Havoc on Harmony Lane


this production got me to fall in love with productions all over again! like

so i got a whatsapp text from the ever-so-awesome min, gave him my email, got an email from another mel (LOL), gave my rates, HIRED. the end.

lol y’all don’t even know what i was hired for and by who.

anyways, yes. so. rewind back to the day when i went to SMK BU3 (after all that confirmation) to have a meeting on equipment. or so i thought. i’m sure it was just “equipment” in their minds but productions to me is a lot bigger than that. i immediately realized i won’t be able to have the manpower, knowledge and understanding mindset privileges from a secondary school that has never done a production this scale before.

right.

here’s a list of my lids:

  • they are just kids. SCHOOL KIDS. that doesn’t have an extensive level of knowledge on audio and stuff. ._.
  • they don’t exactly have a stage manager, stage crews or even a production manager. (this is when i started to get reaaallllyyyyyyy worried). they can’t tell apart the differences between a stage manager and a production manager.
  • budget. or more like no budget.
  • only hired as their FOH engineer but it seemed to me i was going to have a lot of work to do to make that they are able to produce this show at a higher standard than what a typical secondary school can produce!

so the first and most heavy weight that i could think of getting rid of off my chest is getting someone who can think of the entire show, from the set up to the tear down, unloading and loading. i personally am not capable of doing it for two reasons: 1) i was only hired as their sound engineer. 2) i cannot commit to attending their rehearsals and understanding their musical from the inside and out (mostly due to “extra labour” and petrol that is not covered in my pay) and so it has to be done by someone from the school itself, someone who can make as much time as they can afford to learn the show by heart and be able to visualize it just like their director but on a more technical side.

that person has to be organized, very committed, positively high in spirit, constantly anticipating, knows how to think & plan backwards, and has very good communication skills & PR. again, i was asking too much from these kids.

okay scrapping all of these problems aside, i’ve decided to list out my to-do list so i could work towards the show on a much productive level.

  1. channel list.
  2. stage layout: with sets and band on risers.
  3. signal diagram
  4. train highly committed students on the basics of audio equipment and laying them out on stage effectively.
  5. technical rider.
  6. technical meetings – BU3, DPAC, and BU3 again.
  7. technical rundowns.
  8. production schedule @ DPAC.

after this list, things are starting to fall into their rightful places but things are beyond done.

we started out by recceing DPAC on a lovely Tuesday afternoon.

  1. they have 22 1m*1m*1ft of platforms. we planned to use 10 just for the band itself.
  2. i find that the theatre has weird acoustics but i figured i’m just gonna have to work around it.
  3. they have a nice space for a centre video camera. although i’m sure it’s just a piece of space for people to go to the other side since they only have  one entrance.
  4. their FOH area is bloody messy. i will clean that up once i get my station down and settled. ha OCD much
  5. i like their dressing rooms. they are providing three, one of which i requested immediately for technical productions & possible office.
  6. i can almost imagine having my meals at the green room omg i was really excited on the inside by the end of the recce. :DD

anyways, i met up with 4 out of 7 of my tech crews on a Wednesday, jan 29th. understandably, 2 went back for chinese new year while one was down with a viral fever. i brought Amanda with me for extra translations (and moral support!!) since they’re all mostly chinese. i prepared some rule of thumb and a to-do list for them but left the hardcopy version at ICOM -_-.

one of the link that i used to introduce and brief them about the things that they have committed themselves into is shure’s mic techniques for live sound. i found this article when i was still in college and i thought it would be a good studying material for beginners! not only do they talk about a mic’s characteristics and how sound waves work, but they have also included details on how to mic up instruments WITH PICTURES! i’ve asked them to go home and do more research anyway, but this article is a great start. [x]

i then made some arrangements with Puan Ngau to bring my seven crew to ICOM on a Wednesday and Friday to expose to them what’s it like for a show fully run by a group of students every week for the Friday performances. when we finally decided which week to bring them, i could only make it on the 11th of Feb because I had other plans that Friday. Anyways, I had some objectives listed out but i tried not to expect much because over time i realized it was already too much for them to take in, in terms of practicality and having the mindset that i was hoping for. by the end of the Wednesday, they went home looking exhausted, brain-fried. hahah oh dear

over the time, Valerie made a whatsapp chat group, we met again at least twice more to brief on the production schedule, getting a list of things confirmed to fit everybody’s needs and space, got an inventory list going, went for a tech meeting with DPAC, and watch a full rehearsal at BU3’s hall. we’re all excited and nervous at the same time; it’s our first musical. yes, mine too as FOH!!

