Setup time crazies

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by Exsultavit, Jan 7, 2005.

  1. Exsultavit

    Exsultavit Active Member

    Jan 5, 2005
    Many of my classical/ early music projects are done in churches. I have found that setup time at these venues is often very very tight. Moreover, 'teardown and get out time' can also be quite a challenge. Sometimes I think that the mark of a real professional location recordist is if they can get out after the show fast enough to avoid pissing off the custodian of the venue!

    I'd love to hear about how you folks deal with this. For me there are three basic methods:

    1. Have assistants. Not always in the budget for my clients. This is a good topic for a seperate thread...

    2. Take less stuff. The concern here is that you'll have a failure with your only machine, not have that extra mic pair up when you need it, etc.

    3. Streamline setup. My personal favorite! If I have a lot of gear already plugged in in the road cases, this is good. I also make heavy use of quik-release mic clips. This is especially useful for decca trees and other stereo bars, as it makes the exact positioning of shock-mounts relative to each other literally "A Snap".

    A mundane subject, but actually pretty fun (for anal/ obsessive types like me). Anyone have ideas to offer? Setup horror stories to share?


  2. LittleDogAudio

    LittleDogAudio Active Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    You about covered all the obvious ways to streamline a remote.

    The main thing that I do is have a pre-production meeting with the church/bar/whoever and let them know that I need whatever time I need. Usually for a remote gig, I'm charging top dollar, so the client doesn't want to limit my setup time. If I have to rush a setup, there are more things that can go wrong at a very in-opportune time.

    I give my self about 1 1/2-2 hours setup time before the show starts. Break-down is usually no big deal, it mostly depends on how fast the band breaks down. I always take an intern with me. I'll usually give them gas money and make sure they are well fed. The intern will usually be in charge of breaking down the stage while I break down the recording rig.

    This is how I do it.

  3. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Jun 22, 2004
    Philadelphia, PA/ Greenville, DE
    Home Page:
    This isn't mundane at all; (not to another anal/obsessive type here, as well!) Actually, I'm really jazzed to see so many new posts and activity here. I guess the new year has brought about some new visitors and interesting folks.

    Like everyone else here, i'll bet we all suffer from "split' personalities when it comes to remotes vs. studio work. (As John Travolta's crazy character said in "Broken Arrow": "Yeah, ain't it COOL?" )

    Over the years, I've tried to buy smart, in that what goes in the studio STAYS in the studio, and what goes out on remotes STAYS in the remote cases. (My studio - used mainly for post production - is down a flight of stairs, while my live gear "lives" in a semi-heated/AC garage that's 3 steps away from the back of my van.) This helps tremendously in keeping gear separate and ready to go, and easy to unload afterwards. I can also simply go from gig back to studio and begin working on the same project or something entirely different. The equipment stays separate.

    I have essentially two completely separate rigs for multitrack use, along with a 3rd and 4th rig for when things get REALLY nuts. Each rig is independent and autonomous, ready to roll out. I call it the "grab and go" syndrome. I do NOT want to have to repack and reinvent the wheel every time I go out on a remote. Recording media and incidentals are always replenished and re-stocked as soon as the systems come back in. (Under pain of DEATH! Hahaha)

    Anyone who's had a busy day on the phone, in the studio, etc., knows the value of minimal mental stress when trying to get out the door for a remote. "Thinking" is a precious commodity, and there's nothing worse than getting to a gig and realizing you've forgotten something stupid because of all the distractions going on by life in general. Hopefully, you have the ability to go back and get it, if there's a helper onboard (with a car!), but who wants THAT.

    I've got the basics all in one or two cases (AC cables, mic cables, clips, gaffer tape, etc.) and there's a pack-list for each as well. Everything is easily identifiable at a glance. I also stress that it all goes BACK the same way. (I'm totally ANAL about this, because seconds count on the front end of a remote. I'm sure many of us here have stories about their own 20-minute drill setup horror times!) Proper cable-wrapping has been discussed elsewhere, but it's important too.

    As for more specifics about setup times: my ideal gig is 2 hrs prior to the downbeat, but I know that's not always possible. (Actually, we really want to be done by "Doors", which is usually 1/2 hr before the downbeat.) That last half hour is "catch your breath" time, if it's been a busy setup. We double-check mic lines & levels, tape down any last minute stuff (again, hopefully before doors open and the audience shuffles in....)

    I know most venues before we go in, and sometimes I've got pics for my assistants. (Esp if they're a second unit out somewhere without me.) Like others have said, time is critical, but for many classical & jazz remotes, we're working with a set price, so it's up to me to make it happen smoothly and repeatedly every gig.

    If it's a union house, I'm often forced to work alone, and use one of their guys, but amazingly, they usually manage to help me get it all done in time. Again, I usually know the venue, it's just a question of which IATSE guy I'll get onsite. Say what you will about union costs (fortunately the clients, NOT mine), these guys can do all the time-consuming things without a lot of direction, and can follow directives pretty easily, like: "run that cable safely out of the way, gaff it down, and put the stage box for it all right behind the horn line. Sometimes with non-pro 'Helpers", you spend more time explaining it than it would take to do it yourself.

    I've got cables hung in one union hall in particular, and they "live" there through the season....we just send a union guy to the loft and he drops 'em for me. It cost me a bit for the cables initially, but the time saved at the front & back of the gig is incalculable, esp after three seasons there.)

    The gear itself has all cables pertinent to it's specific job already in the cases, and when possible, attached at one end and wrapped (Carefully!). My method with every piece of gear (in its case) is that it travels self-contained. Power cables and interconnects stay with the proper gear. (Again, unless it's a rack with several pieces in there aleady pre-wired.) This is a life saver in that you're not digging through piles and piles of spaghetti in a box, (in dark light sometimes backstage) trying to find the right one. My eyes aren't what they used to be, either, so it's another area I try to streamline. (Oh yeah; stash mag-lights anywhere you can!)

