Aladdin

Aladdin Blog Post,

As a knew year dawns it is important to reflect on this years Panto. Here at the college this year we did Aladdin.

I had a number of different roles and responsibilities in Aladdin, I assisted the crew with the fit up of the set and the lighting rig but my main focus  was  working in the sound department, my job was quite diverse being the Sound Designer, Operator and Mixer.

My work for the Panto started along time before production week. I liaised with the director to see what ideas he had in mind. Set in the city of Peaking the music needed to have an oriental feel without taking it self too seriously.  The director also gave me a list of the spot effects needed and where they were placed in the text. After receiving this list I was told that this was a very basic outline and that I was free to be creative and draft up what I thought was suitable.

I went away after this meeting and started collecting a bank of sounds effects as a starting point. One of my main places to go was freesound.org. This website provides a large collection of free to use sound effects recorded by other users. I quickly realised that the effects that were available could not be used independently. So I had to gather a large amount of them and edit them to my taste.

After I had gathered a large collection of effects it was time to start editing. The software I used  for this project was Apples Logic Pro. This isn’t my first choice of software nor is it one that I have used extensively, but it was all that was available to me at the time.

I spent around a month recording, editing and mixing my effects. I attended a few rehearsals with the cast to get a feel for the pacing and blocking and to get a more visual feel for the environments.

By watching these rehearsals I was able  to determine  how the cast would react to the effects I had and if any changes were needed.  Knowing how it was blocked was also extremely useful for me because it allowed me to pan and place my effects according to entrances and movement.

After all the recording and editing was completed I mastered my material and bounced it down. Due to the system we had installed in the theatre at the time playback had to be done on CD. This is not my ideal playback method as I think there are too many variables and there is too much chance of an error. Also because of where the CD players are placed in the rackmount it makes it very hard to see the stage whistle operating them.

After I had completed and backed up all my effects it was time to turn my attention to what I needed to prepare for the performance.

I knew that there was plans to have a 4 piece band placed on a rostra within the stalls, downstage right.  The band would be made up of Keyboard, Drums, Guitar and Bass. Vocals were provided by the principals in the cast.

The first challenge I had was how to place the band with out impeding audience sightlines. I made sure that the band were sat down at all times, I placed the drum kit on the off stage edge of the rostra . Guitar and Bass were on the right edge of the rostra with keys placed in front of the drumkit. I placed the multi-core next to keys. Running the bunch of XLR cables over the lighting grid and down to the control room desk.

The next thing on my checklist, once all the instruments were in place was to get power for the electric instruments. I took this from a 13 amp supply in front of the control room window. I sourced a  4way extension wheel and ran it along the floor down to the rostra, placing gaffa tape over the trailing cable to overcome the potential trip hazard.

As the rostra the band was placed on was so small I wanted to keep Cable and equipment on it down to a minimum. I opted to DI guitar, bass and keys as I did not want microphones placed on the rostra because there was a high risk of them getting knocked and damaged.  I didn’t have any sort of equipment fixed to the drum kit, I had to communicate to the drummer explaining to him that as he was playing an acoustic kit in a very small space, there was no need to smash the drums as it would ruin the whole mix and drown out all the other instrumentation.

For vocals I was asked to rig in wireless  lapel microphones. The units we have in our theatre are Sennheiser  g3’s. I was apprehensive to use these thinking that they would not be effective enough in our space, but the director requested that I did regardless.

Everything was set up and ready to go for the technical rehearsal. I knew that it was going to be a long day, for many people it was there first true experience of a technical rehearsal.     

As I knew all my spot effects worked well, my main attention was on getting a good mix on the band and singers. As we ran through the rehearsal there were a few major challenges I had to overcome.

As the theatre is such a badly treated acoustically my mix was very muddy, particularly at the low end.  I could not completely rectify this issue as that would involve and lot of acoustic treatment, witch I had no time or budget for. A quick fix to reduce this over whelming bottom end building up in the auditorium  was to reduce the volume of the overall mix.

The second big problem I had was with the radio mics. I was asked by the director to use the wireless lapel mic’s , these would be clipped onto the performers during the show. The problem was that our main house speakers are placed at the back of the stage, so whenever  the performers were on the stage and the level of the mics were pushed at all, feedback would instantly occur.  This was a problem I just couldn’t resolve, the theatre is so small there is just simply no where else to put the monitors. I could of reduced the feedback by using a graphic equalizer on the vocal channels. If I was to do this I fear that I would have to reduce so many frequencies , the performers would just end up sounding like a tin can.

