Dirty Dancing UK Tour

October 8th, 2011

So after a short break it was back to the graft under the watchful eye of my mate PJ, August’s project being prep for the UK tour of Dirty Dancing. Prep was at Autograph amongst what felt like a couple of dozen other shows being put together. It was the busiest I have ever seen spring place every bit of space was being used to put together reasonably sized shows. Our gig consisted of band on stage supplemented with some bits played by qLab 16 of the new Sennheiser 3732 receivers and transmitters. All plumed into a D5t12 out front a D1 generating the mixes to the Aviom’s for the band. Out of the D5t12 and we’re into a handful of Meyer Galileo’s then to a mainly Meyer system comprising of HP-600, USWs, CQs JM1ps, M1D a hand full of UPMs and UPJs and some d&b E3s for delays and surround.

The key focus on the prep was making putting it all together in such a way to make it as quick and as easy as possible to tour. We’re ok or the first couple of moves as there is a weeks grace between load out and load in, however it’s not too long before that changes to back to back move. So plenty of coloured PVC tape and some efficient use of multicores I didn’t quite get the front end as slick as the PM5d on AvenueQ but hopefully it’s close.

It all flowed fairly well into Bristol Hippodrome it was the shortest tech period to date for a production of Dirty Dancing and we we’re open barely a week after tipping the first truck.

I’m writing this on the train to Bristol for the load out hoping it comes out as slickly as it went in. And wondering how successful the WordPress app is for the iPhone.

Text appears to be ok, pictures to follow

Catch Up Pt4 – Wimbledon Tennis Championship

August 26th, 2011

What a whirlwind the last couple of months have been here we are Mid August 2011 here’s another of a couple of posts about projects that I have been involved with since October 2010,

By far the highlight of my summer was been asked to be involved with the Wimbledon 2011 tennis championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club Wimbledon.  Working as part of the RG Jones team who are responsible for the PA installation across the sight my remit was to look after the Riedel comms temporary installation for the championships.  The main areas of deployment were in the Hawk Eye commentary/viewing booths.  This is to facilitate the necessary conversations between the umpire in the chair, Hawk Eye operative and officials in the commentary/viewing booths.  A little bit of low level security and facilitation of wireless duplex comms from the stadium/show courts back to the remote sound control position.

The PA across the Wimbledon site is controlled by a fairly extensive SoundWeb network this can all be controlled from a number of locations all of which have few windows and no direct sound from the spaces of primary importance.  So all the mixing is effectively done by brail, using other operatives in the space to give instructions back to the operator.  This is all on top of providing lines of communications with various people in different areas working for SISLive (the BBC).

So armed with a rather confusing array of spread sheets a photo of a whiteboard sketch a fairly large consignment from Riedel comprising of a Artist 64 crate, a large number of desk top panels a handful of rack panels and a Telex BTR set for every stadium court, oh and a plethora of fibre to cat5 fibre to coax converters I set about making it all work across the site.  Thankfully there is a fairly extensive cable installation already on the site so with the aid of some new friends who look after that bit I was able to plug it all in to wall sockets never more than 5 meters away.

My crate or node was linked into the other 5 nodes in the SISlive main patching room, and in the trucks meaning I could call any of the stations sat on those networks and like wise all those connected to my node were then available to the other networks.  It does all sound frightfully complicated and it is a chunk more involved than a simple 2 wire comms ring but the principals are the same audio in audio out just make sure it’s going the right way, there a just a frighting number of possibilities.  The whole system is programmed from a computer using Riedel’s Director software and is fairly intuitive and straight forward to use.

Having got it all disseminated and operational there was a few days of finessing who wanted to have who available and wither their buttons latched or not, then it was time to watch a little bit of the tennis.    We had a rather damp couple of days in the middle of the champs, the forecast was the worst I’ve ever seen on my Met office app.  But on the whole it was a great experience it’s a great atmosphere at the championships a little bit away from what I normally do if it is possible to define what i ‘normally’ do, I had a great time and I hope to be invited back next year.

Catch Up Pt3 The Hurley Burley Show

August 26th, 2011

What a whirlwind the last couple of months have been here we are Mid August 2011 here’s another of a couple of posts about projects that I have been involved with since October 2010,

So it was towards the end of the Christophe Willem shows last year Mr Steve Anderson approached me and asked if I would be interested in being involved with a little show that he was involved with in the west end, that show turned out to be The Hurley Burley Show a burlesque performance staring the increasable Miss Polly Rae and Kitty Kitty Bang Bang.  My initial remit was to provide a playback system, come the fitup I’d got Mr Alex Bryson involved as we were now effectively occupying the role of Sound Designer and Production Sound Engineer on top of the playback stuff.

