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Lessons in people management
Old 2nd February 2007
  #1
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LX3's Avatar
 

Talking Lessons in people management

You know, gear is great and all, but...

Once again, I've proven to myself that getting a result at a gig is so much about people.

I just got back from recording an acclaimed and hotly-tipped band at an instore. I arrived in loads of time. Everything looked cool - the house engineer was very helpful, he'd picked out a spot for me next to the monitor desk, right next to his 32-channel active splitter rack. So the set up was a piece of cake. Half my kit, including my splitter, stayed in its cases, and I was done in about an hour and a half, including flying ambience mics.

Nothing much to do for the next four hours... in theory.

The band's crew arrived a bit later than expected, but not appallingly so. Setting up was a touch slow. I lent a hand where I could.

But for some reason, mics were getting set surprisingly slowly, considering there's only about an hour to show time. There's no input list yet that means anything (forget the tech rider, that's not going to happen) and not a single line has been tested.

Then I detect a few rumblings. The Yamaha digital front-of-house desk is broken, and all they're getting out of one side is hum. There's no time to fix it or get a replacement in, so the decision is made to use the monitor desk to do FOH as well.

I'm glad I'm not mixing FOH.

Now I'm starting to understand. The desk is RENTED, and despite the fact that it's been set up all day, no-one has checked that something crucial like the FOH desk actually works.

There's some frantic repatching and the monitor desk gets labelled up. I can finally patch my lines into the splitter, but the only way I know what's where is by copping a look at the desk scribble strip. I put together my own channel list.

20 minutes to go. No soundcheck. A vague line test begins. No-one mentions the fact that some channels don't seem to be working. I figure it out when I realise that the channels on the splitter that have phantom power enabled bear no relation to the channels that have capacitor mics on them!

While I'm sorting that out for them, they check all the dynamics! I don't really get to see that happen, or check that it registers on my recorder, let alone set preamp gains.

By the time the phantom is dealt with they seem to have given up on the line check. The gig finally starts. Hey, no biggie, I rarely get a proper soundcheck anyway.

It's only then that I discover I'm missing one of the vocals at my end. It's all plugged up, but no signal. It appears that one channel of the splitter isn't working - the PA is getting it, but I'm not. Not a lot I can do - even if I could get around the back of it, I can't replug anything on the splitter without killing the feed to the board.

Yes, you've guessed it. The splitter isn't a "house" splitter, but was rented for this gig too. The first person who got to check that all the channels were working (or not) was me. During the show. Ah.

And why are the keyboards so quiet? Turns out that someone has left a 40dB pad switched in on the DI box, so what I'm getting is DI box noise + cranked up mic pre noise + a little keyboards in the background. Hopefully salvageable with some heavy denoising. But not really what you want.

No signal from bass cab mic. This time FOH/monitors aren't getting it either. Busted mic cable perhaps? Plugged into the wrong channel on-stage? Who knows. No-one seems to care by this stage. Luckily I'm getting the DI signal okay.

So, who's to blame?... several people - the hire company for sending out faulty gear, the engineers for not checking it worked earlier, the crew for not getting set up faster. Who'll get the blame. Me. "The recording is missing one of the backing vocals. Who did the recording? It must be his fault. Get someone else next time."

I mean, things are mostly salvageable, and by the time I'm done with it, it'll sound way better than it did to the audience. But it could so easily have been the lead vox that went missing... [shudder]. I would have been taken out and shot.

So the question is...

1) Is it my job to start "interfering" with the live sound rig? If I had, I might have discovered that the splitter wasn't working as advertised... It's rarely practical to go testing these things thoroughly, but there's probably more i could have done in this case. I know my splitter works, I stupidly assumed other people's did too. This was a very reputable make splitter, it wasn't some handmade piece of junk.

2) Is it appropriate for little recording guy to start asking people you've never met before to do their jobs right? I've seen FOH engineers act like total prima donnas and start screaming at crew members (a crew that have usually been working MUCH harder than the FOH mixer). I understand why mixers do it to some degree - I think it's as much about making sure everyone knows who's to blame - but I don't think its right to treat the people you work with like that. To me it's a team effort.

But think what the stakes are. After all, tomorrow's just another gig for everyone else, but that one show where the recording went wrong will get remembered... and it has your name on it!