Overall I was pleased with the my overall performance on the pantomime, I feel that my effects and music worked well and suited the piece ideally. I was never happy with the mix of the band, this was down to the restrictions of the space, I feel I did the best possible with the resources I had at my disposal.

A level 2012- Technical Review.

I was recently set the task to production manage a series of shows that were being examined for are students studying AS levels. There were four Groups each given two performances. One performance was to be devised by the students and was based on the work of the famous playwright  Antonin Artaud the other performance was a set text given to the students by the exam Bored.


Lighting the Theatre of Cruelty.

After being briefed on the show and pieces I quickly realised the challenge I faced lighting 8 different bits of drama using one rig. (due to the lack of time a re rig every day was not possible) My immediate focus was on the devised pieces, being in the style of Artaud I knew that many of the pieces would use stage lighting as a integral part of there show and that the use of light would go far beyond just lighting the cast.

I was asked by the director to take back our installed seating and have the audience sitting on chairs at stage level, the impression that I was given was that audience placement was going to be in a thrust manner, scattered so the cast were not restricted to performing just on the stage space. This added another challenge in designing my rig as now the space I was lighting had almost doubled in size.

Consulting Nick he made me aware that if separate audience members were going to have different sightlines then the lighting angles must accommodate for that, so the cast were equally lit from all the different positions the audience were sat in. Due to the lack of space and stock we have he suggested cheating and lighting each part of the space from three angles in a triangular fashion rather than the conventional  four angles that you would normally use for an area of this type.  

He also suggested that I light each angle in a different colour to add mood and variety to the general cover. I took this advise on bored and decided to light the FOH angle in LEE 154 Pale Rose. This added a slight warmth to the actors face but did not bleach them with colour. For the stage left side I used LEE 169 Lilac Tint, It was suggested that I used a Lilac by Nick as it looks cold against warm light and warm against cold light. For the stage right side I used LEE 202 half C.T. Blue. This provided a cold wash, I found it extremely suitable for backlighting   actors during particular sinister scenes.

It was this general cover that would provide light for the set texts too, as they were the less complicated of the two pieces I decided it was more beneficial to focus my attention on the devised piece. 

With regards to specials I was aware that Artuad liked to experiment with unconventional lighting angles and shadow. I reflected this in my design by using a series of frenesels placed in the centre of the performance space witch could be called upon when needed. These were all left open white with one focused for top light, one for back light and two used as a crossed pair in front of house. These worked really well in moments when only a small space centre stage had to be lit.

I used 10 LED Par 64’s, spotted on different parts of the performance space. I also had 9 LED Par 56’s Lighting the cyc. This allowed me to colour mix to my preference and also single out parts of the performance area with whatever colour I desired. Additionally  I had two Coda 4 Floods lighting the cyc. These were coloured with Lee 164, Flame red and Lee 776, Millennium gold. Both these colours are very vibrant and intense. 

To add interested to the design and because I had a few channels spare I added 8 generic Par 64’s I focused these in a circle in the middle of the performance area and fitted them with LEE 707, ultimate Violet, a rich purple. The main purpose for this was to support night scenes.

Additionally I fitted the rig with a hazer, A couple of Parnels to front and back light a door upstage left, a strobe centre stage, A Silhouette Profile fitted with a window gobo and 4 LED Quadra 4’s on the upstage bar.

During production week it was made apparent to me that the audience were not going to be placed where I had first thought. It was communicated to me that the audience will be almost placed in the show scattered around the space but this wasn’t the case. In reality The audience were going to see the show from a end on perspective but there seating arrangements were to be Unconventional. It was a shame that this wasn’t communicated to me before production week as I feel my ideas were  slightly misread. It also meant that many of the lanterns Placed downstage would of disrupted audiences vision effectively making them redundant.

Overall I think the rig wasn’t bad for the job. The specials I placed all worked well in the context of the performances.

The focus on the general cover could of been better. I feel that I focused with the intention so much on not dazzling the audience that I wasn’t thinking about the actors enough. Some profiles FOH could of been lifted too.

