"Caveat emptor!" or "Be sure to plan things properly!"

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by Questor, Jun 24, 2008.

  1. Questor


    Apr 5, 2008
    Great Neck, NY
    I'm sharing this with everyone for what it's worth.

    A few months ago, I was asked to run sound for and record a fairly large church service this past Sunday. Due to the size of the event, it was being held in the ballroom of a hotel. This meant that I would not be given the opportunity of spending any quality time planning this, but I wasn't too worried: I've done this before in this particular venue. The last few times, I didn't do anything too elaborate but I wanted to go all out this time.

    I have enough equipment. Instead of bringing my 16U rack of stuff, I simply took out my 16 channel Mackie board; brought my work laptop (recently upgraded to a newer model Dell) running Cubase 4 via a Tascam US-144 interface; brought several dynamic mics and a few pencil condensers for choir overheads; boom stands; etc.

    I arrived at 7:30am for the 10:00am service and started setting up when I realized that the only place to put my mixer was on a table stage left and in the back. Thank goodness I brought my laptop stand, because that would have complicated things somewhat! The last things to be connected were the altar mics; the longest XLR cables I have are 25' and they weren't long enough. Ugh.

    Now you are all, and myself too (in hindsight), saying to yourselves, "No problem. Just daisy chain an XLR cable at the end of each," but I wasn't thinking clearly apparently. I disconnected everything, re-situated my mixer on top of two chairs next to the stage (and next to the organ), untangled the cable mess, and reconnected everything.

    I finished 15 minutes before the service was to begin, sans sound check, even without just a simple walk through of the ballroom to see if everyone could hear. I was pointing to the ushers in the various corners and, through hand signals, was asking if they could hear. I got thumbs up from everyone.

    Yet something was wrong. I was splitting my signal path: the main outs were going into the house PA while subgroups 1 and 2 were going into the Tascam interface. While the sound out of the PA was fine, Cubase's on-screen mixer was telling me that I had substantial amounts of clipping from the organ (which was mic'd).

    "No worries," I thought. "I'll fix it now and will just cut out the pre-service music" (which isn't as high on the priority list as the service itself). But I couldn't fix it. No matter what I did - mute all of the channels, turn the channel preamps all the way down, etc. - the sound was still coming through.

    I panicked. I thought that I had connected the wires incorrectly in the back of the mixer. Nope; they all were in the proper jacks. Then I thought I had messed up my mixer when I took it off of my rack and turned the back around so that the jacks are in the back instead of on the bottom. There was no way to find out if that were true, so I kept coming up with these bizarre theories and attempted to verify / disprove them during the service without being too conspicuous.

    In the end, it was the following: two nights prior, I installed Cubase on this laptop with all of the updates and the Tascam drivers. Yet, I forgot to tell Cubase to use the Tascam. Instead, it was using the default input device, which is the laptop microphone.

    ***? I didn't know laptops still shipped with built-in microphones.

    The moral of the story? If I had tested things at home after installing Cubase or had daisy chained the XLRs (thus giving me 30 minutes to spend debugging the signal path) I wouldn't now be trying to filter and EQ the hell out of the recording to get the vocals from the altar to come out clear enough to be usable.


    Caveat emptor! Let the buyer beware - if you don't do your homework and preparatory work, you'll end up wanting to kill yourself in the end. ;)