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Recording Bloopers

Member for

17 years 2 months
Just to have some fun, vent a little, and perhaps add some spice to the forum, I thought we could all share some horror stories while they're still fresh.

As the season winds down, you may have a couple of good ones to share as well.

Most of my gigs go quite well, with a lot of repeat clients who know their stuff, but horror stories can still happen.... :twisted:

My latest was just over the weekend, a live dual-choir recording at a church in North Philadelphia. It was potentially a dream gig, considering the pedigree of both choirs (who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty in this case).

Somewhere along the line, three of the members of the "host" choir decided they wanted to get a recording of the performance (without double-checking with the music director) and asked the host church's sound engineer to be onsite as well, and make a recording from his own equipment. (A more bizarre hodge-podge of gear from analog to digital workstation you'll not see anywhere, all up in a 2nd floor balcony/gallery area that's not easily accessible from the main church's floor. Potential for trouble: EXTREME.)

So, as I arrive to set up prior to the rehearsal and confer with the two music directors, what to my wondering eyes appear, but: a FORREST of cardioid dynamic stand-mounted mics (at least a dozen all told) in various places around the front of the choir area, plus a spot mic taped inside the piano over the bass strings, and other assorted atrocities. All this tied somehow to several years worth of PA speaker zones and upgrades: big cabinets, underhang boxes, stage monitors, etc.

The 'rehearsal" was now about to turn into a sound check - for the PA system, of course. Why they needed a PA with 120-plus voices in a wonderful acoustic space was eluding them, I guessed....

I remained calm (which isn't always the case, but hey, I'm getting too old for this stuff to blow my stack at the first sign of trouble!) and took a moment with both music directors, and as nicely as I could, I asked: "Why do you need a PA system, and would you consider turning it off, since you're paying ME to make a fundraiser CD recording of the event?"

They huddled for a moment, and since no one was ultimately incharge (it wasn't really the "Home" church for either group), they went with the flow and kept the PA system in play, "just in case" they needed it. I politely yet firmly warned them that it could compromise the recording (oh boy!) but we proceeded.

To be fair, the sound guy was pleasant, cooperative (in addition to my own mics, he gave me a two-channel, mono feed from his board - which he swore was stereo) and we proceeded. He was also completely inept and knew little about the board and live sound in general, blaming it all on a bad installation he inherited there. During a rehearsal with a soprano/boy-soprano duet (You guessed it: Andrew Lloyd Webbers "Pie Jesu") only one of their two solo mics worked. One howled in feedback while he was down on the church floor, away from the console, and the other one was dead. They got it working - just barely - by showtime.

In addition to setting up my own mics for the choir et al, I had asked for various spot mic feeds since his board had six sub sends, but when it came time to make it happen, he realized the subs were dedicated to feeding other things, like VCRs, Cassettes, Crying-rooms, etc. No patch bay, no way to get me individual sends. We then dashed to set up our own spot mics afterall. (Which we should have done anyway.)

The worst moment came during a piece (that was NOT sound-checked) with an incredible soprano solo during a Negro Spiritual: I Wanna Be Ready. Using the solo mic that WAS working (with its input set WAY too loud) this wonderful, wailing, emotional solo turned into a kazoo blast through the PA system & monitors. (You know what I'm talking about: sinewaves turned into squarewaves due to total and complete clipping.)

I literally had to get up from where I was set up (also in the loft/balcony) and go into the booth and SHOW him how to cut back the input trim & overall gain on the Soprano; it was deafening the first ten rows (where the PA's center cluster was doing the most damage) and bleeding into every other mic there. (His comment was: "Gee, she's LOUD!" ((well, duh!!! It's a GOSPEL soprano; what did you expect?!?!?))

All in all, though, most of it came out pretty well. (I'll be doing some sleight of hand with Sequoia fixing THIS one up, though.) The only piece I'm sure we wont be using is the blown-out Soprano vocal, which I've already warned the music director about; it seems completely ruined.

Funniest part was when we were packing up to go, the house-sound guy had already burned his CD recording, was now playing it on the church's sound system, and was giving out copies to the three guys who asked him to do this. I pointed all this out to the music director (who's selling OUR recording as a fundraiser in a few weeks) who promptly went "upside his head" and not only took the master away from him, got the other copies back as well. 8-)

And believe it or not, I had a good time overall; the music was fantastic, and I just might have snagged the guest choir as a new client.


Member for

15 years 11 months

RemyRAD Tue, 06/06/2006 - 10:56
I like your idea Joe! Here's a good one.

I was working at NBC-TV in Washington DC engineering sound for Tom Brokaw's nightly news when I received a call for a last-minute job downtown DC. I was asked if I could stand in for an audio engineer that had just come down with the flu for a large Howard University variety/awards program, with the Sheffield Video Truck. Now this is a lovely large semi- trailer of the multimillion dollar variety. Because I was on the air and could not get away from NBC until 7 p.m., I would have to miss the rehearsal and then scramble downtown, jump into the truck and without a rehearsal, begin engineering the show audio. Now this is quite a task in an unfamiliar control room to begin with. I was told I would have to also deal with 10 wireless mike's. To which I asked " who is handling the RF stuff?". I was told a professional had been hired to deal with all of the transmitters and receivers providing me with an output of the discrete feeds of each receiver. So I thought that this would make the job a piece of cake?? BROTHER WAS I WRONG!

This "professional fool" that had quite an expensive integrated rig of numerous top-of-the-line Sony UHF diversity wireless receivers and transmitters, with numerous amplified receiving antenna arrays, tested each transmitter before show time, I was told. I was quite nervous as there was an audience involved and this would all be live to tape but I am quite good so I knew I could cut the mustard. What happened next was quite unbelievable.

