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Tag: livesound

An interesting Vlog for sound fanatics

It’s rare that we’re able to see behind the scenes of a tour, to get a sense of what difficulties they meet daily, how they solve it. During this little series you might catch some really cool tips and trick from Robert Scovill. Even more enjoyable that he shot little Vlog videos during day offs so it is somewhat personal instead of the usual cold technical training.

I’m happy that I’ve found his little series and really enjoyed as it recalled many of my own memories from the past. Enough said, go over to Avidblog Robert Scovill Vlog series, and enjoy.

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A nice story about mono

Just a few days ago I had a interesting thing happened which proved to me – again – that mono compatibility is still very important, yet most of the time it’s overlooked or simply ignored. Many even make jokes like “mono is dead”, etc. but here I would like to remind everyone that mono is still here and going to be here no matter if we consider stereo or multichannel immersive formats.

Little change, big problem

The first day on the main stage we just started the soundcheck with the band, when the lead singer told us that something is weird in his in-ears. It is like the backing vocal track, which comes from a multitrack machine would be off. Only a tiny bit, but it’s large enough to hear. The guitar player also noticed the strangeness, but he thought he might just drank too much last night. No one really knew what was that, so the soundcheck just finished, everyone was happy.

The show went really well, except, in a few songs the lead guy seemed really confused, even off the beat sometimes. This was really strange as in his case this almost never happen. After the show he told us he felt that in certain songs the multitrack backing vocals were off. Obviously it can be quite disturbing while you sing.

This was very strange. Half the band is on in-ears, half of them use wedge monitors. Only the in-ear guys had this unpleasant experience.

The next soundcheck we decided to investigate this issue a bit, so after we had everything set up, we double checked everything, checked the multitrack but found no problem at all. Then during the soundcheck, the musicians with in-ears told us that they have the very same problem, the multitrack is offbeat in certain songs. Now comes the really weird part. We stopped the soundcheck in order to find the root of the problem. Checked that few songs, and through the wedges, everything seemed to be fine. No offbeat or delayed things, everything is fine. While the musicians on stage with in-ears still hear a somewhat delayed backing track.

Started with the laptop, we checked every possible thing from the DAW through the soundcard’s output patch to the multicore. Even double checked each other, but nothing.

Borrowed one of the in-ears I just went through the songs again, and my jaw dropped. Certain songs had offbeat backing track. Re-checked it, but in the wedges it was all good. Spooky!

And then the penny dropped

A quick check on the monitor board revealed the only difference between the wedge and in-ear mixes. First of all, the wedges had very little backing track, and even if they had, only one side of the stereo signal had been used for monitoring, while in the in-ears, the monitor engineer used both sides. Apparently, all the in-ears are in mono though!

stereofield

That was the point where I was sure it is the good old thing. They made a so artificially wide stereo backing track that it collapse in mono, and the only thing you can here in mono is some weird delayed phasing thing, which seems out of time of course, as you cannot really here the fundamentals, only the effect part.

As soon as I removed one channel from their in-ears the problem disappeared! It was all good again.

Obviously this is not a mysterious thing happened without human interaction. A small chat with the band leader revealed the root of the problem. He changed a few arrangement on the multitrack, deliberately made them “unbelievably wide stereo” and it sounded awesome on stereo headphones.

Well, it might have sounded great on isolated headphones, but as soon as the material played back in other format (mono), a huge part of the original sound disappeared.

So what’s the conclusion?

If nothing more, than that we still have to consider the good old mono. With clever arrangement, widening and stereo tricks we can maintain very wide stereo effects which still lives happily in mono. You might loose a tiny bit of that extreme wide effect, but it is still better to loose a tiny part than have a train wreck.

Consider mono, check it, and work on your material to be compatible with every possible scenario. A bit harder to achieve, but sonically it’s rewarding.

So, problem solved, the band is happy, their stereo effects still sound extremely wide but now, it’s working in mono too.

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3 days in a row

I’ve been in live sound for about 20 years now. This weekend is going to be another challenge as I’ll be mixing 3 gigs in 3 different places on 3 different equipment. Luckily on 3 separate days though…

The real challenge is to quickly adopt to every situation. Which is easier said than done. The first day you might have a really good PA system with ample headroom, the other day you might get some utterly hideous so-called system which is really only wood with some speakers randomly screwed in.

Sadly the second scenario is more likely, though I admit that the last few years have been somewhat more positive. But if you happen to have the worst case scenario, you’ve got two options:

  • Panic
  • Remain calm, solve problems

Obviously the first option wouldn’t help. You’ll just trapped into your own anger, loosing control over things, even screwing up things by yourself. This leads to nowhere, or the end result is disaster.

Remain calm

In my experience that is the key. Your job is to figure out the best possible way to solve problems, to save the production. This is why you are there. It does not mean that I like these things, but let’s be honest, there are many things you simply cannot change. Instead of that, focus on the things you can change.

For example if the stage crew is not really cooperative, you can simply mic up the band yourself, put their monitors into the right positions, etc. I know many of you say that it’s not my job… Which might be true that it wouldn’t be your job, but right now, the whole scenario is very different from the one you’ve imagined before. This is the time when suddenly everything become your job!

The best thing you can do is to very quickly prioritise what need to be done, and start doing it as soon as you can. This is the only way to save the day.

Develop your professional calmness

It’s not easy. The very first and obvious reaction would be anger, but believe me, as soon as you let your feelings rule the situation, you lost the game. But you can train yourself. Without sounding like a Zen monk, you can create these imaginary scenarios before they happen, and with this you can think ahead. Plan the things you would do in a situation like this.

After this mind game and with some practice, you’ll be more prepared to fight these things. The first few occasions might not go that well as you’ve planned, but with each solved situation you become better and better at this.

Learn from the fellow industries

This is a great opportunity to learn a few things from the post production guys. In post, damage control is a “daily habit”. Solving problems that one might think of unsolvable is the part of the job. The calm, analytical thinking can help a lot. Breath and think it over. Never forget your aims and do whatever it takes to turn a bad thing into a good one. It’s hard, sometimes unbelievably hard. But if you focus on the things that really matters, you’ll prevail and solve the problems.

Scenario 1

From the 3 different places the first one I met a very nice crew, but they were not full time professionals, so needed more guidance. There were a few mislabelled monitor lines, a few mics that was at the wrong place, etc. But with a little patience and a bit more active collaboration everything has been solved. We were short of wedges so we just positioned the musicians so they could heard the other better even without additional wedges. It took a bit more time, but it was a good solution, everybody had a good time.

Scenario 2

This was an easy lucky day. When I arrived, all the things were already in place, working fine, sounding good. Nice, well tuned PA system, short soundcheck, good show. These are the rare days to be frank. Still hope the third day will be just like this, because that band is a bit complicated so I really need some good company who has seen things like this.

To remember

There are very, frankly, extremely few situations where you cannot radically improve things if you remain calm and professional. Those few occasions are the ones where you simply need the management to take care of things. All other occasions are solvable by you and you only. Most of the time if you keep a professional stance, others will help or at least try to help.

Know your stuff, be calm and nice, and don’t forget to solve the problems, do not create them.

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