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Running Sound Cues for the First Time! « Puppet Kaos - where Kelvin Kao plays with puppets and tell random stories
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Puppet Kaos - where Kelvin Kao plays with puppets and tell random stories

Running Sound Cues for the First Time!

The Los Angeles Guild of Puppetry has been putting on Puppet Slams multiple times a year. What is a puppet slam, you asked? It’s just like a poetry slam, except instead of poetry, you have puppets. Basically, puppeteers sign up to each perform a short piece in the show. It’s really fun because you have no idea what each person is going to do, even though many of us know one another.

I have performed in the slams before. This time, however, I did not have a piece ready. Since I already told the organizer (Christine) that I would still help out with the slam in some way, and that the person that usually runs the sound cues (Adrian) could not be there for tech rehearsal that day, I was put on sound cue duty. This means that I would press play on my computer whenever a piece of music or sound effect needs to played.

Sounds simple, huh? However, sound is one of those things that when it’s done well, you don’t really notice it, but if there are problems, it’s very jarring. I would know. I’ve definitely seen my share of missed cues in college / community / amateur theater.

The Preparation

So, I really wanted to do it right. Besides, it just so happened that all of the people that have sound cues that day (Robin, Grayson, Alissa, Timmy) are my friends. I know how much they care about their art and really wanted everything to go well for them. I ended up going through a lot of preparation because of that. Some of it might be overkill, but hey, I wanted to try my best to get things right.

I actually started by creating a different user account on my computer. On this account, all sound effects like opening a window, and receiving a notification, are turned off. It is not running lots of programs at the same time, just to make sure that we don’t hear something that’s not intended to be part of the show. Notably, I disabled the sound that the Mac makes when you press volume up and volume down. This was so if I needed to adjust levels during the show, you wouldn’t hear the sound effects for that. (I went to a college show a few weeks later. They didn’t think of that, so you could totally hear the sound effects when they adjusted the volume. We wouldn’t want something like that.)

Then I listened to every piece to familiarize myself with them. I even opened them up as wave forms to see the levels to know which pieces were louder, and which were softer. Finally, I compiled them all into a playlist according to the order of pieces that was just given to me.

Tech Rehearsal

On the day of the slam, we arrived early at the theater for a tech rehearsal. We didn’t have time for a full run-through, but we did have a cue-to-cue. This means we basically practice all the transitions (moving set pieces, performers entering / exiting, sound cues starting / stopping, making lighting changes, etc.), skipping over most of the actual performance. Due to the lack of experience, I was starting music when I wasn’t supposed to, and forgot to cut music a few times. But hey, that was why we had rehearsals. As we heard the sounds on the sound system, I also wrote down what volume level each cue should be playing at and whether there was live vocals on top of them.

There were two things that really helped. One was that the video system had its own sound set-up so we didn’t need to worry about that part. Two (and more importantly) was that the audio tech, Noelle, was very experienced and was on top of everything.

Pre-Show Time

Finally, it was time to open up the house and let people in. Kujal, the stage manager, wanted to put some house music on. Unfortunately I didn’t have any prepared. So she just set up a Motown station on her Pandora and connected her phone to the sound system. I also took the time to make a few silent tracks so I could insert them into the playlist so that one cue wouldn’t spill into the next one (which, of course, I’ve also seen in college theater, especially in the earlier days when we ran all cues from a CD player!). I was just using Spotify for this, since it was what I was familiar with, hence least likely to make a mistake during the actual show. Noelle suggested using a piece of specialized software, QLab, which would make all these problems go away. I noted that and will try it next time.

The Show

And then the show started. I have to say, running sound cues (for the very first time) is more nerve-wrecking than actually performing on stage for me. Though I was watching the show from the back, I couldn’t enjoy it as much as when I was just an audience member, because I had to think about the next cue.

As the host, Victor, introduced Robin, I got her cue ready. I waited for her to scratch her butt for the second time, and the pointing of the finger, and then set the first cue to play. And then it just went the way it was supposed to go. I sort of joked to myself, “Robin and I are still friend after the show, check.”

And then I got to watch the show a little more because there were some pieces that either didn’t use sound cues or were videos.

The next cue was for Grayson. It was a shadow puppet piece. I was to watch for a particular visual element to appear at about the two minute mark and fade the music. I was also adjusting the levels subtly throughout the piece, because she was reading a poem on top of the music. I’ve been to performances where the background music would overpower the performers’ voices. The music would sound great but then the words (and hence the meaning) would be lost. So I was very consciously making sure her voice wasn’t drown out by the background music.