The musical variety portion of the program involved numerous singers and dancers all on wireless microphones. What the "professional fool RF" guy unfortunately did not pay attention to is....... ALL MICROPHONES WERE ON THE SAME CHANNEL!!!!!! So when I took the cue for that particular persons microphone, it was somebody else's! Then that person was knocked off frequency and another person popped in, followed with another person, then another! They were popping in and out all over the place and only on a single fader on the board! What it came down to was anybody that was close to the receiving antennas would be the only signal received at that moment in time until someone else danced close enough with another transmitter to that antenna in which case it would jump to that person. A TOTAL FIASCO!!! CAN YOU SAY HEART ATTACK?? I almost had one. Everything that was wired to me was perfectly fine but this was a big portion of the " musical variety show" and it was a complete flop because of the "professional RF fool". C'est la vie

The director and producer's realized that the RF guy turned the show into a complete abortion. Quite unfortunate as it would have been an incredible production. Trying to keep a handle on that many wireless microphones is a specialty unto itself, especially in the over RFed world in downtown Washington DC and requires a very competent well-educated engineer. What was he thinking???

I love doing live crap because it can turnout so.....crappy when real professionals aren't used.
Ms. Remy Ann David

Member for

15 years 11 months

RemyRAD Tue, 06/06/2006 - 11:20
OK, you know how women can talk? Here's another good one!

Not quite seven years ago, NBC 4 in Washington DC decided to go all digital. During this incredible conversion process, a new digital audio console was also to be installed. I had seen the newer SSL digital audio console's at the AES show convention in New York City. It was there that they were also displaying what SSL referred to as their first for television, "live on-air console". It was very similar to the SSL AxiomMT digital board. It was called the SSL AsysAir digital console. We all know the quality of the SSL line of consoles in the studio. Well, NBC 4 management chose that you SSL Asys board. So I Figured It Was Probably a Good Pick Also but I really didn't know much about the board?

It was installed and it was one of the first in the nation with operating system 1.0. Now this worried me a little bit as I don't know of any computer operating system or software that ever worked well with version 1.0. It was a 32 fader desk, that was also dual layered. You had to press a button to switch between inputs 1 -32 and inputs 33 -64. Now I thought this a bit impractical for on air purposes during primetime news in a highly competitive market? That was only part of the problem.

We were into sweeps week and during the 6 p.m. news with our most highly respected news anchor Jim Vance the computer, which was downstairs from the control surface in the control room, crashed! The console froze! You could not turn a fader up or do anything with it! It was dead. We went to commercials.

The biggest problem with this particular SSL desk was that it was not a single piece of equipment. It was comprised of numerous outboard digital routers, analog-to-digital converters, digital and analog converters, preamplifier's, etc. and once the console is shut off, it must be powered up with a very specific sequence of timed events. You could not just switch off and switch on! If you did power up the desk with the proper sequence of events, it would still require 4 minutes to do so! Our commercial sets were not usually more than 2 minutes long.

OK four minutes had passed and YOU GUESSED IT! The maintenance engineers switched off the console and then switched it all on at once. 4 minutes later we're ready to go back on air and that's right, NOTHING! NO SOUND NO OPERABILITY STILL DEAD! So I'm screaming that the maintenance engineers must reinitialize the console with the proper sequence of events! 8 minutes of commercials later and we were ready to go back on the air again. EIGHT MINUTES OF COMMERCIALS DURING PRIMETIME NEWS! Do you suppose we lost our audience?? At least it provided the viewing audience enough time to down a complete sixpack of beer!

I'll take another Dunkle Hefe' Wiezen please. Make that a double!
Ms. Remy Ann David (hic)

Member for

17 years 2 months

JoeH Tue, 06/06/2006 - 16:52
Live broadcast stuff is nOT for the faint of heart, absolutely.

I recall a live event back in the early 90's (long before ISDN) that was SUPPOSED to be a live broadcast from the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. The phone lines were run, tested and ready to go. So we thought, at least as of Friday a.m. two days prior to the event.

When our remote truck got there at 11 a.m. that Sunday (for a 3 p.m. live b'cast), there were NO MORE PHONE LINES.

Seems the Bell Telephone crew (long before there was a Bell Atlantic or Verizon) had the paperwork wrong; they'd installed the line on a Monday, and removed it on a Friday. The gig was SUNDAY. D'oh!

After that, we began a policy of putting a 1k tone generator on the line the moment the install was ready, and it was checked daily, up until the broadcast date, to make sure it was still "ON". :roll:

Member for

15 years 1 month

BRH Mon, 08/21/2006 - 13:19
Remy, you crack me up, honey!
About that 10 wireless on the same frequency bit. I ask myself, how is this
possible? A comedy of errors. Who would sell someone 10 mics on the same frequency? Who would rent 10 mics on the same frequency, without saying something like, "hey buddy, are you sure you want to do that?"
Thought this was possbly a joke........ but it almost happened here at my full time college job. The "head" of the audio/visual dept. got a price quote for some rental gear for a show. Included were 4 radio mics specified to be on the same frequency. Someone showed it to me and I said "Huh?!" What the F@#$! That's wrong. Handed it back... stayed away from that show.
About those wireless anyway. We are using them WAY too much. Got a punch of cameras?...... heck, just wire everyone and "they will deal with it in the mix!." Usually ends up with too much room sound and bad perspective.
The crap you gotta wade through.........

Member for

15 years 11 months

RemyRAD Mon, 08/21/2006 - 16:38
BRH, NO, REALLY! The RF fool on the Howard University job was the owner of this rather costly multiple Sony wireless microphone rig. I think he consumed all of the drugs that had been reserved for me?? I couldn't be at the rehearsal, because I was still working for NBC-TV and was brought in at the last minute because the original contracted sound engineer got terribly sick. I couldn't be there for the rehearsal, so I was flying blind. Now, these particular microphones were not sold on a single frequency basis but rather had fully adjustable and configurable UHF TV based channels! And for somebody who owned the rig, I can't for the life of me understand how he could have had all the transmitter packs adjusted to the same channel??? Truly incredible!

Can you hear me now? Good.
Ms. Remy Ann David

Member for

19 years 9 months

Thomas W. Bethel Tue, 08/22/2006 - 05:46
Well we have all had our share of screwups.