Maybe I should adjust my approach here and there. Maybe I should "toughen up". Maybe i shoud stop being so bloomin' helpful and just worry about no.1 the whole time. Probably depends on the circumstances. But I'll certainly be thinking about this over the next few days

Yet again, whether you've got Neve or Presonus mic pres is shown to be completely secondary to issues of people management.
Old 2nd February 2007
  #2
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You were hired by the band or the promoter? What were you and the sound company doing during that 4 hour period? Did you not have a stage plot and input list? You said, "that meant anything," so that sounds like you did have something. The stage should have been prewired to that spec, whether or not the band changed everything when they got there. Then at least you know that those channels worked. You would have known about the bass issue at the very least.

When I do live sound a stage plot and input list is MANDATORY. This assures that everything will run properly when the band arrives. If the band starts loading in and decides to change everything then I get with the band leader/stage manager/etc. for a new input list. IMMEDIATELY. This is even more important with live recording. People will forget about the screw ups at the show, but when they're on a CD it's hard to forget.

It sounds like you're in the middle of a very poor communication circle. The sound company should have been more responsible, the engineers (you being one of them) should have tested things during the downtime, the musicians should have been able to provide an accurate stage plot and arrived/setup in time to at least do a line check. All of these combined is why you did not have more success. Sorry for your difficult gig; next time be demanding that you at least get a proper line check. Explain that you HAVE to have it in order to produce an acceptable product for your client.
Old 2nd February 2007
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bishopthomas View Post
You were hired by the band or the promoter? What were you and the sound company doing during that 4 hour period?
There was no sound company, just some rented gear, one house engineer and his assistant. The engineer wasn't familiar with some of the kit (he didn't get much choice in what kit was supplied - desks for instance - it was a case of what was available), and spent most of his time figuring it out.

I was hired by one record company, who are sub-licensing the recording from another... complicated.

Quote:
Did you not have a stage plot and input list? You said, "that meant anything," so that sounds like you did have something.
Yes, there was an input list but it was far from clear, and there was the distinct sense that it was going to get thrown out anyway, because it was a massive list obviously meant for a stage three times the size. But if it had been up to me, I would have at least started assembling mics to specification offstage... (I mean, they weren't NOT going to mic kick, snare, guitar amps, etc). Anything to get yourself ahead.

Maybe it had been established that the the band's tech's would set mics, and that's why the house crew didn't start on this until he showed up. I think he was pretty late, but he had only just got off a plane.

Whoever was responsible, one thing's for sure - setting mics and DIs was not my job. I did offer to help, several times, but my assistance clearly wasn't wanted. Its a small stage and it gets crowded very quickly so there's a limit to the number of people that can get stuck in.

That's the issue... how far should I get involved in other people's territory? As it was I got stuck into plenty of the technical problems... and ended up going down with the ship in some people's eyes - if I'm seen to be fixing things, then they assume I must be responsible for them. Sometimes it seems a better idea to remain "aloof"... which is how these FOH mixers seem to play it - complain at the top of your voice, then wait for other people to fix it!

Quote:
When I do live sound a stage plot and input list is MANDATORY. This assures that everything will run properly when the band arrives. If the band starts loading in and decides to change everything then I get with the band leader/stage manager/etc. for a new input list. IMMEDIATELY.
I think the house engineer did keep raising the subject. But the cut-down input list "evolved" rather slowly. And of course, there was no-one to discuss this with until the band's crew showed up... which was late.

Inadequate communication between band and techs (despite the house engineers best efforts I should add), unclear thinking, all played a part... The desk going down at zero hour finally stuck the last nail in the project because it resulted in universal chaos.

The term "cluster-f%$k" springs to mind!

I'll definitely be revising my approach in these circumstances.
Old 2nd February 2007
  #4
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Well, some lessons are learnt the hardest...

there are two things I would throw into the pot here, both are generally learned the hard way.

#1 You are only as good as your last gig. Unfortunately, you are most likely right that your name will be assoicated with the missing vocal and such. There is generally no need to be a pratt on dates, but you MUST keep in mind the fact that results are the only thing that will be remembered here... If Steve R. would like to chime in on this it would be great... this guy has getting what he wants without people realizing what happened down to an art form.

#2 I think it is VERY important to approach EVERY decision in a recording ( or business in general) in this light.. What is the result I want? generally, that result is that at the end of the process you want to be standing in front of a happy client who got what they wanted and is head-over-heels for your work.. Approach everyhting and consider if it will take you closer or farther away from that goal? In your example, weather or not the stage crew wanted to do a line check, it is something that has a HUGE impact on your clients happiness... Splitter working? Ground noises present? Having the ability to be the guy who makes it happen and finds the problem pre-show also gives you the ability to make the guy who should have done it look good... and everyone in this biz wants people around that make them look good almost as much as they want someone else to look bad in a problem....
Old 2nd February 2007
  #5
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I would have, in the time you had ( the hours before) put a tester with tone on EVERY potential line of the splitter snake--- from the stage box---- ruled out the bad line in advance. If I had to buy the FOH guy off at the gig to do it I would. If i had to run up to stage and replug every friken line one at a time myself, make sure the line was live to my recording rig--- id do it.

