The Dance Foldback Conundrum

The Dance Foldback Conundrum

A few times a year, I run audio for college dance performances. It’s a weird gig from an audio perspective, as it’s a single input show (Qlab from a solid state hard drive because after an embarrassing mishap years ago, I will never again trust a CD for live playback). Cue calling falls to the A1 because I have the timer. So it’s less about mixing and more about keeping the rest of the production on track.

However, the monitoring system requires some thought. The dancers on stage hear the playback via a pair of sidefill loudspeakers located in the second leg behind the lighting booms. Since these are plenty loud enough to be disruptive in the house, I join ’em rather than beat ’em by delaying the house mains back to sync with the LF energy coming off the stage, timed approximately for mid depth in the house. (I say “approximately” because there’s very little HF bleed off the stage so an exact IR alignment is neither possible nor necessary.) The pleasant surprise about this was that since the system is tuned flat for speech, the extra LF bleed from the wedges tilts the house response up to a pleasing degree to sound as it should with musical content.

The tricky part is control. Playback levels for each track are automated via Qlab but I will ride the faders a bit throughout as the audience responds. I don’t want that to change the levels on stage from what the performers requested, which is a strong argument for pre-fader sends to the sidefill. However it’s important that if I need to pull a fadeout the mains, we don’t still have the monitors blaring – an argument for post-fader.

Then you might think, well just double patch the playback, then you can have adjacent faders for FOH and mons. Great, except if a track needs EQ, I’d have to apply it twice, which is annoying.

I settled on a pre-fader send with the sidefill bus master patched to the surface (LS9 custom fader layer) so I can pull both the input and the monitors down if I need to fade, without banking the desk, which is otherwise impossible. I often joke that the custom fader layer is the feature that makes the LS9 useable, but I’m half serious. Otherwise there’s no way to have your fingers on an input fader and a bus fader at the same time.

The distinct lack of punctuation in this post is brought to you by Fitbit. I’m in a daily steps challenge with the venue’s TD and the house manager. I’m typing this on my phone as I do laps around my kitchen. Based on the notifications I keep getting, they are also both at home doing the same thing.

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