I was doing a live broadcast of the Cleveland Opera. We were about five minutes from the end of the opera when a stage hand trying to get out early and beat the rush goes out a door that he is not suppose to use and cuts our ISDN line so the end of the opera and the commentators outro do not get broadcast.

I was working at home and got an EMERGENCY call from a local church high school that was doing Jacob and the Amazing Dream Coat at a converted movie theater nearby. Their sound and lighting engineer had a nervous breakdown (you will understand why shortly) and they were opening that night and could I come up and get them going. I got to the theater and was greeted by the director who informed me that their sound and lighting engineer had ordered all the equipment and what was there would be what I could use. He had spent most of the budget on renting 6 Vari lights and with what was left he had rented a hodgepodge of mismatched audio gear that was sitting in a pile on the floor by the stage. There were some speakers, some microphones, some wireless microphones and a Mackie audio console. With the help of one of the students from the high school we set it all up and got some sound out of the speakers. There were all kinds of problems that the would be sound engineer had not considered and we were strapped for equipment and for microphone cables which he had "forgotten" to rent along forgetting to rent, a snake. It was a mess. But we got it working by borrowing some cables and a snake and some additional equipment from the theater . I was sitting down after busting my butt for three and a half hours non stop when the "administrator" for the high school comes over to me and says. We are not paying you to sit around so why don't you go home. I said OK and left sending them my bill for RUSH service which they paid. I don't know how the show came off but one of the reviews said the lighting was better than the sound-go figure!

I was doing a live broadcast of a radio show using some ISDN lines in a remote location. The broadcast went off well but until three minutes before the show was suppose to go on we did not have a working ISDN line. We later found out that someone had "used" the lines for a telephone hookup since the person in the cable room at the telephone company (Verizon) was new, did not know what the tags on the lines meant, and after verifying that there was nothing on the lines used them for a telephone line she was installing. Talk about white knuckle time.

We were doing a remote recording in a Church. The Father was very nice and we got set up and ready to record. Just when the choir started coming in the lights on our console started to go dim and then out. The good father had given us a dim able AC feed and when the house lights went down so did our AC feed. We got it working but we lost the first five minutes of the concert. We now carry a UPS to all gigs.

Great Topic

Member for

20 years 7 months

FifthCircle Tue, 08/22/2006 - 08:23
Thomas W. Bethel wrote: We were doing a remote recording in a Church. The Father was very nice and we got set up and ready to record. Just when the choir started coming in the lights on our console started to go dim and then out. The good father had given us a dim able AC feed and when the house lights went down so did our AC feed. We got it working but we lost the first five minutes of the concert. We now carry a UPS to all gigs.

Great Topic

I think we all have a power story like this... Mine was doing a choir concert at this church. The choir brought all sorts of lighting and when the show started, they turned them all on. They blew several circuits instantly. The electrician then started turning all the circuits on and off- including the plugs in the sacristy (where I was set up). Lost the first couple minutes of sound- luckily it was just opening remarks. I went out and purchased a UPS the next day.


Member for

17 years 2 months

JoeH Tue, 08/22/2006 - 15:50
I'm glad to see this thread active again. I've got a new horror story to relate, and I've been debating posting it or not, and I don't believe in responding to unprofessional behavior with what might just be seen as carping. I also have the proof: AV clips that I MIGHT put on "YouTube" at some point, if I can find a way to expose the guilty and protect the innocent. ;)

If nothing else, I may post an audio clip here, of the worst moment from the folk show on day 3.....we'll see, I guess....

Part 1. Whatever Happened to Professional Courtesy?

Background: This was a recent outdoor, 3-day event (in the middle of the recent broiling July heat wave) with Orchestra rehearsals on day 1, Orchestra concert on Day 2 and 2 singer-songwriter headliners for Day 3. It is a local cultural venue not far from here that is celebrating its 100 Year Anniversary and in addition to several musical projects we've done with them, we're hired for an ongoing DVD production about the facility, its history, its features, etc. (Full access, in other words, to shoot HD video; it's a 2 yr production schedule from start to finish.)

Keep in mind that my company is involved with this client for the next 18 months and well beyond, so rocking the boat (at least at first) was not an option; I HAD to make nice to the knuckle-headed outside sound contractors, because I didn't know who was greasing-whom yet.

Recording AV for this event was included in the DVD budget, and our job was to shoot both days of concerts with multicamera HD video, and interface with the live PA (outside contractor) people. My advance emails and phone calls to the people in charge of this particular event didn't get me far, in fact an in-house contact (an employee of MY client who should have known better) didn't help much either in terms of coordination. Every email I sent this guy was responed with: "I am the director of...." (More concerned with telling me WHO he is, than answering my questions...BIG warning flag that I missed totally.)

Early on, it was starting to smell like none of these on-site live contractor sound folks were taking the "Movie" people (that would be US) seriously.

I was told by "Mr. I'm In Charge" we'd have full access, multiple outs from the main console, and the ability to mic a full symphony orchestra the way WE needed to, to captuer the audio properly for the commemortative DVD. There was also a 20minute piece of symphonic music commissioned/written specificially for this event, so a lot was riding on it all to come out right. (The composer is a good client of mine, as well.)

From the moment I arrived and saw the aging rock'n'roll JBL sound system setup, I sensed hostility and unwillingness to cooperate from the live sound guy - no hello, no friendly chat about strategy or mic placement, no desire to cooperate at all; just a grizzled, semi-mute dehydrated, slovenly dressed burnout who mainly ignored any and all direct questions, giving me mostly blank stares when I asked direct questions. (I'm serious. I think maybe he'd gone deaf!) In spite of what I'd been assured, there were NO multiple console feeds available (all 8 or 10 of them were all being used, he said - god knows what for - this was a classical & folk concert, barely even any reverb being used, other than lead vocs. Go figure.)

