When Funkiphino needed to solve stage volume problems dealing with nightmare monitor mixes, we found that Aviom’s Pro 16 networks and Pro 64 networks had great connectivity with Yamaha digital consoles, which can be operated remotely over MIDI. With this type of connectivity, we are able to replace the FOH analog console, complete with snakes, power cables and racks full of outboard gear, with a wirelessly connected tablet PC. The whole system works seamlessly with our existing Pro 16 in-ear monitoring system.
Mark Halberstadt, Funkiphino FOH
These new PLM Series from Lab.gruppen eliminate the need for separate processing. Because they integrate signal distribution, drive processing, power amplification and performance monitoring into a single unit with a unified software controller, I simply recall the pre-programmed settings for different wedge monitors, ARCS, subs or thumpers. Built-in Dolby Lake processing means that I need one less unit in my rack and it allows me to have a spare amp just in case. This really helps keep the footprint of my monitor world quite small.
Here are some quick fixes for onstage sound: Try placing sidefills low on their side and angling them up with 2×4s. This reduces floor bounce and its resulting comb-filtering. Carpeting the floor can be the cheapest way to improve the sound onstage. To eliminate that ‘zone of confusion’ at the exact center point between sidefills, angle one upstage a few degrees. Or use a single small wedge downstage-center that’s delayed to synchronize it to the sidefills. If your singer stays DSC with a mic on a stand, try flipping one sidefill’s polarity for a clearer sound.
Here’s a useful tip for FOH or monitor engineers (especially with in-ear mixes), as well as broadcasters. Take your trusty noise gate (switched to ducking mode) and insert it in-line with the audience mics you’re sending to the performer’s in-ears or blending with your nightly 2-track recording or broadcast. Now, set up a mix that’s primarily the band and use an aux bus to send it to the unit’s key input. Set the gate’s key source to ‘external’ and make sure it’s set to ‘duck,’ not gate. You may have to ‘exercise’ the switch; it’s probably never been used! Use medium to slow attack and release time and set the range to about 6 to 9 dB. This results in an extra pair of ‘hands’ that drops the audience level 6 to 9 dB in your in-ear mix (or recording) by decreasing the level only when the band’s playing and raising it when the band stops. It’s no different than you would do manually while mixing, but the speed and depth of the moves are automatically dictated by the attack, release and depth controls.
When reinforcing large indoor opera, stage monitoring for soloists and chorus is critical. Keep the ondeck sound as “acoustic” as possible, but get maximum coverage around all action areas. Folding back spot mics in the orchestra with an “inverted orchestra foldback” approach reduces feedback issues. Typically, strings are placed throughout the pit opening, woodwinds are directly under the apron edge and brass/percussion are deeper understage. Use a set of flown stage-left/right downstage fills, and another set upstage. For the downstage fills, mix 10% strings, 50% winds and 70% brass/percussion. For upstage fills, mix 80% strings, 40% winds and 20% brass/percussion. If singers cannot hear themselves, reduce all onstage loudspeaker levels, and then adjust the balances. If still no luck, feed about 10% of 2.5-second vocal reverb to the upstage fills only. Never foldback lavalier mics to the stage.
Having trouble getting range out of your wireless mics or in-ear monitors on the road? Remember, height is your friend. Unless you are 20 feet away from the source, a mic stand will not get the antennas high enough for proper transmission/reception to the receiver. Use lighting stands to get antennas up at least 10 to 12 feet. This ensures a line of sight between our antennas and transmitters. With the current DTV environment, it is crucial to coordinate your frequencies. Almost all wireless manufacturers have updated DTV charts on their Websites or check out the FCC’s site. Getting a jump on the competition ahead of time may save you from a very long day on the road or in the studio!
I found that, starting out with another mic, I was driving it quite harshly and getting a lot more noise out of the board. Now, I’m not driving the mic amps as hard to get as much gain as I need, especially with Claudio [Sanchez], our lead singer. He’s got a very youthful voice — very soft, very high-pitched. Because he doesn’t push a lot of air with his vocals, the high gain of the 945 is very helpful. I have also put each of the four main members on Sennheiser EW 300 IEM G2 personal monitors. I remember one day taking my SPL meter up onstage as they were performing. With vocals through the monitors, sidefills and each musician with two 15-inch boxes in front of them, plus a drumfill, we had a volume of about 108 dB, A-weighted, onstage. The only musician on a wedge now is Dave Parker on keyboards.
When mixing IEMs, many new and upcoming mixers tend to just turn things up loud in the ears mix, which can burn the musician and the artist, and, in the end, destroys the FOH mix. Set the artist lead vocal to a normal level with a nice, smooth compression that makes him/her stay on the mic and keep the band mix full and tight, making them work and not hold back. Turn the lead vocal mic down to -10 or -15 dB. As the SPL is reduced in between songs, the limiter in the IEM pack opens up and the lead vocal, which is now the only thing in the mix, is now really loud, which will result in the artist holding back or getting off-mic, which can cause feedback.
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