Guidance on sound board, light board, wireless mics

kmelcer

Member
Joined
Jan 12, 2020
Location
Heritage Elementary School
I am an elementary school teacher. For the first year I am bringing a jr. broadway musical to our school. We hope to continue this annually. We have 45 actors in this years program. We are in need of a sound board, light board, and 10-20 wireless mics. Our budget is pretty much nill. I am going to try to write some grants to get funding for some of these items. Does is make sense to rent the equipment or try and buy used boards and a few mics via grant funding? My knowledge of these items is minimal at best. We are a new school, 4 years old, and our funds are limited. Whats your advice on renting, buying used, or if we buy new what is the best for the least amount of cost?

Katie
 

RickR

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 18, 2009
Location
Spokane, WA the great "Inland Northwest"
Wow! Congratulations on a bold plan with potentially huge benefits.

The gear is probably only half the issue. Somebody needs to know how to use it and then someone else? runs the show. I suggest partnering with a local school or community group that has the gear and the people. Some funds will likely change hands, but other benefits will go both ways. Theater folks know about teamwork.
 

JJBerman

Active Member
Joined
Jul 10, 2014
Location
Middleton, Wisconsin
Since your location shows an elementary school, does your district have a theatre at the high school? Is there someone at that level that may have the gear or know of locals to contact?
This same person may also be able to recommend high schoolers to help with setup and running the musical.
Also, can you provide more information on the state/city or region of state you are in?
I'm assuming there is more than one Heritage Elementary School in the US.
 

josh88

Remarkably Tired.
Fight Leukemia
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Jan 26, 2010
Location
Ypsilanti, Michigan
If you're doing this all for the first time I would rent everything. Someone else can spec everything you'd need and in some cases provide someone who can run it. Don't forget to include budgeting for the rights to the show as well, those can be significant depending on the company/show/size of the venue.

Also to clarify, you need a sound and light board, but you have speakers and lights already?
 

kmelcer

Member
Joined
Jan 12, 2020
Location
Heritage Elementary School
If you're doing this all for the first time I would rent everything. Someone else can spec everything you'd need and in some cases provide someone who can run it. Don't forget to include budgeting for the rights to the show as well, those can be significant depending on the company/show/size of the venue.

Also to clarify, you need a sound and light board, but you have speakers and lights already?
We have 3 speakers that are tied into our MPR and general lights. We hope to borrow a spot light and tree light.
 

kmelcer

Member
Joined
Jan 12, 2020
Location
Heritage Elementary School
Since your location shows an elementary school, does your district have a theatre at the high school? Is there someone at that level that may have the gear or know of locals to contact?
This same person may also be able to recommend high schoolers to help with setup and running the musical.
Also, can you provide more information on the state/city or region of state you are in?
I'm assuming there is more than one Heritage Elementary School in the US.
We are in Tustin, Ca. TUSD school district. We are touching base with our local high schools to see if they will lend any items they have. So far no luck. We have 3 high schools in our district, one new so all equipment is built in. But 2 are older and we are still touching base with them. We hope to use HS students to do their community services time to help run the boards once we find them.
 

Jay Ashworth

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2014
Location
St Pete FL USA
Any chance you can do the show at the new HS with the cool stage?

Is it old *enough* that the crews there are worked-in to the cool toys?

A Big Musical with all principals mic'd is *not* a small or simple undertaking, especially if you don't have a crew accustomed to that. Even if you *do*, expect to do the entire tech week on mics and such.
 

macsound

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 15, 2018
Location
San Francisco, CA
You may also want to look for churches, event centers, hotels and community centers. Some are managed by individuals, not corporations, so the equipment can be borrowed.
Even when I was working with PSAV, anyone on full-time staff could request to borrow any piece of equipment.
 

Rod Reilly

Member
Joined
Apr 21, 2017
Location
New Jersey
Since I am in the Wireless Mic and Audio Rental biz and deal almost exclusively with schools, here is my 2 cents worth.

  • I'll bet your Multi-Purpose Room (Gym-a-caf-etorium) speaker system will be a disaster with 10-20 open microphones, no matter how good the gear ois that you rent amd how good the operator is.
  • 8-10 mic can be handles by someone with good ears, lots of common sense and no fear of technology
  • more than that - you need someone who is competent with theatre or big corporate AV - rock band experience may cause as many problems as it solves
  • With elementary kids I would use headworn mics - if they don't have big voices it may be wise to use cardioid pattern mics that can be put in front of their mouths - generall we (like most folks in theatre) use omni mics that never get closer than about 1/2" to the corner of the mouth.
  • We normally recommend digital boards once the mic count goes over 8, but that introduces another level of competence and needs a much longer learning curve
  • I have used auto mixers - usually the leads on a standard small analog mixer and the rest on an 8ch auto mixer (or 2 linked) and fed into the main mixer, but even then the results are far from perfect, though when coupled with a properly selected and placed speaker system, an antifeedback processer (dbx AFS2, AFS224 or Behringer FBX2496) it is usually better than an in-experienced operator trying to cope with 12-20 microphones
  • BOTTOM LINE - simplify or pay some-one to do it all for you - budget be damned
  • I am in Anaheim for NAMM over the next couple of days starting tomorrow afternoon if you want to chat - I could even fit in a visit to the school and offer some more free advice in exchange for a cup of coffee
 