In place of some kind of "hello" or conversation, he gave me an earful on all the classical people he'd worked with in the area, as well as a couple of choice vulgar comments on what idiots he thought they all were. (I guess he just didn't care that I was one of them, and knew everyone he was speaking about?)

My offer to provide a transformer-split stage snake was rebuffed with: "No, we already have one." 20 minutes before the dress rehearsal downbeat, the entire crew were all at the console, frantically trying to figure out which mic was on which line, doing it the old-fashioned way: Plugging in one mic at a time and turning it up to the point of feedback. (With 75 mucisians onstage, and clients all around, mind you.) My request for a stage plot/mic list was ignored - to be fair, I'm sure they simply had NO IDEA what mics were patched where. (I think it was sunstroke, among other things going on that day...)

I asked them at that point: "No problem, I'll just do the same thing at my end, and plug 'em in one at time. WE're isolated, RIGHT????" They gulped and said: Errrrr, no, you're on the monitor mic side of the stage box with our feed, which is NOT transformer isolated, but you'll be ok."

Rrrrrrrrrrrright. (You can just see this coming, eh?)

The moment I plugged in line #1 into my console inputs (with phantom power OFF) it was: POW!!!!!!!!!! the loudest, rudest bang exploded out of the FOH mains. (Of course, few knew it was ME backstage, everyone glared at them instead.)

I bagged this idea immediately, and decided from then on they were just useless slugs, (an embarassment to good Live PA folks everywhere) and put up my own pair of DPA 4006's for the orchestra mains, and mic'd the dress rehearsal that way. In true rock and roll fashion, all the onstage mics were AKG 1000's or cheaper (model # escapes me right now) and several Sennheiser MD421's on the brass. Oh, and a few really beatup AKG 451B's on the winds. (This was a rock'n'roll PA company, so every instrument got a mic.....four flute mics (!!!) five brass mics (imagine!) and all kinds of other silly, inappropriate stuff for an upscale orchestral crowd that could have heard most of it all just fine with half that number of mics - not to mention the ugly, nasty comb filtering going on, coming out the PA mains.)

As rehearsal began (nearly 20 minutes late due to staging problems and mic patching) , a near constant 400-440 drone of feedback floated around in the monitors and mains, and got worse every time the conductor tried to use the HH wireless to address the orchestra or plead with the sound people to sort it out.

My client (the DVD coordinator/factility boss) and the composer came up to me at one point and said: "Can you imagine having to do something like this?" Thinking it was a rhetorical question, I said: "Yes, I used to do this all the time, and it sure wouldn't work out THIS badly!" They then said: "Oh, so the sound doesn't HAVE to be this bad? Can you do it for us next year?"

Still being a nice dumb schmuck and not trying to cause any problems, I said: "Hey, give them a few moments; they'll sort it out; they're no doubt getting levels for each mic, and little by little, the mix will improve, I"m sure." They said: "Oh yeah? Well there's NO ONE at console right now, (it was deserted for god knows what reason, in the middle of the rehearsal) ,and it sure ain't getting any better!"

Things did improve by the end of the rehearsal evening, but not by much, and I learned quite a few things that night about being Mr. Nice Guy to a fault. So much for being ignored and no cooperation; I was ready for day 2.

Fool me once....

End of Part 1

Member for

15 years 1 month

BRH Tue, 08/22/2006 - 17:12
That's funny. The reason it didn't sound good to you was because you weren't smoking from the same pipe! That's why nobody was at the board...they had to reload.
Can't wait for Part 2 and 3.
I'm guessing you were double system, PA being different and it all didn't sync right in the end and was a big PITA.

Member for

19 years 9 months

Thomas W. Bethel Tue, 08/22/2006 - 17:55
Been there done that.

I can't wait for the other parts......

We we hired to do a concert in a converted movie theater. The sound company that they hired to do the PA was local and they were problematic from the get go. We were doing the recording and the radio show. They were doing the concert sound. We asked to get a split from their splitter but were told that they did not have a splitter and only had the feeds to their board which were direct into the microphone pre amps and from there fed at line level to the monitor mixer. So we asked to hook up our splitter to which they replied that it would cost $200.00 payable in CASH for the split.

Lots of talking lots of getting the record company and the hall promoter involved along with the radio station and someone came up with the $200 and we could split the microphones using our splitter. So we setup and get ready to record but there is hum on almost every channel. So we do some ground lifts (built into the splitter and we are in luck) then we start getting each feed identified and checked out. No stage plot no mic list. I go out on stage and bang out each microphone for the PA guys and for us. Most of the microphones looked like they were dragged behind the truck coming over. I ask if we can substitute some of our microphones for the "damaged" ones and am told no that if we want to change out microphones it will cost us $15.00 per microphone for them to change to our microphones and we would have to sign an agreement stating that they were not responsible for the sound in the theater.

So I decide to set up our own microphones next to their microphones but the sound "engineer" does not like the idea and nixes it. More talking to the radio station, the management of the theater and the artist get involved.

It is 28 degrees F outside and I have to keep going between the van and the the theater and we had to park about 50 feet from the venue due to fire laws. WE finally arrive at a settlement and we setup our microphones but of course our splitter is still in line so we start taking out our feeds and plugging them into the remote snake so we can have our microphones fed to the truck. The sound engineer comes down and says we are upsetting the ground scheme and we should remove all the microphones from the splitter and let him plug in his microphones into his console. OK so we start to unplug his microphones and he comes over and says it will cost us another $100 dollars for him to unconnected our splitter. I go talk to the record company and radio station and they convince the guy to let us unconnected for NO CHARGE. He is not looking too happy.