I think the main thing is to identify who or what is going to get in your way, as soon as you walk in the door--- ASSUME that **** is gonna go south, and prepare accordingly.

So yes, you have to elbow in with the FOH guy, ask questions etc--this is where the people chops are paramount. But to have had all that time and not identified a bad line even before they threw mics- is unacceptable. you don't need an input list to make sure the split was working.

Just make sure your gig is covered, be as sweet as you can to make that happen, and if your not getting cooperation, time to start pushing. I think your rep is way to valuable to leave it at the mercy of the morons and crappy rental gear that can show up on gigs.

I'm sure Steve has some pearls on this question--- I know he's hhad to dance around knucklheads more than once, and always get's his mission accomplished.
Old 2nd February 2007
  #6
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****. That SUCKS.

But I gotta say, sometimes you have to scream & screw the live show when you don't get yours. I have put up an entire extra set of mics when the live sound mics sucked/weren't there as scheduled by the tech rider.

A show like the one you survived is the hardest when you are working solo. if you can bring a helper, you have someone to throw tone into each channel of the splitter and test lines while you wait for mics to be set up. You can be a bit of a priss and try to demand to take the direct feed when the phantom power does not work and the show is compromised. You can always blame this on the gig ("hey, I work for the band") but if an outside promoter or house is footing the bill, they might have agreed to let you take a split, and nothing more.

Shows like this can be really hard, but it will teach you lessons you will never forget.

Don't EVER think you're the only one this has happened to. I recently did a very small (piano, 2 vox, audience) recording that I have decided is unusable, and its my own fault. Performances were OK, the piano sounded horrid, but I could have made changes that MIGHT have been almost listenable.

Don't kill yourself. Live to record another day!

Peace.

JvB
Old 2nd February 2007
  #7
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One thing I'm considering is quitting doing any critical location work single-handed. I find that having an assistant (who's working for me and no-one else) makes a real difference. Being able to effectively be in two places at once (e.g. onstage fixing things and at the recorder monitoring things/watching meters) is very helpful.

I have a couple of assistants that I call on at the moment, but it depends if the budget is there. Everything is on a shoestring these days it seems. Certain kinds of gigs I will refuse to do without an assistant. But maybe it's time to quit doing any gigs without an assistant. Because regardless of how "nailed down" the gig is beforehand, the landscape can turn out to be rather different when you get there.

Yesterday was supposed to be one of those straightforward one-man gigs... How it turned out was a bit exceptional. I only brought it up because it raised a few interesting issues. Doesn't seem much value in discussing the gigs I do that go like clockwork!
Old 2nd February 2007
  #8
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lampmeister's Avatar
"Doesn't seem much value in discussing the gigs I do that go like clockwork!"

Absolutely.

"Whatever doesn't kill you can only make you stronger."
Friedrich Nietzsche.

Old 2nd February 2007
  #9
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Steve Smith's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim vanBergen View Post
Don't EVER think you're the only one this has happened to. I recently did a very small (piano, 2 vox, audience) recording that I have decided is unusable, and its my own fault. Performances were OK, the piano sounded horrid, but I could have made changes that MIGHT have been almost listenable.

Don't kill yourself. Live to record another day!

Peace.

JvB

This bears repeating... the next time this situation comes along you will have more then enough ammo to approach things differently.
Old 2nd February 2007
  #10
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Remoteness's Avatar
Ah yes, “Lessons in people management” a very good topic to discuss for sure. This thread should be rated five stars! Care to place your votes?

Believe it or not, I had a pretty bad experience with an acclaimed major label vocal group at an in-store appearance too. It was many years ago and I did everything I could to anticipate and preempt a serious issue with the rental company’s power distro for the live sound system… I made it crystal clear to the person in charge of the rig and the rental quipment that the 20A breakers they had will not handle the amount of amplifiers we had powering the system. My words went on deaf ears. As you can imagine, in the middle of one of the songs the breakers blew and all we had running was their monitors.

