Sound Engineer Guidelines
There are two levels of participation in this area:
- Sound Engineer
- Assistant Sound Engineer
The Sound Engineer is responsible for the safe and accurate hanging of the sound system as indicated by the sound designer. He or she is also responsible for the supervision of the sound crew, programming and operating the sound system (unless these duties are assigned to the assistant engineer, mixing engineer, or other assigned personnel), the maintenance of the sound system during the run of the production, accommodating the needs of an orchestra (if applicable), and assisting the sound designer as needed. The sound engineer is responsible for ALL scheduling of crewmembers during the production.
The Assistant Sound Engineer is responsible for assisting the sound engineer in all duties as assigned.
At the beginning of each academic year, the Lighting and Sound Shop Supervisor will post in the "Theatre Arts Shop Inventories" Sakai drawer (to which all students assigned as Sound Engineers will have access) a list of deadlines by show. Sound engineers are responsible for downloading these deadlines and incorporating them into their personal calendars - it is the responsibility of the sound engineer to ensure that all pertinent deadlines are met. Assistance with information regarding specific deadlines is available from the Lighting and Sound Shop Supervisor.
The "Theatre Arts Shop Inventories" Sakai drawer also contains many useful guides for sound engineers, including reference guides for communication and video systems, guides to proper cabling procedure, guides to working with Dante networks (audio over Ethernet), and detailed circuit plots showing the locations of existing audio tie lines and dedicated audio power locations. There is an Excel file available with individual tabs for each type of equipment available to the sound team and counts, which will be updated on an as-needed basis.
Sound engineers are also strongly advised to work from the Department of Theatre Arts' master production calendar, published once per year in the fall in Microsoft Word and as a Google Calendar file.
The sound engineer is responsible for all scheduling of crewmembers in production. Scheduling for any given call must be posted at least 24 hours in advance on the call board. It is advisable to post online as well, whether via email, Google Calendar, or some other format, but all calls are required to be posted 24 hours in advance on the call board and crewmembers are to be notified of this policy. The sound engineer must attempt to schedule as equitably as possible, ensuring that all crewmembers work roughly the same number of hours.
- Scheduling should be posted on a weekly basis. Schedules must be submitted to the L&S Supervisor for approval prior to posting. Do not post an unapproved schedule.
- It is the engineer's job to keep track of attendance. Any unexcused absences by crewmembers are to be reported to the L&S Supervisor, and the engineer must keep records of tardiness or unexcused absences.
- During work calls which begin prior to opening of on-campus dining options, engineer is responsible for securing crew breakfast for all working personnel.
- During work calls or performance calls which prevent any crewmember from receiving a meal break, engineer is responsible for securing crew meals for all working personnel.
- It is advisable to schedule more time than you may need - it is always easier to cancel a call than schedule one at the last minute.
- For any questions or suggestions regarding scheduling, contact the L&S Supervisor.
Prior to the prep period of a show, the sound engineer must schedule four hours of training for EACH crewmember. The training breakdown is as follows:
- 2 hours safety training. This will be administered by the L&S Supervisor or trainers certified by the L&S Supervisor. Schedule this training in conjunction with the L&S Supervisor and the production's master electrician, whose crew will receive the same training.
- 2 hours General Sound training. This will be administered by the sound engineer according to the training curriculum.
Keeping records of general sound training is no longer required, but records of all safety training procedures will be kept.
All crewmembers will be required to pass two ladder safety training modules at www.laddersafetytraining.org - Stepladder Safety and Single & Extension Ladder Safety. L&S Supervisor will send out invitations to complete these modules to all members of the crew.
The sound engineer is expected to attend all production meetings. During production meetings it is the responsibility of the sound engineer to gather information from production departments and stage management regarding com, video, and cue light needs for the production.
Sound System Review
One week prior to the system handover, the engineer, assistant engineer, sound design team, L&S Supervisor, and Sound Design Mentor will meet to review the rough system diagram and drawings. At this time, the engineer will perform the following tasks:
- Reconcile sound system with inventory. Communicate any shortages to sound design team.
- Budget show with all anticipated purchase needs: mic dressing supplies, batteries, etc. Budget is to be approved by L&S Supervisor before purchasing takes place.
- Research any unfamiliar equipment used on the production. Consult Sound Design Mentor or L&S Supervisor for more information.
Sound System Handover
When the final system is handed over, the sound engineer will perform the following tasks:
- Compile a shop order and delivery schedule. The final version of this will include the production's com, video, and cue light needs.
- Devise a plan to efficiently hang and cable the sound system.
- Compile a plan for safely rigging the show, in conjunction with the L&S Supervisor.
- Compile a list of prep tasks and a rough timeline for the prep period.
The engineer should obtain the system diagram and drawings from the network or the design team. S/he should then prepare a shop order to present to the sound shop assistants. This presentation should consist of a meeting between the engineer (and/or assistant engineer), the L&S Supervisor, and the sound shop assistants, at which time a plan for efficiently pulling all the necessary equipment will be formulated and scheduled. Any rack-mounted or space-specific equipment should be indicated in a notes field in the shop order. The shop order should contain:
- Loudspeakers: specify hanging hardware or other necessary accessories.
- Input Processors
- Mixing Consoles: specify accessories if needed.
- Output Processors
- Stage Boxes
- Networking Gear
- Computers: specify necessary software and accessories/peripherals and external hard drives.
- KVM: keyboard/video monitor extenders.
- Cable: XLR3, NL4, Edison, PowerCon, Cat5e, Cat6, snakes, adapters, etc.
- Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS)
- Any other necessary items.
The communications, video, and cue light order is typically submitted after the formal shop order and should contain the following components:
- Comm: headsets, handsets, base stations, main stations, wired beltpacks, wireless beltpacks, power supplies, cable.
- Cue Lights: main station, cue light boxes, cable.
- Video: cameras, lenses, monitors, cable.
In conjunction with the production electrician and the L&S Supervisor, compile a prioritized list of equipment required for the production's prep period. Efficiently scheduling delivery can prevent excessive clutter in an around the theatres (space is often at a premium).
With the L&S Supervisor, the engineer will create a rigging plot (if needed) with point specifications for any booms, taildowns, or other rigged positions from which loudspeakers will be hung.
It is the job of the engineer to devise and implement a plan which will facilitate an efficient and clean hang of all equipment.
- Neatness of cable runs and ease of troubleshooting is a high priority.
- Communicating with a crew of variously-skilled laborers provides many challenges. Drawing detailed "hang cards" for all speakers and equipment is a useful way to ensure that everything is done correctly.
- Thoroughly labeling cable, loudspeakers, and other components is a way to ensure that things are done correctly the first time.
- The engineer shall generate a list of prep tasks and execute them - this list should be evaluated, supplemented, and re-prioritized daily.
Pulling the Shop Order
With the help of the sound shop assistants:
- All equipment shall be pulled out, hardware installed, and old markings removed.
- Verify functionality of all equipment and ensure that all necessary hanging hardware is available in advance of hang. Coordinate with the sound shop to determine if any purchase items exist.
- Sound shop staff will pull equipment according to the delivery schedule provided by the engineer.
The sound engineer is responsible for the following tasks during hang:
- Install, test, and troubleshoot all components of the sound system(s).
- If an orchestra is used, installation of all components of the orchestra pit (including, but not limited to:)
- Pit curtains and carpet
- Music stands and music stand lights
- Conductor's podium
- Video monitors, cue lights, and communications
- Musical instruments
- If other remote live inputs are used (i.e. live sound effects or remote orchestra members), installation of all components necessary to accommodate these needs.
- Install tech tables at FOH and run KVM from computers to tech tables as per designer specifications.
- Perform routing tasks and console patching.
- Install, test, and troubleshoot all cue lights, communications systems, and video monitoring systems.
The reinforcement/playback system(s) must be ready to focus by the date scheduled for Sound System Balance. Communications and KVM should be ready for Rough Level Set. Video monitoring and cue lights should be ready prior to the first day of technical rehearsal. The orchestra pit should be set up immediately following lighting focus above the pit; further orchestra load-in will be coordinated with the L&S Supervisor and the Sound Design Mentor.
Prior to system balance, the engineer and sound design team will perform a system check of all loudspeakers to verify functionality and routing. During system balance, the engineer and sound crew will focus and make adjustments to the loudspeakers with the sound design team.
Rough Level Set
The Rough Level Set session is an opportunity for the sound designer to set playback levels. At this time, the engineer needs to ensure that all playback components and other inputs (as specified by design team) are fully functional and ready for the design team to set levels.
The engineer is responsible for testing wireless microphones prior to every technical rehearsal and performance and for adhering to battery charging procedures as set forth by the L&S Supervisor and the sound shop assistants. Contact the L&S Supervisor for battery charging guidelines.
Communications and Video
Prior to technical rehearsals, the engineer is responsible for installing all communications and video systems required by the production. All communications (including cue lights) and video should be working correctly prior to the first technical rehearsal. Communications and video shall be tested prior to every technical rehearsal and performance and issues dealt with promptly.
Prior to the first technical rehearsal, all production personnel who will be utilizing wireless or wired communications should be trained in their proper use. Wireless comm shall be set out in a specified location (determined by engineer with L&S Supervisor) every night and delivered to the same location at the end of the rehearsal or performance. Batteries shall be regularly charged by the engineer or delegated crewperson. Broken equipment shall be tagged and reported to the L&S Supervisor immediately.
The sound engineer is responsible for programming and operating the sound system during all technical rehearsals (unless this duty has been assigned to the assistant engineer, mixing engineer, or other personnel). Speaker check and input check should be performed prior to every technical rehearsal. At this check, the engineer should make sure that every loudspeaker works correctly and is in its correct position and focus.
At the end of each technical rehearsal and preview, the sound engineer and sound design team will meet to share notes and develop a list of notes for the next day's work call. The engineer is responsible for securing all necessary crew and equipment for that call. It may also be necessary to coordinate with the technical director to arrange for the necessary quiet time and usage of ladders and lifts so as not to stall out other departments.
Assisted Listening System
Prior to the first performance, the engineer is responsible for testing the Assisted Listening System. Contact the L&S Supervisor for training and assistance in testing and troubleshooting the ALS.
It is the engineer's responsibility to operate lobby video matrixing for performances. During the day, the lobby monitors run a slideshow on a loop - during technical rehearsals, previews, and performance, this is switched to a FOH HD feed. At the end of each technical rehearsal, preview, or performance this video feed is to be switched back to the slideshow. Contact the L&S Supervisor for training on operating lobby video matrixing.
Prior to each performance, the engineer is responsible for checking the following:
- Cue Lights
- Inputs/Wireless Microphones
The engineer is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the final sound design and faithfully reproducing it consistently every performance.
The engineer will supervise the strike of all the sound system components and their check-in by the sound shop assistants. Following strike, the engineer (and assistant when present) shall fill out a crew evaluation for each member of the sound crew and submit the evaluations to the department technical director.