And yet again… many WEEKS later

28 11 2010

It’s been hard to stay on top of the blogging!

A few weeks back, Steve approached me and told me that he had a proposition for me.  He had been asked by Dr. Hobson to do the audio for “Joseph’s Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” but was unable to fulfill his commitment since Creatio had grown so rapidly.  So he asked me if I could do it in his place.He then told me that Dr. Hobson would consider my internship completed if I was able to do it.  At first, I was a little upset because I didn’t want to just be the “hand-me-down” intern.  Also, I was hesitant to say yes because of my insane schedule this Fall.  I told him I’d email him and Dr. Hobson with my answer.  I thought it over and decided to accept it.  I thought it could be fun.

Little did I know how quickly the play started.  By the time I had met with Dr. Hobson to go over the details of the play, I only had one week before the play would start.  I think I met Dr. Hobson on a Friday, and the production would start in just 10 days.

Needless to say, I didn’t have much time.  I started working on that Saturday after I met with Dr. Hobson.  I had absolutely no idea what I needed because I didn’t know what the theatre had.  I simply went that evening to watch a bit of their practice to know what audio solution they needed.  They needed a piano to have stereo mics, an electronic drum to be directly connected, a monitor for the band, and the whole stage needed to be mic’d, since it is a musical.

I gave myself most of the next week to make contact with Steve and gather equipment.

On the Wednesday before showtime, Steve just told me to grab whatever I needed from wherever I needed it.  So I did.  I can’t even tell you all the things I grabbed, because I just grabbed an entire cart full of equipment.  I took it all down to the theater, and after discovering that the theatre was already wired up for sound, I got REALLY excited.  All the work had pretty much already been done for me, all I had to do was hook it all up.  So I started throwing out some wiring to the places where microphone attachments were hanging from the ceiling…… nothing came from the speakers (oh yeah, they had speakers and a sound board, by the way).  Great.  So I started tracing the audio cables that were supposedly connected from the sound board to the ceiling cables.  All the wiring was hidden in the drop ceiling, so I had to get on a tall ladder to open up the drop ceiling.  As I was tracing it, I discovered that it followed along the farthest wall where the sound board was located.  None of it extended out to the ceiling.  So I had a thought: “What if the wiring comes out of the ceiling near the stage.”  I went to the back of the stage and decided to look in a closet that was on the same side of the room as the wiring in the ceiling that I had traced.  Voila!  There was an audio snake, ready and with plenty of inputs.  It took me probably 2 days to find this But, this still wasn’t close enough for all the cabling I had to run.  The band was on the other side of the stage, and I probably had enough to just wire them up, and maybe one or two of the ceiling mic’s for the stage.  I had four ceiling mics to put up.  I spent that entire evening trying to figure out and implementing different ways I was going to wire up all the mics from that one location to the rest of the stage.  This all lasted from about 1:30pm until about 5:00pm.  I ended up doing a very rough-cut job, but I wired up a few mics temporarily so they at least had something for the next couple of days.

Thursday, I came up with a brilliant way of wiring the place up.  I remembered that Creatio had only the box-part of an audio snake, but didn’t have the wire for it.  I then remembered that they did have a very long wire that was used for a snake, albeit not this particular snake.  For the other end of the snake, I could use one of the old audio panels that had 8 XLR channels.  So I spent the evening gathering the necessary tools and equipment to repair and solder the snake.

Friday was the big work day.  On Saturday, they wanted to have all the tech-stuff running so they could do a tech-rehearsal, including lights, sound, everything electronic.  This meant I spent all of Friday soldering together the snake from end-to-end.  The old audio-snake box ended up with bad connections, so I had to completely unsolder all the connections that I had just soldered.  16-channels, 3-wires each channel… and I had to do this for each end.  On top of that, since it didn’t work, I had to cannibalize 8 of Creatio’s cables in order to use the female-XLR connections on the ends of them.  So I had to unsolder another 8 XLR connections, 3-wires each connection… I think my math is now to a total of 72 soldered wires and 48 stripped wires.  My fingers were definitely sore, since I had to use a knife to cut the sleeves and my finger nails to strip the wires (I don’t have a wire-stripper).  So after testing the mics and all, I taped up the makeshift audio snake out of site along the ceiling and wired up all of my mic’s into the snake.  I had more than enough wiring and EVERYONE was happy.

Saturday came along, and all was well.  All the mic’s worked, all the tech worked, everything worked fine.  I struggled to find the best levels for the singers, but it worked after a while of tweaking.  I even came back Tuesday for their final dress-rehearsal and all was well.

Wednesday was showtime.  All levels worked, no tape was falling, all was well.  I still struggled with the levels, just trying to get more juice out of them.  I also noticed that one of the mic’s was picking up the sound of the drummer hitting the pads of the electronic drum set.  I tried tracing it down, but to no avail.

Thursday was another show day.  This time, I tried some different positioning with the mic’s.  I taped them up in such a way that they were angled inward toward the center of the stage.  I didn’t do this before because then it could have been possible that the mic’s would’ve gone too directional and the audience wouldn’t have been able to hear some of the singers.  But, you pick some, you lose some, right?

Friday night, I still wasn’t getting the levels I wanted, but the clicking of the pads was almost gone.  So I lowered the mic’s down by about 2-3 inches, just to get a bit more volume from the singers.  Unfortunately, this created a new problem: now the bass was being picked up by the mics.  The bassist was loud enough where I didn’t need to mic him.  The only monitor I had time to wire up was leading directly from the drum set to a powered speaker, and the band needed to hear the bassist as well.  So I opted to keep him unplugged from the system and keep him on his own amp.  Back the mic problem.  I ended up turning down the low-EQ as far as it would go, but it still was unresolved.

Saturday, I simply asked the bassist to turn his amp down, as the bass would seem to get louder to the audience as the night moved on.  Nothing eventful went on, it was basically routine.

Then nothing for the internship until Thursday of the following week.  I made it a point to arrive early on Thursday, since I suspected I had numbered my channels wrong on the sound board, which is why not much was working when I turned levels down, muted things, etc.  Indeed, I was correct.  When I had traced the cables the week before, I must have misread my color coding.  In the lighting, the brown looked a lot like purple, and red looked a lot like orange.  So I wasn’t able to distinguish between them correctly.  I retraced my wiring and discovered that I had completely mislabeled all but the two piano mics and the drum set.  So when I went to mute certain mics, I was muting the wrong ones.  I quickly changed the ordering of my wires and reset the levels back to what they were.  Everything worked flawlessly at this point.  I can’t say the same for the show though, it being one of the worst nights for the show.

Friday, nothing happened.  Everything was great, nothing else to report.  It was routine.

Saturday was routine as well.  After the show was the teardown.  Everything I had put all that time into now needed to come down.  It took me several days to put it all up, and only 30 minutes to tear it all down.  No doubt that if I knew what I was getting into and had a plan from the beginning, it wouldn’t have taken me nearly as long to put it all up.

The next post will be about my time unsoldering everything and putting all the wires that I cannibalized back together.  Stay tuned!

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