Sound Board Placement

EustaceM

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May 24, 2011
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Connecticut
Where do you guys usually put your soundboard?

During shows, I usually place it mid house for better mixing because the control booth is back of the house one floor up. I believe that it is better because if you do the mixing in the same room its more efficient because the sound you are hearing is what you are mixing. I keep the receivers in the booth for more room and run cables from the booth to the board. The actual board and Equalizer is placed mid-house near the vom. The booth has sound monitors and they are used so the Stage Manager can hear the show better (that is if the Stage Manager decides to call the show from the booth. Usually me).

At another theatre I worked at, the soundboard (as well as light board)is located in the booth at the back of the house and it is on the same floor.

Is placing the soundboard in the house a common and useful method?
 

bishopthomas

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In the middle of the room (maybe 2/3 back) is usually the best place for it for reasons you mentioned, however that is not always possible and/or allowed by venue staff. Sometimes ticket sales trump FOH placement.
 

Lambda

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May 3, 2011
Location
Rhode Island
We have an open-air booth, no windows, it's like a raised area with short walls in the back of the house. We always keep the board up there. It's been there so long, as more and more wires have been added, that it would be difficult to move even if we wanted to.
But if I was given the choice to have it in a closed booth with monitors or out front of house, then I would choose to have it FOH. It's hard to tell what the sound is really like if you're listening to it through monitors.
 
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themuzicman

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I always want my console in as prime a position as possible so that I am hearing what the bulk of the audience is hearing. Generally in a central position not under any balconies is ideal. The ideal is sometimes hard to get, but you got to make due with what you got.

I like to keep all of my offboard gear, if it's an analog rig (EQ's, Comp's, FX, etc.) at my mix position so that I have quick access to them at all times. Having the EQ far from the board isn't doing the engineer any favors.

My amps reside backstage (if a temp gig), or in their own room (if an install).

My RF receivers either reside backstage (if I have an A2/mic runner) or right at FOH with me (if I am the solo audio tech). Having the RF away from the Engineer if he/she is working solo isn't doing them any favors if there is an issue. Having the receivers right there if dropouts start occurring is an absolute must to trouble-shoot the issue as quickly as possible. With modern receivers you can tell right away if it's a battery issue, or if you have a bigger problem at play. The antenna's are a whole other issue and are in their ideal locations to pick up the best RF possible (shoving the receivers in the booth with just their tiny whip antenna's isn't helping anyone out!)

But to answer your question: Placing an audio console in the house is a common, and very useful way to do things. You will have a happy engineer if you can get their mix position in a prime location of the house.
 

TassieBogan

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Tasmania
Incidentally, I only run the mixing console in the centre of the room if i'm using a line array system.

I've found with point source rigs that, whilst being in the centre of the room is no doubt the best the pest place for sound / stereo image etc, that's not what the majority of people in the venue are hearing.

It's also almost invariably right in the middle of a low frequency lobe that runs up the middle of a room whenever a simple L-R system is used. It's MUCH more noticeable if you're using subs.

so yeah, slightly off centre is the place for me ;)
 
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museav

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Incidentally, I only run the mixing console in the centre of the room if i'm using a line array system.

I've found with point source rigs that, whilst being in the centre of the room is no doubt the best the pest place for sound / stereo image etc, that's not what the majority of people in the venue are hearing.

It's also almost invariably right in the middle of a low frequency lobe that runs up the middle of a room whenever a simple L-R system is used. It's MUCH more noticeable if you're using subs.

so yeah, slightly off centre is the place for me ;)
I agree completely with the slightly off center location and the logic behind it but don't understand why you would approach line arrays any differently as the same issues still apply.

The sub issue noted is likely a result of physically separated subs and the potentially resulting 'power alley' where the subs sum coherently midway between them but with less coherence or even cancellation at other locations.


The issue of where to locate the mix position has been discussed here many times. While it is hard to argue the acoustical benefits to having the mix position in the audience area, there are practical and technical pros and cons to just about any option that can vary depending on the specific situation. I have designed a number of venues that supported multiple possible mix positions, an approach made much easier by the advent of digital snake systems and digital consoles with centralized processing/electronics and remote work surfaces.
 