My in-store gig also looked cool and everyone was extremely helpful, but no one wanted to take charge of the issue I brought up my concerns way before the performance started. I was a complete nag about it and the system tech said I was worrying for no thing because they do this all the time, since I was not the EIC or production manager my hands were tied. It’s an ugly place to, know it’s going to fail and everyone’s telling you you’re apprehensive over nothing.

So, basically, I’m saying, nobody’s perfect. Hindsight is 20/20 for sure. In my scenario, the best thing I could have done was to say, “This IS going to fail and I do not want to any part of it” and stand up to my original thought on this matter. Maybe then they would have realized where I was coming from and do something about it.

I brought up this circumstance to make a point – No one is perfect. As long as you’re doing your best and you make your points known as clearly as possible there’s not much more you can do without serious conflict. In most cases if you’re not in charge you must stand down.

In your situation, I would have taken those four hours and ran tests on the lines, the system, all the mission critical stuff especially since the band’s crew didn’t show up early enough and house crew were running slower than you were accustom to. Do diligence keeps you busy and out of trouble if you found a problem. Even though it’s not your responsibility taking a proactive approach to the state of affairs is a great way to keep the show on schedule and running well. Since you already gave them a helping hand, consider broadening that attitude with suggesting a full system check and such.

Could the FOH desk be run in mono out of the working side or were they worried that it could fail altogether? In any event, deciding to run the FOH mix from the MON desk seemed like a good solution particularly since time was of the essence.

IMO, most rental companies never check or test their rigs before they go out. They rather wait until the customer tells them there’s a problem. And, even then it’s not certain that they are even going to do something about it. Some mobile facilities are like that too. I would give them an engineering discrepancy report about a connector or a channel strip, et cetera, etc. and, a year later the same problems are still present. Their recommendation is to use another channel or something to that affect.

There’s a good possibility that no one mentioned that some of the channels didn't work because there was 20 minutes to go and everyone was in a frantic state. IMO, this is where do diligence comes into play again. You must be practical and ask the question – Is everything everything?

It’s very cool to help them sort their affairs, but you must cover your back first. Not knowing if all the signals got to your recorder and the setting of preamp gains is on you and not them my man. It does matter how much you have helped them if you don’t have all the tracks confirmed and operational.

There are ways to make a show like this work for everyone. Rules need to be addressed up front. Rules about whose primary audio; how the line check will be handled, et cetera, etc. There are three desks and their associate engineers that all have to get a complete and absolute line check. This must be tackled with a straightforward methodology. Everyone wins in the end when rules are created at the start of the production day.

We keep a few (or just one) extra mics and cables plugged in the system as a backup if and when something fails. It’s obviously a lot easier to replace the failed mic with a working alternative than to be hunting for one last minute. With regard to the pads on the DIs, I would have addressed this with the MON engineer and switched it in between songs. Imagine if you double miked most of the instruments and only split the stuff you needed to? I’m sure you’d be in a better place for sure.

“Who's to blame?” I say fix the problem and not the blame! It doesn’t matter who is to blame. Who cares? IMHO, all that matters is if you got everything you needed on the recorder. With that said if you really need to blame someone, blame it on the fact that no one bothered to test or do an overview of anything during the four hours break. Sure we can blame the hire company for sending out faulty gear, but that’s what they do. You should now know better. Yeah, let’s blame the engineers for not checking their stuff, but you could have addressed this up front. We can blame the crew for not getting set up fast enough, but the production manager should have dealt with that matter.

“Who will get the blame?” Your right, you’ll get the blame because your job was to make sure you captured everything to the recorder. This is a paramount situation and you need to have all your bases covered. As they say, “You’re only as good as your last gig,” but you can recover. It may take 10 (20) good gigs to make up for the one bad gig, but you can offer some free time to fix the keys and redo the lost backing vocal. I would seriously offer that up to them ASAP.

So, in retrospection I do feel it is your job to investigate issues with the live sound rig when it affects your recording as long as you create some rules with your associates.

You said, “It's rarely practical to go testing these things thoroughly…” You sound like an equipment rental company owner. Come on now mate, (like you said) there IS (not probably) more you could have done in this case. You know what happens when you assume… You make an ass(out of)u(and)me.

IMHO, it is appropriate for a recording engineer to interface with a crew you never met. It’s not about asking them to do the job right, it’s about creating rules and asking them to check the things you need to check. I would have also had a pre-production meeting days before the event. You were hired to get (all of) the performance on the recorder. You have to do everything in your power to get this accomplished. IE: Advancing the date; Production meetings; Backup plans; Faxing out all your equipment and interfaces outside of your world. You must be in control and have a factual account of your rig, all its working parts and what they’re attached to. This principal concept should be your main goal with regard to attaining a good quality live recording.