I initially was a little concerned that I wasn’t able to clearly see the visual to fade the music. Good thing that was only because we didn’t turn all the lights off during the rehearsal, and the shadows actually read much better during the actual show. Greg B., who was on the lights, gradually faded the lights and I faded the music out when we saw the cue. I thought it was great that the people on light and sound cues are both performers. You can fade the lights and sound in many ways (fast, slow, gradual, abrupt, etc.) but I felt like we just had this instinct of how to do it in a way that served the piece.

Two down, two more cues to go.

Next is Alissa’s piece. Now, this was the very first puppetry piece she created a few years ago, so I know it was very personal to her. I also know how much she cared about the sound going the way it should. In some other venues we’ve performed in before, I know she would ask the music to be turned up to a certain level because those venues didn’t have monitors. (Monitors here refer to speakers pointed at the performer or those earpieces they wear.) It might surprise some that, without monitors, the audience might hear the music, while the performer couldn’t hear the music themselves. Or rather, they could hear a little bit of the sound bouncing off the wall from the speakers that are pointing at the audience, but once they started singing themselves, they could no longer hear the faint music. Yes, I’ve had that problem myself before, and couldn’t tell if I was singing on beat and in key or not.

To prevent that from happening, I walked onto the stage myself during the rehearsal just to see if she would be able to hear the music. During the actual performance, we had another problem, though: her wireless microphone had some interference and was buzzing. Since she has this beautiful, but more importantly, strong operatic voice, Noelle decided to dial down her microphone. Afterwards she told me she would rather have the performer less amplified than have the buzzing sound. In response, I also dialed down the background music. My fingers were tweaking the volume levels the whole time, though, and I was ready to turn the volume back up if it looked like she had trouble hearing. The piece went smoothly. This was another example of us making quick decisions on the spot to deal with the situation and serve the piece as a whole. This is a live show. We couldn’t just stop it and do it over, so we got to quickly make these decisions based on what we thought would be the best thing to do in that scenario.

After that we had a few more pieces that didn’t require my cues. Finally it was the last cue of the night. I just needed to play a track for Timmy and fade it out when the characters (well, really just two hands) walked off the stage together. Easy. And phew, I was done.

We had a special guest, Kate Micucci, to sing her “Puppets Understand” song (you should watch the video; it’s quite cute!). She was awesome. It was always nice to see someone that obviously loves puppets and interacts super comfortably with them.

While this was happening, I was putting my engineering skills to use. I figured that the final bow could use a little bit of music and the song Kate was singing would be perfect for it. Since I had no access to wifi there, I used my phone for tethering. This means I turn my phone into a wifi router so my computer can connect and use my phone’s cellular data plan. I buffered the music video to make sure that it would play smoothly without hiccups. When her performance ended, and the host called every performer onto stage to take a final bow, I already had the song queued up to play in the background. The song happens to be very appropriate for the finale. I kept it playing as people exited.

Conclusion

And I was done. Everything went smoothly. I am certainly drawing a lot from my past experiences. College theater taught me a lot about all these things that could potentially go wrong. Engineering skills helped me put in place solutions and safety measures for things that might go wrong. All the time spent performing on stage taught me how to better serve the performance pieces and fellow performers. Hanging out with these people helped me be very aware of their needs during the show.

If I am to do this again, I’m sure I would feel like no problem, I got this. First time running sound cues made me nervous but it was also very fun and rewarding at the same time. I actually was already interested in running the sound cues since my college years, but I either ended up performing on stage or stage managing, depending on what the group needed at the time. It was nice to have this opportunity to do it for the first time. :-)

Comments

  1. Naomi
    March 16th, 2015 | 9:18 pm

    Ok… because I’m having a bit of a day and this is making me reminisce, forgive me for the length. And for any part where I patronise you because I forget just how much tech experience you have. Anyway, I probably have at some point so yeah, take with a large grain of salt.

    And before I forget – congrats! Sounds like you were a great success at sound!!!

    ” This means that I would press play on my computer whenever a piece of music or sound effect needs to played.”

