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Live mixing in a small theatre


sclg

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The small (150 seat), volunteer-run theatre I'm involved with has a sound room at the back of the auditorium, to one side with a 3 foot square opening to the auditorium. Sound (generally only used for musicals) is not hugely complex with the band usually not mic'ed so I'm only mixing maybe half a dozen radio mics and perhaps a keyboard or 2.

 

But... not surprisingly, what you hear live in the sound room differs considerably from what the punters hear - in volume, balance and in frequency response. (I guess the small hole into a big room acts like a high pass filter). I've learnt to compensate to a certain extent (by running in and out of the auditorium during rehearsals!) but it's not ideal.

 

Does the team think there would be any advantage in putting a mic in the auditorium, monitors in the sound room and mixing that way? (There is a double-glazed window to block the 'hole' and isolate the sound.)

 

Any thoughts?

 

Thanks

 

Steve

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My school used to have a similar problem. To get around it we ran big shows from just outside the window and run cables thorugh it to the patch points inside. However I dont know if this is viable for you or if you have any space limitations. Recently we have got a window that fully opens. This has certainly helped.
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Have you ever recorded the sound from one electronic source onto another? I mean things like an interview using good mics in a good studio sitting in front of the desk, with some music running through them? Sitting there in the room, what's coming out of the monitors sounds great, yet they sound like puny £5 boot sale hi-fi speakers when you listen to the interview through your own good monitors?

 

In your scenario, you've already tried to estimate and compensate for the change in sound coming through the window. Sealing the room off and using a mic will be much, much worse. With your ears, even through the hole, you can detect locational info - so that noise can be spotted easily - somebody in the audience, or somebody even in the wings. With two mics for stereo, it won't work.

 

The only real solution is the one above - extend everything through the hole and work from the back, in the room. It amazes me how many really good venues have architects who can't see this (or hear it!).

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Seemed familiar so checked the website. Last time I was in there it really was just a shed but money has been spent and it looks good. Unfortunately it looks like technical advice was not sought during planning so you've ended up with the situation you have now. Having sound and lights in different rooms is not optimal and where your "sound-hole" is will always give problems.

I don't think that mics in the auditorium will help at all so you will have to consider taking out the back row of seats when you have a complex sound plot to manage. Even then it could be difficult to judge best sound as, from memory, the auditorium is a wedge with 6-8 metres at the stage and barely 2 metres up at the back wall.

I note that you have what amounts to two separate sound systems so you could try out your mic idea without too much trouble and, if the door to the rooms is still central, you should be able to compare mixing from the doorway with that. But only during rehearsals, please.

Why is nothing ever straightforward in Stroud? Or the West in general?

There is a modernish school theatre in Bristol where the LX op can't even see the stage due to electrical box-channeling going straight across his window!

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We have a similar situation in a school. It is good for security but bad for sound.

Like Blaize110 we run bigger shows using a multicore to extend the cables so the desk can be in the hall. For most events I set the EQ and check by sticking my head round the door now and again. I'm sort of used to the difference and can make a pretty good guess at what it sounds like in the hall. But it isn't a good arrangement.

 

I have a mic on the front of the stage which I can put through headphones or little pc speakers so that if a tiny Y7 girl is on stage mumbling we can hear her to follow cues but it wouldn't work for setting EQ's etc.

 

(On the positive side they've sealed off the soil pipe that used to go through the room. This makes the air cleaner.)

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Last year I had the misfortune of mixing for a band at the 333 club in London (downstairs). They have the mixing desk in a tiny room with a window out. The only thing is something to do with the placement/size of the window and other factors it acts like a massive Helmholtz resonator!

 

 

 

The band I was touring with was headlining so I went first at sound check. Got a good kick drum sound (in the booth) went outside for a listen to check and it was thin as anything! The house guy then said “Yeah you have to make it sound like BRRRRRRRRR (makes vibrating motion with hands) in the booth or it is too thin”. That was a fun night

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Many thanks for all your replies. It sounds like the best solution is to stick with what I've got!

 

Moving the desk into the auditorium has difficulties. Not least being the lost income from losing at least 4 seats - relevant in a small theatre!! In addition, the theatre is fully raked with a single central aisle so I'd still be right in a side corner.

 

Kerry is right that no one thought about this when the place was remodelled about 8 years ago (before my time) but I don't think they had ever done anything sound-wise at that time except the odd few sound effects so it didn't figure as a problem. (There would also have been severe building constraints doing anything else as the whole auditorium is within the walls of an old chapel!)

 

>> It amazes me how many really good venues have architects who can't see this (or hear it!).

Don't get me started about architects B-)

 

Thanks again for all the ideas.

Steve

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Moving the desk into the auditorium has difficulties. Not least being the lost income from losing at least 4 seats - relevant in a small theatre!!

Bar owners think the same way. They cannot get it through their heads that it is better to have 140 seats with 140 butts as opposed to 150 seats with only 75 butts because the sound sucks.

 

If you cannot hear what the audience hears, you cannot do the best job possible. The venue owes it to the punters and the performers to do the job rightly. This requires that the board is placed where the operator can hear WTF is going on.

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