The show week of the Dirty Rotten Scoundrels musical was last week and it is time to reflect on what has been my role, how it has changed and what I have learned in my time at The Concordia theatre.
When approaching The Concordia for a placement, I had minimal knowledge of the sound expectations of a live production. I could do some basic mixing and put together a rudimentary sound set up, but nothing that would be suitable for a theatre. I was assigned to a live engineer who I was to shadow and learn the processes and requirements of a show. With the first show, Fiddler on the Roof, I mainly watched Bob (my engineer) work the show and communicate with the production staff and other technical staff. I was assigned the task of handing out radio pack microphones each night of the show and then proceeded to watch the performance and Bob in the sound room. At this point my role was just ‘Shadower’ or ‘Watcher’.
I was then asked to help with ‘Grease’ with a different theatre company, where I learned the task of fitting microphones to the performers and how to maintain them through the run of a show, what to do if something failed and other jobs revolving around the microphones. At this point my job title was promoted to ‘Sound 2’ which is the hands at stage side making sure that everything that transmits the performers was working.
This job continued through other shows including ‘Chess’ and various drama productions. Additionally, skills in rigging and deriving the pit were learned, such as microphone placement, how to know what microphone to use on each instrument and how they were fed to the sound box.
On the show ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ however, my role was a much more active part of the whole production. Bob was of the opinion that I would be capable of running the mix of the show from the sound desk and could be a primary role in the rigging and derigging. A plan of the channels was drawn and the the scenes were organised so that only mics used in a certain scene would be available on the desk DCA which is a central set of faders that localises required microphones to only one part of the desk meaning that you don’t have to be using different faders all over the desk.
As you can see, each scene has an organised set of characters that are present in that scene. The band are mixed during the band call and then grouped to one fader to allow an overall volume fader for the band. During the band call Bob was in charge of the mix because the details of programming the digital desk are still new to me and as the band are payed musicians, the process must be swift. However, he asked for my opinion and notes on the mix, which shows that I have exceeded beyond just a learner and to a role of sound assistant and co-engineer.
During the running of the show I was reading an article about the problems of using condensers in a live situation.
This article tries to dispel myths about using condenser microphones in a live set up. I took some of this knowledge to Bob, as we where having a problem with bleeding of instruments on the cello in the pit. We tried adjusting the mic and adjusting its eq settings and we were able to correct some of the problems it was causing. However, due to the condenser being much more sensitive and the pit being a enclosed space, the problem was still prevalent so we swapped out the Behringer C3 condenser for a Sennheiser e835 and it sounded a lot clearer and had minimal bleed issues.
I have been asked by Bob to do further shows such as the Stanley Opera, where he will teach me how to program the desk and how to navigate the patch bay. With this knowledge I should be able to be the main engineer for shows and progress my role further to be able to operate without need of supervision.