SunPAC Opening Ceremony!

Recently I was called in by Aisle 6 to work at the opening ceremony of the new sports and arts centre, SunPAC, The Sunnybank Performing Arts Centre. This event was a new experience for me, particularly as a sound engineer, as I was assigned the role of working the Lighting and Visuals. I’ve discovered quite quickly in my short time with Aisle 6, that you will more than likely be in a position where you’re required to branch out in areas such as Visuals, lighting, film, photography, tech repairs and other things that are not related to your field. This event really threw me in the deep end, it was a stressful time having to learn the fundamentals and basics of this new role on the go. And in front of the mayor of Brisbane too…

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The ceremony involved different musical performances, speeches, presentations and videos. My main work throughout the night included lighting changes in transitions, and bringing videos and presentations for speakers, musicians and MC’s. The equipment I was operating included a lighting console, The Roadhog 4, and 2 MacBook Pro’s which we controlling the display on the projector screen.

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The lighting was my main stress of mine, as whilst I’ve operated a MacBook many times, a lighting console was something 100% foreign to me. Luckily my boss Richard was there and set up the console in a very easy to use way. However, I still felt that I was learning on the go, and established beforehand that there was programming issues with lights switching off when they were meant to be dimming. Out of a fear of the lights suddenly turning off at some point throughout the event, I avoided touching those lights. Otherwise I operated the wash lights at the back of the stage, the centre stage spots for the singers in the band, and the lectern light for the speakers, as well as other stage LED’s and movers (which were programmed to move). As I was generally hesitant with the lighting, I tried to focus on keeping the changes as smooth as possible and leave it very basic.

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There were a number of slideshows and videos which I had cued up on one MacBook, on the other I had a holding slide set which did not change for the entire show, I set it up that way at the beginning of the night so that if something went wrong with a video or presentation I could cut back to the holding slide with ease, sort out my problem and then continue. The holding slide was the new SunPAC venue logo. I ran into trouble with the the visuals only once, I was meant to disable the main video player I was using to access a PowerPoint slideshow, I momentarily forgot to disable it, there was an awkward silence but I fixed it quickly and we moved on.

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I think it was a good opportunity, again to throw myself into the deep end with something new, I doubt it will be my last lighting and visuals gig. I really shouldn’t take any industry work I get for granted, I’m very lucky to have these opportunities with Aisle 6.

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Aisle 6 Live Sound Work: Update 3

Australian Irish Fund Gala Luncheon

This was possibly my last gig for the trimester with Aisle 6, but I’m confident that the work will continue as I have formed a pretty good relationship with them. This one was a bit of a fancy event, it was basically a lunch event for the Irish Australian community, a chance to raise some money with raffles and auctions and some musical entertainment. This gig was also a bit of a milestone event, as I had finally been given the responsibility of controlling the audio through the event. This included taking care of setting up and micing the musicians and speakers/MC’s correctly, giving a good foldback mix, using effects and processing and just being aware of the all the audio. This wasn’t a terribly complex task, however it felt like a big job to do at the high standards at which I set myself, not to mention that it was a much more formal and corporate style event.

The venue was a large hall style room with a small stage, we sat the PA system on the ground on either side of it. At the back of the room we set up all of the gear, including the wireless system, the Allen & Heath Qu16 desk and the visuals for the projectors. My boss Richard was in charge of the visuals and I was in charge of all the audio. I was fairly nervous with the role, but i was excited to have a little bit of a progression from the cable monkey status.

The day started with the guest arriving and taking their seats, from this point I was running some quiet background music through the system, it helped the atmosphere feel a little less empty. Simultaneously I was making sure that when the MC or anyone else was talking on stage with a microphone, that they had volume and could be heard above the conversations and chatter. Later throughout the day there was a panel conversation with 4 people. This was a bit of challenge as we were using by request, 2 lapel mics as well as the 2 wireless mics. Anyone who knows anything about lapel mics will tell you that they’re notorious for being crap whenever there is more than one sound source in the room. This meant that I was constantly riding the faders throughout the panel. As I brought up the mics they would feedback unless I brought down the levels of the mics not being used at the time, the lapels were phasing with each other and there was a distinct lack of low and mid frequencies if both were up at the same time. However, I feel as though I managed to ride the faders well enough.