So we get setup about 1 hour before the sound check and everything on our side is find BUT he is running the PA so loud with so much bass and treble that the whole theater is booming and echoing so we have to abandon our crowd microphones and only use the close up Mic's on stage. We have a 24 input console and the star wants 32 microphones on the drums (because that is what she plays ) and has a very large drum set (actually two drum sets put together with lots of Latin percussion and play toys. WE agree on 12 microphones for the drums and the rest are used for band (Country Western). Everything is checked and double checked and it is all working. I look at the incoming AC voltage and it is about 115 VAC. I would like to have it a bit higher but what the heck. As the theater fills up for the show and the stage lights come up the voltage drops to about 100 VAC. Luckily we have a buck and boost transformer arrangement and so we boost up the voltage. We are now back at 110 and holding. We ran a separate AC power for the heater in the van and a separate feed for the audio and the heater seems to be putting out a lot less heat all of a sudden and we measure the voltage and it is 85 VAC and dropping. So we abandon the AC heater altogether and are prepared to freeze or to start up the van. I stays about 55 degrees in the van with the record company exec, myself, my assistant engineer and the radio station engineer sitting in the van all dressed for watching a hockey game.

The concert is about to start when I get a knock on the truck . I open the door and it is the "star's "engineer" / boy friend/ soul mate who has decided to mix the show (he was otherwise occupied during the sound check and the sessions before the concert) so I make room for him and send my assistant into the theater. The concert goes off well with way too much level from the PA system getting into our microphones but the station is pleased, the record company is pleased and we have everything captured to tape for the first reel of the show (since the assistant engineer's job was to break the tape(s) and put new tapes on it never got done.) oops oh well. I break the bad news to the record exec but he is not concerned because this was such a mess to begin with he really did not want the concert taped. The radio station is not so pleased and really wanted the tapes for later airing but too bad and I tell him that last minute changes are NOT a good idea and he agrees. So we pack up, drive home and have a good laugh about the whole mess.

The venue fired the sound company, they did not get paid and were put on the black list for the theater so I guess all their creating problems were for naught and the only thing they got out of the concert was the $200 they got paid for hooking up our splitter. I hope that was worth their time and trouble.

Member for

17 years 2 months

JoeH Tue, 08/22/2006 - 18:20
Tom, that's another incredible story, alright. I can't BELIEVE how you are able to suffer through these things so nobly (Well, maybe I CAN, but....)

Maybe we all need to have bodyguards or agents to kick some butts, eh?

I like the ending to your story - that S.O.B. who was CHARGING you for every little connect and disconnect should never be allowed to work professionally again. just UNREAL.

But as always, I think we all tend to put up with this stuff as it's happening, because for the moment, anyway, we have no choice and choose NOT to lower ourselves to their miserable, bottom-feeder positions in life.

I love doing live sound, (which is less and less these days) but I can't believe how many mean, grouchy burnouts I've encountered lately. They should just quit if it's that tough a gig for them.

Before I get to Parts 2 and 3 of my horror story, one other tale from ANOTHER recent event: My AV crew was sub-contracted to do video cams and multitrack audio recording of a HS graduation. We did not work directly for the client, but another AV producer, so my hands were tied the whole event, and I had to smile and ask for more while putting up with stuff I would NEVER have allowed otherwise.

Long story short; The live sound company was a miserable pack of incompetants who would NOT cooperate with us, would not take our split (we had it ALL mic'd and ready to go before they even arrived - 2 hrs before showtime). We offered them line outs, submixes, the works. Nope! The were three hours late for the load-in sound check, and were miffed that we'd put up all our own mics ahead of time.

These bozo's (name escapes me, otherwise I'd name names here, really) said their "CONTRACT" prevented them from using other peoples mics. (Translation: we're not gonna play ball with you!) WHen finally cornered, they said (i'm not making this up!) that our WINDSCREENS werern't as good as theirs (ours were actually better, but I don't think they'd seen professional mics before), so they were NOT going to take a feed or split from us.

In the end, we had double mics up for all the podiums, and they used one lone mic (a cardioid dynamic) pointed at the orchestra, and one lone mic pointed at the choir. So, the PA spit out a very nice solo saxophone (nearest the mic) and and one or two soloists who were unlucky enough to be near the other mic.

Fortunately, the video came out great, as did the multitrack mix of the audio. Client is happy, and we're lobbying to do the whole thing next season, including the live PA. If we get the gig again, I'll gladly post the name of the bozo sound company from Sun Valley, PA that did the live audio. They are another bunch of incompetants that give live sound a bad name. :evil:

Member for

19 years 9 months

Thomas W. Bethel Wed, 08/23/2006 - 07:04
OK so we get to the church to record a children's choir and start to set up. The minister comes up to us and tells us that we cannot run microphone or line level cords across the aisles since it is against the fire laws and he has been warned before. We are going to be setup in the Sacristy and try to figure out how we are going to get our microphone cables from the church choir area to the Sacristy without going across any aisles. We did not bring our snake and we had a case full of microphone cables but were not sure what was covered by "not crossing an aisle" did that mean on the floor or could we string our cables at 8 feet up and not be in violation of the fire code. After a lot of searching we find that there is a vent between the church choir and the Sacristy which looks like we can remove and replace after the concert. Our microphone lines are all strung and we are getting ready for the concert.

The choir director of the children's choir and I go way back to 1990 and we have a good working relationship. However this concert is NOT going to be directed by the normal Choir Director and is instead being directed by a guest conductor. No problems except that any attempts to talk to this person is met with "don't have time for this now possibly later" or "can't this wait until after the concert?" which makes conversations very short. We roll the DAT and the CD burner at 7:00 pm because the concert is suppose to start at 7:00 pm and I don't want to miss the processional which this particular choir director is famous for starting without telling anyone. So we are rolling for 10 minutes and no choir. We are in the Sacristy and cannot see into the church and so I send my assistant out to see what is going on, Of course as soon as he leaves the processional starts. He comes back and tells me that the director has decided to sing the first song from the back of the church (nice he told us) but without wireless microphones we would not be able to record it anyways since we could not cross any aisles. The rest of the concert goes off without a hitch. After the concert is over and we are striking the director comes up to me and asks why we did not have microphones on the choir for the first number and I explain the ministers admonition and that I did not know about the first song being sung in the back and of course the choir director says "well why didn't you tell me this before or ask me about what was going on" I was going to just punch him in the nose and be done with it but I thought better of it and just said "I'm sorry we did not get a chance to communicate before the concert" which was the truth but not because I didn't try.