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TassieBogan

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I agree completely with the slightly off center location and the logic behind it but don't understand why you would approach line arrays any differently as the same issues still apply.
Because with line array's (generally) wider coverage angles, more of the audience is able to both sides of the PA, so being in the middle is not such an issue as it might be otherwise.
 

museav

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Because with line array's (generally) wider coverage angles, more of the audience is able to both sides of the PA, so being in the middle is not such an issue as it might be otherwise.
I had a feeling that was the logic, however it's quite common to have point source arrays with a wider horizontal pattern than just about any line array so that generalization does not hold. And aiming, pattern control, interaction with the environment, etc. also affect the resulting coverage along with the general pattern. So using line arrays does not guarantee good coverage or change what should be considered.
 

bdkdesigns

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In my current venue, I'm fighting to have our mixing position dropped into the house but of course $$$$ always prevails in terms of extra cables needed as well as security as this is an educational environment.

The issue comes from a lighting renovation completed last year. It was already hard to hear what the audience hears because the position is in the booth on the upper level in the back of the house and is completely enclosed except for sliding windows.

The problem is that the FOH Catwalk was lowered about 4 feet during the renovation so that you didn't have to lean out and over the walkway to hang and focus. An obvious safety hazard that I am happy is fixed. Unfortunately however, that lowered catwalk was enclosed with acoustical panels. Now there is not even a direct line from speakers to booth since it is blocked by those panels and now literally completely impossible to get a feel for what the audience hears.

It is fine for me because I have enough of a background knowledge to know how to adapt however it is making it impossible to teach to the the students and have them run the console. It is always too soft or WAY too loud.
 

Jsamuels201

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In the theatre I spend most of my time working at (my high school) the mix position is at the front of a balcony, roughly 3/4 back in house. Our mains consist of a 2 speaker hang, the bottom speaker hitting most of house and the top speaker hitting the front of the balcony. We also have 2 subs (left and right just in front of the apron) and a downfill which hits the first 3 rows in house and part of the space in front of the stage where we put our pit orchestra and extra chairs if needed.

Obviously this system has many flaws (ie: no stereo image, a mix position that sounds significantly different than house does, an apparent lack of knowledge on the part of whoever hung our speakers) but the one good thing that has come out of this system is the reinforcement for me at least of the importance of going out and walking through all of house to listen to the mix. No matter where you put your mix position you should still go out before every show, either during sound check, or at some other time when u can put on a piece of music that's dynamic and you know well, and walk through every section of house and listen to the differences in each location, and what the difference is between the rest of house and your mix position. This will make you a better engineer and will also allow you to troubleshoot any problem areas where you may need to tweak an eq or add a few db to a front fill just so it sounds as good as it possibly can everywhere and you don't have to worry about anything other than the mix during the show.
 

rwhealey

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Denver
Obviously this system has many flaws
I wouldn't be too worried about that one - a mono cluster is often a better choice for a performance space for two reasons:

One, systems with speakers on each side of the stage aren't necessarily stereo systems. For a system to be stereo, each cluster must cover every seat. Thus, if you simply had speakers on each side of the stage and you panned a source left, the right side of the audience probably wouldn't hear it anymore.

Two, it's very difficult to mix a show in stereo, especially musical theater. When was the last time you actually used that pan control? I worked in a venue with a very fancy L-C-R set up and it was far too complex for the operators to wrap their heads around - they ended up almost always using the center channel.

I like to put my mix position about 1/3 away from one side of the room and 2/3 from the other - acoustical nastyness tends to occur in the middle of rooms so that position doesn't always repersent what the audience is hearing.
 

Jsamuels201

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a mono cluster is often a better choice for a performance space for two reasons:
I agree with you on that, the issue with the system our room is not the fact that its mono but the way in which they hung the speakers. My mention of not having a stereo image was also not because I intended on panning every mic right or left but more for wanting to be able to pan effects and also hear stereo when we show movies (the room in question is a high school auditorium). The speakers we have also do not have the spread to hit the full width of the room from where they are hung, and if your sitting on the far left or right of house you won't always hear the same thing you will four or five seats over.
 

museav

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A third potential reason for mono arrays is intelligibility. A single source can minimize interference of the sound sources with the room and between multiple sources, thus improving intelligibility. Since many school auditorium or theatres are also used for lectures, public meetings, school gatherings and so on as well as for performance purposes, speech intelligibility may be considered a higher priority than stereo reproduction. A stereo plus mono or LCR system can typically be a good way to address a variety of use but can also be significantly more expensive.
 