You can do all this without making people feel like they’re treated badly. Sometimes it’s going to happen even when you don’t really mean it. Communication is everything.

It sounds like you were baptized in flames – Well, now you know better… Right?

I hope this helps!
Old 2nd February 2007
  #11
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LX3's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim vanBergen View Post
if you can bring a helper, you have someone to throw tone into each channel of the splitter and test lines while you wait for mics to be set up.
You beat me to it Jim. Thanks for your comments.

Yeah guys, I should have checked the splitter (lesson learned) but single handed that wasn't going to be easy... 32 channels to get thru and everyone else busy dealing with something. Let me see, run up on stage, plug in tone generator, run back to my rig, check it, run on stage, change inputs, run back to my rig...

The plan was to follow things during soundcheck, note problems and fix them afterwards, but that wasn't to be. What soundcheck?

Maybe I gave you the wrong idea, I wasn't sat on my ass for four hours! I spent most of my time helping out the rest of the crew where I could (and trying to get someone to show me a proper input list!). God knows there were some issues to deal with.

At the end of the day, I got my recording, I'm just missing a backing vocal. That's a drag. Yes, I should have checked the splitter somehow. I knew that about five minutes into the gig.

(Edit - whoops, I'm a few posts behind, so removed a comment about responses so far. Thanks Steve, cracking reply.)

Last edited by LX3; 2nd February 2007 at 11:39 PM.. Reason: Got a bit behind reading replies!
Old 2nd February 2007
  #12
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Remoteness's Avatar
I hear you folks and a tone generator is cool, but it does not check for phantom power. You should use a condensor mic or one of those cool LED XLR gadgets that can check to see if all three pins are connected.

I still like the good old fashion phantom power mic test. You can confirm that you got power to the mic and you're listening for any noise issues.
Old 3rd February 2007
  #13
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Jim vanBergen's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Remoteness View Post
I hear you folks and a tone generator is cool, but it does not check for phantom power. You should use a condensor mic or one of those cool LED XLR gadgets that can check to see if all three pins are connected.

I still like the good old fashion phantom power mic test. You can confirm that you got power to the mic and you're listening for any noise issues.
Absolutely, solid wisdom! My A2s bring a 635 or '57 and a cue box and pull one of my condenser mics out of the kit; for compact conenience I always carry a phantom-powered tone generator that is -40, a decent mic level for pre-setting some preamps. Thay confirms phantom and indicates when you have a leg dropped somewhere.

LX3, I think it's VERY cool of you to start this thread, and I'm sure it will become a big part of 'required reading' for newbies.

Peace!

jim
Old 3rd February 2007
  #14
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LX3's Avatar
 

Thanks Steve for your customary pearls of wisdom. It's appreciated as ever. I'm crystallising a few new approaches already.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Remoteness View Post
but you can offer some free time to fix the keys and redo the lost backing vocal. I would seriously offer that up to them ASAP.
Good idea. However in this case, not really possible... the band were making a flying visit to the UK, running about doing shows and radio and signings, generally a hit and run situtation.

Plus, talking to their tour manager afterwards... they came away with such a bad feeling about the show they're clearly not interested in being reminded of the whole experience. I don't blame them either. I won't tell you what his exact words were to me, but it wasn't pretty (I think he thought I was partly to blame for the live sound... probably because he saw me fixing live sound things. That's what I mean about the sense in keeping a low profile sometimes! The ship went down and took me with it.)

Maybe they'll feel different when they hear the recording... Or maybe not - I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't give their best performance under the circumstances (by all accounts there were no monitors for the first half of the gig).

Quote:
You said, “It's rarely practical to go testing these things thoroughly…” You sound like an equipment rental company owner. Come on now mate, (like you said) there IS (not probably) more you could have done in this case. You know what happens when you assume… You make an ass(out of)u(and)me.
Yep, I get that. What was I thinking? If it had been a nasty-looking piece of junk I would have immediately been suspicious, but because it was a BSS... Actually, it's often occured to me that one of the disadvantages of active splitters is greater potential for failure. Obviously that thought was well-buried yesterday.

Quote:
I would have also had a pre-production meeting days before the event.
In this case, nobody - not even the band - knew the event was happening more than four days beforehand. I got a call two days beforehand, managed a long telephone chat with the house engineer (who wasn't sure what was happening at that stage himself).

