Saturday, December 14, 2013

Design Constraints

I've mentioned before my fascination with the way the final product heard by the audience is as much a factor of external constraints as it is design choices. As an example, the majority of the spot effects in my last design were demanded by the Director. Which sometimes meant coming up with something I didn't like because that was the only way to fill the hole. Exacerbated by the extremely tight tech, meaning I often had to throw something out there without knowing if it would fit the final picture.

And of course there are numerous constraints on how you reinforce an orchestra. Stage musicals are not studio sessions. Every change of instrument, technique, style calls for a different set of microphones and other choices, but you don't have that option; you need one compromise that more-or-less works for the majority of the show.

Even more so, the demands of monitor signal from both musicians and actors, and the constant problem of backline leakage, means your control over what is heard by the audience is less than complete. What goes through your mixing board is rarely a complete and nuanced reproduction of the band, and more often fillers and band-aids; a weird, distorted picture that when combined with what is in the air already might come out to something sounding vaguely like an orchestra.

With that said, some musical selections below the fold:

Two keyboards running MainStage 3 provides a wide variety of tonal colors. Violin (doubling on shaker), trumpet (doubling on cornet and french horn), traps player and second percussionist (playing djembe and claves when not manning the second keyboard) add that necessary humanizing element to the synthesized sounds from the keyboards.

Unlike most shows, I split out a multi-track feed for later mixdown. But I was still limited to the mic choices for the live performance, and my track options were limited as well (all three drum mics are folded into one track, for instance).

A budget pit for this show. Two keyboards, bass, and traps. The only mics were kick and the underside of the snare. Keyboard 1 was a Casio sending MIDI to an old Korg P3 piano module. Keyboard 2 was a Roland W30 sending MIDI to an equally ancient Roland MOC-1.

And for something completely different:

This was the house band for Seussical playing during pre-show, showing how a polished quartet can improvise and jam on the spot. I could listen to stuff like this all day. Oddly enough, this is just a mono copy of what was sent to the house.

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