Valerie cook

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28092
Here’s a $6 million question....

How do I convince my school to NOT put the mixer board under the stage (not yet constructed...it’s a new facility) with the subwoofer (still accessible but not during a show)? I, personally, know; but what are my best arguments? Has anyone ever heard of or seen this done? Their argument is that the board can be run with an iPad.
Thanks for your suggestions!
 

jkowtko

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You can't realistically mix a musical without a hard fader surface ... iPads won't cut it. if the console has a remote hard fader surface that you can bring out into the house and leave the stage box under the stage, then sure that sounds fine. Is there anything out on the market that has that configuration?
 

Valerie cook

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That’s what I told them. I don’t think they are having it professionally installed. I’m going to try to convince them otherwise. I’ll have a new Tech Theatre class next year. Can’t teach them the right way to do things in a messed up setup!
 

jkowtko

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Redwood City, CA
If they aren't planning to build a sound booth area in the house, then I would plan on the "plywood-table-over-the-back-of-some-chairs" style sound table that you can generally set up wherever you want to be in the back of the house. Then make sure they buy a sound console that is light enough to carry around, and a snake (preferably digital for the smaller cord) with a stagebox that can stay under or around the stage. The Behringer X32 is a popular console and might be one good option for this arrangement.

If they are okay with this arrangement, then one feature they can build into the facility is a coverable trough along the floor from the stage to the back of the house to make it easy for you to route cables.
 
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Ben Stiegler

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Sf Bay Area
In my current venue, I'm fighting to have our mixing position dropped into the house but of course $$$$ always prevails in terms of extra cables needed as well as security as this is an educational environment.

The issue comes from a lighting renovation completed last year. It was already hard to hear what the audience hears because the position is in the booth on the upper level in the back of the house and is completely enclosed except for sliding windows.

The problem is that the FOH Catwalk was lowered about 4 feet during the renovation so that you didn't have to lean out and over the walkway to hang and focus. An obvious safety hazard that I am happy is fixed. Unfortunately however, that lowered catwalk was enclosed with acoustical panels. Now there is not even a direct line from speakers to booth since it is blocked by those panels and now literally completely impossible to get a feel for what the audience hears.

It is fine for me because I have enough of a background knowledge to know how to adapt however it is making it impossible to teach to the the students and have them run the console. It is always too soft or WAY too loud.
Um.. it shouldn't be fine for you, either. How can you detect and correct edge of ringing, harshness, distortion, etc. if you don't have line of sight between your ears and the tweeters. You can assume, but you can't really hear.
 
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Smellyglove

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Sep 26, 2019
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Norway
Ask them if they'd be willing to drive a car with a manual transmission from back in the baggage trunk. That's an analogy which resembles no speakers pointing with LOS to your ears. You can see how fast you're going on the speedometer and how much gas you've got left, that's about it.
 

MNicolai

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iPad apps are only any good for making small changes on Set-It-&-Forget-It type shows in a controlled environment, or for setting up monitor sends on your own before sound check when you need to be standing on stage making adjustments while you talk into microphones. You can't really mix a band or musical that way, especially in a school setting where the quality of the system tuning, the mix, and the students is going to contribute to a higher potential for sudden raging feedback of doom. You need quick access to mutes.

If you have a lot of wireless mic's (more than 12), you'll also have an incredibly difficult time mixing musicals because the proper way to mix is to throw faders by hand while watching the script. You can't do that effectively on an iPad interface.

There are people who will say "Of course I can mix that way!" -- these people are probably talking about mixing less than a dozen inputs on a weekend warrior type gig where the band is very self-contained. Mixing for school shows is much more "in the trenches" and requires a tactile interface. Having an iPad app should be considered a convenience -- not a primary form of mixing.