Friday, August 08, 2014
Think You’re An RF Guru? Prove It By Taking Our Quiz!
Working with wireless systems can be tricky business. Take our quiz to see how your RF knowledge stacks up!
By the way, some of these questions may have more than one correct answer.
1. True or False: UHF has better audio performance than VHF.
2. True or False: There are more than five viable methods of diversity reception.
3. What are the advantages of analog wireless systems?
A. Long range with graceful signal decay
B. Analog designs are well understood
C. Analog sounds “warmer”
D. Rinse and repeat cycle
E. All of the above
4. What are the advantages of digital wireless systems?
A. Audio can be transmitted without a compandor
B. The signal can be encrypted
C. Digital is “way cool” – I heard this on the 6 o’clock news
D. Digital exhibits greater immunity to low-level interference
E. All of the above
5. What are the most important features of a wireless system?
A. Good sound
B. Reliable operation
C. Ease of use
D. Cool display with lots of lights
E. A great mother-in-law
F. All of the above
6. “Diversity” means:
A. Using two different transmitters and receivers on different frequencies carrying the same signal
B. Using more than one antenna system feeding a receiver to avoid dropouts
C. Using two complete RF receiver sections and either switching between or blending the two outputs
D. Phase switching between two combined antennas used to receive the best signal
E. All of the peoples of the world joining hands and singing “Kumbaya”
F. An old, old wooden ship
7. “Squelch” means:
A. The sound made when stepping on a snail
B. Muting the outputs of a receiver when the audio signal becomes too noisy
C. The amount the carrier is shifted from the assigned center frequency in response to the audio
D. The available audio monitor level
8. “Deviation” in an FM wireless system refers to:
A. Muting the audio of a receiver when the audio signal becomes too noisy
B. The amount the carrier is shifted from the assigned center frequency in response to the audio signal
C. How far from pitch the singer wanders during the song
D. How far apart your antennas have to be before true diversity reception is possible
9. “Deviation” is an important specification because it represents:
A. How “twisted” someone has to be to accept a touring job as monitor engineer
B. The degree of quieting and suppression of interference for good RF signals
C. The minimum distance you should have two wireless channels to avoid interference
D. The minimum tolerance for electronic parts used in wireless equipment
10. The minimum diversity antenna spacing for the best resistance to dropouts is:
A. One-quarter wave
B. One-half wave
C. Three-quarter wave
D. More than a full wave
E. Surf’s up!
11. True or False: 608 MHz to 614 MHz is reserved for radio astronomy in the U.S.
12. All other things being equal, a 100 mW transmitter when compared to a 50 mW transmitter provides:
A. Half the range
B. Two times the range
C. 40 percent more range
D. Four times the range
E. A tingly fresh feeling
13. True or False: Directional antennas are always better.
14. True or False: When a transmitter antenna is touching a person’s body, a substantial amount of RF energy is absorbed.
15. “Yagi” and “Dipole” are:
A. Types of worm-like creatures living in freshwater ponds
B. Types of antenna designs
C. Types of golf swings
D. Two characters from Star Wars
E. None of the above
16. For the best reception:
A. Place antennas close to the transmitters and run long cables to the receivers
B. Place antennas further from the transmitters and run short cables
C. Depends on the inherent RF signal loss of the antenna cables at the frequency of operation
D. Stand on your head and whisper ancient Mayan war chants
17. And, finally, the best wireless system in the world is:
A. The one you have
B. The most expensive one on the market
C. The one your client requests
D. The one that will get the job done with the least hassles
E. The one with big tailfins!
Our thanks to Karl Winkler and the gang at Lectrosonics for providing the quiz!
Thursday, August 07, 2014
Church Sound: When Our Tech World Is Turned Upside Down
Most of us who have been involved in church production have had at least one mistake or failure during a service (I have many), where you just want to disappear in the booth.
One of my most egregious mistakes took place a number of years ago. It was so significant that I still wear the scars from it.
Back in “the day”—when video projection was almost nonexistent because of the huge cost of projectors—I was serving on staff at a large church that used 35 millimeter slides for the visual presentation elements of the service. All of our worship songs, hymns and even the sermon notes were made into slides and projected on a large rear projection screen centered on the wall behind the worship platform (we didn’t dare call it a stage in those days).
On special occasions a slide presentation would be put together to tell the story about and highlight a ministry opportunity or special church event. For the mission conference that year, I put together a 4-projector slide presentation that highlighted the churches involvement in bringing to a remote group of people who had never heard the gospel a special radio program in their native language.
On the first Sunday of the conference we showed the video, I mean slide presentation (the senior pastor always referred to slide presentations as videos). The mission’s pastor liked what I put together using charts and graphs to visually tell the story. He liked it so much that he asked me to transfer it to VHS video tape so he could have it duplicated to give to other churches that he was planning on asking to partner on this project.
I was flattered and quickly set about transferring the slide show to video. In “the day” we were so high tech (not) that we transferred slides presentations to video via projecting the slides on the wall and recording them to video tape. No editing (we had no video editing equipment) or anything special, just tie the audio track into the camera’s audio input and let it rip. So I went and flipped all of the slides around in all 4 of the slide trays (to record to video we projected via front projection on a white wall as it provided better color saturation than our rear projection set up).
The mission conference continued on all that week and was a great success. The mission’s pastor was thrilled with the VHS copy of the slide presentation, and I have to admit I was feeling proud of the work that I had done.
If the accolades from the mission’s pastor were not enough, the senior pastor asked me about 10 minutes before the start of the closing Sunday night service of the conference if we could show the “video” (I knew he meant slide show) again. He went on to say how he also, was impressed with the nice graphs and charts that made up about 80 percent of the slide presentation. I was totally flattered! Wow, he liked it enough to have it shown again!
