Preparing for Christmas Pt. 2—Console Prep

Click to enlarge, or you can download a PDF of the whole input sheet. 

Last time, we considered how important it is to get your rentals booked early for Christmas. In fact, if you’re reading this and still haven’t secured rental gear, stop and do so now. We’ll be here when you get back. But those headset mic's you need might well be gone; mainly because I already booked them. Two months ago… Anyway.

Input Sheets

As soon as the band configuration is set, I begin working on input sheets. For us this usually happens in late October, early November. In fact, I get stressed if I don’t have that done by November 10th or so. That date is entirely arbitrary, but having it lined up by then makes me feel better. 

First of all, I learn what I need to rent, and I get that booked (see last post). Second of all, it helps me figure out how I’m going to lay things out, and I can spot trouble areas. No matter how big your console is, there are a finite number of inputs. And for some reason, at Christmas, inputs expand to fill the channels available. 

I’ve learned that the time to start negotiating with the keyboard players about their need for 10 inputs is November, not the day of rehearsal. It’s also easier to figure out if you can share body packs, mic's or other items two months in advance when you have time to kick your feet up on the desk and think it through. 

I know I should have told you this in November; sorry about that. I was busy building my input sheets. We’ll do better next year, huh?

Console Prep

With the advance of digital consoles and offline software, the last few years, I’ve built my entire console show files in my office in November. Since this year’s Christmas Eve service is really close to last year’s, I even saved all the relevant snapshots, updating what I could based on new speakers and whatnot. 

With everything patched, the surface laid out, I can load that into the console and run through it a few weeks in advance to see if I’m still happy with it. Most times, I end up making some tweaks once it’s actually on the surface, but it’s nice to be really close at start up.

Pre-Build Monitor Mixes

One of the advantages of not being at a highly creative church is that we do the same thing pretty much every year. So, about a week from rehearsal, I’ll call up the tracks from last years services and pre-build all my vocal monitor mixes (the band is all on M-48s this year). We tend to rotate a few vocals in and out, but I can get close based on the tracks. 

I’ve found, especially with vocalists, if you get in the ballpark with a decent mix from the moment they put their IEMs in, you’re 90% of the way there. Rather than spending 30-45 minutes building eight mixes from scratch at rehearsal, we’ll spend 10 minutes tweaking. 

In this same vein, we’ll also drag out all of the M-48s about a week out, plug them in and pre-patch everything. Because we can save all the patching, panning, naming and grouping in a file, we’ll set it all up, get it ready, save the file, then go back to the normal weekend. I used to do this step during set up week, but I found I had enough to do that week already, and I’d rather simply recall a file than stay in the booth until 10 PM every night trying to get it all done. 

Pre-Build Lighting & Graphics, Too

In fact, anything you can pre-build and save in early December, do it. Now that pretty much everything we do is digital, it’s very easy to get your lighting console set up, all your ProPresenter shows done, even graphics for video can be wrapped up by early December. Shoot, if you need cables run to new parts of the auditorium or building, get them run this week or next.

Well now that you have plenty on your to-do list for this week and next, I’ll let you get started. Next time, we’ll talk about one last thing we can do ahead of time

Today's post is brought to you by Horizon Battery, distributor of Ansmann rechargeable batteries and battery chargers. Used worldwide by Cirque du Soleil and over 25,000 schools, churches, theaters, and broadcast companies. We offer a free rechargeable evaluation for any church desiring to switch to money-saving,  planet-saving rechargeables. Tested and recommended by leading wireless mic manufacturers and tech directors.