I arrived in New Orleans the week of August 22, 2011. It took the entire first week, working 8 hour days, to put in the sound system. The show-to-show load-in takes about 12 hours now. There are several reasons why the production load-in takes so much time.
First, even though this system is very similar to other rigs I have toured with, it is the first time putting it together in a real space. It is also the first time putting it together with the scenic elements of this show. Another reason is that we take any extra time we need to make sure that everything is optimized for the next several months (or years if a show is fortunate). The last big reason for the extra time is that in the first city, unlike any other city on the itinerary, we put EVERYTHING out whether it is needed or not. Every fill speaker, the under-balcony system, the com multis to the spot booth (most houses have permanent dry lines), 70v system for backstage paging/program. Everything. It all gets tested and tuned (and changed, and tested, and tuned, and changed again)
Towards the end of the first week we begin setting production com. This is an entirely separate com package that is integrated into the show-to-show system only for technical rehearsals. For this show the stations included were the lighting designer, two associate lighting designers, a moving light programmer, special effects programmer, sound designer, associate sound designer, director, stage manager, and production table. The second photo gives a view of these tech tables from the back of the house. Keep in mind that once we get into previews all of this has to be put out at the beginning of each day and struck in the evening before we get an audience. More on that in Part 2.
Week two is spent finishing up lots of little projects and cleaning up and preparing for actors on stage. Things like conductor video monitors for the cast, cameras for stage management and automation safety shots, and any practical speakers installed in scenery are usually dealt with here. The electrics department will perform conventional light focus and program as much of the moving light focus as possible so most any work early in this week is done in relative darkness. At the beginning of this week I always wonder how we’ll fill the time but all of the little projects add up and it always seems like you are under the gun at the end of the week.
The first part of the second week is also when we get our quiet time for system tuning. Here, we had two four hour sessions at the end of the regular call to tune with SIM. The merits of using SIM to tune a system that’s going to be in a different room almost every week are certainly open to question. But I don’t have the answer so it will have to be questioned somewhere else. From what I can tell the objective is to try to correct system interactions and not necessarily create a blueprint that is expected to work in every room. I’ll leave it at that. Practically, I can tell you that I very rarely change any eq on the output side. I can typically address any room issues on the input eq side of the matrix (vocal bus, band L/R, etc.). I’ll make a future entry about my week-to-week tuning procedure.
An interesting sidenote: This was the week of Hurricane Irene on the east coast. Consequently, the originally scheduled SIM operator was unable to fly from New York and our Associate Designer had to step up and drive the rig. He had taken the class with 6o6 but this was his first major system tuning. He did a great job and the rig sounds very nice.
At the end of week two I make a quick trip back to NYC to see a run-through in the rehearsal studio. It may seem like a silly expense but this is an invaluable tool in helping me to get prepared to mix the show. The notes I’m able to take in these few hours allow me to mark a script and program the console to be ready for tech. This saves much time and frustration. Stopping a rehearsal because I am unable to keep up is simply not an option.
New Orleans Part 2 will be about our technical rehearsals and why they were different than any other show I’ve ever been a part of.