Quote:
You were hired to get (all of) the performance on the recorder. You have to do everything in your power to get this accomplished. IE: Advancing the date; Production meetings; Backup plans;...
I agree, but I think you and I work on shows at very different levels (or should I say, for very different fees ;-)) I do a fair bit of prep - not as much as you obviously - but if I tried to schedule a production meeting for the majority of the gigs I cover, I'd get looked at very strange!

But that kind of thing is starting to happen - some projects I'm getting calls for are getting bigger and much more critical. My fees are going to have to get bigger too! Still, getting a live sound engineer to participate in such a thing... it ain't easy in this country at a club date level.

For instance, I have another gig coming up in a week's time, and after much asking, only now has the producer revealed to me who the band are. I had to find out where the gig was by doing a Google search! And by digging around a few forums, I also discovered that it's for a live album! Fans of the band know more about what's happening than I do. Don't ask me why the secrecy. Maybe because they want me to commit to as low a fee as possible - thinking that once you discover it's a moderate "name" band you'll raise your prices!

(If you read this Nick, don't worry, I'm not about to raise my fee for the show, although I am pretty excited about it.)

Quote:
You can do all this without making people feel like they’re treated badly. Sometimes it’s going to happen even when you don’t really mean it. Communication is everything.
Please don't think that I'm suggesting a strategy of treating people badly to get things done. But it seems to be an option for some people. I've seen plenty of FOH engineers and record producers do it and it's not nice. It reminds me of the school bully - you've know how they always go for the smallest, weakest kid? Similarly, these guys seem to pick on the easiest target in order to demonstrate who's in charge, deflect the blame, and get their way. It's horrible to see.

I think I understand why they do it though.

The trick is encouraging people to cooperate who are determined not to. Some live engineers I come across certainly fit that category, though I was only badly burned once a few years ago (and I told y'all about that incident too!). Normally I win them around.

I'm telling you guys about these incidents to see if it stimulates some discussion, and get some points of view - there's loads about gear on this forum, which I'm as interested in as the next person, but I don't think there's nearly enough about handling situations. And live recording is one big ever-changing situation (which is why I love it).

But maybe I should shut up. It makes it sound like I'm a disaster area. Whereas in fact it's only two bad gigs in five years, and if you'd seen these two gigs (especially the first one), well...

The positive thing is, you learn much more when it all goes wrong than when it goes right. Maybe I should foul up more often

Go on folks, tell us about your worst live recording disasters, I dare you.
Old 3rd February 2007
  #15
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Oh, can I just make it clear that it wasn't a four hour break, there were about four hours between getting my rig up and running, and show time.

Maybe some of you have a mental image of me and the house engineers sitting about having lunch all afternoon.

It was pretty full on the whole time. Stupidly I was full-on in all but one of the of the right areas.
Old 3rd February 2007
  #16
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Remoteness's Avatar
Well, one thing is for sure...
You walked away from this experience with a lot more knowledge about what it takes to make a gig like this happen.
IMHO, that's worth quite a bit. Hindsight IS 20/20!
I feel you have become a better engineer / coordinator from this insane disaster.
And, that is a very good thing my GS friend. A very good thing indeed!





Please note:
If you like this thread and feel it can benefit others please consider rating it by voting for it -- Just click on the "Rate this Thread" button. I think it's a five star affair!
Old 4th February 2007
  #17
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RobMacki's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by LX3 View Post
Oh, can I just make it clear that it wasn't a four hour break, there were about four hours between getting my rig up and running, and show time.

Maybe some of you have a mental image of me and the house engineers sitting about having lunch all afternoon.

It was pretty full on the whole time. Stupidly I was full-on in all but one of the of the right areas.
I feel for you.

A couple of years ago I was involved in a festival gig. High profile, all big names, Main Arena, FOH was contracted with all their own gear.
Thursday set up & line check. Friday Eve, Saturday Afternoon / Eve, Sunday Afternoon / Eve. Each show had three +- main acts so about 15 acts total.
14hrs of sound check, show, etc. 20min snap check between acts.
FOH / Stage / Truck all had com input lists were fed to truck via Ethernet printer.

