Somewhere out there you may or may not have noticed that Easter is coming early this year. Easter is the one weekend that can strike fear into the heart of the most seasoned technical director. It’s the one weekend a year when everyone wants to “pull out all the stops.” Get the biggest band up on stage, more vocals, maybe a drama, and—oh why not—add a choir! This year, the trip from Christmas to Easter is a mere 3 months, and being that it’s the beginning of March, you have 25 days to get ready.
For us at Coast Hills, Easter means not only 5 services on the weekend, but 2 Good Friday services as well. And, as I’ll be in Tulsa for the Seeds Conference this week, I only have a few weeks to prepare for 7 services in 3 days (and they’re not easy services, either). To survive, I started planning already. Last month, in fact. I learned the value of planning last year at Christmas. I shared some of those thoughts then, but after reading my friend Dave’s post on getting ready for Drive, I was inspired to jot down a few thoughts on how I’m prepping for Easter this year.
I started building my input list the second week in February. As soon as all the players and vocalists were identified, I figured out where they would go. I actually started earlier than that; at NAMM I arranged for a FOH console to be brought in so we can use our SD8 at monitors. While we normally run M-48s for the band, we will actually have 9 musicians plus 8 vocalists. To keep everything manageable, we’ll mix the ears for vocals from the SD8, and FOH will handle the M-48s plus the house mix (look for my review of the SD5 following Easter).
I booked my lights and scenery rental two weeks ago. The stage plot was also done mid-February, and I’ve already ordered all the materials we need for the set build. I even made arrangements to move a little budget money around so I could by another wireless IEM and an antenna combiner so we’d have enough for that week. A little planning goes a long way.
Pre-Build Anything You Can
Good Friday is a huge event for us. As soon as my input list was finished, I started building show files. Since I have two consoles, I have two show files to build. To make that easier, I brought up an old Mac Mini we’re not using and loaded the SD8 software on it so I can easily move back and forth between the SD8 and the SD5. And, since I can look at last year’s show file, I can also begin to pre-build my snapshots for each segment. The service is pretty close to what we did last year, so most of it is a known quantity.
I tried this at Christmas, and while it doesn’t work for me on a weekend, I really liked having starting snapshots for each song for a big event. I’m not trying to build a mix, but I do want to get the right channels on (or off) and have my effects starting points pre-built. That makes rehearsal less stressful and I’m already more than half way there when I start virtual soundcheck.
For Christmas, we called up last year’s tracks and pre-built starting monitor mixes for the vocals. We’ll do the same thing for Good Friday. By giving the vocalists something to work with right out of the gate (and a really good starting point at that), they don’t get too picky and burn a lot of time during soundcheck. In fact, for Christmas, we had eight vocalists fully sound checked and mixed in about 20 minutes.
We’ll also pre-program all our M-48s for both Easter and Good Friday. A week or two before, we’ll get them all out, and go through both services and build the whole thing. Starting mixes and patches will be stored in normally unused memories so we can simply recall them during that very busy week. I’ll even pre-coordinate the additional wireless IEMs in advance, so all we need to do is look up the frequencies and program away.
We’re also going to pre-build our set pieces this year. We know what we’re going to do, and the week prior to Easter week, we’ll build the helixes then store them in the loading dock. That should save us about 4-6 hours during build week.
As Dave mentioned in his post, crazy things can happen during a conference or a big event. The more prepared you are, the easier it is to handle the crazy. Another benefit for me, is to work through various layouts and options stress-free in the comfort of my office. I’ve changed the layout of the SD5 five or six times now, as I come up with new ways of doing things. I’ve already built a bunch of macros to speed my workflow, and even fully outfitted the SD8’s show file with some time-saving shortcuts. It’s easy to do that when you can sit back for a few minutes and ask, “What if?” It’s a lot harder when you have 17 people on stage waiting for you to figure out what’s next.
Looking back, I probably should have written this post on February 5, not March 5. But look at it this way, you still have a few weeks to get a jump on the biggest weekend of the year. If you can possibly do anything now to get ready, do it! With proper pre-planning and pre-building, you can not only survive Holy Week, but thrive.