    I’m probably one of those weird techies… I see doing a one-button ‘play’ thing as lazy. I know it’s a bit snobbish but it’s personal preference. Lighting desks these days all just get programmed and then you press play at the correct moment; the desk does the rest. But I like the feel of the faders in my hands, and getting the timing right myself. It’s a much harder job and requires you actually pay attention. I once watched an lx operator sit through a whole 3 hour circus show by reading his Palm pilot, and only occasionally looking up to press play. He missed in its entirety, a safety issue which had a performer rush backstage to the hospital for stitches. (It wasn’t due to his lighting, rather just a misguided performance by the artist) — I see you actually mention this yourself, the ‘instinct’ you talk about fading stuff in and out. I’m also amazed at how 2 people can do manual fades and still manage to make it look seamless and coordinated, even if in reality someone’s screaming “shit shit shit I almost missed that cue!” 😉

    Joking aside, I sucked at sound. I see a lighting desk and it makes sense to me. I see the knobs and dials on a mixing desk and my brain freezes. So in my case I’d really appreciate the quick play button :)

    I have to say your experience is quite different from mine. At the time we did it at uni (I never had to do much sound after that, minus sticking a CD in a player, pressing play and pause and making sure to fade up the right fader at the right time) we never really got training in sound programs. We might have got a small amount of education with design programs, but not with anything that could be used to play during the show. And anything that required volume, fades, EQ, etc was done on the mixer. So I really have no idea what you’re explaining here.

    “Then I listened to every piece to familiarize myself with them. I even opened them up as wave forms to see the levels to know which pieces were louder, and which were softer. Finally, I compiled them all into a playlist according to the order of pieces that was just given to me.”

    I wouldn’t have thought of that. But again, we mostly worked with CDs and didn’t have the capability to look at files. That’s an interesting way to think about the sound files and I like it. If I ever do sound again I’d definitely do it because I have a more visual mind so for me I would learn the cues better if I could ‘see’ the wave in my memory. Cool. Cool cool cool. 😉

    ” Due to the lack of experience, I was starting music when I wasn’t supposed to, and forgot to cut music a few times. But hey, that was why we had rehearsals. As we heard the sounds on the sound system, I also wrote down what volume level each cue should be playing at and whether there was live vocals on top of them.”

    This set up is basically what I had to do at a festival. We were given a three-hour block to do rehearsal, I’d never seen the show before or looked at the script. Basically got the script/cues, read it in less than 10 minutes, went straight into tech run, barely get through 2 runs if you’re lucky, and then that night or the next day – open! It is a great reminder that cues are all about getting the pacing of the show right intuitively (one reason manually doing fades is easier, you can adjust according to the performers and that night’s energy, rather than them adjusting to you). But it’s also about learning to anticipate cues.

    Hope when you were writing volume levels you account for the audience; the bodies soak up some of the volume and you should always try to go a little louder than you need. (But not too loud, and always test levels from inside the venue and not in the bio box because the walls soften the sound)

    “audio tech”

    Hmmm… what now? Is that a designer, because in my terminology ‘tech’ can be short for the operator, which was you!

    “And then the show started. I have to say, running sound cues (for the very first time) is more nerve-wrecking than actually performing on stage for me. Though I was watching the show from the back, I couldn’t enjoy it as much as when I was just an audience member, because I had to think about the next cue.”

    This happens less the more you practice. I found with my festival shows I was always nervous because there was so little time for rehearsal and you couldn’t just book the cast in for a rehearsal if needed during the season. They showed up, performed, left. But the longer the season ran the more comfortable I got with the cues. This is especially true with proper rehearsal with at least a week just watching the show and learning the script, then a week of tech/dress, then 3 weeks for the season. After that time, you instinctively know your cues and come in when needed (and it helps if you have SM who calls the cues which means you get to switch off and SM is the one paying attention!). I can recall a few times I daydreamed during a show only to snap back into it at a certain line I knew preceded a cue. And you can enjoy the show, it just means for a few minutes here and there you are paying attention to something else.

    Another reason I like manual fades. For lighting especially it means you’re basically touch typing, watching the show ahead while your fingers do the work. You don’t miss much except when you glance back down at your cue book to see what’s next.

    But see, it also depends on your preference. Required to act I’m almost always nervous anyway. Required to tech and I’m almost always calm. If you’re more comfortable on stage than off then I think you’ll be a little nervy just because.

    “During the actual performance, we had another problem, though: her wireless microphone had some interference and was buzzing. ”

    It sounds like the electrical wiring for the sound system wasn’t appropriately … grounded, I want to say? But I’m probably misremembering my classes. (Irony as not a yard away from me are my notebooks) The point is the interference was from some other electrical wiring, maybe even the lights. Also phones. Reason why you turn off your phone in the theatre? Not just for less annoyance from ringing, but for the fact they often cause loud buzzing and interference with the sound systems.