The musicians at the event were and Irish folk acoustic duo, they used an acoustic guitar as well as a bouzouki and fiddle. The Instruments were simply DI’d straight into the desk, other than the fiddle which we just mic’d up with the wireless vocal microphone, it filled the room fairly well even with a lot of chatter.

Overall, it was a successful day and we received much thanks for our efforts from the people that organised the day. I’ve really enjoyed working with Aisle 6 of the past couple of months and the work will continue throughout the future, I’m sure of it. In terms of industry experience, recognition and work, it’s been a real foot in the door.

Things I’ve learnt about Live sound this Tri, or have expanded my knowledge and abilities on…

Hard Skills:

  1. Live Signal Flow and routing methods
  2. Appropriate micing techniques to suit a scenario
  3. Basic knowledge of a live desk
  4. Techniques to avoid noise and feedback
  5. How to run cables in a safe and neat way
  6. Basic Dynamic and Spatial effects for a live mix
  7. Taking a multitrack recording
  8. Sending foldback mixes
  9. Wireless microphone systems

Soft Skills:

  1. Problem Solving and active thinking
  2. How to talk to clients and musicians
  3. Having a polite manner, positive attitude, and being a likeable approachable person (basically no one is gonna hire you if you’re an asshole)
  4. Getting shit done is the main thing

Peace!

Aisle 6 Live Sound Work: Update 2

Last weekend was another day of work experience, and when I say “day” I mean nearly the full capacity of the word. It was a 14 and half hour brute of a day, but it was fun and challenging, it put my skills and problem solving abilities to the test. There multiple times throughout the day where I found myself under pressure, whether it was my own or from Richard (running the sound and lighting for Aisle 6). I feel like I copped ok with it, however there was the odd occasion where I needed to be succinctly pointed in the right direction, as I was unsure or hesitant.

Most of the day was about labour, putting up multiple trusses, rigging all of the lighting, mics and PA needed, running comms around the building and just general heavy lifting from A to B. The sound gear consisted of all the schools gear, until just before the show kicked off, when there was a sudden delivery from BCL (Brisbane Concert Lighting), of a load of PA speakers that needed to be set up in less than no time at all. There was a main stage and a B stage for the student musician to perform on. Being only a school event it seemed a little superfluous to mic up the entire drum kits, so we used a Shure Beta 52 as the kick mic and an Audio Technica pencil condenser as an overhead, Shure sm57’s on the electric guitars, and DI’s for the Bass and Keyboards, for both stage set ups. Fairly basic setup overall.

Running comms headsets around the venue was a first for me, and a pretty tricky task. I had to find an efficient way of running 6 sets of comms around the venue from the 4 outputs on the clearcoms box. Luckily I was able to piggy the boxes to each other with XLR cables where needed. I needed 2 at the desk for the guy running visuals and the lighting guy, 1 on each back corner for camera men, 1 at the front of the upstair balcony for another camera man, and another right up the back of the balcony for a light spotter. So I had to run a cable upstairs to the spotter and then around the back to the other camera man. I piggy-backed the 2 at the desk together and used the last 2 outputs on the comms box for the camera men on the ground. Im stoked that the comms managed to function faultlessly throughout the night.

The main thing i’ve learnt from this event, is just how much pressure were are under as sound/lighting guys. There is always a great many things that can go wrong, like if a mic signal cuts or the PA blows or the curtain drop doesn’t happen or something, it’s down to you to figure it out and resolve the issue ASAP. It makes the job far more terrifying, although I think rewarding at the same time, when you know what you’re doing, hopefully that will be me soon.

Apologies for not getting more photo’s of the gear, as I was often so busy running around, it just never entered my mind. My next gig is in mid august, I will be back with another update shortly after!

Peace!

Aisle 6 Live Sound Work: Update 1

Recently, I have been lucky enough to receive live sound work with Aisle 6, a company that does live sound and lighting for massive range of events, they also run a recording studio in Salisbury with a tonne of quality gear. At this point I have had three gigs with them, one of which was a “bump out” from a while back, for this blog I will be focusing on my two latest gigs, both of which have been an awesome experience and already I feel like I have gained a wealth of knowledge, in both my soft and hard skills. Aisle 6 is owned by Producer/Engineer Scott Mullane, who is a very well regarded live sound engineer and studio producer/engineer, I’ve had the pleasure of recording with him before which was another valuable experience.