On day two we (truck) discovered a buzz in the lines. We alerted stage. Stage confirmed with FOH. FOH let it go until that line was critical on an acoustic guitar. (very well known name) Adrenaline and tempers began to rise and for the rest of the show things were very tense. Day three the owner of the truck and I were in the truck when we heard FOH and Stage on the com. FOH was telling Stage "You gotta back me up on this one!!" "I'm not gonna get canned because of the F#####'g truck. (the problem was confirmed later to be dirty power I believe, not the truck) FOH keep putting the blame on us (truck crew of four) Things got so bad that as they were scrambling to find the reason for the buzz, FOH began SCREAMING on the com 4 minutes before the headline of the festival telling Stage (on com) to "Tell that bass player to shut the f### up!!!" (bass was just warming up behind the curtain)

I was absolutely impressed with the behavior of the owner of the truck who just kept his cool, knew he was right and refused to get caught up in the drama.
I learned many things that weekend.
This last year, it was quite a different experience.
FOH was someone else.tutt
Old 4th February 2007
  #18
Lives for gear
 
Don S's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Remoteness View Post
I hear you folks and a tone generator is cool, but it does not check for phantom power. You should use a condensor mic or one of those cool LED XLR gadgets that can check to see if all three pins are connected.
Steve,

Exactly why I bought a phantom powered noise plug. I'll check who makes it and post the brand and model #.
Old 4th February 2007
  #19
Super Moderator
 
Remoteness's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Don S View Post
Steve,

Exactly why I bought a phantom powered noise plug. I'll check who makes it and post the brand and model #.
That would be very cool. Please let us know.

I guess I'm old school on this one. I like using phantom powered mics because I can listen to the lines with or without someone speaking (or playing) into the mic. I can listen for noise or hum and buzz that I may not hear with the generator running. I also can hear the difference between the lines. IE: Some lines may sound thinner than the others. It's hard to tell with a single tone and much easier with pink noise running, but...

If you know how that mic supposed to sound like and it sounds a bit different you'll know right away. Tone generators are cool, but for me not the most perfect solution. With that said, they ARE better than nothing and, I have used them when applicable.
Old 4th February 2007
  #20
Super Moderator
 
Remoteness's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by RobMacki View Post
...On day two we (truck) discovered a buzz in the lines. We alerted stage. Stage confirmed with FOH. FOH let it go until that line was critical on an acoustic guitar. (very well known name) Adrenaline and tempers began to rise and for the rest of the show things were very tense....

This has happened to us in the past. Sometimes it's us; most of the time it's not.

I have a quick and easy solution for this situation...

You go to the FOH or MON engineer (usually the one that found the problem) and ask them to bring up the channel or channels that are making the noise. I then contact my crew in the truck and tell them to pot down the faders because we're going to unplug the snake from the splitter. I then tell FOH and MON what I'm about to do. If the problem goes away when I unplug our snake it’s on us. If the volume level of the problem (noise) stays the same it's someone else’s concern. If the problem gets louder it means there isn't a proper ground for the stray voltage potential to drain to.

It's a quick and easy way to find out who shares the blame.
Sometimes it can take a bit long to fix, but at least now there's a mission to conquer.
Old 4th February 2007
  #21
Lives for gear
 
Steve Smith's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Remoteness View Post

It's a quick and easy way to find out who shares the blame.
Sometimes it can take a bit long to fix, but at least now there's a mission to conquer.
I find that this sort of approach, " Hey, let me be the first one to take responsibility and determine if I am the cause" as opposed to " look, YOUR gear has a problem" generally gets you a lot further as well... It really does go a long way toward making you an ally of the live sound crew on the new " mission"

Great Post!

What is really awesome is when you have a few of these experiences and end up getting a call for a gig because the live sound company doing a festival or tour reccomends you as the company they want to work with!
Old 11th February 2009
  #22
Old 11th February 2009
  #23
Lives for gear
 
LX3's Avatar
 

Wow, now that seems like a lifetime ago. Can anyone tell me why we've bumped this thread?

Anyhow, there are a couple of updates I can give you:

1) In spite of the chaos, the recording and mix of that show sounds fantastic. As far as I'm aware, it was never released, and Virgin Digital went out of business a year later. I have no idea who owns the rights to it now, or even if anyone knows the recording exists. I still have all the multitracks and the mix of course. There's thousands of dollars/pounds waiting to be made by someone if they were to put it out, but for the band/management I assume it's all the distant irrelevant past. Fans would love it though - for me, it's the best-sounding live performance by that band I've heard anywhere.

2) The Virgin Megastore brand in the UK became "Zaavi" (not the catchiest trading name) and in-store shows at that venue pretty much stopped... then, predictably, Zaavi themselves became a victim of the economic situation at the end of last year, essentially leaving HMV as the only specialist high-street music retail chain in the UK. I can't help but think that's a bad thing for the music industry... less opportunities for the public to browse for music and handle the product. On-line retailers... a godsend for the thrifty consumer, but maybe not so good for the music industry.