Changing Channel

Apple have had their foot firmly in the creative market since the release of their first personal computer in 1984. Fast forward 26 years and this is still a sector that they are hugely successful in, there is really one stand out product that is making us think about  technology differently and that is the iPhone.

Owners of the iPhone can download applications from apples app store. One app I am particularly interested in is Pro Remote by Folabs.

Pro Remote allows the user to control their digital audio workstation from their mobile device. This app officially supports Protools , Logic , Albeton Live and soundtrack pro. Pro Remote also unofficially supports Digital performer and Cubase.

Using the mobiles built in WIFI function Pro Remote can control the chosen daw from anywhere in the world that has internet access. It features a 32 channel touch sensitive control surface witch includes solo, mute and record buttons. A pan control and a level fader.

This tool is most beneficial for people who record alone , no longer do they have to continually go to the computer to adjust levels when they are trying to record a drum track , now it is possible to change the levels from the kit.

This app is price at $150 dollars witch makes it one of the most expensive around but I think it is definitely worth it. I’m surprised it has taken this long for someone to come up with a remote sensor for DAWS and I think it is definitely going to become a key bit of kit in many pro studios.

Going Native

Avid announced the new upgrade of the pro tools software, pro tools 9.

This will be the first Pro Tools to be released without the brand name Digidesign under it This is because Avid decided to drop the digidesign name from all there new products and just stick with the company name avid. Pro Tools 9 includes many different updates and new features but the interface has stayed the same. This new overhauled interface was introduced in the last version update, pro tools 8. Pro tools LE  is now just branded as Pro Tools and Pro Tools HD has kept its name. pro tools 9 now lets you have more tracks than in any other versions of previous Pro Tools. On the standard version you can have up to 32 simultaneously and 96 (mono or stereo) playback voices.

 

Despite this there is one new feature that is attracting all the headlines. You no longer have to run Pro Tools using a piece of avid hardware. Now you can use protools with any hardware that supports core audio and asio Drivers.

This is the first time that avid have given the user such flexibility. and it will be interesting to see if this makes any difference to there market share. Good or bad ? For the user good, but for avid, well, I’m not sure yet only time will tel.

When pro tools 8 first came out I also noticed that a lot of the press where comparing the new more colourful interface to logic studio. I can’t help but compare the new branding for pro tools 9 to logic as well

http://www.buzzcatalog.com/1147/pro-tools-9-launched-by-avid-on-november-12/

http://www.avid.com/us/products/family/Pro-Tools/compare

   

RIP Sony Walkman

It has been announced that Sony has now retired the Sony Walkman Cassette Tape. Being Created in 1978 as a replacement to vinyl. the Walkman was a step to take music anywhere you wanted.

Essentiality the decline of the walkmans popularity started with the rise of the compact disk. This has continued with the increase in popularity of digital formats. This news really highlights the direction that we a going in as everything becomes more “virtual” we are really going to see a lack of hardware in the future but is this a good thing. If I don’t have a physical version i find it hard to think that I really have ownership of the product, it doesn’t really feel like mine. 

 

So first is the walkman but I can assure that I won’t be the last.

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/musicblog/2010/oct/25/rip-walkman-30-years

http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/news/2010/10/101026_walkman_sl.shtml

An actor without techies is a naked person standing in the dark trying to emote. A techie without actors is a person with marketable skills.

Mark Leslie-http://www.denagy.com

Hello and welcome to MHSLS

Hello and welcome to the Matt Harding Sound, Light and Stage Tumblr page. On this blog I will keep you up to date with projects that I am involved in and keep the blog filled with articles on the latest tech, industry news and other relevant information.

So firstly to introduce my self! My name is Matt and I’m currently based in West Sussex but I am from Dorset.

I first developed a passion for music when I was 10 years old. That Christmas I got my first electric guitar. I remember being fascinated by this guitar and all the different sounds that you could make combining loads of different equipment together. This was my first introduction to sound design and I never looked back.

At the age of 14 I began to develop an interest in recording sound and mixing after obtaining a copy of Cubase SX 2. Cubase is a professional audio software suite that allows you to edit, mix and record music and sound. Cubase also features comprehensive MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) functionality. This allowed me to compose music directly in the system

This led on to me enrolling after school in a music technology  Btec college course at the Knighton Heath Music Centre run by the Bournemouth and Poole College. It was here where I began to learn the fundamentals about all things audio. The course was broad and covered a variety of subjects such as acoustics, synthesis, mixing and, most importantly, live sound. It was during these live sound lessons that I began to take a particular interest in the subject area, enjoying the thrill and the excitement of putting on a live show.