It became a fairly full on couple of weeks getting it all together we tuned to Phil Hurley at Stage Sound Services to supply the Digico SD8, Aviom A16 Mixing system for the band, Meyer UPJ’s for onstage foldback, Yamah DME as a system matrix and AXYS Duran Audio Scope T-2115, T-2112, U-12 and U-14 loud speakers.  A full write up of that fantastic experience and help from Andy, Nick and Chris Full at Duran Audio is a available here, in short it was probably one of the most difficult decisions i had to make in a long time, given a clean sheet which loudspeakers would you chose?  The Scope system along with it’s onboard DSP was fantastic and I would not hesitate to use them again.

The run of the Hurley Burley Show was a great success in it’s fixed 8 week run and I don’t think it will be long before Miss Polly Rae is back on the west end stage.

Catch Up Pt2 AvenueQ and Yes Prime Minister

August 26th, 2011

What a whirlwind the last couple of months have been here we are Mid August 2011 here’s another of a couple of posts about projects that I have been involved with since October 2010,

January started with a few domestic chores namely decorating the spare room for Hannah to move out of the nursery in readiness for our new arrival around easter. Painting complete as if I had not seen enough of PJ I was off to Autograph Sound Recording to prep for the UK tour of AvenueQ  this system was based around a PM5D and MSL2’s it was touring the middle scale venues in the UK and had to be put together to make moving it as quick and easy as possible as it was a weekly touring show.  Not long after committing to this I got the call about Yes Prime Minister the show I’d previously been Production Sound Engineer for when it was at the Guldgud in the West End was now to go out on tour.  Thankfully after I’d done the drawings I was able to hand it to Alex and Tim do initially put it into Brighton and do the first couple of moves as i was busy at Bath Theatre Royal with AvenueQ.  The rest of the spring saw me jumping between these two shows as required, it all worked really well and both tours were a fantastic success, now the puppets have been put back in their box until next year and Yes Prime Minister is back in the west end and about to do a short hop from the Apollo to the Gulidgud.

Catch up Pt1 – The War of the Worlds and Katherine Jenkins

August 21st, 2011

What a whirlwind the last couple of months have been here we are Mid August 2011 here’s the first of a couple of posts about projects that I have been involved with since October 2010,

The Autumn drew to a close with some fantastic shows with Christophe Willem and the team, I had to leave the last few dates of the tour to Mr Tim Speight as Production Audio Solutions was about to have the busiest time in it’s short history to date, we had Katherine Jenkins about to head out on tour to Germany, Australia, New Zealand and America, the spec was our full playback solution in a air freight friendly package. The result was a three way balancing act between flexibility, redundancy and size. The end product was a huge success with Alex heading out on those long hall flights he so loves to look after it all, i’m pleased to say from our end it all went without a glitch, and that was with late load-in’s tight connecting flights and all that Jazz.

While Alex was off around the world again I had a small corporate job with Delta Sound to do a London’s Excell Centre my main responsibility being flying the PA to facilitate the various different space combinations. Straight off the bounce of this I was in to the garage to put the finishing touches to the playback package for Jeff Wayne’s musical version of the War of the Worlds, Alive on Stage. As you’ll know I have been involved in this project since the first tour in 2006, this time round Production Audio Solutions were chosen to supply the redundant 48 track playback system based around Fostex D2424LV’s. Along side this in a major upgrade to the communication solutions used on previous tours we implemented a Riedel Artist Matrix the intension here was to join all the departments discreet comms systems together in order to allow improved cross department communication and remove the necessity for people to carry a maybe a couple of Motorola’s, a duplex comms pack and perhaps a set of IEM’s, which was my experience on the last tour. The Riedel system I designed integrated the Production Motorola’s, LX, Video and Stage commms along with links to the monitor desk allowing the Stage manager to talk directly to the guest artist with out them having to take their IEM’s (In Ear Monitors) out. Although we had a few interesting moments in rehearsals finessing how the system was to operate the net result was a great success

With Alex off with Katherine Jenkins I turned to my good friend PJ (Paul Johnson) to look after the String section and help with this comms package, this all worked out fantastically and was a great improvement on how the show had operated on previous tours. I look forward to the next tour of The War of the Worlds whenever that may be….

To Mr Simon Honywill thank you for the rouse we managed to have with the wheel from your incredibly expensive mixing chair.