    “Since I had no access to wifi there, I used my phone for tethering. This means I turn my phone into a wifi router so my computer can connect and use my phone’s cellular data plan. I buffered the music video to make sure that it would play smoothly without hiccups.”

    That’s a great idea. And again, not something I’d have done at uni… this was before iphones were even a thing. My phone back then could hop on the net, but only for limited websites (ie. phone provider’s one) and for an exorbitant cost. Anywho, my concern with doing this live would be copyrights. Artists can be nasty if they discover you’re using their music without permission, even if they’ve just sung it on stage.

    Overall it sounds like you did an amazingly good job given the time limitations you had. But I think also it shows a lack of organisation by Christine too because there were things she could have told you to prepare. Just as you prepared your computer for cues, you could have saved yourself during-show panic by already having a finale song lined up, and having pre-show and post-show music already in the system. When we designed our sound cues it was status quo to plan for pre, post, interval and finale music. It sets tone and atmosphere beforehand; continues it during interval (and often signals the end of an act); encourages excitement for curtain call; and then signifies ‘time to get out’. (If you want to be puppetry about it, it’s like exiting with the puppet. The puppet doesn’t stop being the character as it exits, you keep it up until it’s completely off stage. Same thing with the technical aspects. Until the audience is out of the room, you keep the vibe going.)

    So yeah, for me it sounds like it could have been better planned at least for certain aspects. The rest couldn’t have been done until rehearsal and you got that in hand :)

    ” College theater taught me a lot about all these things that could potentially go wrong. Engineering skills helped me put in place solutions and safety measures for things that might go wrong. All the time spent performing on stage taught me how to better serve the performance pieces and fellow performers. Hanging out with these people helped me be very aware of their needs during the show.”

    This! My course had a lot of faults in many ways, but the best thing about it was that you did everything. Most of the class were performers and never wanted to touch tech EVER but afterwards they appreciated it because it let them understand how tech impacts their role and vice versa. They didn’t bitch about us techs complaining they missed standing in their spotlight or dropped a line that is a cue, because they knew how important it was for us techs that they got their stuff right so we could get ours right. For myself I’d done acting for ages already, but uni helped guide me in a way that I could learn how to converse properly with actors. I learned to talk to them in terms of acting language rather than ‘normal people’ language because if you talk in terms of character motivation and conflict it seems to hit home more than talking about “you need to stand over there” does. 😉

    I think learning both sides should be compulsory because it gives you far more confidence no matter what area you prefer and makes you a stronger member of the team in the long run.

  2. Naomi
    March 16th, 2015 | 9:18 pm

    Geez… I should have reread and edited before posting. This is your blog, not mine! 😉

  3. March 16th, 2015 | 11:33 pm

    HOLY CRAP, NAOMI, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MY COMMENTS SECTION????!!!

    I told you to look at this post because I’m sure you would have a lot to say, and apparently you do. 😉
    I read what you wrote and will respond in more detail later.
    Kelvin Kao recently posted..Running Sound Cues for the First Time!My Profile

  4. Naomi
    March 17th, 2015 | 7:20 pm

    Haha, I know right? What was I thinking? :)

    Looking forward to your reply. Feel free to make it essay length to pay me back for what I did. 😉

  5. March 18th, 2015 | 3:01 am

    “Anyway, I probably have at some point so yeah, take with a large grain of salt.

    Hey now, a large grain of salt is bad for blood pressure!

    “I see a lighting desk and it makes sense to me. I see the knobs and dials on a mixing desk and my brain freezes. So in my case I’d really appreciate the quick play button :)”

    I’ve never worked a lighting desk. I would like to learn that one day too. I’m not on the mixing desk myself. The sound designer (I guess that’s the title I should use) was on the mixing board, and she controlled all the channels (like which microphone should be at what level) with knobs, faders and such. All I was given was one channel (or maybe two if it is stereo). There’s an auxiliary cable coming out of my computer’s headphone jack that feeds into the mixing board. That’s all. The levels I’m adjusting are just basically the final mix that goes into that channel.

    “I wouldn’t have thought of that. But again, we mostly worked with CDs and didn’t have the capability to look at files.”

    This one actually comes from the fact that I do video editing, and have to mix sounds from different sources. As a result, I’m fairly familiar with how these things show up in wave forms. I was basically looking to see if I need to adjust the audio gain on them or smooth out some clipping if necessary.

    “It is a great reminder that cues are all about getting the pacing of the show right intuitively (one reason manually doing fades is easier, you can adjust according to the performers and that night’s energy, rather than them adjusting to you). But it’s also about learning to anticipate cues.”

