The idea of setting up a complicated audio system every day, in constantly changing venues and in the time limitations of a few hours is daunting, to say the least. Yet it’s the inevitable reality of touring sound.
Thousands of pounds of hardware, miles of cable and hundreds of connections are required for system operation. All of this must be done in a timely manner, to allow for the “black art” of tuning the rig and mixing the music. Multipin connectors can help alleviate some of the connection challenges, and looming can keep the cabling to a minimum.
If you’re like me, and enjoy this kind of thing, perhaps it’s not so daunting, but to be sure there are many things that can be done to make the work go faster, allowing more time for the “art” portion. Let’s take a look…
The Right Stuff
As the system engineer, it all starts long before your bags are packed. When you know what gear you need for the tour, a conversation with the operations personnel at your audio provider’s shop is “numero uno” on your list.
Organize the information, draw pictures, diagrams - whatever it takes, so that it can be conveyed to them thoroughly and completely. They will appreciate your efforts and you’ll end up with the right stuff.
I’ve developed a simple (Microsoft) Excel spreadsheet to document rack layouts (Figure 1, below) and wiring schemes (Figure 2, also below) so that when it’s time for them to build racks for me, they have a good idea of what I’m expecting.
Figure 1: Simple Excel spreadsheet showing equipment positions in processing rack (click to enlarge)
Of course there are going to be changes and things that are out of your control. This is to be expected. But try to keep them to a minimum. It’s all in the details!
Before you leave home, have a complete equipment inventory on paper or your hard drive.
This document will stimulate and answer many questions before the first load in. If your equipment provider cannot supply this information, you may be using the wrong company!
Don’t forget to arrange for an early load-in on your first date and prepare to mold the rig into something you can live with every day. Hopefully you’ll be in a venue that has the space to organize your equipment and cases. Be sure to have plenty of colored e-tape and a good Sharpie.