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Simple Yet Vital: Best Practices In Developing Input Lists And Stage Plots

A range of best practices for getting these two vital yet too-often overlooked aspects right.
Guitar and other musical equipment on stage before concert

Additional Factors

A variety of items should also be included on stage plots. Essentials include location of monitor wedges, instruments and amplifiers, along with placement and dimensions of risers, carpets, and other scenic elements. If music stands are necessary, mention them on the plot. Position of power drops is also important, and if touring internationally, be sure to spec voltage requirements of these drops.

Expanding beyond the basics, it can be useful to indicate where mics are located and what sorts of stands they require. That said, I generally avoid displaying drum mics and stands. They can clutter a plot, and the information is included on the input list already.

Similarly, some folks denote the input number of each microphone on their stage plots. While this can work, it can be confusing, especially if a similar numbering approach is used for labeling stage monitors. In general, I don’t recommend numbering mics and DIs, as this can make synchronization with the input list difficult. Who wants to update the stage plot every time the input list changes?

However, I definitely advocate placing vocal mics on plots because this information is crucial. Be sure to label who’s located where and what instrument they play. This helps the local crew, often unfamiliar with the artist, communicate effectively with the musicians. Simply label each vocal position with name of the musician and their instrument, for example: “George – Lead Guitar.” Labeling stage monitors, usually by mix number, is a must as well.

Over the years I’ve witnessed a litany of different stage plot designs. Some plots go overboard with details, many of which are unhelpful to local crews working only once with an artist. It’s best to follow the old adage of “K.I.S.S.” (Keep It Simple, Stupid), and only include the essentials.

For example, it’s unnecessary to place backline minutiae on a plot, such as required guitar amp types, pedal board details, or drum kit specifics. These specifics are better handled in a backline-focused document. It’s also superfluous to provide mic details, as this is the purpose of the input list. Simple but accurate stage plots always work best.

Compared to other complexities involved in modern event production, crafting input lists and stage plots is a relatively simple task. That said, many production documents passed around in this business are confusing, out of date, and incorrect. It’s simply not hard to follow best practices, create effective documents, and help others around you have a smooth gig.

As a last thought, I’d like to add that I see the best practices discussed in this article as dynamic and flexible. If you feel I’ve overlooked an important aspect or would like to offer an alternative perspective, please share your thoughts with me at [email protected]

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