Phil raised a good question based on my last post about the Input Sheet Template; to wit, Why even do an input sheet? I can think of several reasons, actually.
Makes it Easy to Pre-Build Show Files
If you have a digital console, it’s quite nice to be able to set up the console ahead of time in software. You can label all your channels, set up all your patching, even rough in some monitor mixes if you know the band well enough. Come the weekend, load the file in and blammo, all your stuff is set and ready to rock. Having an input list makes this easier, as you know where everything will be plugged in and what it will be doing. If you have engineers that have the capability to pre-build their show files based on your input list, the list makes sure everyone is on the same page.
Helps to Spot Trouble Beforehand
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made up an input sheet and said, “Hmmm, well that’s not going to work.” Perhaps I’m out of mics, the inputs don’t page well (on a digital board), or maybe I’m out of inputs. I would rather know that on Thursday (when I do my input sheets) than on Saturday afternoon. Putting an input list together ahead of time gives me time to go to my worship leader and say, “About that…” and we can come up with a solution while everyone’s calm, not when people are standing on stage waiting.
Makes Troubleshooting Faster
Anyone ever mis-patch a cable? Or go to track down a channel that’s not getting signal and forget where it was supposed to be patched when you get to the stage? Yeah, me neither. But if I did, having an input list would be handy. Take last weekend for example; during line check (you do a line check, right?) we didn’t have the high piano input. I grabbed my input list and went to the stage box. Turns out someone had plugged the acoustic into the channel for the high piano. Having the input list in front of me made it easier to re-patch the inputs without a lot of shouting back and forth to FOH.
Aids in Training
The first step in new audio guy training is learning to set the stage (actually, the first, first step is coiling cables…). To help move that process along, we use input sheets. I can hand a newbie an input list and say, “Here, this is how it should go.” They can easily learn to patch the acoustic guitar DI into ch. 12. They don’t have to memorize anything yet, just get a sense for how the stage should be cabled. After a few months, the test to see if they’re ready to start mixing is to be able to set the stage without an input list (which we use to check their work).
A Guide for Setup Teams
Sometimes you come across people who really want to help with the tech ministry, but don’t feel they have the chops for live work. A stage set up team is a great place to plug them in. I had a retired couple in one church who loved setting the stage. I built an input list for them and they came in every Thursday morning and cabled it exactly the way I laid it out (the input lists also includes a stage drawing). When I showed up on Saturday, it took just a few minutes to double-check everything and we were ready for sound check. It’s a win-win.
One of the things I wanted to do with my input list was develop a standard patch. That is, get us to a point where all of our band configurations fit into a pretty well defined input list. Standards make it easy to do board recall, and moves us closer to a more consistent mix every week. As we develop more volunteers in this area, standards become even more important
So there you go. Six reasons for doing an input list. There are more, I’m sure, but it’s early and I’m not really running on all channels yet. All of this assumes you have a worship department that values planning and is capable of deciding (at least roughly) who will be on stage sometime before they actually walk on stage. If you don’t have that, well, that’s another post. My motto is, “Plan everything that can be planned.” That way, when things change, you easily have the bandwidth to cope with said change (as opposed to making the entire thing up on the fly).