The Phantom strikes again

SocksOnly

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A few weeks ago our school's drama club did A Doll's House. We did soundchecks as usual, everything was fine. But then, in the middle of the first act, the lead's mic stopped working. This problem could easily be fixed, normally...except the lead goes off stage about three times during the entire production. So we shrug, say "hope she can progect," and figure we can't do anything about it 'til intermission.

A bit later, two more mics cut out. And then a third. Before we know it, EVERY mic has stopped working by intermission. So we all run backstage during intermission and try to figure out what's wrong...we check every connection, every battery pack, and nothing seems to be out of place. We even asked the audience for a second time to make sure their cells were off. So theoretically, everything should work but...doesn't.

When the audience left (after the show was finished that night), we did another soundcheck and everything worked fine. We came to the conclusion that the Phantom of the PAC (what we call the performing arts center) wasn't pleased with us. It has worked fine ever since.
 

avkid

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What kind of mics, i'm assuming some type of radio mics?
 

SocksOnly

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I'm not really sure what kind of mics they were- I'll ask my master/stage manager and get back to you on that. We needed them because none of the actors knew how to progect AT ALL. The lead talked so quickly and quietly that we could barely follow along in the script for cues.

Ah. They're just wireless mics.
 
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punktech

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i hate people who leave their cells on, i bet someone put it on vibrate or something...people think that in theaters when their told to turn their cells off it's just so that it won't ring and then interupt the show but they don't think about the fact we use wireless devices...grr silly audience:rolleyes:
 

SocksOnly

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I actually do a lot of productions with my cell on...my mom even called me in the middle of one once. I had to hang up on her 'cause the standby light came on...anyway, I don't think it was cells. The mics cut out one by one. If it was cell-related, you'd think all of them would drop out at once, right?
 

NABster07

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I'm pretty sure there was a thread on this before with cell phones and wireless mics, you might want to do a search for that, but as I remember cell phones use a completely different frequency then your wireless mics do, but I could be wrong. Hell what do I know, I'm a lighting guy.

-Nick
 

SocksOnly

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I figured phones would've come up before at some point.

Is there a way that maybe just having too many people in the PAC would mess the signals up? I can't think of a way that it'd block the signal, but I figure it's worth asking.
 

Chris15

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Is there a way that maybe just having too many people in the PAC would mess the signals up? I can't think of a way that it'd block the signal, but I figure it's worth asking.
Absolutely. People absorb the RF emitted from radio microphone transmitters. Have too many people in the path between transmitter and receiver and you get signal degradation, in some cases to the point of complete drop out. Trying to get you antennas up above people's head, it should help to reduce this problem.
 

Van

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Absolutely. People absorb the RF emitted from radio microphone transmitters. Have too many people in the path between transmitter and receiver and you get signal degradation, in some cases to the point of complete drop out. Trying to get you antennas up above people's head, it should help to reduce this problem.

Always remember the Human body is an excellent free floating antenna as well. We not only absorb certain frequencies but amplify and alter others. All these electrolytes walking around in a nice semi conductive package.
I always try to get my Antennas mounted on the plasterline or somewhere backstage.
 

thorin81

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Was there any timing sequence between when the mics went out? It could be (though unlikely) that your reciever(s) cycled through a power issue and when they cyled the mics would have needed to be reset. I know it is a long shot. I have had to deal with my fair share of theatre ghosts too. Working in a playhouse with a dead Barrymore is not fun (unless he likes what you are doing of course). ;)
 

scarlco

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I remember about two years ago we were working on the final dress of Cabaret... about four hours before doors. The system consisted of about 22 wireless Senheiser mics which started to slowly die, one-by-one. We scrambled to figure it out while the dress rehearsal was continuing on stage - there was no time to waste. Turns out that one of the active paddles (antennas) went bad, cycling noise through the system until the receivers couldn't see the mics anymore. A quick change-out of the paddle, and we were back in business.

However, that rambling tale doesn't sound like your phantom at all - our mics would not have come back up later. It does sound typical of some radio interference, though. Most likely not cell phones in the audience - but something else. I was working on a corporate presentation with 9 wireless Shure mics when a local news company decided to do a remote broadcast from the parking lot outside. I'm not sure what they were using, but I lost half the mics as soon as they powered up their van. The moment they were gone, everything came back to normal. It all happened quicker than I could adjust the frequencies - luckily, we were able to shift the mics around to keep the meeting going.
 

PhantomD

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I'm sorry Socks, I won't do it again. :twisted:

Seriously though, I have had a lot of trouble with wireless microphones and cell phones et cetera, to the point where we had to send away one of our Shure UT systems to get fixed.

Now, after it came back, it is a lot louder than all the others.
 

Chris15

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Now, after it came back, it is a lot louder than all the others.
Dumb question - have you checked the volume levels? Most wireless has one either on the front or back panel. The service tech might have changed it. Alternatively, do the beltpacks (if you are using beltpacks) have a gain switch?
 

Chris15

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Then I would guess that there is some sort of internal volume control that you would need an electrical engineering degree to find.
 

SHARYNF

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Sep 3, 2006
In a number of cases when the products come off the production line the setup is a generic setting based on a normal run. Over time parts age, and also a hand tuning can improve performance. Not saying this was the problem but a few years back there were a bunch of capacitors that were put into the market that had problems, and they keep creeping up causing problems. If you ever open up a device and you see the tops of the caps bulging slightly you probably have these. Many times they are on power filtering, so the device still works just not all that well.

Again may not be the case, but I have seen it
Sharyn