Additionally, I could not believe he was going to add it into the service, because at the conference time was always at a premium! We were committed to keeping the services to about 1 hour in length, and with missionaries giving updates and the recognition of the missionaries in attendance time was always a precious commodity.
Glowing with pride, just being affirmed for my work I immediately put together a plan to show the slide presentation during the service.
First I had to find someone that could go up in the projection room to switch the slide trays after the praise and worship section. This would be about half of the way through the service.
The drummer for that night was also a tech volunteer—this was perfect! After the praise and worship section and during the announcements he could go up in the projection room and switch the slide trays.
I even thought ahead enough to double-check to make sure the sync track on the audio recording was sending signal up to the slide presentation controller. Everything checked out, the plan was in place and I was beaming!
For some reason the praise and worship that night seemed richer than normal, I was feeling blessed. As the announcements started I saw the drummer quietly slip out through the worship platform door as he headed to the projection room. Great, I thought, all is going as planned.
The missions pastor concluded the announcements and began setting up the video (I mean slideshow) encouraging everyone to pay careful attention to the numbers on the charts and graphs as they really told the whole story. As he wrapped up the announcements I had the lights beginning to dim, the audio channel open on the sound console and my finger on the 4 track reel to reel play button.
As the lights hit black I hit play and looked down at the audio board to make sure my finger was on the right audio channel. It was at this moment I heard the first chuckle, followed by many more and quickly some outright laughter. In my head I thought this is not a funny slide presentation, in fact it was particularly technical with all the charts and graphs.
This was much different than the typical slide presentation I put together where the focus would be on the human/emotional side and, often used very close up shots of people’s faces. As my brain was processing the laughter I confirmed with my ears that the audio level was good. I now could take my hands and eyes off the mixing console and look up to see what the laughter was about.
As I looked up and saw the screen reality hit me like a ton of bricks…I had never flipped the slides around from when I transferred the slide presentation to video. I was projecting slides set up for front projection on a rear projection screen!
Translated, all the slides were backwards. Every chart and graph and every number that the missions pastor asked the people to watch carefully was being projected backwards! I realized my only options were to either stop the presentation and not show it or let it roll and hope people would get enough out of the audio track to understand it.
Needless to say that was the longest 5 minutes and 37 seconds of my life.
When the presentation finally ended, the senior pastor (the one who asked me to play the “video”/slide presentation) got up and saved the day. His comments were along the lines of the early church turning the world upside down, and he loosely quoted Acts 17:6, and then went on to say how we were about the business of turning our world inside out.
Laughter once again filled the room and as it died down he quipped, “And oh, by the way, we’re taking applications for the position of director of technical ministries.”
Thankfully I knew that he has a great sense of humor and was just shooting a jab at me. In fact later during the week he told me that he wondered if perhaps the slide presentation was even more effective because people had to pay such close attention to it.
He quickly followed that statement telling me I better not ever do that again. I never have, but at least at the moment when all was awry and I wanted to disappear from the tech booth, my world had been turned upside down and inside out.
Gary Zandstra is a professional AV systems integrator with Parkway Electric and has been involved with sound at his church for more than 30 years.
Wednesday, August 06, 2014
Installs Gone Bad: Delegate, Trust, Verify
Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.—Michelangelo
Installations are often judged by their completeness. A great job fulfills the needs of the client, provides room for solutions to future needs, and is installed with expert care.
Nearly all of us strive toward making each install perfect. There is a sublime satisfaction in bringing a project to a close with an empty punch list, an organized room and a happy end user.
These jobs are our pride and joy, the ones we can jabber on endlessly about. We show them off in pictures like an overly proud parent, insisting folks ooh and ahh over just one more photo of a beautifully dressed rack.
Tell Tale Heart
While we may revel in the warm glow of the projects which were performed expertly, it’s the ones which we fouled up that linger the longest.
We’ve all had them, the one that just ran out of hand, the ones which never seem to end. These are the jobs that wake us up at 2 am with the cold sweats and a guilty stomach.
If we’re honest and take our reputations seriously these jobs can feel like the proverbial Tell Tale Heart. The infernal repetition and noise of the beasts beating heart inside your head convincing you that everyone you meet can hear it too.
How did we get here?
Aside from a few careless and reckless individuals we, as an industry, are highly motivated folks who do not shirk from taking ownership of our actions. Yet as result we are busy people who sometimes let the calendar get away from us. How often have you uttered the phrase, “What do you mean it’s July 1st? Didn’t we just start April!?”
As a project manager or business owner there is always an eye on finances. Will there be enough money next month to pay the staff, the rent and purchase the gear needed to complete the jobs underway? Our focus often is divided between the current jobs and landing/planning the next two or three.
When we make it all about the Benjamins, we can lose sight of the immediate necessities. It’s been said that most of us cannot be in this business for the money given the margins we must put up with. While we do spend an inordinate amount of time buried in the technology minutia: business is what we do.
As business is what we do, the first order is to step up and admit the problem. It’s another often turned phrase that “acceptance is the first step” toward any resolution. If we can accept the responsibility, regardless of blame, a solution is always possible.
When a project turns sour and must be fixed it is inevitably going to cost. This single fact is one of the largest factors in installations simply being pushed forward. Stop the bleeding, get out and move on, licking your wounds and counting blessings that you came out alive.
Survival is not the end game and this is what “getting out alive” from a project results in. Survival means just hanging on, a subsistence experience. Taking ownership and the burden it requires is where reputations are built and long-term success starts.
Once the issue or issues have been identified and a plan of attack prepared, approach the client owning the fault. Now make it right.
The Real Work
Fixing a job gone wrong is the easy part. Fixing what got you there is where the real work begins.
All too often business owners and project managers take on running every aspect of an installation. While this can make the individual in charge feel confident that they have all the facts and control the process, it is a false security. The best way to take your eye off the ball is to simultaneously attempt to be a player-manager. You may have all the skills to play every position but it is not very practical plan.