Some choir directors need to be boiled in there own stupidity and I would like to nominate this person to be the first one in line.....

Member for

17 years 6 months

Cucco Wed, 08/23/2006 - 07:12
I don't think I have anything as bad as the last few here...but....

1st -

I was contracted to record a school event for a local school which was being shut down after 100 years. The event was being held outdoors on their football field which was over 500 feet away from the school. There was no power at the field (they never actually played night games there!).

I was also forced to set up a minimum of 300 feet from the ensembles. The problem was, it was outdoors, no power, huge cable runs and a chance of rain! (Because of which, I chose not to use a lot of my own microphones and used either borrowed 57s or some other dynamics when I got there.)

Well...the ensembles were 2 concert bands, 2 choirs, 2 orchestras (all school-level). All of the ensembles were set up in a line and each group would perform a piece then the next group would perform and so on. turns out that the only power we could get to the field was coming from one circuit in the school. The guy doing live sound and myself had to come from the same circuit (which was apparently only 10 amps!) Needless to say, as soon as there was peak (such as a wind blast or loud spot in the orchestra), it pushed the amperage over the limit and circuit would trip.

So...I had to end up using direct feeds from the live sound guy's board. The problem is though, he had set everything up as mono. He used some no-name condensers with no windscreens over each group - 1 per group. I had to high-pass everything at about 220 Hz and try to create a stereo sound out of mono. (I used the other microphones as "ambience" and created stereo from that.)

In all, the disc sounded horrible, but it was the best I could do.

2 -

I recently recorded a live concert of a rather famous 70's pop artist. The live sound guy was the absolute biggest JACKASS you'd ever meet. And by big, I mean BIG. The guy was pushing 400 pounds (seriously!).

As soon as he got on site, he started bitching. According to him, his rider with the orchestra required the orchestra to have 4 strong, able-bodied MEN available to help him with load in. (Above and beyond his two support staff). He bitched and moaned because the only people working the stage that day were 3 small (and quite cute I might add) young ladies. So, he started barking orders at me to start unloading things out of his truck.

I kindly went to the director of the orchestra (with whom my contract is with) and explained to him that I would gladly do the work if HE would like me to because I did in fact arrive 4 hours before I even needed to be there and thus had some extra time.

I was told that I would have access to direct outputs from his console for things such as solo vocal, drums, etc. and that they wouldn't allow splitting. Also, I was told I could direct mic the piano and the orchestra with my own mics.

This JACKASS YELLED at me when I began micing the piano. I mean YELLED. Something along the lines of "What the F*CK do you think you're doing? Are you stupid or something? You can't use your own mics, it's against our contract!!!" I asked him to produce his contract, which he could not. So, I began flying my overheads.

When I went to the back and asked him when I could begin patching into the direct outs on his board, he again called me names and yelled at me. He was saying things like..."How long have you been doing this?" Have you ever recorded anyone FAMOUS before?" "You can't record their voices, it's against the law!! You'll break their copyrights and trademarks on their voice!!"

So, in other words, this guy wouldn't even allow me to take patches out of his live sound rig.

So...I recorded the entire event with a pair of Schoeps CMC64s in ORTF over the orchestra and CMC62s on the balcony so that I could at least pick up her voice over the PA.

When I took the 2 track bounce down to the artist's manager, he was delighted that I could get it to him so quickly and stated that George (her sound guy) would usually get it to her 6 to 8 weeks later! (Ah, so that's it...he didn't want me to give her the 2 track!!!!!)

When the show was completed and it was time to strike, George (the big, dumb, smelly, oafish sound guy) muttered something about being tired and needing a drink and walked out of the hall leaving his two lackey's (who, btw, were smarter and better than he was and NICE too!) to strike everything (including the 64 input Crest which had been gracefully propped up on theater seats).



Member for

19 years 9 months

Thomas W. Bethel Thu, 08/24/2006 - 06:28
I use to do a lot of concert sound work. I also do a fair amount of on location recording. I can see both sides of the problems that seem to develop when two different sound contractors are working the same job. Most times it comes down to communication between the sound guys (or gals) and the recording guys (or gals).

I have done some very complex shows where there had to be a lot of give and take between the recording and concert sound people and most times if you start off on a good footing it continues though out the concert. I always try and meet with the "other half" of the team way before the event and get some ground rules established. You can also judge what the other half will be like to work with given the pre concert planning meeting.Even with some pre concert planning what is discussed either does not filter down to the people who are doing the show or they take it upon themselves to rewrite the ground rules once they get to the venue.

Most of the problems I have run into on the road are because you are going by what is written into the contract and have not had a chance to talk in person with the other professional that is going to be working with you. Sometimes you are the only professional doing the gig. I have worked with concert sound engineers who are on something or have consumed large quantities of some alcoholic beverage and they are in a velvet haze. One such gentlemen was using some serious pharmaceuticals and was also smoking a lot of weed. He literally was holding onto the console to keep himself from falling down and he was so far gone that he thought he was doing an outstanding job but his reflexes were so slow that it took him a full two minutes to get a feedback under control.

I have also worked with some people on the recording side that were so into what they were doing that they messed up my concert sound to the point where the provider threatened to not pay us for the gig. In one case we had the whole concert sound setup done about 4 hours before the gig. The recording company had not shown up (they were driving from New York State) about an hour before the concert they show up and proceed to "rearrange" the stage for their own benefit and without asking start moving our speaker stacks out further on the wings of the stage and almost dumped the whole stack into the audience ( I found this out later from he lighting crew) . I was having dinner with my crew when one of my crew came down to tell me what was going on. I came upstairs and confronted the recording guy who had not even sought us out before he started rearranging the stage. He told me that we could not use monitors because it would interfere with his recording, he told us that the level in the hall could not be vary loud and quoted something like "no louder than a whisper" and he had cleaned off the stage, put down a rug, rearranged the chairs for the musicians and put all of his microphones up and taken ours and literally thrown them into a pile upstage. I had known about the recording but was not really ready for this jackass. The recording guy had his crew moving in mass quantities of equipment racks and was preparing to set up his recording stuff in full view of the audience on the floor of the hall and was going to block out a whole lot of seats that had been sold. I went and found the promoter and told him in the calmest way possible what was going on and that he sound come over and see for himself.

