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Monitor Placement

Discussion in 'Sound, Music, and Intercom' started by DavidDaMonkey, Jul 11, 2008.

  1. DavidDaMonkey

    DavidDaMonkey Active Member

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    I was wondering if I could get some insight into monitor placement.

    My normal setup at the theater I work at is to put one center monitor downstage, and then a L and R on either. The L/R monitors are in the alcoves, pointing diagonally across the stage towards the upstage wall.

    The biggest problem I have is that the theater was originally designed for Opera, and so it unfortunately has excellent acoustics. The entire back wall is designed so that any sound hitting it is amplified and thrown right back in to the house. This means that my monitor mix is also thrown right back into the house. I try pointing the L/R monitors as much into the wings as possible to minimize reflections, but then the people upstage have trouble hearing. I've thought about hanging speakers from above and pointing them down at the deck, has anyone tried this?

    I also never give anyone with an omni body mic any of their own mic in the monitors because the potential for feedback is way too high. Is this the norm? I have enough trouble with feedback as is when they are on the thrust since this puts them almost in front of the FOH speakers.
     
  2. avare

    avare Active Member

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    I'm trying to get a handle on what you are involved with. Do the actors project? As you wrote, opera houses are designed for acoustic performance.

    Andre
     
  3. DavidDaMonkey

    DavidDaMonkey Active Member

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    Well its different performances all the time, and rarely is it actually opera. I guess I really asked two different questions, so I will explain them separately.

    This issue with hearing the monitor mix in the house is only a problem with music. Anytime there is musical theater or a ::shudder:: dance recital (the bane of my existence) the performers usually want more and more volume from the monitors. This ends up projecting my monitor mix into the house, where it sounds very dull. The FOH speakers have to be turned up quite a bit just to hear them over the stage mix.

    The mic problem has to do with the actors not projecting. Its a community theater house, so its usually not top notch performers coming through. If they projected, I wouldn't have to crank up the gain on their mics and it wouldn't be a problem, but that is rarely the case. When you couple this with the first problem, it means that I have to turn the mics up even louder to get over the already loud house mix.
     
  4. Eboy87

    Eboy87 Well-Known Member

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    Everyone I've talked to who's either sound design or board op for Broadway (or touring) theatrical shows never put the vocals in the monitors; it's just a bit of snare for timing and keys for pitch. The rest is up to the actors. Another thing I've noted is that they have sidefills on the stage that point either at "hotspots" somewhere on the stage, or simply go straight across from SL to SR.

    I come from a tiny house myself, and when I got there, they were running essentially the L-R mix through the monitors pointed wherever the hell the last person who placed them had them. I started following the above tips and it helped tremendously.

    So I don't know how feasible it is to set up side fills in your space, either on the ground or flown (but fly them correctly, and if they're a non-flyable box, don't jerry rig it), but do your best to keep them from pointing at a surface that would reflect back into the house. That's about the best general advice I can give methinks.

    One question though. It could be I'm not comprehending the problem correctly (which I've been known to do a few times :oops:), but with the vocals, are you having problems getting enough volume from them in the house system, or the monitor system? If it's simply a volume issue in the house system, try experimenting with mic placement on the actor/actress. Just for reference, what mic(s) are you using? Also, a tip I've picked up, make judicious use of the high pass filter on the board (if so equipped) on vocal mics. We had problems with them feeding back through our subs. One word: massage.
     
  5. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    For dance shows to recorded music, try placing the monitors in the #2 wing L&R. Dancers don't need a DSC monitor.

    For concerts, each band member should have his own wedge monitor, if not his own mix.

    For legit theatre (straight plays), speakers should only be used for incidental music and effects.

    For musical theatre, as [user]Eboy87[/user] said, sidefills are your best friend.

    As for sound reflecting off the upstage wall, is there no cyc or velour curtain there? Even a 12oz. muslin cyc will absorb most of your problem GBF frequencies. Also try tipping the monitors with a 2x4 under the upstage side to direct the sound more at the performers, more "up" than upstage. It used to annoy me immensely when people would make me put a 2x4 under a Clair Bros. 12am (probably the best monitor wedge ever made, a $4500 speaker), but I got over it.

    And you do have a 31-band graphic, or better a 5-band parametric, EQ inserted into every one of your monitor mixes, right?

    What they don't teach you in recording school is that live audio is 40% speaker placement, 35% mic placement, and 25% gain structure/effects/processing. Experiment, experiment, experiment.
     
    greghouse likes this.
  6. avare

    avare Active Member

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    I was the first respondent with the questions that provided the answers so I fell I have to give more. I hate posts that just say yes to the above, but I'm going to write it anyway. The previous two posts covered it well.