    One of my systems in an Odyssey rack on wheels with literally everything (including an equipment drawer for pens, labels & adapters) in it. It wasn't until after I built it that I realized how freakin' HEAVY it is. But the beauty of THAT system is that we roll in the rack, plug in the AC and snake, and we're ready to go. In that case, setting up the mics is the only time-consuming job.

    I'm always looking for ways to do it smoother, faster, and with less hassle, because I really want to spend time thinking about the RECORDING and the music, not nec. the hardware. THAT should be a given. So my cables get tested as often as I can, and anything that breaks gets pulled offline immediately, tagged with White Gaffer tape (to make it useless until someone fixes it!) and so on.

    Some time ago, I bought a $49 hand truck that folds down into a flat rolling cart with with handle at Home Depot, then picked up a second one. BEST fifty bucks I ever spent, honestly. Since most places have been made handicapped accessible nowadays, it's rare you'll find a venue that doesn't have a ramp to roll your gear in. This has saved me more time and hassle than I can possible tell you here. In the best of situations, I can get into a venue in as little as two "Rolls" for the rack & goodies, and the other with the handtruck fully loaded. Mic stands are another story, but I have a couple of big booms with wheels, so I often bungee-cord the smaller mic stands on the big ones, and rolllllll it all in, as quickly as we can.

    I like to be organized for several reasons. I'm getting too old and ugly to be huffing and puffing my way into gigs, and that adage "never let 'em see you sweat" works for me. 8) Plus, it's nice to put a calm, controlled "face" on what your clients will see. Letting them know that you value their talent enough to spend all the time necessary to do it correctly is "Priceless".

    By the time the gig starts, I just want to be ready for the music, and maybe have time to send out for coffee as well. I HATE doing that with a patina of perspiration all over us. :lol:
  4. Exsultavit

    Exsultavit Active Member

    Jan 5, 2005

    sounds like you have a lot of the same setup/ storage ideas that I do! I am, like you, especially careful that everything goes back into it's proper place/ case after a gig.

    Unfortunately, I don't have a completely seperate remote rig from my studio-- but much of the gear stays in one place and does not mix. (I can just imagine trying to put up one of my large stands in the house!!).

    My remote CR is in 3 cases and needs some wiring, but this is necessary as some of my gigs require stairs and there would be only one of me to carry a huge case. Truth is, wiring those things takes almost no time. For me (and maybe for any of us) the time sucker is the stands, mics, and cable runs from stage. I have not found many ways to make this process quick, as each gig is unique and, with only a few exceptions, the cables cannot stay in place between gigs.

    When you say you get alll the 'basics' into one or two cases, how many cases do you mean you really take?

    How many machines do you tape to simultaneously? (This is probably a good topic for another thread.)

    thanks! I'm having great fun posting here!

  5. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    Oct 1, 2004
    I have to do some recordings in a college chapel, but because they won't allow visible microphones during an ordinary service, I have to record the choir during their rehearsal time. That gives me five minutes to tear everything down. The ironic thing is that these services are never attended by more than a handful of people, and most of these are tourists (some of whom have cameras) who just happen to be passing by that part of the college at the time.

    It's a bit of a nightmare; but the real night mare is that the college is bang in the middle of the city centre, so I have to use public transport :evil: :twisted: :cry:

    On top of all that, the climate here is fairly cold and damp, so I have to get there really early as I like to leave the mics turned on for a good while before I use them. I find the sound improves after thirty minutes, but for anything critical, I'd like to leave them on for about three hours if I want the noise floor to reach its optimum level.

  6. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    Jan 13, 2005
    For many of my direct-to-stereo jobs, it couldn't be simpler. I have a Nagra V in a small Pelican case, a tall and lightweight Manfrotto stand in a carrying bag, and a small backpack for my cables, microphones and headphones. It is as streamlined as possible and takes moments to set up:

    *The load-in consists of casually walking straight into the venue, the Pelican case in one hand, the Manfrotto carrying bag in the other hand, and my backpack on my back (of course). None of this stressful running back and forth to the car to get everything, and trying to keep an eye on everything at the same time.

    *I don't have to drive to the venue and find a parking spot, or pay for it, either! I often take a train, a bus or a taxi and it can be much cheaper and faster than some of the parking stations, or risking a parking fine, especially for inner city gigs.

    *I can set up wherever I'm allowed because the Nagra V gives me at least 10 hours on battery power, so I'm not restricted to where the venue's power points are, or having to carry miles of extension cables and power boards and IEC leads with me. During live concert recordings, after the soundcheck and when there are no more adjustments to make, I sometimes move into the audience with the Nagra V on my lap and enjoy the concert. (It's quiet as a church mouse...)

    *The only wiring I have to do is a single stereo microphone cable from the Nagra V to the microphones, and plug in the headphones.

    It's a very cool system, and I really can't imagine working any other way for direct-to-stereo jobs. I think David Spearritt would agree with me - he recommended the Nagra V to me, and I 've never looked back.

    For multitrack jobs, I take assistants. I am very fortunate that I do a lot of teaching at a local audio school, and there are always enthusiastic students willing to help for free, or very cheap, in exchange for learning opportunities. I streamline the particular rig as much as possible, have a quick pre-production meeting to give everyone their roles and responsibilities, and then hit the ground running!

    It usually works well, but sometimes I take too many people and they start getting in each others' way, or not following the original plan. But anyway, it could be worse...

    - Greg Simmons
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