Why am I doing this? Years ago I had very little skill at operating and coordinating a productions Live Sound Reinforcement Requirements. Now that I’ve understood and attained skills in handling most production types, I thought I’d share my experience to save you from possible grief in the future.

When I get the call to operate a production, I’d always ask who are the Sound Designer and Production Manager. If the answer is nobody, or the design has been pre planned by someone else, I’ll move on to ask what the system detail/design is.

I’d work backwards from the time scheduled for Sound Check, and plot in the “pre planned” system design. Analysing the channel count; space; and time, I would have a very good idea (based on experience), how much time I’ll need to get the system ready before the artists/presenters arrives to set up for sound check. The idea is to have everything ready BEFORE they arrive, avoiding the situation where everybody is standing on stage waiting for Sound to finish setting up, scrambling to flush through the system checking lines and feedback issues.

When establishing time, I’d add buffers for issues that need time to fix. Like patching errors, or desk setup errors, that need to be traced and fixed, if planned right and with no major changes in the production requirement, I budget 30min of tracing and fixing.

Here’s a list of basic Work Items that I execute, if I am called to operate a show, with a system that I didn’t design, that is already set-up.

-Polarity
-Levels (SPL and Gain Structure)
-Inter-loudspeaker disruptions (Coupling, Delays and Overlaps)
-Loudspeaker Frequency Response
-Wireless stability
-Playback stability
-Gain before feedback

I would aim to complete them within 4 hours. If I don’t get the time to do this, I’d highlight the issue to the stakeholders; something I would try to do before setting foot in the venue.

At this point, the main speaker positions most probably cannot be changed. I’d then optimise the system through Levels, Eq and Delays; maybe Pan or tilt speakers that I can easily reach.

What I’m doing is basically Sound System Optimisation, if not already done so by the suppliers. Even if they have already been done, I’d still go through my checking procedures to make sure things are what they are.

Without any errors to begin with, my own checks would take at least 2 to 4 hours to accomplish, depending on the size of the system, if we’re talking about a show with input count of less than 10 channels, and output count of no more than 8 channels. If we’re talking about shows that have something like 90 inputs, the approach becomes more complex necessitating more time to deliberate the process, and more time to budget for the event setup.

If the schedule says, setup is at 1pm, and the band is scheduled to arrive at 4pm, I’d be raising alarm bells.

All this to avoid this conversation:

“Are you done yet? how much more time do you need?”

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