Finding theatre sound expertise in Miami

Stuart R

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Joined
Dec 21, 2017
Location
Miami FL
Hello audio wizards,

I run a school theatre program in Miami that has been blessed with some meaningful donor support over the years. While our performing space is no great shakes (stage with tech infrastructure, but stuck at the back end of a cafeteria), we have what I believe is some decent sound equipment:
We have a classic "buy it but don't provide for training or maintenance" situation here. The one person who could at least fake his way around the equipment (one of the IT guys) no longer works at the school, and we're not in a position to hire a FT tech theatre person this coming school year. We do an annual musical, a performing arts showcase, various class performance projects, awards ceremonies, faculty meetings, etc. so there is a lot of sound expertise and capability that we somehow need to acquire before September, and I could really use some advice in how to find the expert help we need.

For starters, this summer the school will be renovating the kitchen, which will require moving the tech booth to the other side of the room. So, all of the sound equipment except the amps (which are in a loft) will need to be moved and the cables traced and rerouted, and we'll need help with that. While we're at it, I want to install a "multi-media" box onstage, with a permanent snake connected to the tech booth, so users can simply plug in instead of our having to run messy cable. Finally, I want to be able to do sound mixing from the rear of house (which we can't do now) using something small and portable - maybe an iPad Pro?

Once the equipment is in place, we'll need to know how to use the QL5 for our main event types: musical theatre, small events (mics and music playback), and lectures/meetings. I'd like to program some presets in the QL5, or otherwise know how to get the settings where they need to be for each event type. I want to know how to program scenes, and also how to group wireless mics together so they can be controlled as a block (riding 25 individual mic faders is a nightmare). Finally, since the admin wants us to train a few other staffers (IT, student life, etc.) how to run "basic sound," I want to know what we can do to make the system somewhat tamper-proof. [I'm imagining something like when you set up your computer so a child/guest can use the Internet but not get into your files.]

Beyond the mixing console, we also have this newfangled audio processor, which I'm told we purchased to replace the old EQ racks. Evidently the processor can "hear" and adjust EQ to avoid feedback and keep everything sounding good with less human intervention? Obviously not my wheelhouse, so we need someone who can tell us what it does, and how to keep it doing what it does correctly.

Looking at the Big Picture, I think our needs break down along these lines (#1 and #2 summarize what was stated above).
  1. Set-up/installation: Assess the current sound system set-up and move everything but the amps to a new location; add a stage box; set up back of house mixing capability. And get everything up and working. [THIS SUMMER]
  2. Configuration/training: Determine proper equipment settings and recommended set-up and running procedures for various event types. Provide training to staff (which we will document in order to allow for future replication). [THIS SUMMER]
  3. Production Sound: There is also the possibility, IF we can find funding, of having someone come in to serve as Sound Engineer/Head Op for the run of our big musical (usually February or March). Basic duties: Come in, get things set up, train and supervise student tech crew in running the show. If we can't get the funding, we will have to figure out how to do this on our own, or maybe have someone come in to get us set up, and then let us run with it.
  4. Resource: Finally, it would be great to have someone available, whether live or by phone/Zoom etc. for occasional questions and troubleshooting.

So, HOW DO I FIND THESE PEOPLE? And what might I expect to need to pay them?

Thank you for any thoughts/advice you might be able to offer.

Stuart Rosenthal
Scheck Hillel Community School
Miami, FL
 

StradivariusBone

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So that gear list is pretty nice! Dante is a huge plus for you regarding what you're talking about wanting to be able to accomplish, but how is the building wired for ethernet/network? If you have spare time (right, what's that?) I'd check out at least the level 1 Dante certs - Dante Training It will give you an idea of how to setup and patch a basic network with your gear. The concept with Dante is you could put your mixer in a booth somewhere, run the network cable to the stage, put the box on stage and then that's your media interface for laptops, lapel mics, etc. The idea of running a traditional snake is no longer needed with Dante.

Being that you're in a cafeteria, flexibility is key, but I'm guessing 90% of the time you fire up the audio it's for a meeting. I recently was brutalized by pandemic-instigated Dante education and feel pretty confident about implementing at least basic systems.

Also, I'm like 95% certain that CL5 will have some kind of iPad app. Having never used one before I can't say for certain, but you could definitely setup some kind of private network for the mixer and the Dante and run the board remotely. I'm totally happy to answer questions too!
 
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MRW Lights

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So that gear list is pretty nice! Dante is a huge plus for you regarding what you're talking about wanting to be able to accomplish, but how is the building wired for ethernet/network? If you have spare time (right, what's that?) I'd check out at least the level 1 Dante certs - Dante Training It will give you an idea of how to setup and patch a basic network with your gear. The concept with Dante is you could put your mixer in a booth somewhere, run the network cable to the stage, put the box on stage and then that's your media interface for laptops, lapel mics, etc. The idea of running a traditional snake is no longer needed with Dante.

Being that you're in a cafeteria, flexibility is key, but I'm guessing 90% of the time you fire up the audio it's for a meeting. I recently was brutalized by pandemic-instigated Dante education and feel pretty confident about implementing at least basic systems.

