Andy Woodward
Andy Woodward attended the base sound course in March 08. Upto this time he had as he put it dabbled with sound equipment but wanted to understand more. This included the desk, cabling, connecting it together, setting up and basic use of outboard equipment. Having completed the weekend live sound engineering course Andy found he had alot more confidence and knowledge and it has helped him not only with his engineering skills but also on deciding what equipment he should be using. Following on from the course Andy has bought some more equipment through ourselves and has really embraced sound engineering with the forming of his own company
aw-pa-soundsystems.co.uk. Now he is getting numerous enquiries through his website and word of mouth to sound engineer a broad range of gigs in the south east. He is even doing his own talks on sound engineering to local groups in his area. Recently Andy undertook sound engineering a large theatre production and here is his diary of how it went

Andy Woodward Diary

PLANNING AND OPERATING THE PA FOR A FULL PRODUCTION OF ANNIE
AT THE GULBENKIAN THEATRE, CANTERBURY.


Theatre Mxing Mixing Desk

I was asked last year if I would do the PA for a production of Annie for de capo school for performing arts. I had worked for de capo on smaller productions on previous occasions, but Julie Tugwell the principal told me that once a year she put on a large scale production so that it gave the performers a chance to experience what it would be like on a West End Show.
I thought about the job a lot to make sure I got it right as this was the biggest theatre job I had done. The following is the way I went about it.


PLANNING
Soon after being asked to do the job I had a meeting with Julie to get an idea of what she wanted. Her requirements was initially for 24 discrete face worn radio mics, a few on and off stage hard wired mics and to mic up an 18 piece orchestra. Upon looking into the cost of the radios, the cost was prohibitive even the cost of the extra JMFG licence was nearly 300 for the week, plus as I only have a 24ch A and H GL2400 desk that I bought from Howard after the course I would have needed to hire a 48ch desk. More cost! I could always link my small SX20 to give another 9 channels to the A and H. Another meeting, and I explained the situation and we agreed the best way was to swap the mics on some of the actors and leave the main seven characters mic’d up for the duration of the show, and that some of instruments that had a very small part in the show would be left out. (are 2 toots in act 3 of the 2nd half really warranted.) We then needed 13 actual channels of radio and I could mic the orchestra up with 7 condensers and a DI box. A quick re-price and we had an affordable working show.

I then went to 2 rehearsals at the de capo studios to get a feel for the show. I planned the desk on paper using channel 1 to 14 for radios 15 and 16 for CD players 17 to 23 for the orchestra, 24 reverb return. (the show was to be in mono). I could see that I needed extra help with this so I got another guy who knows a bit about sound to do the sound effects and to cue the mics. I decided that it was best to set the faders and then mute the mics as and when. I also had 2 people from de capo (volunteers to put the mics on the actors and change them when necessary). Leaving 2 mics spare for breakdowns the other spares were put on the actors to speed up change overs so only the transmitter needed to be changed. As I always try to have a backup I ordered 14 radios (in fact I was sent 16 as they were rack and ready units) and I was given 4 extra mics. I sent all radios to group 1 all orchestra to group 2. I used 2 stage monitors at the front of the stage pointing backwards with just the orchestra through them from Aux 1 inverted to group 3 fader and as the orchestra was to the rear side of the stage, they had a monitor with just the actors voices and sound effects routed through Aux2 going via group 4 fader. That way I had overall control of the main sections with a single fader. There was no room to have a centre fill.

THE SHOW
Monday 10am load in and set up. 1pm - those of the orchestra that could turn up did and had sound check. As they were in a confined space I gently gated 4 of the mics to reduce spill a bit. In front of the 2 trumpets I put a clear perspex screen,, one to stop the person in front being deafened, and two to help reduce the spill from their volume. 6pm onwards individual sound checks on most mics. Looking forward to the next job with de capo.
Tuesday. 5pm dress and tech rehearsal. Slight disaster as we were given a script (117 pages) and some of the mic cues were not only in the wrong places but mics were left on when they should have been cued off several pages later. Finished approx 10pm.
Wednesday 5pm dress rehearsal. Cues sorted. The stage managers job had previously been given to a university student studying theatre management and drama as ‘work experience’ and the other real stage manager who knew the play intimately gave me the on/off mic cues. Leaving me to balance the sound and raise and lower the volume accordingly.
Thursday and Friday Showtime. 7.30pm until 10pm. Would normally arrive 2 hours before show if all set up ready to go. Thursday got stuck on motorway for 45minutes so flew the rest of the way when cleared. (that’s why I try to get there 2 hours before). The ‘just in case’ factor!.
Saturday arrive 11 am for 1.30 matinee, 7.30 evening performance, Standing ovation at the end. 10.30 to midnight pack away and load out.

PROBLEMS
Wednesday. Although I had shown the backstage people how to put the mics on they left some of the actors to do it themselves. Consequently some of the capsules were up by the ear and some dangling in front of the mouth. Throws all the gains and levels out. Sorted with bit more chat to them. One main actor had slight hum from transmitter (found by using pfl on each channel) Changed transmitter and retuned.
Thursday. 2 mics stopped working during change overs during first half. Got them changed through talking to the stage over comms. Found what was causing them to break during interval. Backstage, trying to be tidy the girl in charge of the mics was winding the cord so tight around the transmitter that she was breaking the mic connection. Sorted.
Friday. Ordered 4 more mics to be over-nighted for spares.
During show 2 actors came on and costumes had nearly pulled jack out of transmitter causing bangs and cutting out of the vocals. Have heard this sound before so knew what it was and easily remedied when they went off stage.
Saturday. Matinee was being filmed (single camera for copyright reasons) using radio mic to get some sound from stage to camera. Using a 4ch uhf mic had interference/breakthrough on my system. During the interval changed it for one of my vhf mics. No more problems
Only other problem was in the second half of the final show. Right from the start I had told everybody to have their transmitter turned on and double checked by the backstage crew right at the start and to leave it on for the duration. Simple….No!. One of the main characters turned his off during the interval and went on stage and had to do an acoustic set!!!

CONCLUSION
The way I work is,
1. Plan everything you can and write it down so that at the gig when people are talking to you etc it is one less thing to think about.
2. Sods law, something will go wrong. Don’t panic (doesn’t always work), work logically through the problem and use your experience to get over it
3. Look after your gear and keep it maintained. Minimises breakdowns.
4. Be courteous and helpful to others, they are the customer and paying you.