Christophe Willem – Coffee Tour and Festivals

October 8th, 2010

So it was back in May when I got a email from Miss Sarah DeCourcey MD for the last couple of Kylie Minogue Tours her latest project was as Musical Director for French pop sensation Christophe Willem who first appeared in Nouvelle Star in 2006. Sarah was working with Steve Anderson on Christophe’s Coffee Tour, this was intended to be the biggest tour Christophe had undertaken to date encompassing lights sound and video in a fantastic live show. However he and the team had been let down both on the hardware that had been implemented and the people who were there to operate it. Sarah got my details from Kevin Hopgood, Jeff Waynes’The War of the Worlds Production Manager and Kylie Minogue Production Manger where Sarah has been Musical director for the last couple of tours. So I was asked to get involved with the Christope Willem show as the present tech had decided to leave and there had been a number of problems with the tracks not starting on time finishing early and there been problems with the lip sync of the video.
So after a few phone calls and a number of emails I was on a early morning flight from Gatwick to Montpellier to be honest not really knowing what I was letting my self in for or what I was going to encounter at the other end oh and becoming acutely reminded of my poor communication skills as far as speaking French was concerend. If you could just bare in mind my less than poor ability to communicate in French. First off lets talk about the video lip sync it wasn’t really lip sync it was more along the lines of being hidiously out of time because previous to my arrival the video was been triggered by the stage manager watching the ABS time on the front of the play back machines and calling a ‘GO’ into his comms the video operator was then pressing ‘Play’ on the video system, not in sync inconsistent. Oh my word right then, talk about Time Code 101! So thanks to Mr Nick Whitehouse stepping onboard just ahead of me and already pointing out the error of their ways, a sort piece of XLR had been added between the audio play back machines and the video system and the video system was put into ‘chase incoming LTC’ and would you believe it, it was in sync.

Well sort of there was a bit more work to be done at our end, the Playback machines being used were the Alesis HD2424 now I’m sure these machines were revolutionary and feature packed when the were released but Oh My WORD life has moved on in some dramatic ways since. Top of my list of failings is their ability to clock to anything other than 30fps yes we could rework all the video to accommodate this but my french still isn’t that good also all the audio tracks were created to 25fps. So this the fact that the hard drives will fall out of the front of the machine if you look at in the right way and their inability to chaise incoming code. Fundamentally make them a hugely inappropriate piece of equipment for this use. The work around was to create a LTC track in Logic and then simply send this straight to video world. Having the LTC printed on a audio track is nothing new but it is frustrating that the ABS time of the machine has no correlation what so ever to that of the LTC. On to their inability to clock to anything, so in order to layback the Logic sessions to the Alesis it’s like making a mix cassette years ago, with Logic lined up at the top of the song hit record on the Alesis then play in logic as quickly as possible. Oh and you have to lay the show back in show order as you cannot insert a song project only create one at the end. So reordering the set list is not possible unless the gap between songs is sufficient to navigate all the way up and down the set list.

So with the audio laid back for the show Sarah has a button that has been bodged into the remotes for the Alesis machines “Chough (MMC)” anyone? at the end of the song I have to stop both machines navigate to the next song in the set list then give a thumbs up to Sarah showing she is clear to start the song. In hindsight it is amusing to know that what six months ago I was describing how we achieved the playback on the Nolans with a much less error prone system is this progression or just a matter of doing it differently?

So system fudged and my second day on the project we did the first show where the video was in sync throughout and there was as little waiting for the playback to start as possible. Now the road has gone on and on from there, I continued the rest of the Coffee Tour and then onto a summer season of festivals, I had to dep two of the shows out to a good friend of mine PJ his first time on a playback show for me. Unfortunately it was by far one of the hottest now if you get the Alesis HD2424 too hot it just stops outputting audio the gig was so hot the machines were too hot to touch. One of the few positive things about this rack from Future Acoustics france’s premier supplier of playback packages so I’m told is the large amount of ventilation meaning it was a fairly simple fix to just get a couple of pedal fans and point them at the kit.
Summer season finished, we’ve now just finished a week of Band Rehearsals for the fourth coming Autumn / Fall Theatre tour. Unfortunately we are still on the Alesis machines not a package supplied by Production Audio Solutions mainly because Sarah and I have made it work so frustratingly production do not see it as a problem also I’ve noticed all of the pricing for this project seems to be on a per performance price from rental of equipment through to wages, I think this is not uncommon in France, all of my other touring and any other work for that matter has been based on number of days or weeks. Future Acoustics hired the play back package for 15 shows, the fact that this was across best part of 3 months doesn’t seem to bother anyone. Ludicrous but i’m the guest so how ever you normally do it.

