Addendum to Independent Study in Sound Design and Sound System Component Operation Arnold F. Bi lotta III 18 December 2000 This past year (2000) I have been working in the sound booth for The John Lyman Center for the Performing Arts. Here at the John Lyman Center (JLC) we have been going through a time of transition. The former resident technical guru who had taken care of JLC's happenings had retired, leaving the JLC in a semi chaotic state. The dance school season was just about to start which happens to be our busiest time of the year.
The administrative staff here at the JLC was franticly trying to find a replacement while interim Chris Huda cs fought his was through the perilous dance school season. Finally, when all the hullabaloo was over David Starkey, formally serving as Technical Director of the Theatre Department at Southern Ct. State Univ. was named the new title of Events Manager.
When David was still working in the theatre department I had approached him when it was pointed out that there was no one person on staff who knew how to fully operate the sound system. The idea I had come up with was to design an independent study which would allow me to be in the sound booth and empirically discover how to operate the sound system and all of its support components. He agreed that it was a good idea because Greg had never explained anything but remedial board operation. Since I first started working at the JLC I had wanted to work on the sound system, now I was being given the chance. The independent study was written up as follows: Independent Study in Sound Design and Sound System Component operation Objectives: -To demonstrate competence in properly operating the sound system and all its individual components in Lyman Auditorium. Which includes but is not limited to the following:" Sound board" Tape player" DAT player" Mini disk player" Compact disk recorder" Compact disk player" Digital effects processors" Patch bay" Wireless microphones" Digital synthesizer-By the 8 th week be prepared to work with the head sound designer in developing a sound design for the crescent players fall production of 'three penny opera'.
The sound design should incorporate as many of the listed devices as possible to ensure that a high quality production is obtained. The learning process I have been going through has included help from many people. I would sit and pick the brain of every sound engineer that came through here. Finding out what you did with an Omni Drive'O or how to use the feedback detector and the graphic equalizer to get rid of feedback. One technician said it best when during a show an audience member asked him how long it took him to learn everything on the board. He replied 'I'm still learning, there is always more to play with.' I believe that to be a very good point that you should not think you know how to do everything.
An example of this is when the oracle said Socrates is the smartest man but when asked Socrates denied this saying that he knew nothing. It was exactly this understanding, that he did not know everything, which validated the oracle's original declaration. The sound booth is now in order after a problem we had with one of the Omni Drives'O shutting off randomly during shows. It appears that the programming in the software was the cause, which was remedied by formatting the drive and reloading the program. At this time the Crescent, players are loading in and are nearing the time when the sound crew would need to come in and set up for the show.
That day arrived quite quickly and the sound crew, which was wholly made up of one Allison DiBlasio, went to work. I showed her exactly which microphones to use when m icing the orchestra, how to run cable and the snake, and the correct way to patch them. I had her write all of this information down because then she would have it as a reference. Included in the instructional course was an overview of the soundboard which knobs she should be concerned with, what they did and which ones she should not touch. Everything seemed to be going well in the sound department, until there was a discrepancy in how the sound designer thought I should helping, and how I was supposed to be helping.
Apparently, there was a misunderstanding between us. After the initial setup of the show, I left with the understanding that if any additional questions needed to answered she could call and I would try to help her through them. Knowing that the sound crew was short staffed I would go and help out with additional things such as dressing of cables and daily setup which included putting the microphones back out on their stands. It go to the point where I was there every night for numerous hours, which is something, I was trying to avoid. I realize that I was going to have to put in some time to this project but there was a reason why I did not take on a larger role in helping with the play. I had worked on the two previous main auditorium shows and they were both detrimental to my scholastic efforts.
However, that problem was resolved and the show went on. I also attended two performances so that the show would run a bit smoother when the adjudicator was there. In conclusion, I would be wary next time to get involved in a project like this unless all the small details were worked out before hand. I would have clearly written, so there were no gray areas, what my expectations were and what was expected of me. Overall, this project helped me to learn more about theatrical and performance sound and the equipment that supports it. I am now more confident when mixing a show because I know that I have a better feel for how things should be working.
However, the most useful thing is that I know there is always more to learn about sound engineering, and I have the resources to aid in that development.