Stop fixating on being the only source and learn to be a hub of information. Micromanaging only enforces a rule of inaction by your employees. It’s a vicious cycle of management overreach, staff hesitation to act as a result, then anger by management at inaction and delay. Stop it now.
There are three things you can change now to empower your staff and help prevent bad installs.
Delegate aspects of the job to your team members to accomplish. You hired them because of their smarts and self starting attitudes, let them earn it.
Trust that your team can do the job and will take individual responsibility. If you’ve micromanaged in the past, this may take some time to take hold, until the team can trust that you will not be nosing over their shoulder.
Verify that what you need done is actually being accomplished. This is not a thousand emails status checks a day, rather it is a midday and end of day conversation with your team leaders. Yes, you’re still the one who will need to answer to the clients, so being appraised daily should be worked into your daily routine.
Macy’s Fire Truck
No one likes to say no to legitimate work, but sometimes it’s the best course for everyone involved. Saying no can be a constructive exercise and get you dedicated clientele. It sounds counterintuitive, but helping a client find find a constructive solution or alternative will garner you good will and dedication that cannot be bought.
In the classic seasonal film “Miracle on 34th Street,” our hero protagonist, Santa, suggests to a harried mother that the fire truck she seeks is not at Macy’s but another store down the street. He, Santa, was to push another toy at all requests, if you recall. The general manager nearly has a blood vessel burst until the woman in a fit of euphoric joy proclaims herself to be a loyal Macy’s shopper for life.
This is not to say that one should send potential jobs into the arms of your cross town rivals. Perhaps a collaboration or trade off will benefit both. In the end, treating folks as clients and not simple consumers builds relationships which extend beyond a cash transaction.
Build On Bad To Make Good
By taking responsibility for mistakes and mismanagement, you can turn around a bad install to a positive. Identify where tasks and responsibilities can be assigned, giving you more time to see the big picture can help prevent them again.
George Tucker, CTS, is engineering coordinator for Worldstage and co-founder, producer and personality for AVNation.tv.
Tuesday, August 05, 2014
In The Studio: 8 Questions To Ask To Determine A Production Budget
It used to be that when you were working your way up the food chain as a music producer, you’d hone your chops with indie artists, at first not signed to a label, then signed to smaller labels. Today this is a fact of life for all production pros whether you’re just starting or are a seasoned veteran producer.
One of the major questions that producers new to the game often ask is, “How do I determine a budget?” Here’s an excerpt from the Music Producer’s Handbook that will provide eight questions that you can ask your client (even if it’s a label), in order to better understand what your client’s needs are, and how you can best fulfill them.
If your artist is signed to a label, most likely that they’ll say, “We need you to bring this project in for xxx dollars.” That makes your life a bit easier since you already have a major parameter to work with, so you’ll just try to fit everything into the financial box that you’ve been given.
But most likely, your project will start with the words, “What do you think it will cost……?” That makes your job a lot more difficult since you’ll need to gather up a lot more info before the question can be answered. Assuming that you’re already familiar with the artist and her material, here’s what you’ll need to find out:
1. How many songs? The more songs, the more time you’ll need to complete the project. The more time, the more money it will cost.
2. How will this be released? If the final release will be in a CD or vinyl format, you’ll have to figure additional mastering costs as well as a sequencing session to test the song order. If the release is only intended for online distribution, that will also impact your budget since there won’t be any income from the product to recoup the costs.
3. Will the costs of manufacturing be included in the budget? A neophyte artist, band or record label sometimes includes the entire costs of manufacturing the final product (CD or vinyl) in the recording budget.
This is not the case with a more established or experienced entity, who recognizes that manufacturing is a burden not charged to artist. Regardless, including the manufacturing costs in the budget can put a serious ding in the amount of money you have for recording, so it’s best to get the answer to this up front.
4. Are mastering costs part of the budget? Sometimes mastering is seen as the first part of manufacturing and is not charged to the production budget. If that’s the case, find out if you’re responsible for mastering even though it isn’t part of your budget.
5. What kind of sound or direction are you looking for? This will determine whether the band plays together in the studio or layers the parts, or whether studio musicians or a large tracking room are required, or if exotic musical instruments or recording gear must be rented, all of which will impact the budget.
6. What kind of facilities are you comfortable recording in? This determines the environment and the type of studio that the project requires.
Some artists don’t care how low-brow the studio is as long as the final product is what they’re looking for. Other artists have to be in a top notch facility that caters to their every whim in order to perform well. And yet other artists have a certain facility that they’re particularly comfortable in. This question may impact your final budget more than anything.
7. Does the budget include my fee? This is somewhat of a moot point if you’re going to be working on spec anyway, but if not, the question can have a large impact on your budget. Regardless of who’s paying the bill, this can go either way, but you’ve got to know how much you ultimately have to work with in order to produce the product.
8. Are you sure you don’t have a budget in mind? Most artists, bands, neophyte labels or financiers have a figure in mind before they even speak with you, but are afraid to tell you so they won’t look as inexperienced as they are. It’s best you get that figure out of the way so you don’t do a lot of budget development work only to find out that they only had a fraction of the amount to spend in the first place, or worse, you left money on the table that could’ve been used for production.
If you can get clear answers to these questions, you have a lot of the information needed to determining a budget that will fit the needs of the artist (although usually it’s a lot smaller than we would all like).
Bobby Owsinski is an author, producer, music industry veteran and technical consultant who has written numerous books covering all aspects of audio recording. For more information be sure to check out his website and go here for more info and to acquire a copy of the Music Producer’s Handbook.
Biamp Systems Names Joshua Peterson New Area Manager For Northern Central North America
Responsible for leading and accelerating the growth of business
Biamp Systems has announced the appointment of Joshua Peterson as an area manager for Northern Central North America, where he is responsible for leading and accelerating the growth of the expanding Biamp business.