    Yes, that is something you pick up from being involved in actual shows. It’s also like the difference between having a live orchestra versus a pre-recorded backing track in musical theater. The live orchestra is able to have the back and forth give and take with the actors for better rhythm and timing.

    “Hope when you were writing volume levels you account for the audience; the bodies soak up some of the volume and you should always try to go a little louder than you need. (But not too loud, and always test levels from inside the venue and not in the bio box because the walls soften the sound)”

    Yes, I was aware of the bodies soaking up sound. So while I wrote down the numbers, in the back of my mind I also noted that it’s a relative measure, not absolute. It turned out that the levels sounded more appropriate to have the volume levels consistently one or two ticks louder than what I originally wrote down.

    “Audio tech. Hmmm… what now? Is that a designer, because in my terminology ‘tech’ can be short for the operator, which was you!”

    Yeah, probably you would refer to her as the sound designer. Her training was in theater sound design. And I guess that was also her job that day. I don’t quite have all the vocabulary.

    “I can recall a few times I daydreamed during a show only to snap back into it at a certain line I knew preceded a cue. And you can enjoy the show, it just means for a few minutes here and there you are paying attention to something else.”

    Yeah, at that point many of these things are on auto-pilot. Wouldn’t be able to that in an one-off show, though!

    “But see, it also depends on your preference. Required to act I’m almost always nervous anyway. Required to tech and I’m almost always calm. If you’re more comfortable on stage than off then I think you’ll be a little nervy just because.”

    Yeah, this just has to do with the fact that I’ve performed on stage many more times than I did any tech. I’m sure I would be more relaxed next time.

    “It sounds like the electrical wiring for the sound system wasn’t appropriately … grounded, I want to say? But I’m probably misremembering my classes. (Irony as not a yard away from me are my notebooks) The point is the interference was from some other electrical wiring, maybe even the lights. Also phones.”

    That’s quite possible. We did not encounter the issue during rehearsal. Only that one mic though. We had other wireless mics that didn’t have the problem. It just happened to have been set on an unfortunately frequency, I guess.

    “Anywho, my concern with doing this live would be copyrights. Artists can be nasty if they discover you’re using their music without permission, even if they’ve just sung it on stage.”

    As far as copyrights go, I don’t think there would be a problem. This venue does a lot of concerts and live shows, and I would be surprised if they didn’t already have a blanket license like most venues of this type should. Whether the artist would like it is another question. I guess I just based it on the hunch that she wouldn’t mind from the way she interacted with everyone. It’s true I did not weigh all the pros and cons and just went with a feeling.

    “I think also it shows a lack of organisation by Christine too because there were things she could have told you to prepare.”

    On the contrary, maybe she just wanted it simple and we were the ones that added things willy nilly. I actually can’t recall if we had house music in previous slams or not.

    “It sets tone and atmosphere beforehand; continues it during interval (and often signals the end of an act); encourages excitement for curtain call; and then signifies ‘time to get out’.”

    I agree. I’ve seen many college shows that didn’t handle this aspect well and I always thought of them as missed opportunities.

    “If you want to be puppetry about it, it’s like exiting with the puppet. The puppet doesn’t stop being the character as it exits, you keep it up until it’s completely off stage. Same thing with the technical aspects. Until the audience is out of the room, you keep the vibe going.”

    Good analogy!

    “This! My course had a lot of faults in many ways, but the best thing about it was that you did everything. Most of the class were performers and never wanted to touch tech EVER but afterwards they appreciated it because it let them understand how tech impacts their role and vice versa.”

    In college we were also in a group where we did everything ourselves. But since there were way more people needed performing on stage or being stage hands, than some other specialized roles like stage managing or doing cues in the booth. Ours wasn’t a formal program so we didn’t have a curriculum to make sure everyone has rotated through all the different responsibilities. Usually it’s when we get to senior year or something like that, and we feel like to just give the spotlight to the young kids and we would step back and do more behind the scenes stuff.

    “but uni helped guide me in a way that I could learn how to converse properly with actors. I learned to talk to them in terms of acting language rather than ‘normal people’ language because if you talk in terms of character motivation and conflict it seems to hit home more than talking about “you need to stand over there” does. ;)”

    Oh that’s totally true with any kind of communication. You got to learn to speak their language. It’s true, though, that it’s always good to express to them that you are on their side, and they should help you to better help them during the performance.

