I’ve had a few questions on Twitter lately about input sheets. While I believe input sheets to be absolutely necessary each week, they don’t have to be that hard to put together. As we’ll see over the course of this and the next post, there are several ways to go about making an input sheet, from the simple to the complex. The information that I included in my input sheets, while serving as a good launching point, may not be the information you need in yours.
First, let’s consider what an input sheet is for. At the most basic level, it gives everyone involved in the audio production a blueprint for how things should be hooked up. Unless you have the exact same stage set up every single week, chances are you will be plugging in cables and mics, and moving some things around. Sure, you could do this on the fly, making it up as you go along, but it’s so much easier to think it out in advance.
I started doing in put sheets about 5 years ago, when took over as TD of a church in Western NY. We had a retired couple who were willing to come in and set the stage each week. To make it easier, I came up with an input sheet and stage diagram that I updated weekly to reflect the band configuration for that weekend. That church had four rotating bands of varying configurations. I came up with a common input layout that accommodated everything with minimal re-patching and tweaked my template each week. Here is what the input sheet looked like.
It wasn’t very pretty, but it got the job done. As you can see, we were running a 32-channel board with four monitor mixes and five Avioms. The input sheet gives both the stage set up tech and the FOH engineer all the information they need to be successful. Everything should be pretty self explanatory, so I won’t spend any more time on this version.
Fast forward to 2009 when I arrived at Coast Hills. I’m skipping my time at Upper Room mainly because I can’t for the life of me find any input sheets I used during that time. Go figure. When I arrived here, we were using a PM-5D EX (a PM-5D with a DSP-5D) for FOH. The interesting thing about that configuration is that it behaves like two consoles; the 5D is just a control surface for the DSP-5D. Since the DSP-5 fits neatly in a rack, we housed that on stage. All our stage inputs went to the DSP, and the only thing going into the 5D were local inputs at FOH.
This version of the input sheet was what they had been using before I got here; I’m not sure who originally put it together. Again, it’s not pretty, but it does have most of the relevant information available. As you can see, we were also running a separate monitor board (an M7), mixing a bunch of wedges.
This scenario is exactly why an input sheet is so important. With 34 inputs (this week anyway), 11 monitor mixes and 11 people on stage, there are a lot of opportunities for things to go wrong. The input sheet makes sure we plug things in to the right spot and everything is patched correctly on the digital boards.
Again, this is pretty self-explanatory. As you can see, we also list out monitor mixes, matrix mixes and various stereo inputs. This input list worked out reasonably well for a while, but after a bit, I realized I was making a lot of the same entries week after week.
For example, we have a percussion player and a woodwinds player who don’t necessarily alternate, but are never on the same weekend. We use the same set of three channels for both players, but the input configuration is completely different. For perc, we use three mics; two e904s for congas and an SM81 for overhead. For winds, we just drop a stereo pair that he plugs into his rig.
Rather than change all those parameters by hand every week, I decided to create a pop-up menu and write some If-Then statements to fill in the rest of the data for me.
This worked great. But it was only the beginning. A few months later, I hired a new ATD, Isaiah Franco. Turns out, he enjoyed automating input sheet entry even more than I do. But that’s the next post.
All of the sample spreadsheets are available for download below. The basic sheet and version 1 are available as XLS sheets; but version 2 is only available as a Numbers sheet because Excel doesn’t do drop down menus. And as you’ll see next time, that’s a big deal.