“Joshua brings to Biamp Systems a wealth of experience in strategic business development, in addition to market knowledge and sales leadership,” said Chris Chandler, North Central Regional Manager at Biamp Systems. “With the launch of innovative products like our TesiraFORTÉ platform, we set ambitious sales goals for the Americas region, and we’re confident that Joshua’s expertise will be instrumental in helping us attain those goals.”
Based in Minneapolis, Peterson will lead the development and execution of Biamp’s core business strategy, spearheading market development, supporting the company’s integrator partners, and building awareness for Biamp’s every day and enterprise-grade audio solutions. He joins Biamp with more than 12 years of experience in the pro AV and multimedia industries, most recently as an AV/multimedia technology consultant at Elert & Associates. In previous roles he served as a design engineer at both AVI Systems and True Sound Pro.
“Biamp has a stellar reputation for outstanding products and industry-leading audio technologies, as well as being the gold standard for outstanding technical support and customer service,” said Peterson. “I am proud to be joining a team that is as equally committed to innovation as it is to exceeding customers’ expectations.”
Sound Productions (Irving, Texas) Hosting Meyer Sound Mixing Workshop In August
To be held August 21 and 22 at the new showroom and training facilities of Sound Productions
Sound Productions, located in Irving, TX (outside of Dallas) is the site of Meyer Sound’s The Mixing Workshop, a two-day seminar to be offered on August 21 and 22 (9 am to 5 pm CST) that focuses on the role of the mix engineer in live audio production, presented by noted mix engineer Buford Jones.
The seminar will be held at the brand-new showroom and training spaces of Sound Productions, which has served the pro audio and commercial audio industry for more than 41 years under the leadership of CEO Charles Kitch.
With the seminar, Jones will provide attendees the benefit of his vast experience working with an array of top artists from numerous genres in a seminar that goes beyond the technical to artistic and even political concerns. Mixing tools and techniques, system tutoring, mixing in concert halls, record producer involvement, surround mixing, mixing in isolation will also be discussed.
In addition, Jones will address issues of communication and trust between the artist and the mix engineer, and the politics involved in any production, from large-scale tours to corporate events and house of worship productions.
The curriculum itinerary:
• Day 1 will include a lecture and presentation that emphasizes the benefits of mixing on linear sound systems. This will be demonstrated by playback of live recording and discussions of the various sound systems used.
• Day 2 will expand on live mixing, demonstrations of implementing common signal processing as well as giving attendees an opportunity to mix and receive advice on how to improve their skills from a master of the trade.
Register for the Meyer Sound’s The Mixing Workshop here.
Sound Productions serves houses of worship, contractors, sound engineers, DJs and local businesses. In addition to unveiling the new showroom and training space, the company is also launching a new website this year which will provide online shopping and a calendar of upcoming training events.
The goal is to provide hands-on professional training in the following areas:
• Stage lighting
• Miking techniques
• Acoustic design and treatment
• Mixing for live sound
• Music production
• Product demos
And again, register for the Meyer Sound’s The Mixing Workshop here.
Meyer Sound’s The Mixing Workshop
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
AES Announces Free Exhibition Registration For Upcoming 137th AES Convention In Los Angeles
AES has also made arrangements with several hotels in the area to offer special pricing and reservations for attendees
Registration is now open for the upcoming 137th AES Convention (“AES137 International Convention”) at the Los Angeles Convention Center on October 9-12.
Two badge packages are available: Exhibits-Plus Badge (free) and All Access Badge.
An Exhibits-Plus badge is a free ticket to attending the AES Exhibition, and it also provides access to Project Studio Expo, Live Sound Expo, Special Events and more. Advance registration is required.)
An All Access badge, as the name implies, provides access to the exhibition and expos as well as a diverse program of workshops, tutorials, papers and more—in short, all on-site AES events. (Tickets for tech tours cost extra and can be purchased on-site.)
In addition, AES has made arrangements with several hotels in the area to offer special pricing and reservations for AES attendees. For access to these special rates, visit the AES137 Convention Housing website.
AES137 International Convention
SynAudCon “Sound Reinforcement For Technicians” Training Is Coming To Charlotte On September 17-19
Teaches what being a complete audio practitioner is all about
SynAudCon’s much-lauded “Sound Reinforcement For Technicians” in-person training is coming to Charlotte, NC this coming September 17-19.
Sound Reinforcement For Technicians is 3-day multimedia training program that puts learning in the hands of the attendees. The Charlotte sessions will be presented by SynAudCon owner and primary instructor Pat Brown.
“When working on sound systems, we need numbers,” explains Brown. “Output level? Impedance of loudspeakers? System polarity? This course is about learning how to take those measurements—and more—and how to interpret that data.”
Sound Reinforcement For Technicians features an innovative iPod controlled hardware interface that emulates the instruments needed to take sound system measurements. Via SynAudCon’s signal distribution system, each attendee will be able to measure voltage, impedance, polarity, SPL and STIPA with the instrument. More importantly, they learn what these measurements mean, and how to use them to ensure that the system is performing optimally.
The training seminar also walks attendees through the process of troubleshooting a sound reinforcement system and covers a number of topics including system gain structure, grounding and shielding, amplifier selection and system tuning. Day 3 is the presentation of a the step-by-step loudspeaker equalization process.
“Sound Reinforcement for Technicians puts meters in hands,” adds Brown. “You make the connections, you take the readings, you draw conclusions – that is what being a complete audio practitioner is all about.”
The seminar, approved for 24 InfoCommRUs and 21 BICSICECs, will be held at Neutik USA’s facilities in Charlotte. Price is $895 USD.
Register online here or call Brenda Brown at 812-923-0174.
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
In The Studio: 9 Items That Can Save A Drum Session
Don’t assume the drummer will show up with a variety of drum sticks.