Brisbane City Council Food Trucks Festival

Approximately a week ago, the BCC launched a website for all the Food Trucks in brisbane, so people would be able to locate and discover new food trucks around the city. They held a small scale festival style event in Windsor, at Downey Park. Richard (Aisle 6 main live sound engineer) and myself were tasked with rigging up an outdoor stage for a variety of local artists to perform on. This went from a large steel-drum group of around 8 members, to solo artists with keyboards or acoustic guitars and vocals.

IMG_0769IMG_0770The rig we used included a variety of different bits of gear. The console was a digital Allen & Heath Qu16 desk, which from what I’ve learnt is a very simple and user friendly desk, I’m keen to learn more about, it catered to our needs very well on the day. Another major component was the Sennheiser wireless microphone system we used, having never used a wireless microphone system before it was exciting to learn how to sync mics and just generally figure out how they operated. This event really ticked off a load of firsts for me, I learnt about using 3 phase power and piggybacking power for foldback wedges and auxiliary sends for fold back.

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The first group was the steel-drum group, given the small festival styled setting, it wasn’t really necessary to go and mic up every individual drum… of which there was many… So we set up 4 mono overheads and placed them around each corner of the stage, in a position where they would capture as much as sound possible. This worked well in pushing the full sound of the group a bit higher, they were already fairly loud to begin with. This was the only large scale group, the rest were all solo acts. These only required a DI for guitar/keyboard and a mic for vocals, most of the work was put into the transitions between acts, this meant giving them good foldback levels and getting a good signal for FOH. Overall it was a really chilled and fun event.

Coomera Anglican College Festival
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Just last weekend was the Coomera Anglican College Festival, this event called for a bigger rig which would again be outdoors on the edge of their sports field. This event required sound for a range of different student acts, such as choirs, singers with backing tracks or acoustic guitars, full bands, and brass and woodwind groups. The day started around 9am which was followed with 3 hours of setting up, which towards the latter end, become a bit of a rush, not only on for us, but for the staff and students as well. A massive part of the day was working quickly between act changes In that time we rigged up the full passive PA system with 5 foldback wedges, the desk, the PA Power and channel racks, the wireless microphones and choir microphones (which gave me a bit of a hard time) and even some basic lighting at the back of the stage, and so on.

The desk this time was a different variety of Allen & Heath, an iLive R72. Which initially seemed a far more complicated desk that the Qu 16. However upon looking it up online, I’ve discovered it’s a very clever desk. It is basically a surface control for the mix rack. The channel input rack is connected to the surface control via an ACE ethernet cable, which removes the need to run a massive snake cable with all the individual channels. Richard was also making use of the Allen & Heath App that allows you to sync up an Ipad or similar device, to the desk, allowing you to have full control of the desks functions anywhere around the venue. This came in handy when he was tuning the PA as the desk was behind the stage to the left.

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The different acts required a lot of different attention with microphone and DI’s etc. For the choirs and brass/woodwind groups we used the choir microphones, again we couldn’t really go to the extent of miking up every individual sound source, the choir mics worked well to capture all the sound though. Quite a few acts, mainly singers, required backing tracks for their performances. Luckily this meant could just give them a wireless mic and hit play. The later acts involved bands of up to 7 people, including drum kits, bass, keys, guitars, even a cajon. It became a bit of a mad scramble trying to get a level from everyone to Richard, luckily there were no real hiccups on the day!

On the drive back to Brisbane I had a good chat about the event and just general live sound stuff with Richard, who infact did the SAE diploma of live sound. His main piece of advice for me about the day was to do with my speed, while I felt of was aware of it, there were definitely times where I was slow or hesitant due to my inexperience/lack of knowledge. He understood this though, and I’m very glad he offered me this work and went above and beyond to almost mentor me in his field. I’m also stoked these are only smallish events as opposed to massive productions as I don’t exactly feel that would be a good place to start. Now that I have a bit more of a foundation, I’m much more confident now. I’ve got another 2 events coming next weekend and another big event on the following weekend. I can’t wait to get back into learning new techniques and improving my skills. 

Peace!