3) Resurrecting this thread serves to remind me how far things have moved on for me in the last two years. I bring an assistant (sometimes two on the really big shows) to every gig I work on nowadays, which means I'm no longer dependent on the expertise and cooperation (or otherwise) of the tour/in-house crew. We can and do triple-check the entire system when necessary, and I have to say, on the odd occasion that we run into these bizarre ego-wars, it's definitely an advantage to have more than one of you on your side of the net. Of course, budgets are more realistic these days, which makes certain things possible which weren't before. Life is good.
Old 11th February 2009
  #24
Lives for gear
 
slaphappygarry's Avatar
 

Quote:
Half my kit, including my splitter, stayed in its cases
This is where you failed my friend. Your kit, I assume, works. Lazyness meant the working kit was left to one side in place of a risk. When you decided to use the untested in house stuff you took the gamble and it bit you in the ass.

I have done similar things lots of times on many jobs (they have mic stands there, the have plenty xlr's, we can use their PA and leave ours in the van, their 58's will be fine, the studio will have plenty 57's and on and on and on...) and every time I slap myself for leaving the reliable kit sitting unused.

This is not a dig, I have done it as well but, to me, it looks like things were flawed from the very start.

G
Old 11th February 2009
  #25
Gear Guru
 
John Willett's Avatar
 

Smile

Quote:
Originally Posted by Don S View Post
Steve,

Exactly why I bought a phantom powered noise plug. I'll check who makes it and post the brand and model #.
Actually Schoeps make a good phantom tester - needs at least 4mA to say OK, so you know you actually have enough current to power the mic.
Old 11th February 2009
  #26
Super Moderator
 
Remoteness's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by LX3 View Post
Wow, now that seems like a lifetime ago. Can anyone tell me why we've bumped this thread?
Probably because it was good reading then and still good reading now.
Old 11th February 2009
  #27
Lives for gear
 
LX3's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by slaphappygarry View Post
This is where you failed my friend. Your kit, I assume, works. Lazyness meant the working kit was left to one side in place of a risk. When you decided to use the untested in house stuff you took the gamble and it bit you in the ass.
Mate, I wasn't given the choice. The system had been plumbed in already, I was told I was using their splitter and that was that. On a lot of gigs, I'm often not happy about the choice of DI box or microphone sometimes, or how pads have been set etc, but there comes a point where I would be booted off the gig if I started insisting that they be changed. It's knowing when to push and when to leave things be.

My real mistake was to assume the BSS splits were working. I've encountered the BSS enough times since then to know that they will more likely than not have at least one channel that doesn't work, maybe more.

No disrespect to BSS meant. To be honest, there don't seem to be that many particularly reliable active splitters out there... one of the reasons I like using my own iron as it were.

Quote:
This is not a dig, I have done it as well but, to me, it looks like things were flawed from the very start.
I agree. But in many ways, there was nothing particularly different about this gig as compared to any other. The trick is learning to spot when the situation is teetering on the edge. It's a sixth sense sort of thing, and I'm much better with that than I was two years ago.

God, did we have to drag this all up again? It's so in the past...
Old 11th February 2009
  #28
Lives for gear
 
d_fu's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by LX3 View Post
God, did we have to drag this all up again? It's so in the past...
Nothing happened - Norse just decided to bump two old threads wothout adding anything. You could have chosen to ignore the thread...
Old 11th February 2009
  #29
Lives for gear
 
LX3's Avatar
 

Well, since it was thrown back up there, I thought people might be interested in an update.

Never mind. Next...

Edit: Actually, Steve, re-reading this thread, you're right, there is some absolute gold in here.
Old 11th February 2009
  #30
Lives for gear
 
slaphappygarry's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by LX3 View Post
Mate, I wasn't given the choice. The system had been plumbed in already, I was told I was using their splitter and that was that. On a lot of gigs, I'm often not happy about the choice of DI box or microphone sometimes, or how pads have been set etc, but there comes a point where I would be booted off the gig if I started insisting that they be changed. It's knowing when to push and when to leave things be.
I guess you are right. Been there too... Brutal.

I didn't realize this was a 2 years old. How did this all turn out in the end then? Where those involved happy with the product?

G

PS - like i said, no disrespect intended. The whole situation mirrors countless encounters I have had on many different jobs as a remote engineer, studio engineer and musician.
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