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What actions by sound people should be cues called by the stage manager?

Discussion in 'Sound, Music, and Intercom' started by superuser2, Nov 16, 2008.

  1. superuser2

    superuser2 Member

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    I'm new to theater and sound, and I'm going to be running sound for my third talent show in December. In the past for this show, stage management has always been sort of ad hoc, we go when we and the people before us say we're ready. I've always felt that was too fragile for my liking, and so this year the director agreed to stay on a headset and call the show.

    I know we want cues for the lighting people, the backstage crew, and sound playback, but I'm wondering one one thing:

    Should we have cues for bringing microphones up and down? Or should I just follow the action onstage (up when performers are ready, down when they're done)? Either way, I'd have a list of which microphones are out/where the stage crew puts them for each act.

    Also, how should we handle getting the acts to the right places? In the past, we've had everyone in the green room except the next two acts waiting in in the wings. What do you call the people who make sure the acts are in the right places? The assistant stage managers? And should the movement of acts be given numbered cues like lighting and sound?

    Sorry if this is more of a stage management question, but that area of the forum is practically dead, and I'm looking at this from Sound's perspectivce.
     
  2. DHSLXOP

    DHSLXOP Active Member

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    In my opinion, the ONLY times that the sound board needs cues are:
    1) At the start of the show (to know when the show is starting)
    2) At the start of intermission (same as above)
    3) When there are SFX that need to go with a light cue that the SM called.

    You should never have the SM calling microphone cues - it should be written in the sound op's script, and that should be the end of it!

    The ASM should call the acts - no need to make numbers - just call the names of the groups. Just call something like standbye for XXX (like and act or 2 before they go on), and when they need to get on stage call XXX to the stage.

    Hope this helps.
     
  3. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    In my opinion, microphone cues should never be called except in special cases where there is a microphone backstage that needs to be turned on at a certain point for announcements or for live voice effects. The sound engineer should never be on headset except when paged via Blazon; this is so that the sound engineer will be able to hear the mix in the house.

    And I agree with calling acts by their names - makes it a lot easier. Just have one act standing by (not in immediate wings space) and one act on deck (in immediate wing space, waiting to go on after the current act). Dance shows with large casts and many changing group numbers should be ASM'd the same way.
     
  4. cdub260

    cdub260 CBMod CB Mods

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    Here in Pageantland we call them Runners. And with anywhere from 90 to 200 cast members, we need them.;)
     
  5. mbenonis

    mbenonis Wireless Guy Administrator

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    Agreed, with one exception. I have one entrance that is cued by the PSM at the top of the show, and the actor starts off a-capella, so I can't pick up my cue from the music. In that case, I hold my ClearCom phone to my ear until I hear "Cue Actor" - then I drop the phone until intermission.

    Mike
     
  6. jkowtko

    jkowtko Active Member

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    In the broadest sense, whoever needs to be involved to get the show to run properly, is needed. For each cue, if the sound op has enough competence/knowledge/tools to fire a cue at the right time, then he/she should be fine handling the cue. If not, some outside help is needed.

    Now the theater is full of drama, so I'm sure you will (as I have) encounter those situations where the SM "must" call all audio cues, or conversely where the sound op "must" be solely responsible for all audio ... but there is no rulebook here, only commonalities. Just do whatever you need to make the show run as smoothly as posisble with the personalities involved :) Hopefully you will always get there, but sometimes you may not ....

    Fyi, there are different methods of communication between op personnel during a show -- audio headset, cue lights, head, hand and finger signals if the ops are within sight of each other, and whispering if they are sitting next to each other. I've done all of the above as each situation required.
     
  7. superuser2

    superuser2 Member

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    Alright, thanks everyone.

    In our specific setting, headsets are the only viable method of communication.

    Because this is a talent show and not theater, we have no script - only a list of acts and what we're doing for them. Cues are a little less obvious because they depend on the performer being ready to start - what would you recommend as a protocol for when I bring the mic up (so as to avoid handling noise as they adjust it, but also make sure I get their first word)? It's pretty hard to see in detail what they're doing from way up in the booth. But I could probably set some kind of rule, like "your mic will be live once you take your hands off of it" - though if they don't adjust it at all, that doesn't work very well...

    Any suggestions?

    None of us are very experienced and I don't think either of us will be intent on the cues being called either way (though for other shows, that advice could come in really handy)
     
  8. jkowtko

    jkowtko Active Member

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    I'm sure you'll get lots of interesting responses here, since you can do this any number of ways depending on the way things are moving on/off stage. Last year I did a dance show where the Emcees (six guys) performed skits between each dance. I had a mic plot to know who was going on for each skit, and the rule was --

    - If you are in the skit, your mic will be up as soon as the song ends. At that point, keep quiet until you need to talk or otherwise make noise in the skit.
    - If you are in the skit and are offstage at any time during the skit, keep quiet whenever you are offstage, as your mic will likely be on.
    - All others backstage, whether or not they have a mic, must be quiet at all times.

    The reign of silence had to be decreed because most of the skits were heavily ad-libed and had widely varied timing from show to show, and we had only 3 rehearsals and I didn't know any of the guys, who all happened to look a lot alike from 100 feet away. But after two rehearsals they got it, and the performances came out very well.

    If your actors are clipping on their mics onstage so that the mic mounting is not being "hidden" from the audience, I would suggest having the stagehand or actors giving you a hand or thumbs up in the air to indicate all is a "GO".

    -- John
     
  9. maccalder

    maccalder Member

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    Talent shows are an odd one. If all acts are coming out and adjusting the mic to suite etc, then agree on a discrete hand signal like an OK signal between thumb and forefinger on their right hand when they are ready to go, or a short nod. Or you could just watch. As they approach the mic, have it on, if they reach to adjust it, quickly mute etc. The SM/director/FM is not going to be of much help cuing that anyway. Talk to the "talent" - if they are a 'proper' act, they will have done the show before elsewhere and will have methods that they follow. If they are an amateur act, suggest a course of action that works for you.
     
  10. lieperjp

    lieperjp Well-Known Member

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    My suggestion is to play around during rehearsal and find which way works the best for you and your situation. Assuming you have rehearsals :neutral:. There are several good options here, but each situation is different and what works best in one situation may not be the best for another.
     
  11. superuser2

    superuser2 Member

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    We have one (long) rehearsal in the auditorium. We're also going to run it several times in the gym with no tech (but it lets us see what the acts need, and it lets the acts and backstage crew practice).

    That'll be good. I think I'll make that the rule - mic will be on when you approach it; if you reach for it I'll mute it until you remove your hands.

    In a "serious" show, performers rarely have to adjust mic stands. I'm assuming they do that backstage - so do they just have an extra microphone for each vocalist, adjust act 2 while act 1 is out, and then swap 'em? Or how is that accomplished?
     

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