The promoter and I walked into the hall and the first thing I hear from the recording guy as he is walking over is "you should tell your concert sound guy here to be more helpful and the reason for this concert is not for the audience but for the recording" The promoter, who is usually pretty cool, says, and I quote "bull shit" It as a sold out concert and the promoter has a lot riding on the event to break even. He looks at all the gear (some of it in racks 6 feet high and they recording guy had taken out about 30 seats for his "setup" and was blocking about another 100 seats with the equipment he had stacked up. He also looks at the stage and realizes that it was MUCHO changed from the way we had set it up earlier in the day and then looks at where the stacks have been moved to and loses it. He tells the recording guy to stick his equipment where the sun doesn't shine and to put things back where they were. The recording guy refuses and out comes a signed contract with the artist that we had never seen. The promoter reads the contract and it basically gives the recording guy Carte Blanch to do what he wants. The promoter goes off to find the artist and they have a good long talk. About twenty minutes later the artist comes up and says that we (meaning the sound and recording guys) will have to work it out but that the recording guy cannot take out any seating and cannot move equipment on stage in such a manner as to make the concert unavailable to the audience from a sound or visual perspective and that is the way it will be. The recording guy takes the artist over to a corner and I see the contract coming out and the artist takes the contract and literally tears in up in little pieces and tosses it on the floor (very dramatic).

The recording guy is not happy and we are about to open the house. He tells his crew to put things back the was they were and to disassemble the equipment and reset in in the basement. I offer to help by redoing the stage and tell him that he can leave the rug and his microphones. We reset, put back the monitors, move the stacks into their proper places and are done just about as the audience is coming in the doors. The recording comes off, I am told, well and the audience got to enjoy the concert without all the sight line problems and poor concert sound due to bad speaker placement. The recording guy does not speak to me again for the rest of the evening and when the show is over he packs up and leaves without even shaking hands or saying a word. His blood pressure is way up and he is not a happy camper.

After the show I asked the promoter how he had convinced the artist to go along with the way he wanted it done. The promoter smiled and said" Easy I took the check and tore it in thirds. I told him I would give him the other 2/3 rds of the check when he finished the concert and the audience was happy. I guess the money angle is always the winning one.

Member for

15 years 1 month

BRH Thu, 08/24/2006 - 17:41
Tom, that $200 for a split made me LOL in my office.
Around 1980 I got my first full time job at an audio house doing spoken word type of stuff. One of the main gigs was to go to real estate conventions and record the sessions. We did it with feeds to a shure mic mixer split to a cassette recorder and a slow speed Teac 4 track. One person handling 4 sessions at a time. Tried to master on cassette, but if we messed up or the casette master got eaten, we could go back to the reel to reel and make a new one. Straight away the cassette master went down to the lobby were a nice looking female sold them after us schlepers high- speed duped cassettes on those Wollensaks. God bless those Wollensaks, but they ate a lot of tape. We paid for "house feeds" Once at the Stouffers
in Washington DC we follow the "house engineer" back to the patch panel, which was in the AC mains room. We look at each other as said Oh-oh.
You guessed it. Feeds were full of 60-120-240-480 and whatever else. Just as loud as the audio. I quickly ran to each room and put a home made XLR splitter on the mic cables (never do this) and ran hundreds of feet cabling.
All the while the "house engineer" was giving me the eye, following me. Started saying something about "no splits" on their equipment. Almost a fight.
BTW, I didn't work there long. The owner had instructed the girl down in the lobby to tell purchasers of these tape to abbreviated the name of the company on the checks people wrote, which just so happened to be the owners abbrevited name. Half of the checks went to his own personal bank account. IRS got him and he was SOL.

Tom, do you know the Fries in Oberlin?

Member for

19 years 9 months

Thomas W. Bethel Wed, 08/30/2006 - 07:12
Until JoeH gets around to posting sections 2 and 3 of his epic novel....

We were going to record a children's choir in a beautiful Catholic Church. We got to the gig and the father asks that we not disturb the church or the congregation that will be at the concert. Sure no problem. He shows us where he would like us to set up. So we start to run our microphone cords and power cords and find that the church is all still two wire with no ground. Since we always have adapters along and since we run an ISO transformer on the AC no real problems. We get all setup and it is about 10 minutes before the concert is ready to go. In walks another priest and he asks us what we are doing. I reply that we are getting ready to record the concert in the church. He says that he is the senior priest and that he does not like where we have set up and we have to move our equipment immediately and it has to be in the the back of the church behind the audience. This is a BIG church. We already have about 50 feet of microphone cords between us and the microphone and the back of the church is at least another 75 feet away and we have five microphone lines laid out. Not a time to argue but I politely told him that the concert was ready to start and that we could not move all of the equipment in the time alloted. He was insistent and even went as far as to walk over and pull out the AC power cord. OK so this guy is somewhat of a jerk but since he is in charge we have to obey his wishes. I talk to the choir director tell her our problem and ask her to delay the start of the concert for a couple of minutes which she says she will do "but only for a couple of minutes" We move the bulk of our equipment to the back I get new microphone lines laid out and suddenly realize that there are no outlets in the back of the church at least none I can find readily and we don't have a 75 foot extension cord. There is an audience present while all of this is going on. One guy gets up and walks over and says he noticed what was going on and why did we decide to move everything at the last minute. I told him what had transpired with the father and he said he understood. He was a member of the church and when I told him that we could not find an outlet and that the concert was ready to begin he said he could help us. He went out of the church and came back with a 100 foot extension cord that was bright orange in color and was 3 #12 wires. It was, excuse the pun. a God send and we were back in business. After the concert the first priest came up to us an apologized for the older senior priest and told us that technically he was retired but like to still think he was in charge. The recording came off without a hitch and we were really thankful that the person from the congregation came forward when he did. He was literally "heaven sent"

