BTS: Big Fish
As part of my job with Event and Technical Services at SU, I had the opportunity to run FOH for the First Year Players' show Big Fish. This was the biggest show to date I'd engineered myself in terms of the number of inputs. It was a very long week, but I thought I'd share some of my approach to the show this time around. While not my first theater show by a long shot, I did implement some techniques that I hadn't before.
Line by Line Mixing
Most of what I know is self-taught either via hands-on experience or the thousands of resources available online. I had stumbled across some videos of different people mixing shows of varying levels (some amateur, some professional) and many implemented a technique called line-by-line mixing. Essentially, only the microphone of the person(s) currently speaking is on at any given time. For instance, if three people are singing onstage, but not at the same time, only the microphone of the person currently singing would be live instead of all three. This results in a cleaner sound, fewer phasing issues, and a reduced chance for feedback.
If you don't do a ton of planning up front for a theater production, you're basically screwed from the start. I start any production like this one by making an input list:
The input list is always the first step for a number of reasons. First, it requires you to lay out on paper all of the equipment (mics/wireless) you'll be using. By doing this, you ensure that you have enough mics for everything you need to deal with. Second, with the prevalence of digital mixing systems, you can take your input list and create a show file for your console of choice to make setup easier.
In my case, we were using the Soundcraft Vi3000. I used the offline editor and a copy of the script to create all of my scenes and VCA assignments well in advance of the show. When tech started, I could simply load my show file via a flash drive and I was ready to go.
Mixing the Show
Each time I hit a scene on the board (of which there were 140+), the correct mics would be turned on and off and get assigned to VCAs. This way, I could keep my fingers on the eight VCA faders. If there was a group who sang together, they'd all become one VCA. If they then spoke separately, that would be another scene and they'd get split back out into their own VCAs. I kept all of the wireless on the first layer on the console and then the band and everything else went on the lower layers. Once everything was dialed in during soundcheck, I rarely had to venture to the lower layers and could instead use the "band" VCA which contained all of the pit orchestra.
The show run was a long week, but things went about as well as they could have. The PA in the auditorium leaves a lot to be desired, but things still came out pretty nicely. Below, I'm attaching some photos of the setup at FOH as well as a GoPro video with board L+R audio. Enjoy!