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A System Engineer’s Observations On Wrangling A Really Big Sound Reinforcement Rig

When I opened the file however, I was in for a bit of a surprise. The inventory was 24 pages long. This was a boat load of audio gear.

On a project of this magnitude my first step is to organize the information in a manner that makes sense to me. This may take a while, but it is ultimately worth it. Of course the inventory from the shop is already organized in a specific way.

But since I have the ability to manipulate the information in Excel, I will almost always do a bit of rearranging to make It more to my liking, sometimes even printing out multiple copies of different versions of the list.

This process almost always involves the use of highlighters as well to add another organizational dimension to the data. Items can be grouped together physically on the sheet, but they may also be related by color when they are not.

Incidentally, the act of doing tits is the first step to familiarizing myself with the gear and the project. I am always amazed at how much detail I remember once the event starts just from this initial organization.

The more you work with the lists, the more you will remember later. And this isn’t like the useless stuff you think you learned in school. You will actually apply this Information in practice during the course of the event.

For this particular show, I was not present in the warehouse when the gear was being assembled. I guess ‘warehouses’ (plural) would be more accurate as this system contained elements from both the Showco/Clair Lititz facility as well as Clair’s Nashville shop. My hat is always off to the staff that makes this process appear so seamless to us in the field. They put a tremendous effort into managing a big project like this and getting all of the correct pieces in the right places.

The advent of computers and inventory control software helps of course, but it is not as easy as you might think. Bits and pieces may be In a warehouse halfway across the country, but the team at Showco/Clalr always manages to do an excellent job of it.

When the system arrived it was loaded in to four tractor trailers. They were packed to provide equipment in the specific area it was to be utilized and labeled Stage Left, Stage Right, Front of House and Stage Deck. The FOH trailer also contained all of the gear for our delay positions. The simple act of packing the trucks in this way facilitated the deployment of the gear at the venue.

In my conversations with the shop, I realized that this was going to be the largest audio system I have ever been involved with. The thought of pushing the big fader up was tantalizing. The event was to be held in the Superdome in New Orleans.

The main left and right system was made up of Prism enclosures in what is known as the ‘Stadium Rig’. It consisted of 12 columns (per side) of six tall loudspeakers hung to maximize acoustic power from the arrays.

Outside of these columns were four additional standard Prism columns. These are four loudspeakers and this is the part of the system that wraps around to cover the sides of the room. Of these, the first two (columns 13 and 14) were hung in the arrays with the stadium columns, while the last two (15 and 16) were hung in line with the rest but above them. I would estimate that they were about nine or ten stories above the concrete floor. These were used to cover several sections of seating in the upper stadium/arena beside and behind the stage that would be used when the crowds got big enough.

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