We had been hired to do a recording in a church in Cleveland. It was of a musical arts society and we had never done them before. I went to the church early in the week to scout it out and it was in a very bad section of Cleveland and not a place that I would like to have been after dark but luckily this concert was in the day time. At the same time we were getting ready to do this concert we got another gig for the same day so the person who normally helps me was going to do the other concert at the same time I was doing this one. I talked to the choir director of the musical arts society and asked her for a floor plan of where things were going to be set up. She drew the plan and it was pretty normal with the choir in the choir pews and a small ensemble and organ closer to the front of the Church. This was a massive Baptist Church and had a domed ceiling. It was set up rather strangely in that the organ was dead center, the choir to the right in pews and the lectern for the minister on the left of the church. So I determined what equipment I would need and what would be needed by my associate and the day of the concerts we loaded up our vehicles and went to our concerts. This church that I was doing took up an entire block and I had to park on a side street. I went into the church to make sure it was open and walked inside. The musical arts society was rehearsing but their setup was not what they had given me. The ensemble was now where there lectern had been and part the choir had moved out of the pews and onto the floor in chairs in front of the organ. There was also antiphonal choir of brass that was in the rear of the church. I started to unload my equipment and setup and when there was a break in the action I went up to the choir director and asked "so why all the changes" she said "well we just decided this this morning" NICE!

I was going to use a Decca tree and some spot microphones but this was going to be a much bigger setup than I had anticipated so what to do. I had the Decca tree with me and two additional microphone and half the amount of cable I normally carry since my associate need the rest of the stuff for his gig. This church was HUGE and I was starting to sweat since I did not have anywhere near enough cable to run lots of cables. I set up to the left of the church in an alcove and set the Decca Tree in the middle of the church and the spot microphones in stereo on the ensemble.

The recording came out OK but with lots of reverb and space around it. The director of the musical arts society was pleased with it but it would have been much better if she had let me know in advance of all the changes as I could have borrowed some additional equipment from a friend and done a somewhat better job. It seem no matter how much pre planning one does it can get undone in a very short time by people who aren't thinking of the total picture and what their last minute decisions are doing to the successful taping of the concert. Oh well I love this business but some of the people - FORGET IT!

JoeH I can't wait to hear some of the rest of your epic.

Member for

19 years 9 months

Thomas W. Bethel Mon, 09/04/2006 - 06:57
Just in case anyone thinks that we have problems on every gig (as was pointed out to me in a private email) let me assure you that most of our gigs go extremely well and most people are very easy to work with. There are some gigs that will forever be memorable for how great they sounded and how great the recordings were of the concert but this thread is about Horror stories so they don't really belong here.

Being in the business for over 35 years one gets to accumulate a lot of fond memories and some not so fond ones.

I hope JoeH gets a chance to post some more of his epic fairly soon.

Member for

19 years 9 months

Thomas W. Bethel Mon, 12/04/2006 - 05:20
We did a recording last night in a beautiful new church. The client was one of our oldest and we have been doing work for them since 1990. The concert was a choral group and piano (or so we had been told). We did a pre concert site visit last Monday and it looked like an easy gig. The church would be letting us use their microphone snake and we had a nice place to setup at the back of the church. We were doing the video and audio recording of the concert.

Normally this client sends us a copy of the program but this time due to some last minute personal changes they "forgot".

We got to the church about 2 hours before the concert. The church was located about 45 minutes from our office. We decided to do the concert with PZM microphones (because of the video taping) and we brought along a couple of extra microphones (just in case) and one microphone stand.

When we arrived at the hall we noticed that there were music stands and chairs setup IN FRONT of the chorus. I asked our contact what was going on and she told me that they were doing Vivaldi's Gloria and that there was a chamber orchestra. (no mention of this previously and no program to go from)

We asked the church if they had any high stands but of course they did not. So we decided to go with what we had and use the PZM microphones. The sound in the recording was balanced a lot more toward the orchestra but it sounded good just the same.

After the concert as we were cleaning up there was a father who wanted to take a picture of his son at the piano and without looking stepped on one of our PZM microphones and like someone who has just gotten doggie do on his shoe he kicked the microphone off the stage and down three steps on to the floor. I went over to him and asked for his name and phone number in case the microphone was damaged. He demanded that we check it out right now to which I replied that we were in no position to do so at that moment and I would call him later. He said "well how do I know you will not just tell me it is broken" and I said "because I am a very honest person and would not do anything like that"

I will from now on ask for a program if it is not provided and will make sure they are giving me all the facts BEFORE THE CONCERT. I will also start carrying a high stand and X-Y mount in case we run into this problem again. End of story.... FWIW

Member for

14 years 10 months

Croakus Wed, 01/17/2007 - 08:44
I have nothing to compare to the stories of other members here, but I was a sound engineer (probably not valid to use the word "engineer" actually) at a home shopping network for a little over a year.

This network was financed on a shoe string with no money for wireless LAV's. At the same time the owners wanted the talent to stand on an open set and move around while they hosted the show. Sometimes they'd move from one set to another (a good 20 feet) dragging the tiny LAV cable behind them, stepping on it, and generally throwing tantrums because they couldn't get wireless mics.

It became common practice for the mics to go dead in the middle of a program, and cut to music while I took a new one out. Then I would sit back at my audio console and try to solder the tiny wires back into place before they broke the next mic.

Not to mention the lousy old IFB system, worn out board, consumer grade compressor (I was the only one who knew how to work it and the settings were always messed up when I came in), sharing equipment with other sound guys who had no idea what they were doing, etc.