    Andre
     
  7. SHARYNF

    SHARYNF Well-Known Member

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    A lot depends on the dispersion pattern of the monitor, but if you could use stands in the wings and have the monitors point down a bit to the floor it might help. Sometimes with proper rigging, you could look at flying them above for dance pointing down to the stage floor
    Sharyn
     
  8. Eboy87

    Eboy87 Well-Known Member

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    Isn't that standard operating procedure for the 12AM? :lol:
     
  9. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    See that's why I prefer lighting. I can't think of a single instance where I buy something for $4500 and then have to use a 75ยข scrap of wood to make it function properly.

    I always felt if Clair Bros. had wanted it steeper, they would have made it steeper. Not to mention using black gaffer's tape as "paint." Only done that about a million times!
     
  10. museav

    museav CBMod CB Mods Departed Member

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    A room has excellent acoustics only if they support the use. The world's great concert halls typically make lousy drama theatres and vice versa. This comment seems to perhaps reflect a perception in your posts that there is a right way to do or use something when the reality is that the answer in audio is often "it depends" (the SynAudCon motto!). The same general concept applies to using shotgun microphones and monitors, it all depends on the specific application and equipment involved, there is no one always right answer.

    You mentioned that it is community theatre and it sounds like some non-technical solutions may be also be worth pursuing. For example, the dancers may want more monitor level on stage but if that is truly becoming problematic in the house then you may want to consider addressing it by limiting the monitor levels and working with them to manage their expectations.

    As already suggested, for facilities that do have a lot of dance I typically try to accommodate a way to have monitors mounted at some height in the wings stage left and right and/or a way to fly them overhead. And often general coverage stage monitors do not need much low frequency content since the stage may already get quite a bit from the house system.

    Derek made an excellent point with his comment about how much of live audio is the placement and relationships of speakers and mics. If you do not already understand these issues it may be very beneficial to learn more about them and why certain solutions work then you can apply that to other situations as well. You might also look at things like making sure you have the high pass filter engaged on the console for stage mics, EQing the monitor sends and possibly even ideas like aux fed subs (if you have subwoofers).
     
  11. mixmaster

    mixmaster Active Member

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    two other thoughts, FWIW.
    Sometime more IS actually more. Several monitors operating at significantly lower levels may provide more even coverage with less spill into the house than blasting away with high SPL speakers that bounce sound all over the place. More speakers may also allow you to build independent mixes and be more selective about what goes into each mix. The down side of course is that you need more speakers and amps. I've never worked with a community theater with an unlimited budget.

    The other thought would be to build (or buy, or sew, or otherwise create) a backdrop that would provide some some acoustic control. Maybe hang curtains across the back wall or something. Anything to diffuse the reflections and/or absorb sound.
     
  12. DavidDaMonkey

    DavidDaMonkey Active Member

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    Unfortunately, the back wall is a large curved cyc, and the lighting guys love to use it. They would not be happy with covering it.
     
  13. mixmaster

    mixmaster Active Member

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    Ah, Perhaps one could turn the downstage monitors way down, thus lowerinf the stage volume, and add upstage monitors (hotspots maybe?) behind the cyc? At a reasonable level that doesn't project into the house of course?
     
  14. rdagit

    rdagit Member

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    Although I have seen it happen with broadway designers put vocals in the side fill monitors, it was only under a specific conditions that we had plenty of eq posiabilities and it was only for side fill....

    With my experience with monitors and the such... the actors will keep asking more and more (same with musicians) espeically if they are bad... now, the expensive solution with a small space is to get in ear monitors, but they are both expensive, and use battereis... so what to do... A lot of times, I'll just put the piano feed into the side FX fills (my case I had some alcoves to work with) and point them on the other side back where there were black curtians... allways facing downstage... when actors were upstage they had to rely on the house fill, of which most good singers can rely upon. But with your set-up, just put the piano in the monitors, as then you only might have the feed comming into the lines, and shouldn't feed back (unless your band director turns up his monitor feed and points his mic at it, which is another thing althoughter....

    I'd say this is the occasion to do the hardest thing... hold back a little bit and tell the director that you can't give any more, and the actors can't have more of X... then hopefully they'll get used to working without being over covered by monitor mix (which I agree is annoying... I'd had piano monitors upstage feed the FOH mix because they were so loud as the director and singers were both loosing hearing... It became ovious that they were trying to hide under the piano, which seems to happen...
     
  15. cjthedj

    cjthedj Member

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    Is there any way you can reduce the acoustics of the room? Acoustic foam?

    You can also try setting rugs and curtains or something between the monitors and around the walls to absorb some of the stray sound waves from the monitors before they travel to the house.
     

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