The weight and tip of a stick can greatly affect tone. If the drummer is using nylon tip sticks and the sound is too bright on the cymbals it would be great to try some wood tip sticks. A thin stick vs. a fat stick will affect the drum differently as well.
And it’s not only the weight of the stick, but the mass that can give you more depth or attack. Remember my mantra, the first stage of EQ is at the instrument.
What if you’re on a session and an artist spontaneously wants to try banging on a drum? If you have some drums lying around but no sticks it can be a real creative bummer. This doesn’t mean you have to stock drum shop’s selection of sticks. Simply have a few that cover a few bases.
Not every drummer is going to show up with brushes. Yes, they should, but they may not. If you have a pair stashed away, you could save the day for some soft brush overdubs.
Some drummers show up with all kinds of percussion they like to mount. Sure they might have a few clamps on them, but if you also have a few, it can allow for more flexibility when creativity hits.
When you’re doing percussion overdubs, it allows for easier use if you create a percussion station.
Not all shakers are created equal. Find some that work in your room.
You should have at least three options: soft, medium and gritty. I’ve gone through many shakers to find the ones that work great on recordings.
Tip: An unopened container of Norton’s Salt is a really nice sounding shaker. Note, I said unopened. Don’t open it for your margarita and think it will still work as a shaker.
5. Extra Cymbal Cushions & Wing Nuts
You’d be surprised how things disappear on a session. Wing nuts and cymbal cushions can disappear into the abyss right in front of your eyes. Always keep a few spares around. It’s likely it will show up again when you don’t need it. It’s likely they’re in the same place as all those missing socks.
Make sure to inspect the drum kit when people are leaving. Make sure nothing accidentally walks away. This has been known to happen to hi-hat clutches. Which brings up the point that you should have an extra clutch as well.
6. Snare Drum Wires
It’s rare when snare drum wires break, but if it does during a session you’re cooked. It takes a long time to get a great snare sound tuned and jiving in the mix.
Take a close look at your snare wires too. Do they all use the same connectors? Some connect via a chord, some via a strap. It’s good to have a strong knowledge of your instruments.
7. Bass Drum Pedal
A lot of drummers like to bring their own bass drum pedal. Don’t expect that someone is going to bring their own though. Some people like to walk into a fully furnished studio. If a pedal breaks in a session, you’re…well, you know.
Some pedals are chain, some use a strap. Both of which can fail. Some fail in a way that can’t be repaired. I had a new Speed King pedal that failed. It broke in the shaft and couldn’t be fixed.
Having a backup doesn’t mean you have to buy the $600 DW double chain pedal. Just something reasonable as a backup.
8. Drum Heads
You never know when a head is going to break. If you have a house kit that drummers will be using, it’s important to have some extra heads.
The reason for a broken head isn’t always from hitting the drum. There could simply be an imperfection in the head.
9. Moon Gels
Drums resonate. Duh, right? There might be all kinds of weird resonance that comes from the drums on any given day. You can’t expect the incoming drummer to have a toolkit for tone shaping. I find Moon Gels to be an irreplaceable part of a session.
You can even use them on cymbals to affect the sustain. Console tape works in a pinch, but Moon Gels do a better job. It’s not a bad idea to have a few containers.
Tip: They’re non-edible. If you see the drummer putting them in their mouths, stop them immediately.
It may look like you’re doing the drummer’s job supplying these extras. In reality, it’s making your job easier. Killing unwanted resonance is going to save you time at mix down. You won’t have to be spending your time hunting down and trying to EQ a pesky resonance.
In the modern age, more and more studios have a nice instrument selection. A lot of studios even use this as an attraction. With that offering comes some other responsibilities that one wouldn’t expect.
These small touches will not only keep people coming back, but save a session from impending danger.
Mark Marshall is a producer, songwriter, session musician and instructor based in NYC.
Be sure to visit The Pro Audio Files for more great recording content. To comment or ask questions about this article, go here.
Crown Offers Online Certification Program For DriveCore Install (DCi) Series Amplifiers
Instruction covering DCi Analog, Network and Network Display amplifier models and information about the company’s proprietary DriveCore technology
Harman’s Crown Audio is now offering an online certification program for its DriveCore Install (DCi) Series amplifiers.
Available free of charge, the program offers instruction covering Crown’s DCi Analog, Network and Network Display amplifier models and information about the company’s proprietary DriveCore technology that is at the heart of the amplifiers’ operation.
The course is available online here. Click on the blue “Test Your Knowledge” icon at the right of the screen to register and take the test.
The test consists of approximately 50 questions and has a time limit of 3 hours to complete. Once registered, users may take the exams in one sitting or save their progress and resume the test at a later date.
“Our DCi certification program was created with installed sound contractors, systems integrators and other professionals in mind, to help them get the most out of Crown’s DCi Series amplifiers and use them effectively in a wide variety of real-world situations,” says Dan Saenz, business segment manager, Crown Audio. “We designed the DCi Series as the new industry standard in installed-sound amplifiers and models are available with connectivity options and power ratings to suit any application.”
Once logged on, participants are asked a series of questions about the DCi Series amplifiers. Information to help in completing the exam can be found in the DCi training videos on the http://www.crownaudio.com” title=“Crown YouTube channel"target=“_blank”>Crown YouTube channel.
Additional information is available by working within Harman’s HiQnet Audio Architect software and watching its training videos, viewing the company’s System Technology Bulletins and by having a general understanding of professional audio and networking. The test is designed to provide guidance to those seeking training, and the questions themselves offer helpful resources.
Participants must receive a score of 90 percent or greater to earn certification. There is no limit to how many times the test may be taken. Once they pass, users receive a downloadable Certificate of Completion and a notification is sent to Crown.
Prepared To Manage: Steps To A Successful Pre-Production Process
We’re continuing our discussions with veteran independent touring engineer Dave Natale, this time focusing on pre-production. (See the first article here.)
