Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mixing Theatre: Take 3 - John Baiocoo

John Baiocco (aka Chachi) has been my right hand man for mixing theatre for about the last five years. He's been doing high school shows on his own and sharing mixing duties with me on larger shows. Last week he got his wings when he flew largely solo on a community theatre production of "Footloose" which you can hear more about on the podcast that will be out on May 13th. Here are some of his thoughts on the experience.
 
Theatricus mixixus
Jon has been asking me to contribute to his blog for a while. I have turned him down up until now.......Recently I worked sound for a musical called Footloose at Batavia Middle School. This school did not have any in house gear. Not a big deal. I ended up mixing the show on 2 Powered QSC K10s. I came into this show thinking it would be a piece of cake. I quickly learned my lesson.

Tech Sunday came around, I was feeling good about it. The first two scenes go by, no major issues. This only made my mindset about the show worse. During one of the major scenes I started having microphones dropping out left and right. My first thought was frequency coordination and receiver position. I changed the channels on the receivers and moved them onto the table in hopes that all the popping and static would just disappear.

The next few days were the same. Constantly having microphones dropping out stuff like that.
After the director freaking out about microphones on MONDAY of tech week, I got busy and went to work testing different frequencies and microphone elements. The problem was slowly getting better but I wasn’t happy yet.

Editor’s Note: This is a common occurrence, especially in high school and community theatre. We joke that five minutes into the first rehearsal with mics the director is turning around and shouting that it’s not perfect! This is where you need to build trust in the production team so that a director is willing to put up with your process and all the glitches and mistakes you’ll make in the normal course of business as you work toward opening night.

Dress rehearsal snuck up on me. "I have half of my notes done and the show opens tomorrow!" I was so busy with getting things to work I didn’t really get any solid notes down. I kept asking myself “Where did all the time go” and “Why isn’t it working”. By this time in the show I was getting nervous. With this being the first show I was doing for BNB without Jon, I was a mess.

Editor’s Note: In his defense, there were some issues with the pit band that were causing even some really strong singers to be tentative. The levels he had to work with were all over the place depending on confidence levels at a given moment.

By showtime things started to work and the noise coming out of the speakers wasn’t just noise anymore. It was all coming together whether i wanted to believe it was sounding good or not. I wasn’t sure what happened but 90% of my problems just vanished.

There was a few tricks that i used to get through this show.

There is one trick that i use every show. I call it “ piggy backing” Where you can bring up a certain fader on an actor and not only pick up the mic’d actor but also the actors speaking around him, giving the illusion that everyone is mic’d. Footloose has a lot of scenes where actors with small roles speak, so I was able to mix it where almost 95% of those small speaking lines were being heard and now just mumbled under actors with microphones.

There were so many things I did that I wanted to write about but I didn’t take notes about them and now my mind is going blank. The major point though is that being out totally on my own I didn’t have the usual safety net of a pro being over my shoulder and I had to relearn a lot of the stuff I already knew. But now I’ve got confidence in my technique and so does the producer which should lead to a lot more shows in the future.

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