anyways.

we bumped in on Thursday. while waiting for the lights to be rigged and focused, we labelled the mics and cables and DIs just so we could get a head of time when we start to set up. i also taught them how to roll cables. the wireless headsets came at about 4pm and we couldn’t do much till the set contractor came so I got my wireless tech to set up while the rest of us lay the cables and setup the drum set.

the day ended without a soundcheck (even though it was planned) because the set contractors were late and we had to leave by 10.45pm. so I had to re-plan the next day adding in soundcheck slots for every lead and supporting actors, chorus & the band, hoping that we could start the technical rundown by 11am sharp. yeah that didn’t really happen because the makeup artist can only come in the morning so all the plans for tech rundown kinda went down the drain BUT since hair and makeup was done much earlier everything kinda fall into place as we used the remaining hours to work on our sound, get used to the wireless mic, stage markings, and the possible chaos that the crew has to endure.

the biggest problem that we faced was the wireless headsets. this was the first musical that I had to mix incorporating a lot of cues and dialogues and thus a lot of riding the faders. i learned that i had to apply quite a lot of expander and compressor, besides dealing with their dinosaur breathing and the fact that we kept running out of battery throughout our rundowns! I became better at riding after 3 rundowns (by 3 i mean, including the first matinee show -_-), we realized that the batteries needed are the alkaline types, and we moved the mic 2 fingers away from the mouth to avoid the sound of heavy breathing.

i was on intercom during the rundowns and the first matinee show, and listening to the chaos backstage was amusing yet worrisome at the same time since i can’t be at two places at once. one of our biggest incident happened just after the first song of the second act, during, dare I say it, the Saturday matinee show. the conversation went down something like this:

Jason: Melinya, Melinya!! Melanie’s guitar string broke!!
Me: Okay, so?
Jason: She said that she cannot play the next song!!
Me: No, she can. It’s just one string right?
Jason: Okay.

5 minutes of silence.

Jason: Melinya!! Melanie asks is it possible to not let her play?
Me: No. She has to continue playing. We don’t have a spare guitar.
Jason: But she said-
Me: Okay which string broke?
Jason: The first E string.
Me: So, she can play. It’s just one string and it’s almost the least important for the rest of the songs that she needs to play. It’s fine. She’s fine. We can have it restring later.
Jason: Okay.

i’m assuming from just this one afternoon show itself, they have learned to anticipate all possible problems instead of reacting to them because i didn’t get anymore intercoms right after that, hahah!

the night (and most important) show went incredible well, except for a minor low rumble and a 6K feedback towards the end. the next day’s matinee also went well and everybody helped with the tear down. the performers helped with the props while my crew and i handled band side. we actually finished an hour earlier from the scheduled bump out time which gave everyone some time to catch their breath, like myself.

overall, it was an amazing experience working with awesome people!! i learned mostly how to deal with changes that don’t go according to plan. when you have the ability to control your frustrations and look at all possible outcomes, nothing is impossible. if you can’t do it on your own, guess what, you have ten, twenty, and hundred other brains to help you work out your problems! one thing about a production is that, you’re not alone. it’s so easy to be in your own world working on your own thing but a production cannot run without everybody’s input in various sections.

i love my crew to death. i’m thankful for min for hooking me up. i appreciate melissa’s patience dealing with everyone and myself. i praise God for this wonderful opportunity. kudos to Puan Ngau for giving all of us an opportunity to create wonderful memories and mind-blowing experiences. I HOPE TO DO THIS AGAIN SOON!!

my original seven crew and i. | top left: jason, nicholas, ashraff, elton | bottom left: me, yueh qi, valerie, eileen
my name tag!!
my view.
eileen, jo ann, yee shyen, valerie, me, yueh qi, hazman, darmes, ashraff, elton, jason, nicholas. | missing: en seng & stephanie.

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