    “I think learning both sides should be compulsory because it gives you far more confidence no matter what area you prefer and makes you a stronger member of the team in the long run.”

    It would definitely be beneficial. There had been some people that went through their time in that college group only doing the acting. I do have the curiosity to know about all these different aspects of putting together a production though. It’s sometimes a question of “if I clone Kelvin 20 times, would I be able to put on an awesome show?” which is really to say, if I need to wear all these different hats, how do I do a decent job with all these hats?
    Kelvin Kao recently posted..Running Sound Cues for the First Time!My Profile

  6. March 18th, 2015 | 1:47 pm

    Okay, I’m used to being the one who leaves long comments, but the you guys have me totally BEAT!

    Kelvin…this was a fascinating read. I read the post almost like it was a fiction story. WILL KELVIN STILL HAVE FRIENDS at the end of show? Will Alissa’s be happy? Will Kelvin survive get all the cues right? Will the sound be too loud? ETC.

    I was very pleased there was a happy ending to this story. It sounds like you had fun and I’m glad everything worked out:~)
    Sara recently posted..Nature Nurtures HopeMy Profile

  7. March 19th, 2015 | 5:45 pm

    Hi Sara! As you can see, both me and Naomi had a lot to say about theater. It’s nice to have these conversations.

    Thank you for reading this long article. I’ve actually begun more consciously writing things to be more story-like. Everybody loves a good story, you know. It’s me sharing my experience, and it should not sound like a dry lecture. :-)
    Kelvin Kao recently posted..Running Sound Cues for the First Time!My Profile

  8. Naomi
    March 28th, 2015 | 12:51 am

    “I’ve never worked a lighting desk. I would like to learn that one day too. I’m not on the mixing desk myself. The sound designer (I guess that’s the title I should use) was on the mixing board, and she controlled all the channels (like which microphone should be at what level) with knobs, faders and such. All I was given was one channel (or maybe two if it is stereo). There’s an auxiliary cable coming out of my computer’s headphone jack that feeds into the mixing board. That’s all. The levels I’m adjusting are just basically the final mix that goes into that channel.”

    Ah ok, see that’s the stuff you should have included in the post. I thought you were just on your own doing your thing but yeah if there’s someone else there on the mixer, etc then it changes my understanding of what you were doing. And the computer stuff fits in more sensibly now with my own experiences. — Not to downplay your role, I just mean it adds info that’s important to understanding how you fit in with the show.

    “This one actually comes from the fact that I do video editing, and have to mix sounds from different sources. As a result, I’m fairly familiar with how these things show up in wave forms. I was basically looking to see if I need to adjust the audio gain on them or smooth out some clipping if necessary.”

    That makes sense. I’ve done a little -crappy- sound design on Goldwave but never thought of it in terms of paying attention to the waves. Maybe if I’d done that it wouldn’t have been so crappy 😉

    “Yes, that is something you pick up from being involved in actual shows. It’s also like the difference between having a live orchestra versus a pre-recorded backing track in musical theater. The live orchestra is able to have the back and forth give and take with the actors for better rhythm and timing.”

    “Yes, I was aware of the bodies soaking up sound. So while I wrote down the numbers, in the back of my mind I also noted that it’s a relative measure, not absolute. It turned out that the levels sounded more appropriate to have the volume levels consistently one or two ticks louder than what I originally wrote down.”

    Speaking of being patronising…

    “Yeah, probably you would refer to her as the sound designer. Her training was in theater sound design. And I guess that was also her job that day. I don’t quite have all the vocabulary.”

    It’s even more confusing. She did both, design and operate. So yeah, your vocab isn’t wrong on this.

    “Yeah, this just has to do with the fact that I’ve performed on stage many more times than I did any tech. I’m sure I would be more relaxed next time.”

    I think you would too. And actually you did a better job than a lot of people did in my class given weeks of rehearsal. Improvising scenes is probably easier than improvising tech because tech you have to involve a lot of equipment that needs to be adjusted and set and if you touch the wrong thing… booom!

    “That’s quite possible. We did not encounter the issue during rehearsal. Only that one mic though. We had other wireless mics that didn’t have the problem. It just happened to have been set on an unfortunately frequency, I guess.”

    I’ll trust you… I really have no idea when it comes to sound stuff. I’m more inclined to notice a funny lighting cue than to notice loud static :)

    “As far as copyrights go, I don’t think there would be a problem. This venue does a lot of concerts and live shows, and I would be surprised if they didn’t already have a blanket license like most venues of this type should. Whether the artist would like it is another question. I guess I just based it on the hunch that she wouldn’t mind from the way she interacted with everyone. It’s true I did not weigh all the pros and cons and just went with a feeling.”