The college didn’t just teach me the theory of sound and audio but it also taught me how to communicate and work with other people in a creative environment. Whether I was talking to a musician, producer or director. A number of  different problems arose and these would be solved in a number of different ways. (More on this later)

After I graduated in from the college I did what most other 18-year-olds do and jetted of to uni. I went to Bournemouth uni to study Music and Audio technology but decided that it wasn’t for me. I found what I was doing wasn’t hands-on enough and I often came away feeling frustrated that I hadn’t learnt as much as I desired.

After this I had to do something, I had a desire to work in the live arts industry and I wasn’t going to settle for anything less. This was when I found the Apprenticeship in Technical Theatre at Chichester College advertised on the Government’s apprenticeship website and I just had to apply. After some waiting I got invited to an interview. I went to the interview and then got offered the job.

So here we are now. I’ve been at Chichester for about 4 weeks and am loving every second of it. I am going to explain my role at the College and talk about the relationships and how these roles relate to other theatres and events environments. This will go towards the first unit of my apprenticship 

My role at the College is as an apprentice theatre technician for the Dance and Drama Department. I spend much of my time in the Riverside Theatre which the College has as a facility to support the performing arts course’s which they run. I work mainly with chief technician Nick Langford. He is my mentor and generally the go-to guy if you have any questions regarding technical or theatrical problems. Nick has a wealth of experience working in a varitey of different theatres throughout his career, he has worked at the College for 10 years now.

As Chichester College offers such a diverse amount of courses the work which I could be doing changes a great deal. I could be doing lighting for dance one week (photos up soon!) and doing sound for a live music show the next. This is great because it allows me to be really hands-on with what I’m doing enabling me to learn loads of stuff just by doing it.

Like in all working environments there is a lot to think about with regards to health and safety. This is particularly essential in a theatre environment and also an educational one as many of the students have little experience with the equipment they are using.

As the equipment we are using often uses a lot of electricity we always make sure that we never work alone, this is in case  something happens to us like an electric shock, we always have someone there to act fast and get the necessary aid.

In the theatre we also do a lot of work up ladders. Once again we make sure that we don’t work alone in case someone has a fall and we always make sure that we follow safety guidelines, so we are never working at height for longer than 20 minutes consecutively.

There are a number of tools that we work with; every time we use a piece of equipment we always have to do a risk assessment. This Is normally visual, we check to make sure the piece of equipment looks ok and that there are no breaks, tears or spillages on it and also the equipment seems sturdy, this is also important when you are building your own sets and props.

There is a lot of integration between departments and being a technician I have learnt that the key to success is to have patience. I feel that this can also be the most challenging part of the job. As essentially my role is to recreate someone else’s thoughts and ideas.  Not all directors and writers have technical minds and sometimes their requests can be impractical or even impossible. When a situation like this arises it is important to keep calm and to negotiate and compromise to a level that works for everyone but still maintains a high standard.

Many performances are recorded; we use this recording as a means to evaluate our work and get feedback with what went well and what didn’t. It is important to remember that not every piece of feedback that you receive will be positive. For example a recording that you create may not sound great on playback on the venue system or a lighting design may not be right for the type of dance show you have desgined for. When things like this happen you must act in an appropriate manner and not take it personally. Use this feedback to improve your work in the future. You can also use this time to give your own feedback and what you thought went well and what you didn’t.

Sometimes things get lost, broken, stolen and people go sick or have a problem. These problems arise in even the most well organized businesses, Once again the key is to remain patient and calm and try to resolve this issue in a way that helps everyone. Doing this by communicating well means that the issue will get resolved more quickly and easily.

As my time at the College increases so will my tasks and responsibilities. It is essential to make sure that the tasks I am doing coincide within my apprenticeship tasks and I’m not working on things that won’t help me later within the industry. Having a strong mind set and showing a willing to tackle any task in the theatre will help this as the others around me will see a strong initiative to learn.

Thanks for reading my first blog post. I hope that gave you a good insight to me and the working relationships within my establishment. I will be writing my articles and keeping you updated on my progress throughout the year.

Many Thanks,

Matt