Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

They’re Just Tools

The other day, I was going through my show file for our upcoming Christmas production. It’s a massive show and we’re doing all kinds of tricks with the SD8. And I got to thinking how blessed we are at Coast Hills to have these great tools at our disposal. We have an amazing facility, the SD8, a deep mic locker (though I still want a few more…), a decent lighting rig and some super-bright projectors

I realized not all of you have this arsenal at your disposal, and that this could create a little bit of  “gear envy.” But the truth of the matter is I was making great mixes back when I had nothing but an SR32 and a single outboard effects unit. That’s not because I’m so great, it’s because it’s what we do.

Really good tech people can make a great experience happen regardless of the equipment at their disposal. Sure, it’s a lot more fun to mix (and put together a huge show) on an SD8 than it would be on an SR32, but I’ve done plenty of big shows on a small mixer (usually supplemented by other small mixers).

As recently as a few years ago, I myself had gear envy. In taking with some of my friends who were mixing on Profiles and Venues, I felt I could do more if I had one of those as compared to the little 01V we were saddled with. When I came here and started mixing on the PM5D, I realized not much really changed. Even when we got the SD8, my mixing style hasn’t changed that much. The mixes sound a little better because I have a few more tools at my disposal, but overall, I still approach the basics of mixing the same way I did before.

If anything, my mixes are sounding better this year than last not because of the equipment I have, but because I’m constantly studying, learning, trying new things and growing as an engineer. When I find myself in our student room with a little MG32, I can still pull together a good mix.

My point in all this is that we all have a certain set of tools at our disposal, be that a large and expensive set, or a small and inexpensive one. But it doesn’t matter. It’s often said that a great engineer can put together a better mix on a Mackie than a poor engineer on a Midas. Personally, I’d rather strive to be the great engineer as opposed to relying on the best gear. How about you?

9 Comments

  1. luke@rattei.org

    Very true. Just this morning I had to mix on a Behringer board with EQs that did almost nothing. It mostly made me refocus on mic placement to get better sounds. However, I am still going to axe the Behringer board and move back to our nice Soundcraft…

  2. luke@rattei.org

    Very true. Just this morning I had to mix on a Behringer board with EQs that did almost nothing. It mostly made me refocus on mic placement to get better sounds. However, I am still going to axe the Behringer board and move back to our nice Soundcraft…

  3. klonghofer@gmail.com

    Such good words here, Mike. It’s all about the ears and skills, not the tools.

    Except.

    There’s always that ‘except,’ isn’t there. In this case, I think there are a couple of important ‘excepts’ that I have found is very, very common, particularly in mid-sized churches.

    Churches need to understand that while there are a ton of resources and training out there for their tech teams… not all of it is free. Airplanes and hotels aren’t free either. I know too many techs who get literally no support from the church with regard to accessing training, or (heaven forbid!) travel to a conference where they can learn hands on. It’s just critical.

    And second, in lots of churches, expectations for production value increase on what seems like a weekly basis. By nature, tech guys and gals are “get it done” types. There is a real tendency on our parts to over-extend, to meet requests and needs that really aren’t supported by the tools and toys that the church is able to provide.

    We have to be careful not to set expectation higher than the tools we really (consistently) have at our disposal. The key is to maximize our abilities within the set of tools provided, and make sure we don’t slide into the ultimately destructive habit of consistently pulling rabbits our of our hat to pull off something that is really beyond the capabilities of the systems the church has in place.

    So, I agree with you entirely. We have to be committed to getting better, all the time. We just need to balance that with a commitment from the church to help with that process, and to making sure that expectations are in line with the reality of the tools and toys provided.

    Thanks for everything you do to help techs get better every day!

    kdl

  4. klonghofer@gmail.com

    Such good words here, Mike. It’s all about the ears and skills, not the tools.

    Except.

    There’s always that ‘except,’ isn’t there. In this case, I think there are a couple of important ‘excepts’ that I have found is very, very common, particularly in mid-sized churches.

    Churches need to understand that while there are a ton of resources and training out there for their tech teams… not all of it is free. Airplanes and hotels aren’t free either. I know too many techs who get literally no support from the church with regard to accessing training, or (heaven forbid!) travel to a conference where they can learn hands on. It’s just critical.

    And second, in lots of churches, expectations for production value increase on what seems like a weekly basis. By nature, tech guys and gals are “get it done” types. There is a real tendency on our parts to over-extend, to meet requests and needs that really aren’t supported by the tools and toys that the church is able to provide.

    We have to be careful not to set expectation higher than the tools we really (consistently) have at our disposal. The key is to maximize our abilities within the set of tools provided, and make sure we don’t slide into the ultimately destructive habit of consistently pulling rabbits our of our hat to pull off something that is really beyond the capabilities of the systems the church has in place.

    So, I agree with you entirely. We have to be committed to getting better, all the time. We just need to balance that with a commitment from the church to help with that process, and to making sure that expectations are in line with the reality of the tools and toys provided.

    Thanks for everything you do to help techs get better every day!

    kdl

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  6. luke@rattei.org

    Good points as well, Kirk. That can be the source of stress every week trying to tackle 40 piece orchestras with a 12 channel board and 8 SM58s (or whatever other crazy situation). However, do you think it is easy to get complacent when you don’t have equipment or training shortages? Or does it really provide more time to be creative?

  7. luke@rattei.org

    Good points as well, Kirk. That can be the source of stress every week trying to tackle 40 piece orchestras with a 12 channel board and 8 SM58s (or whatever other crazy situation). However, do you think it is easy to get complacent when you don’t have equipment or training shortages? Or does it really provide more time to be creative?

  8. jblasongame@gmail.com

    I agree. For our setup it’s not about poor quality equipment, I’m reminded of how good a job our design company did in our facility when other bands or tech guys come in, but more often than not, the talent behind the console is more important than the talent on the stage.

  9. jblasongame@gmail.com

    I agree. For our setup it’s not about poor quality equipment, I’m reminded of how good a job our design company did in our facility when other bands or tech guys come in, but more often than not, the talent behind the console is more important than the talent on the stage.

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