    Yeah I didn’t expect there to be problems, more just playing devil’s advocate because I can see where this might be an issue eventually. I don’t know much about music licensing and it probably differs where you are, but a lot of people take liberties thinking they can get away with it; and as you can imagine from my previous postings on the topic, the issue is less with royalties or rights but with the fact that nobody bothers to ask first. And asking usually includes a “yes”. I just wouldn’t want to do it personally unless I was 100% sure beforehand.

    “On the contrary, maybe she just wanted it simple and we were the ones that added things willy nilly. I actually can’t recall if we had house music in previous slams or not.”

    This is true. I guess I just take it as status quo that that’s what is done. But yeah, it’s not like there’s a rulebook out there or you’ll get thrown out of the club of theatre people for not doing it. Maybe it’s just my preference to be that darn organised!

    “I agree. I’ve seen many college shows that didn’t handle this aspect well and I always thought of them as missed opportunities.”

    Not just missed opportunities. Ever watch a horror movie with the sound off? Cause the sound is what makes it scary. So I think that as much as possible you use everything in your arsenal, within reason, to create the atmosphere you want; which includes pre-post-interval music.

    “Good analogy!”

    Thanks!

    “In college we were also in a group where we did everything ourselves. But since there were way more people needed performing on stage or being stage hands, than some other specialized roles like stage managing or doing cues in the booth. Ours wasn’t a formal program so we didn’t have a curriculum to make sure everyone has rotated through all the different responsibilities. Usually it’s when we get to senior year or something like that, and we feel like to just give the spotlight to the young kids and we would step back and do more behind the scenes stuff.”

    Have done that a bit too. For the most part during uni we were multitaskers. A lot of the end-of-semester productions required most of the class to do more than one role, so quite a few of the actors were also designing the costumes or doing the sound. The few times when jobs didn’t overlap where when there were bigger roles that were more consuming (ie stage management where taking on acting is impossible and doing design is difficult). I make it sound like there was a rotation system and there was a little bit of one but when it came to the last 6 weeks of semester you were pretty much doing whatever needed to be done for the show. The rest of the time, yeah, everyone did a bit of everything. It was more like amateur theatre in that respect, those who really wanted to act would usually get to act, and those who really wanted to tech would usually get to tech; but because there were so few of us and so much to do everyone had their hand in. So it doesn’t sound all that different, just more formalised.

    “Oh that’s totally true with any kind of communication. You got to learn to speak their language. It’s true, though, that it’s always good to express to them that you are on their side, and they should help you to better help them during the performance.”

    Yes. I think though is that uni gave me the confidence to say “I know what I’m talking about (whispered voice, “you dope!)” Whereas before I would feel nervous trying to tell an actor how to do their thing, and afterwards I was far more able to go up to them and say “actually I think this would work better” or “that causes a problem for me in terms of tech”. You get upstage and downstage drilled into you all through school drama class, but it was uni where somebody actually said “this is how all the parts interact in order to go forward”. Maybe that’s because school drama class was literally all acting all the time, with no interest or thought about encouraging interest in tech. (Ah, the stories I could tell about high school drama!)

    “It would definitely be beneficial. There had been some people that went through their time in that college group only doing the acting. I do have the curiosity to know about all these different aspects of putting together a production though. It’s sometimes a question of “if I clone Kelvin 20 times, would I be able to put on an awesome show?” which is really to say, if I need to wear all these different hats, how do I do a decent job with all these hats?”

    I think so. It’s basically what puppetry is. First you have your script, then you think about movement and blocking, then you build your puppet (or have your actors), then your rehearse, you build sets and props along the way, add in lighting and sound. It’s no different, more that you have to juggle more stuff at once and it helps if you know a little something about electrical equipment. It’s certainly harder to do everything yourself but that depends on how big of a scale you want to do things. There’s a reason solo artists on street corners have very little by way of costumes, sets etc. The more people you have the more responsibility you can hand off but at the end of the day, doing everything is just about being super-organised and having a clear idea in your head of what you want to achieve.

    PS. Because I’m not blogging anymore, I left a review of Walking with Dinosaurs over at P&S. Here’s the link, thought you might like a read. http://puppetsandstuff.com/community/index.php/topic,8877.msg80716.html#msg80716

  9. Naomi
    March 28th, 2015 | 12:52 am

    Oh blah… maybe I should email my replies and save your comment section from my verbosity. :)
    And yeah, it’s worse viewed on a mobile.

