Festival Monitor Strategy

Festival Monitor Strategy

Handled monitors for a small split-stage festival this weekend. The idea is that the stage is an A/B configuration: as a band is playing on one side, the other side is being turned over. We had 32 inputs on stage (16 per side) on an analog split with FOH. We set the entire console up as a mirror: inputs 1-16 (layer 1) on the far side, inputs 17-32 (layer 2) on the near side. Each side also had two downstage mixes, an upstage drum fill, drum sub, and a sidefill, which brought the total to 5 mixes per side (10 in all). 

Spike tape is my friend, indicating the “near” and “far” halves of the stage. Side fills were mixes 9 and 10 on the second layer. Note also the same layout for the two talkback routes. 

First we laid out the stage and got all the wedges set up. I sprayed each wedge with pink noise while the other monitor engineer, David, checked each wedge to make sure everything was coming up in the right spot. I labeled the grille of each wedge with a large number using pink spike tape, so as the wedges get shifted around throughout the day, we can keep them straight.

We had a hodgepodge of wedges available, so we played some music and adjusted the bus EQ on each to make them sound something alike. As you can see, the raw responses were quite varied indeed:

These traces are level normalized at 1.6 kHz so we can see the tonal variation. The common trends were taming back the HF response with shelves or bells around 8 kHz and cutting back the 500 Hz hump. 

 

This is not a cure-all. As you can see here, this wedge has had one of the drivers replaced with another of an unmatched sensitivity – and wired out of polarity, causing a tonal imbalance between HF and LF and a big notch at Fc. 

This can’t be fixed with EQ so we simply shelve down the LF and call it a day. This process took about 5 minutes with both of us listening and suggesting filters, and we at least ended up with wedges that sounded tonally in the same ballpark. 

One limitation of trying to do this on an X32 is lack of a full-fledged cue bus. Ideally we’d be able to EQ the cue wedge to match those on stage, and route it through a post-fader matrix along with the comms from FOH and stage management. We did, however, engage the setting to put the monitor level on the main LR fader.

We then chose mics based on the placement relative to wedges (SM58 in front, beta 58a to the side). We ran the vocal mics up at the preamp to about -18 dBFS, adjusted per act, and ran the monitor master levels at -6, which put a send level of about -8 dB at a comfortable and stable starting point for all the acts on stage. 

David and I ran all the sends post-fader so a single input jumping could be quickly handled with a fader move. 

It may come as a great surprise to many folks that we didn’t ring the wedges out. Feedback, being phase- and therefore time- and placement-dependent, will change as the mics and wedges move around the stage, which they did for every act. By keeping a close eye on placement and mic choice, with the baseline of a wedge that sounded reasonably flat, we made it through 40 bands over 2 days having an on-stage level hovering around 105 dBC slow, without a single instance of ring or feedback, and compliments from the bands. Due to atypically wide ground stacks as mains, there was significant HF bleed into the downstage vocal mics, but as that feedback look is out of our control, there’s not too much to be done except to verify that it is not, in fact, our monitors when it comes up.

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