Dave’s prepared for band rehearsals, production rehearsals, and tours countless times, with pre-production rehearsals a critical process, where many important issues can be resolved before an act hits the road.
Here are a few thoughts from Dave to consider when getting ready for a tour and transitioning to shows.
Talk To Everyone
“When planning for band rehearsals, if it’s an act I’ve not mixed before, I start by talking with the production manager, who will usually have a copy of the stage and mic info from the previous tour. This is usually an excellent source of information.
“Next I usually talk with the backline crew. These are folks you spend a lot of time with, and they’re critical to your success. They understand their artists and can offer a lot of insight. Finally, I speak with the artists directly to make sure I have all of their preferences covered.
“Always provide a copy of all documentation you generate—mic chart, console files if you’re mixing digital, etc.—to the production manager. There are circumstances where an engineer may get sick or self-implode, and having a complete set of documentation in the production office can be helpful in maintaining continuity.
“Once your research is complete, it’s time to start on a shop order. The front of house engineer generally picks the mics, so talk with the sound company, review gear requirements, and usually you can get what you want. When I started with a number of clients, there was already a mic chart from the previous engineer.
“I have rather simple tastes in mics, so typically it’s out with the Neumann U87s and in with models from Shure, Sennheiser, and Electro-Voice. Dedicating the necessary time at this stage is essential to insuring you have the gear you need when arriving at rehearsals.
“One other important note: you must fit in with the backline crew. They were there before you, and will probably be there after you’re gone. They can make life easy or miserable, so make friends and keep them. They have an even more direct path to the artists than most engineers. A mutual respect here will go a long way to your success.”
“During early rehearsals with a new act, I always go out of my way to spend time onstage. It’s the only way to really learn just what is coming off the amplifiers.
“Truth is, you need real musicians actually playing the music to make this a useful exercise (smiles). Normally, I just hang out and listen. Universally, bands absolutely love that I’m interested in what their instruments sound like.
“Also, I always try to get a separate room with some isolation to mix in. I recommend using some big loudspeakers/monitors because if the band decides to come in and listen, you’ll need something that sounds impressive.
“If they listen to mixes through nearfields on the console, they won’t get the full effect of what you’re trying to do live. We’re not making recordings here, we’re trying to a) learn the material, and b) demonstrate what it should sound like live.
“I prefer large full-range boxes like (Clair) S4s because they fit comfortably through doorways and are easy to stack; however, it may be simpler to use a few of the loudspeakers you’ll actually be using on tour. In the past I’ve used a few (JBL) VerTec 4889s and 4880 subs, and (L-Acoustics) dV-DOSCs and subs.
“The key is generating a big sound with enough low end. If you’ve ever listened to high-powered loudspeakers at close range (at a professional level), you understand why I do this. It’s simply not any fun listening to small loudspeakers. There’s a difference between listening and hearing, and I prefer to hear. This puts me in the right frame of mind.
“One time working with a new client, the principals came in to have a listen after the first night of rehearsals. I was a bit nervous but had confidence in my mixes. I rolled the tape, and they looked at each other and said ‘this sounds great.’ Presenting a decent mix on big loudspeakers really helped to earn their confidence and alleviated any questions as to what it would sound like during a show.
“To this day, that particular client has never said a word to me audio-wise, ever. No suggestions to turn this up or down. Nothing. They trust me, and I think it all comes from having made a good impression on our first night together.”
Survive The First Show
“Sometimes just getting through the first show takes some ‘calm nerves.’ I’ve had tours where after four weeks of band rehearsals, the first show was in a stadium in a major market. In one instance, my very first time with the band in front of the PA was the afternoon of the first show. The band came out and sound checked two tunes, and I was asked, ‘Are you OK?’ My response: ‘I think so?’ What else was I going to say?
“This was a far cry from the cozy confines of a mix room at rehearsals; more like ‘OK, here we go…’ A very high-profile act, with all of the media in the known universe on hand and celebrities galore crawling all over the front of house platform. Not an ideal circumstance for a first show with a new act, but one we must be prepared to manage if called upon.”
Danny Abelson enjoys writing about the subjective nature of reinforced sound and the human factors that are so critical to a successful event.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Lectrosonics Captures The Action On “Friday Night Tykes”
Digital Hybrid Wireless technology meets numerous production's numerous, diverse needs
“Friday Night Tykes” on Esquire—an NBCUniversal network—is a TV show that focuses on the competitive Rookies division in the San Antonio region of the Texas Youth Football Association. The series follows five different teams, both on and off the football field. There’s a lot of action, and Digital Hybrid Wireless technology from Lectrosonics helps capture it.
Austin, TX-based location sound engineer John McKallip is one of two lead sound mixers on the show, working with Allen Green from San Antonio. The two track and capture all the action, and ensure the sound quality. McKallip’s track record includes running sound for Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls at the Party, Ironman World Championship Live coverage, CBS’ 60 Minutes, and the NBC Winter Olympics in Sochi. “Friday Night Tykes presents a different challenge.
“Weeks were filled with football practices and home life,” McKallip explains “Then each week ended with a game day. Each pack needed to take in multiple talent mics, send a stereo mix to their camera man, send a reference track to a smaller producer camera, and provide IFB for up to four producers.
“To address these requirements, every pack had some combination of Lectrosonics UCR411a receivers, an SRa or SRb dual-channel slot mount ENG receiver, and a few SMQV super-miniature transmitters. On the outgoing side, the setup typically included the mixer feeding two UM400 beltpack or SMV Super-Miniature transmitters over to an SRb dual channel receiver mounted to XDCAM 800 cameras for the stereo mix.”
McKallip also reports that the IFB setup included either a Lectrosonics T4 IFB transmitter or an LMa beltpack transmitter set to IFB compatibility mode feeding Lectrosonics R1a IFB receivers. This setup was used primarily by the producers, but was sometimes mounted to a secondary camera to feed a reference sound. “We made use of the programming feature so the producers could easily switch their unit to hear the right mix of characters.