  10. March 28th, 2015 | 3:49 am

    “Speaking of being patronising…”

    Right back at you, buddy. 😉

    “Not just missed opportunities. Ever watch a horror movie with the sound off? Cause the sound is what makes it scary. So I think that as much as possible you use everything in your arsenal, within reason, to create the atmosphere you want; which includes pre-post-interval music.”

    No… why would you watch a horror movie with the sound off? What the hell is wrong with you? 😛

    “Have done that a bit too. For the most part during uni we were multitaskers. A lot of the end-of-semester productions required most of the class to do more than one role, so quite a few of the actors were also designing the costumes or doing the sound. The few times when jobs didn’t overlap where when there were bigger roles that were more consuming (ie stage management where taking on acting is impossible and doing design is difficult).”

    Sometimes we would do things like, from this scene to this scene, you are stage managing. Then you go on stage for the next scene. And then you are stage hand for next few scene. That’s what happens when most of you are on stage at some point. There was this one time that I got sent the cast photos and profiles pretty late, so I didn’t have all that stuff ready before the show. So for that performance, whenever I wasn’t on stage, I was backstage updating the website on my laptop, so that when people went home after the show to check our website, the cast profiles would be ready. That was kinda nutty.

    “PS. Because I’m not blogging anymore, I left a review of Walking with Dinosaurs over at P&S. Here’s the link, thought you might like a read.”

    Of course, I would be interested. I will email you my thoughts!
    Kelvin Kao recently posted..Running Sound Cues for the First Time!My Profile

  11. Naomi
    March 29th, 2015 | 10:40 pm

    “Right back at you, buddy. ;-)”

    Eh, yeah my bad. I was pointing out that that was the bit I was being patronising. 😛

    “No… why would you watch a horror movie with the sound off? What the hell is wrong with you? :-P”

    Hehe… In my case, I don’t like scary movies. And I enjoy how weird things are with the sound off. Like watching music videos without the music.

    “Sometimes we would do things like, from this scene to this scene, you are stage managing. Then you go on stage for the next scene. And then you are stage hand for next few scene. That’s what happens when most of you are on stage at some point. There was this one time that I got sent the cast photos and profiles pretty late, so I didn’t have all that stuff ready before the show. So for that performance, whenever I wasn’t on stage, I was backstage updating the website on my laptop, so that when people went home after the show to check our website, the cast profiles would be ready. That was kinda nutty.”

    Updating the site while performing? That’s tricky! We did something similar 1st semester. Everyone wrote a 10-minute script, we picked the best (in our cases 6, but other years do more or less depending on how many they choose). We did 6 shows in one night, back-to-back. Most of the class went from acting-FOH-stagehand-take a break-etc-etc etc. I was a lucky one because by then they were already handing off as much of the tech to those who wanted it so I got no acting jobs. If I remember right it was something like stagehand-break-FOH-lighting op-SM-something. Anyway the point was that no sooner had you finished acting in the 10-minute play you were backstage helping the next show, and so on for all 6 plays. Pretty chaotic, and I’m glad that’s not how most shows work. — At least we didn’t have computer work in the green room too!

    “Of course, I would be interested. I will email you my thoughts!”

    And now I will send you an essay back via email 😉

  12. March 29th, 2015 | 11:50 pm

    Got your essay!
    Kelvin Kao recently posted..Running Sound Cues for the First Time!My Profile

  13. April 5th, 2015 | 2:11 pm

    Yes, that does sound more nerve-wracking than performing, because, unlike the audience, the performers and/or the writers know all of the cues, and so they’ll be more conscious of any mistakes. I think I’m experiencing some similar anxiety — I’m going to perform in a stage production of excerpts from my own show, along with actual actors, due to various casting issues. Hey, at least I’m not likely to forget the lyrics, since I’ve listened to myself sing them hundreds of times!

  14. April 5th, 2015 | 11:59 pm

    I think that’s a good place to start instead of just doing a full show all at once. It’s that kind of process that lets you keep on improving on it. I totally understand the listening to yourself singing them hundreds of times part. That’s what happens when I’m editing my videos. I watch (and listen to) it over and over. I’m sure by now you can mindlessly mumble through it while doing other stuff!
    Kelvin Kao recently posted..Running Sound Cues for the First Time!My Profile

  15. May 11th, 2015 | 3:35 am

    […] my previous post, I shared my experience of running audio cues for a show for the very first time. I was pretty […]

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