Also, I'm like 95% certain that CL5 will have some kind of iPad app. Having never used one before I can't say for certain, but you could definitely setup some kind of private network for the mixer and the Dante and run the board remotely. I'm totally happy to answer questions too!
If you play your cards right and print off the nifty Dante Training certificates you may be able to apply them to CE credits as well. I got a brand new folder full of CE certs thanks the pandemic that kept the higherups happy as clams... mostly becuase it was a stack of certificates they had no idea what they meant so they said hours+certificate=CE takes it from spare time to active professional development ;)

Quoting Strad's post here the CL does have the stagemix app and like all of stagemix it's a nifty little tool to have at the ready for monitoring, troubleshooting quick mixes and small events. Definitely worth the investment.
 

macsound

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San Francisco, CA
On the note about setting up for the public to use and not screw up, I had this setup at a local hotel.
The QL5 can either be plugged in via network in a locked closet or FOH.
In a recessed cabinet (think kitchen cabinet door but the space behind is only about 6" deep) mount an iPad (no need for pro) into a tamper-proof case.
Make sure the channels the public needs (2 wireless mics and an 1/8" input) are visible in the Yamaha app and use the parental controls to draw out the area of the screen that's available to touch. That's a feature built into iOS and requires a password to do anything except touch your designated part of the screen.

Also, while you may think running 25 mics for a musical is hard, it's nothing you can't get used to. I've been doing it since I was 13. It just takes a little practice. Especially with your console, you can record a multitrack session and do a virtual soundcheck, running the show, reading your script, and practice how mixing line by line feels.

This video shows someone who's created cues to assign VCAs (well, DCAs) for particular groups. While this is exactly how touring, broadway and west end shows are done, it's usually a multi designer gig. Someone needs to make those cues, check them during rehearsals and update when there's errors or casting changes.
They make a lot of sense for those big shows but if you don't have someone to update them or create them in the first place, you're in a lot of hot water during actual show time.

I've mixed countless shows with 3-36 wireless plus backstage mics, orchestra and playback and it's just practice. Learning how to mark your script with warnings and colors and mix line by line is achievable :)
 

What Rigger?

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I live down the road a bit from Yamaha, so I'm always telling people to check out their training resources. But don't listen to me too much, I'm not an audio/sound guy.

 

Jay Ashworth

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The Yamaha Sound Reinforcement Handbook -- while not necessarily aimed at specifically the sort of things you'll do -- is still available, and a great dedicated weekend worth of reading if you are starting from zero.
 

StradivariusBone

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To answer @Stuart R 's other question about finding people to come help- I looked up your school and it's about 30 minutes south of where my mother-in-law lives down there. I don't think we have plans to visit until maybe June-ish, but if you're still wanting an extra set of eyes and ears on that setup by then I'd be happy to work out a visit. The only company I could maybe recommend down there would be Stage Equipment and Lighting. They do rentals and service on lighting primarily, but I know their new parent company is an AV integrator. I don't know much about them beyond the work I've had done with regard to lighting service and rental however.
 

JohnD

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Since you don't have a full time tech person, how do you staff your shows? Have you considered an after school "Entertainment Technology Club"? Others here can tell you that students can be quite capable with light and sound equipment. They are also now quite used to having online sources for information. Every major console has online tutorials available.
 
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Ben Stiegler

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Aug 3, 2017
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Sf Bay Area
backing up a tad here: The Qsys 110 is the answer to a lot of your "make it simple" needs here. Its a control system (can control lighting, screens, projectors, audio, presets, etc.), a very powerful DSP (gates, compressors, auto-mixing, echo cancellation for teleconferencing/videoconferencing, etc.), has a touch screen interface which can also be presented on iPads, etc. We sell and install these for rooms where Joe the Janitor or Jill the CEO needs to walk in, flick one switch (virtually), and have the room come to life for the activity of the day - whether presentation, live-stream 1 way, video conference, etc.

Here's how I would approach this (and we can perhaps help you remotely from world HQ here in SF):

1) Define common use cases such as the examples above. "School Board Meeting". Stage Presentation". "Live-Stream" etc.
2) inventory the eqpt to be controlled. If you want lighting, projection, motorized screen, etc - assess what you've got. Make a real detailed inventory - Excel.
3) Next, we sketch out the functions to occur in each use case. For example:

School Board: Activate wireless mics 1-7 in auto-mix mode; Mic 8 under manual control for public comment. Insert software limiter to protect speakers/ remote listeners. Energize power amp after 5 second delay. Drop the screen and activate projector on input X for board secretary to present exhibits/agenda. [If present - activate Camera 1 in medium-wide shot to pick up the entire board. Start Livestream box by issuing on-air command and feeding video + audio. Change User interface screen to provide mute everyone-but-me for board chair, and mute/unmute for the public comment mic.

Assembly - Activate Wireless Mics 1-7 in auto-mix mode. Energize power amp. Apply limiter to protect speakers from damage.


You get the idea. There's some build/programming time - but it pays off over and over with rock-solid simplicity for anyone who needs to use the space. If you are lucky, the installing dealer has the software chops and project skills to do this. If not, LMK and I can work with you remotely on the design and programming, as long as you can provide local hands (or a plane ticket).

Ben
 
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