As Cast's in-house sound engineer, it is my responsibility to provide technical sound support to the Cast Technical team for both main space, 2nd, and all the other indoor event spaces in the building and occasional outdoor events.
As Cast is predominantly a receiving house, most of my work involves co-ordinating with sound engineers, designers and production staff from visiting companies, both ahead of their visits and during their stay with us. Visiting companies need to set their shows up quickly and efficiently and integrate their systems with our in-house systems to present their shows in the best way possible. My job is to make visiting sound staff fully aware of our in-house systems and infrastructure to formulate the best plan for integrating their show with our venue. Sometimes that can be anything from providing simple left/right patching to full desk programming and PA system integration & builds.
For visiting artists who do not bring their own sound crew, I am also often called upon to rig and mix entire shows. Dependent on the demands of the show, this can include:
- specifying, rigging (wiring up) and patching the stage or pit (dependent on the type of show)
- line checking and sound checking channels
- desk programming, setting up dynamics, EQ, fx and routing etc
- setting up monitor returns and checking artists are happy with what they can hear
- programming & playback of audio & visual cues during the show on QLab or other show control software
- co-ordinating with stage, lx and other depts for the smooth running of the show
- radio microphone maintenance, including: cleaning; battery maintenance; repairs; fittings for actors etc
- co-ordination with actors & wardrobe regarding mic fitting and in-show maintenance
For in-house productions (eg panto) and some external groups, I may be called upon to actually act as Sound Designer as well as engineer/op. This can involve shaping the overall sound of the show, designing and sourcing, recording & producing sound fx and ambiences, designing the playback systems and PA for the show and programming playback systems. Though this is not formally part of my job role, this is an additional 'string to my bow' that is handy to have in-house for such shows.
A small but important part of my role is also to ensure that Cast operates legally and safely with regard to current H&S and telecommunications legislation. This may involve insuring Cast and visiting radio systems operate within the terms of our frequency licences, and that shows in different spaces do not clash frequencies. I am also responsible for carrying out the regular electrical safety testing of equipment we use in the department, logging & analysing results and maintaining or repairing any serviceable items.
My particular job description at Cast also rolls in Lighting Technician as well. The demands for this are very similar in scope to the Sound role and are covered more comprehensively in the LX Role description. Dependent on the demands of the show, my role can shift entirely one way or the other or be an often busy mix of the two!
MY ROUTE INTO SOUND
For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with recorded sound. As a kid I used to stick the microphone of my very cheap cassette recorder to the telly and record football matches and music shows and then edit them down later on another cheap cassette recorder. Once I started playing guitar at age 10 in the late 70s, I then started to record my own playing and became fascinated with multi-track recording (which was still massively expensive back then). I started volunteering to do sound in school and college drama productions, acting as engineer and designer.
Eventually, a band I was in during my 20s recorded their first album at a 'proper' recording studio, and because we had no money, the engineer taught me how to run the studio 'out of hours' and how to mic things properly and get the best sound we could, and left us to it. For our next album, affordable digital multitrackers had just come on the market, and instead of paying another studio, I set up my own and continued to teach myself good recording techniques. I spent 20yrs or so recording singer/songwriters acting as producer as well as engineer, and engineering for bands. I started editing music for dance schools in the early 2000's and that led me back to live theatre, when I started offering to engineer shows for the same schools. As well as paid freelance editing, recording and tour engineering work at various venues, I also spent 11 yrs as a volunteer in-house sound engineer and LX tech at the Dearne Playhouse, helping them present professional level sound for community and amateur local groups.
A few of these groups used to perform at the old Doncaster Civic and later the new Cast venue which got me involved with the venue as a visiting technician. I fell in love with the sound at the venue and when an opportunity came up to work there permanently about 6yrs ago, I jumped at the chance to join this brilliant team.