Rant over, Christophe Willem is a fantastic artist he is really passionate about his work and works very hard for it. Sarah, Steve and the Band are a fantastic bunch of musicians and it is a real honour to be working along side them. I have also made some good friends and am working on my french thanks to the high level of english speaking amongst the french people on the team. Now headed back into the UK on the Eurostar, I so wish I’d been able to collect the points for all the train journeys I’ve completed. Special thanks to PJ for the summer festivals and to Mr Tim Speight who started this weeks rehearsals off in my absence and who is poised to look after the end half of the tour as I am already committed with The War of the Worlds.

October Already

October 8th, 2010

So it’s mid October nearly where did the last six months go?

After completing the Katherine Jenkins tour I was off to LIPA for what has now become my annual appearance with the final year Advanced Live Sound Module, where I discus various methods of show control and the current range of digital multicore systems.  It was only a brief two day trip this year but it was long enough for me to catch up with some old friends over a curry.

Grumpy Old Women – West End

Next stop was another project for Stage Sound Services, Grumpy Old Women 2 transferring into the Novello West End, Sound Design by Nick Manning. A fairly straight forward fit-up thanks to it having been on tour.

Christophe Willem – Coffee Tour

Now was time for a well earned holiday with the in-laws at their place in France best part of a nice two week break, apart from having to fly on Ryian air.  It is such a crime that they have managed to price proper carriers out of the market on a lot of routes.  So it was towards the end of this break that I got an email from a rather flustered Miss Sarah deCourcy along with Steve Anderson on the Christophe Willem Coffee Tour, in short things not going quite as they should I was asked to come in as Keys and Play Back tech starting as soon as possible.  So Volcanic Ash cloud letting us through we returned to the UK and I headed straight back out to France.

I arrived in Montpellier and discovered the reasons for the short comings.  See Separate post.

Production Audio Solutions

One of the main reasons for my absence of blog posts has been the amount of time I have devoted of late to getting Production Audio Solutions up and running a joint venture between Alex Bryson and my self.

I’ve also done other posts on Ghost Stories at the Duke of YorksCarmen at the O2, BBC Question Time at Dance East

Question Time at Dance East.

July 2nd, 2010

It’s not very often big productions or involved productions come to Suffolk so it was great to be involved with one of the more complex productions to visit Dance East’s new home in Ipswich when BBC Question Time came to town. Now the guys on the production do this gig every week along with Any Questions, so they are all over it. However bringing it into Dance East had it’s own set of problems, the building and the studio theatre space was only really conceived around a one truck tour. So parking up two arctic vehicles and a 18 toner along with personal vehicles and the security camper van it was almost like the circus was coming to town. The load in highlighted a few more faults with the fabric of the building, namely there are two 125a three phase supplies intended for the likes of OB vehicles, however they are sighted over dip traps that run outside brilliant you say, well it would be if the dip traps were big enough for you to get a 125a connector through or there was any drawer wire in there. So all that money wasted. Though it wasn’t all sad faces, thanks to the large amount of internal patch in the building we were able to save the video riggers a lot of time by utilising the house infrastructure to route the different signals to the desired locations round the building rather than propping doors open and alike.

Ghost Stories at the Duke of Yorks

June 26th, 2010

So assisting Nick Manning in his next West End Adventure putting Ghost Stories originally performed at the Lyric into the Duke of Yorks theatre.  It was to be a full on installation, of what I think might have been the highest number of EM Acoustics loud speakers in any location outside of their factory  all supplied by Phil Hurley at Stage Sound Services.  On top of what you could call the ‘regular’ proscenium, stage and delay speakers there was a full surround installation.  On top of all this the auditorium was dressed up like a building site/ derelict building this dressing was continued along the front of house corridors where we installed yet more EM-61’s EM-121’s and festoons of maplin drivers all this with trying to do as little amount of damage to the theatre as possible..  Thankfully there is a substantial amount of installed infrastructure in Duke of Yorks theatre from when the Royal Court Theatre were based there some years ago.  With out this it would have made things substantially more difficult.  My thanks to PJ and Alex for helping me   make it all work.  Best of luck with the team on the show, I hear it has had its run extended again.  Oh and the get out will be a good three to four day experience.

Carmen at the O2

May 18th, 2010

So one of the most exciting projects this summer was being involved with Carmen at the O2 for Autograph Sound Recording, you could say it was my ideal gig, nice big arena lots of speakers on a Bobby Aitken design.  Disappointingly due to working around my last minute involvement with the Christophe gig I was unable to stay the whole week at the O2, Sorry Jim.  But I did get to fly a boat load of Mayer line array in a no nonsense get on with it kind of way.