taneglaus

Member
Joined
Apr 13, 2009
Location
Wasatch Back, Utah!
Hi and good luck. I’m an independent sound & lighting design & production engineer/director with the portable rig you need. Too bad I’m not close to you though. I’ve done these type of shows on virtually no budget of $200. The thing that really gets at me is damaged face microphones. It’s inevitable, those mic’s are delicate and get broken. I’ve learned to use my cheap mic’s on these low budget shows. I mention this as 1 destroyed mic will cost $40-300 to repair or replace. Therefore people will be reluctant to “lend” out wireless microphones. I’d look favorably at a troupe who were willing to guarantee the microphones from damage. You’d need to arrange with your finances to the guarantee and realize that a destroyed mic could cost upwards of $300-500 or nothing, there’s no way to tell. But be ready to pay out if it happens. This guarantee would make me more willing to work on your type of show at a low cost.

also, lower your expectations from 20 wireless mic’s to more like 10. You can get stage moms to swap wireless mic sets between actors. This is very common.
 

TimMc

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Joined
Feb 15, 2017
When our shop rents wireless to a client, all equipment is expected to be returned in the condition at time of dispatch. We require a working credit card number on file to bill repairs and replacements to. I've *strongly* suggested to clients if they don't wish to pay retail for this, they can buy their own mic elements as they are the most often damaged goods.

It's a tough spot for youth theatre and many community theatre groups, they barely have enough money to start with. The preceived needs of theatre conflict with the actual money in the bank.

edit ps: many "microphone" issues would go away if actors were taught, once again, to project. /curmudgeonly old guy rant
 

taneglaus

Member
Joined
Apr 13, 2009
Location
Wasatch Back, Utah!
I’ve been thinking about this setup. Another, but less understood option is to use a couple boundary microphones. Which is what we used back before face/wireless microphones. But your actors must project their voices as noted in the previous post. Setup and equalization is the key. A boundary mic is one that is placed on the floor along the front of the stage. A makeshift boundary mic can be made with a piece of very thin foam, no more than 1/8” thick. A Handheld cardioid or super-cardioid mic (directional) is placed on the foam. There must be 6’ separation between the mic’s to avoid them interacting with each other. Then the sound guy has to carefully equalize these mic’s for voice pickup which will reduce their tendency to feedback. The main speakers are placed to the sides or in front of the mic’s which helps. Then the students teacher(s) must teach the students to project their voices to the back of the room without yelling. Unfortunately in today’s theater classes projecting isn’t emphasized like when I was younger because of the improvements in wireless individual mic’s. And wireless mic’s are more sexy than projecting ones voice. A ‘real actor’ doesn’t want a wireless face mic unless performing in a very large theater.

with boundary mic’s. People look at mic’s on the floor and will think that they’re too far away from the actors mouth and will want to put the mic’s on a mic stand...but they do not understand the physics of sound. Voice sound will drop to the floor and roll along it, therefore the floor is acting like a sound conductor and does a much better job of bringing the sound to the mic than the open air...unless the actors mouth/throat/sinuous area is very close to the mic.
Not as sexy a solution but it works. But then the sound guy must know what their doing. Unfortunately I find new sound technicians don’t know what their doing...
 

TimMc

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Joined
Feb 15, 2017
I've found boundary mics useful in a couple different ways, including building them into set pieces. For general pickup I've had less success with PZMs on plexi into the PA. Even with some pretty savage EQ they are hard to make sound good because of limitations on placement (often downstage of the PA or in a wing 90° off-axis to the talent) affecting gain before feedback, and that their half-hemisphere pickup pattern picks up a lot of ambient sound we don't usually hear with conventional cardioid mics. And yes, I'll use one in a heartbeat if it will do what I need. ;)

For those who don't go back as far as @taneglaus and me, the whole idea of the boundary mic was considered pretty new and bold back in 1982 when Ron Wickersham and Ed Long got a patent on the concept. For those not already yawning, the patent is here: http://www.google.com/patents?id=ONk2AAAAEBAJ&dq=wickersham,+ron

Crown eventually either bought or licensed the patent and in 1985, Crown engineer Bruce Bartlett developed the PCC-160, the first directional boundary mic. Bruce now has his own brand of directional boundary mics and if I need this type of product, prefer them the the PCC-160. We have both at our PAC and I'll grab the Bartletts...

Google provided a treasure trove of old recording magazine articles about various recording techniques to experiment with but few would work for live sound. It was a fun trip down the memory alley...

Extra credit - Ron Wickersham had a hand in The Grateful Dead's "wall of sound PA" and developed a microphone signal splitter system for their concert use. He was also a founding partner in Alembic (of bass guitar fame), and Alembic was a creation of Owsley Stanley. It was a great time to be in audio in San Francisco.
 

taneglaus

Member
Joined
Apr 13, 2009
Location
Wasatch Back, Utah!
This message started last January so why is it being touted as a new post? I’m confused and a bit frustrated...
 

derekleffew

Resident Curmudgeon
Senior Team
Premium Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2007
Location
Las Vegas, NV, USA
This message started last January so why is it being touted as a new post?
The thread was started in January, then went dormant for a time until yesterday when your post made it a new thread again.

Don't be frustrated. Get Even.