“Lectrosonics is the total package,” he continues. “The transmitters—the SMQVs—in this case, have a wide dynamic range so that you get the full color of the lavaliere you’re using. And Lectrosonics’ build quality is terrific. The Lectrosonics units have always had a reputation for being built like tanks. As we transitioned from UM400a to SMQV transmitters, we discovered that we get the same toughness with more features and easier to operate advanced features, including power output.
“The Lectrosonics SRb receivers were often used as camera hops. These units are a welcome bit of relief for the camera men who have been accustomed to using two larger standalone receivers hanging off the back of their camera for so many years. Further, the range of these units is remarkable.”
The compact form factor of the Lectrosonics SMQV transmitters has proven to be yet another benefit on the show. “We mounted mics everywhere,” McKallip says. “The small size of the SMQV transmitters gave us infinite options while rarely being seen. And for those times when we simply couldn’t get to those transmitters, we could use the Lectro Remote app on our iPhones to put the unit on standby.”
Church Sound: The Delicate Dance Between Engineer & Stage Team
According to an old axiom, “Everyone knows two things: their job and sound.” In other words, every audience member is an audio expert. Therefore, it is difficult to deliver a “good” mix since what is proper tonal and level balance to one person is inappropriate to another.
A healthy relationship between the front of house engineer and the audience rests on the engineer’s ability to provide a mix acceptable to a plurality of the listeners’ ears. To achieve success, the mix should deliver intelligible vocals, a solid combination of melody instruments, and enough low-end and rhythm to cement the song together.
The relationship between the engineer and the stage team, however, requires a more nuanced approach. Since the stage personnel and the engineer interact continually, mutual trust and respect must be created and maintained in order for the relationship to flourish.
Additionally, since the engineer is the only member of the team who is also a member of the audience, he must be given wide latitude in molding a mix appropriate for the listeners.
Finally, since the interaction is multi-lateral, the FOH mixer should cultivate a deft touch dealing with simultaneous and conflicting requests from the stage. Fortunately, these idealistic goals can be turned into reality by following a few guidelines developed from decades of experience.
Team Flexibility & Responsibility
From the engineer’s perspective, relationship management is a triad based on sincere concern for the team, a desire to reach the audience, and a personal drive to perform at the highest level. Mixing audio is a dependent task; it requires other people in order to function.
More succinctly, if the band doesn’t show up, there is nothing to do. Unfortunately, some engineers hold the opposite viewpoint. They contend their experience and golden ears should rule the day. The resulting contentious barter between the booth and the stage undermines the goal of providing an environment conducive to worship.
Astute worship musicians,understand the team’s role as servant leaders to the congregation. In the same vein, the engineer’s job can be classified as servant-servant, in the sense our responsibility is to undergird the team so they can usher the congregation into worship.
Therefore, an engineer’s empathy is more important than their ability. Engineers must see issues from the team’s perspective in order to transform from glorified knob-jockey to valued team member.
As a practical example, if the vocalists complain about the monitor level, walk to the stage, stand next to them, and listen from their position. It’s not enough to AFL the send, check the cans [headphones], and call it a day.
True worship techs put the needs of others above their own. As in all multi-lateral relationships, though, the needs of the few must be balanced against the needs of the many.
For instance, a guitar player’s “need” for an on-stage tube amp is outweighed by the vocalists’ need to hear each other. Again, to put the theory into practice, the drummer’s task is to establish and divide time; it is not to play as loud as possible and leave it to the drum shield to abate the noise.
Therefore, it falls to the engineer to discuss the issue with the drummer in a mature fashion and then guide the team toward a consensus on the appropriate level for the drums. Trust is earned. When the worship leader asks for “more of me” during rehearsal, turning to the “placebo” knob or waving a hand across the console is not the answer.
To develop the team’s respect, respond over the talkback mic, “We can work on that. What part of the mix are you not hearing? Is there perhaps something in your monitor too loud I can turn down so you can hear the rest of the mix better?”
Engineers attempt to push away from the precipice of feedback by reducing volume and frequencies. However, the typical worship band believes more is better and often fails to consider how reducing one part makes another clearer. Thus, we should engage the band in a positive manner, assure them we are working for their good, and then suggest a more reasonable way to achieve the goal.
We must also be attuned to the caste of stage hierarchy. If a bass player’s request contradicts that of the worship leader, fulfill the worship leader’s request and then go to the stage and explain to the bassist why their need remained unfilled. In a spiritually mature team, the player will understand.
However, when the player reacts negatively, we can address the issue directly with the worship leader, or, in a less confrontational manner, escort the worship leader to the player’s position and suggest a compromise solution, leaving the final decision with the worship leader.
Truthfulness & Tactfulness
“How did it sound out there?” The band wants to know their vision is being realized in the seats. Honesty combined with discernment is the key to success when it comes to interpreting the band’s impact.
If the band failed to land a modulation or the vocals were garbled and the congregation noticed, tell the truth. If, however, it was only a minor technical or musical glitch, let it alone. If the audience did not hear it, it didn’t happen. To quell conspiracy theories and establish rapport, ask the worship leader to direct a rehearsal from the tech booth.
The difference in sonic perspective will alert the leader to the challenges the tech faces and build trust, knowing the mix is in line with her desire.
Every rehearsal follows a similar path: the band is herded onstage, the first song ends and the entire team shouts demands to the hapless audio engineer. To improve this situation, establish a “round robin” priority system with the worship leader.
Before the initial run through, the worship leader performs a mic check and each member is asked to approve the local monitor level. Next, the vocalists perform the same check, followed by keys, guitars, bass, and drums.
