When Things Don't Go As Planned

back-of-pa.jpg

Steinbeck wrote, "The best-laid plans of mice and men / Often go awry.” Such is often the case with installations. Four weeks ago, I had a great plan of how this week would go. All the new furniture for the booth would be ready to go, we’d pull in cable, terminate, move everything down and wire it all up neatly. Then we’d fire up the new PA and spend an afternoon tweaking. Then things started going awry…

As of this writing, the furniture is still in pieces in the loading dock. Six of the eight leg assemblies are rough sanded, but they are far from complete. The new booth is a mess and the gear is on Steeldeck tables. But we are ready to do a weekend, even if everything is not quite done. OK, it’s not close to being done. How did we get there?

Be Prepared with a Critical Path

Whenever I go into a big project like this, I always have a critical path in mind. The critical path defines what must be done to meet the goal. For us, the goal was be ready for the weekend. There are many components to the system that are not critical or even necessary for normal weekend services. Those are the first to go when the project goes sideways. 

We started the week off well; most of our cables were pulled and we were ready to start terminating plates. But we got bogged down and had a few issues crop up. Trying to do an installation in an active construction zone didn’t help. Looking back, we should have pushed this off another month. 

By Wednesday, I knew we wouldn’t get it all done. So we had to decide on what needed to be done for Saturday’s service. That list included:

  • The PA up and running
  • REAC to the stage for the M-48s
  • Com had to work
  • Video from ProPresenter to Projector
  • Audio to Broadcast
  • Cameras in place and working
  • Lighting working

That was pretty much it. You’ll notice having the PA tuned up is not on the list. I was pretty confident that it would sound good enough right out of the box that I wouldn’t need to spend hours on it to do a weekend. Thankfully I was right. 

Make Hard Choices

We have some cool new technology we’re installing, and it would have been great to get them all working. One is the Dante network. We’re installing a Focusrite RedNet6 MADI to Dante converter to feed the PA and distribute audio throughout the building. By Friday, we hadn’t tested it yet, so I set a limit of 1 hour to get it working. I knew that I could pull in a few analog audio lines to drive the DSP as a fallback, and it wouldn’t take long. After an hour, I was still having trouble with Dante. 

As much as I wanted my shiny new RedNet box working, I powered it down and pulled in a few analog cables. The PA was fully operational 30 minutes later. We wanted to play with all our new cool video routing hardware, but it wasn’t critical for the weekend, so we bailed on it. I even have a nice pair of Equator Audio D5s we’re putting at FOH, but again, we don’t need them for the weekend, so they’re still in the box. 

amp-rack.jpg

Do the Things You Can’t Do Later

I did spend a fair amount of time wiring the PA. I could have just thrown wiring up there and made it work, but as it’s 31’ in the air, getting back up there after the lift is gone is really hard. Since we had a lift in last week, I spent the time to wire it up very cleanly. No one will have to go up there for a long, long time to work on that. The same goes for the amp rack. I probably spent an hour more than I had to to make sure it was completely tied down and neat. Because it’s up in a catwalk and getting tools and materials up there is tough, I wanted to do that job once. Again, it’s done probably until it is removed in 10+ years. 

Like I said, this week didn’t go as planned, but we are still able to do church. The new PA doesn’t sound as good as it will sound, but it’s orders of magnitude better than the old one. We did the best we could and made it as far as we could. From this point on, it’s all refining.

Roland