction from the audience and theatre staff. Infact the team were so impressed with the PA that it's now remained as a permanent install!
Luck of the Irish
We found ourselves once again at the Pavillion in Weymouth, a favorite on the touring circuit, the venue was closed by the council a few years back, amid much uproar from the people of Weymouth. However a rescue package was put together from the guys at Atlantic Audio, running the PA company from the venue and supplying the crew for incoming shows. The venue opened its doors again after not too long in the dark and continues to thrive.
This time around it was production for the upcoming UK tour of Essence of Irelend. We worked closely with the touring crew; comprising Sam Peregrine-Morgan on LX with Ash Chappell and Adam Andrews on FOH and Monitors respectively, assisting in the pre-production and system design for the tour.
Adam had lots of previous experience with the iLive and owns his own T80. Ash mixed on the larger T112 at FOH. Completing the PA spec; an EV system for FOH and side fills and a whole host of RF: Sennheiser & AKG RF and Sennheiser IEM's.
A very tight produciton period; getting in on the Wednesday morning and opening on the Thursday evening meant that everyone had to be on their toes, and thanks to great support from the house crew we managed the impossible!
The advantages of a crew who have worked together many times previously really come to the fore in these situations, most of us having toured or worked festival stages together for years.
LD Mike Stevens excelled himself making the Pearl and his rig of Robe 600 spots and washes work hard, however the limited time on day one meant the inevitable....an all nighter in the hotel room! So we carted the Pearl, visualiser and AV computers to the digs and broke out the coffee!
The majority of the show relies on being timed to the video content so a lot of click track comes off the AV Mac. I had mainly been brought in because of my experience with Qlab so as I sat and programmed the intricate series of waits, fades and follow-ons, Mike was right there beside me timing his cues accordingly. The result on day two was a semi-complete show that required just a little refining during the second tech.
Chamsys all the way...
A firm favorite among the guys here is the Chamsys series of wings and desks. The only thing to really rival MA in terms of flexibility and user friendliness, all its physical units are compact and lightweight and more importantly the MagicQ Operating software is totally cross compatible making it ideal for pre-production work.
For Cinderella at the Roses Theatre we installed a compact PC Wing, chosen because of the limited space at the FOH postion which is home to Sound and LX for the entire run.
The 2 onboard universes were sufficient for this production so no external networking was required although the software can quite easily handle many more universes over ArtNet among other protocols.
Driving a generic rig and an assortment of Mac spots and Chauvet Cyc Battens from the house stock, supplemented by VL2000 spots supplied by us, the ease of programming as well as the ability to pre-program a lot of the show at home with the visualiser meant that come production week a lot of the hard work had been done, leaving us more time to concentrate on actually programming the show.
Leaving the show in the capeable hands of house technician David Bath, the system performed flawlessly for 54 performances, plus handling additional acts playing over top of the panto set.