Now, once the preliminary levels are agreed on, the chaos of the first song is lessened and the team follows the same round robin approach to tweaks, beginning with the worship leader and circling around the team. Chronic complainers can be mollified with a “divide and conquer” system.
If, for example, a group of three singers is sharing a mix and one vocalist declares the other two are louder, walk onstage and listen from their perspective. If the levels are correct, ask the other singers to confirm your observation.
Now, a three-fourths majority has established the validity of the mix and the protester will acquiesce to save face. When the objector is an authority figure, though, a different approach is required. If the request can be partially accommodated, ask for permission to perform the function as far as possible without taking away from others.
In more dire circumstances, meet the immediate need and wait for a discreet opportunity to explain the harsh consequences of the request in a non-threatening manner.
Mixing worship is much more than turning knobs. It requires thick skin, a soft heart, a quick wit, and a sprinkling of political acumen. When performed correctly, though, it is one of the most rewarding ministries available in the church today.
Kent Morris is noted for his church sound training abilities. He has more than 30 years of experience with A/V, has served as a front-of-house engineer for several noted performers, and is a product development consultant for several leading audio manufacturers.
And They’re Off…An Audio Makeover At Churchill Downs
Churchill Downs in Louisville, site of the Kentucky Derby since 1875, received a significant sound reinforcement system upgrade in time for the 2014 season to accompany the addition of the largest 4k video board (171 by 90 feet) in the world.
Marsh/PMK International of Richardson, TX, worked with Kentucky-based Encompass Develop, Design & Construct to successfully complete the challenging project.
Unlike baseball and football stadiums, the grandstand at Churchill Downs has seating tiers that are stacked vertically, straight up and down. In addition, various expansions over the years have added sections on either side of the historic “twin spires,” and all of these sections have slightly different profiles. Further, there are varying ceiling heights, seating depths and column spacing.
It’s a unique situation requiring careful planning, and unfortunately, Churchill Downs did not have CAD drawings of the facility. Further, PDF drawings provided to Marsh/PMK trickled in over a period of weeks, and none were to scale. Tim Lindstron and Melvin Saunders of the sound team worked together on a solution.
Lindstrom used dimensions obtained during the initial site survey to create re-scaled PDFs, while Saunders took to Google Earth to confirm/correct the dimensions and then created a SketchUp model of the grandstands. The SketchUp model was then imported into EASE, which allowed Dave Stearns of Encompass to get into the detailed loudspeaker design.
A view of the venerable Grandstand filled for this year’s Kentucky Derby.
Two basic cluster types alternate along the length of the grandstand, just under the front edge of the Level 300 ceiling. There are nearly 60 clusters in total.
The first type includes a Danley Sound Labs SH50 Synergy Horn long-throw loudspeaker and a companion TH212 subwoofer. The SH50 covers seating in front of the grandstand building all the way out to the edge of the track. The second type utilizes Danley SM96 compact loudspeakers to provide near coverage in between the horizontal cut-off angles of the SH50s in the adjacent clusters.
Both cluster types also include a rear-firing full-range Danley SM60F aimed toward the top of the Level 300 seating tier and a “more-or-less down-firing” SM96 with its woofer removed.
Marsh/PMK’s Dave Marsh (left) and Dave Stearns at Churchill Downs.
“Danley had slightly greater vertical coverage patterns in similar box sizes [to those of the other manufacturer considered for the project], which allowed us to modify our design to use one less box per cluster,” notes Dave Marsh, owner of Marsh/PMK. “That would ultimately be a cost savings. And Danley emphatically stated that the boxes would be delivered on time and that sealed the deal. They made good on their promise.”
Renkus-Heinz and QSC Audio loudspeakers were re-purposed and added as necessary to improve coverage on the “porches” in front of upper level suites and in other areas. Existing Community loudspeakers were also re-purposed and added as necessary on poles to cover seating that extends beyond the building as well as the track infield, the entry plaza and the paddock area. The existing QSC Audio Q-Sys DSP, networking and routing infrastructure was expanded to handle the new requirements, accompanied by increased QSC power amplification.
“Re-use of existing equipment where possible was a goal of our design, but Danley now provides the major audio horsepower for the grandstands at Churchill Downs,” Marsh concludes, claiming no pun intended.
Monday, July 14, 2014
SynAudCon Announces Fall In-Person Training Schedule
Synergetic Audio Concepts (SynAudCon) announces their in-person seminar schedule for the fall of 2014.
A leader in audio education, SynAudCon provides real-world audio education through web-based and in-person training worldwide.
Sound Reinforcement for Technicians (SRT) is a three-day seminar that covers the theory behind how sound systems work and demonstrates how to use instrumentation to troubleshoot systems. The seminar is will be offered in Charlotte, NC on September 17-19, 2014 and again in Dallas, TX on October 6-8, 2014.
During day one and two, instructor Pat Brown provides hands-on exercises that use a signal distribution system and an iPod Touch loaded with software apps that allows attendees to measure voltage, impedance, polarity, SPL and STIPA. Attendees learn what these measurements mean along with how to use them to troubleshoot systems and make sure they are performing optimally.
On day three, SRT walks step-by-step through the loudspeaker equalization process with a real-time analyzer and dual channel FFT instrumentation. Attendees leave knowing what equalization is, what can be equalized, and – just as important – what cannot.
SynAudCon Digital, a three-day seminar, will be presented on November 17-19, 2014 in Phoenix, AZ. SynAudCon Digital is designed to provide a comprehensive introduction to digital audio, signal processing and audio networks. The materials presented emphasize the practical, leaving attendees with a thorough understanding of everything from data formats to networked audio systems.
The content is presented using multimedia formats, shortening the learning curve substantially. The seminar is taught by Pat Brown, Steve Macatee and Bradford Benn.
For more specific information about the Fall 2014 schedule, seminar agendas, and online registration, visit the SynAudCon website training section.
Synergetic Audio Concepts