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How do you set up on stage?

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How do you set up on stage?

Postby Alan25 » Fri Feb 08, 2019 12:01 pm

I've just bought the bones of a PA system (Alto TS112a and 2x powered wedges) and I'm thinking about the best way to set up on stage - where to run cables, power, where to put the mixer etc. I remember a similar thread from a year or two ago but haven't been able to find it again.

At the moment it's fairly straightforward as I'll only be putting 3x vocals through the PA so everything will be more or less along the front of the stage. If we go for a stagebox style mixer where would you put it - front and centre, off to the side or at the back?

What about cable lengths? 6m for nice and monitors, 10m for speakers?

In time I'd like to add at least one sub and put 2x guitar amps, bass, kick and snare in the mix too. That will probably change things too?

Thanks
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Re: How do you set up on stage?

Postby Mike Stranks » Fri Feb 08, 2019 12:39 pm

Mixer to the side - preferably out of audience eye-line.

Getting one or more of these: https://www.thomann.de/gb/the_sssnake_mc_6_multicore.htm or its various siblings is well worth it. Keeps cables as tidy as possible, makes it quicker to rig and will stay with you if you upgrade.

Don't skimp on cables. In live-sound especially they tend to have a hard life. I standardise on 10s and 6s, but have some of other lengths too.

For mains I have a whole raft of these type: https://cpc.farnell.com/jojo/jjr41010/10m-10a-4-socket-cassette-cable/dp/PL13656 but not in red! Keeps mains tidy and you won't be drawing enough current to worry about overheating coiled cables.
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Re: How do you set up on stage?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Feb 08, 2019 1:13 pm

The important thing with the cables is safety because they are inherent trip hazards. With that in mind, it's a good idea to minimise the cable routes around and across the stage as much as possible. Running them along the front edge is a good plan, since no one walks across the front edge of the stage, and then run them in a neat bunch down the side and back for any backline stuff. Once in place, tape them down and keep clutter to a minimum.

If you're using a remote-controlled mixer (I presume that's what you meant by a stage-box style mixer?) then you may not need a separate stagebox at all as the mixer can probably serve as that itself, anyway, but if you have a lot of sources on the far side of the stage it is quicker neater and safer to run a small multicore to the far side of the stage and use short XLR cables into that for sources on that side of the stage, rather than run lots of long individual cables all the way back to the mixer.

As for where you put the mixer, that will depend on the layout of the stage, how often you need to access it, and whether the wi-fi signal covers the required floor area to allow reliable remote control! Stage-side metalwork can sometimes cause wifi coverage problems... But in general, I'd say the side or back of the stage is probably best.
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Re: How do you set up on stage?

Postby Alan25 » Fri Feb 08, 2019 3:54 pm

Thanks for the pointers Hugh & Mike.

I'll probably be running power to the 4 corners of the stage. Does it make any difference if I daisy chain 4 way sockets together or run each extension back to a central point? Is one option safer than the other? Obviously I'll be using an RCD at the wall socket.
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Re: How do you set up on stage?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Feb 08, 2019 4:29 pm

It's electrically safer and technically better to run the mains cables back individually to a common wall socket source in a 'star' formation. That minimises the risk of ground loops and also avoids any potential for overloading the first mains board in a daisy-chain arrangement...

But in practice the overload issue is extremely unlikely in a typical stage application (unless you're running several extremely meaty power amps), and ground-loops shouldn't be a problem if you're running balanced cables everywhere. So a lot of people manage just fine with a daisy-chain arrangement... which may also be neater from a cabling point of view on stage.

But big tick for the RCDs. I would also urge you to invest in a mains plugtop tester and religiously check every wall socket before you plug anything else in! I've long since lost count of how many unsafe wall sockets I've found in pubs, clubs, churches and other venues over the years!
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Re: How do you set up on stage?

Postby Luke W » Fri Feb 08, 2019 5:22 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:It's electrically safer and technically better to run the mains cables back individually to a common wall socket source in a 'star' formation.

I've lost count of how many times I've had to explain this (or tried to!) on gigs.

Another shout for socket testers here as well, there really is some scary stuff around in a surprising amount of venues. They're not very much money for something that can avoid some very dangerous situations.
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Re: How do you set up on stage?

Postby blinddrew » Fri Feb 08, 2019 6:06 pm

Whenever I'm setting up anything with cabling (tends to be more video work at the moment), especially if there are going to be people who aren't that familiar with being on stage/camera, I'll always try and set it up so that there is an access point that is completely free of cables, and that the general layout naturally encourages people to use that route. Frequently that means routing things round three sides of a square, but I feel a lot more comfortable knowing that you've got a clean entry and exit point. Ideally this should point to the fire exit but that's not always possible.
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Re: How do you set up on stage?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Feb 08, 2019 6:13 pm

Luke W wrote:Another shout for socket testers here as well, there really is some scary stuff around in a surprising amount of venues. They're not very much money for something that can avoid some very dangerous situations.

Absolutely! I use this £50 life-saver:

Image

https://cpc.farnell.com/martindale-electric/ez150/earth-loop-socket-tester-no-trip/dp/IN04254?st=dfn%20test%20socket
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Re: How do you set up on stage?

Postby Watchmaker » Fri Feb 08, 2019 9:53 pm

I need a translator. What precisely is meant by the phrase "star formation" in the UK?

I don't do much live stuff behind a board but I've been shocked (shocked I say!) by ungrounded stages plenty of times. Seems like if you hold a guitar and sing into anything with a metal grill, like an SM58, 3 times out of 50 you're in for a rude awakening. Makes it hard to like the engineer when that happens!
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Re: How do you set up on stage?

Postby Wonks » Fri Feb 08, 2019 10:48 pm

Same as in the US (I've certainly had US manuals that refer to star wiring), though you need to have come across the term. In practice you plug in say one 4 way block to the outlet. Then you plug another 4 x 4-way blocks into the first 4-way block, to give you a total of 16 power outlets. Not quite true star wiring. as that would all wire back to a single connection, but topologically equivalent and practical.

As opposed to plugging in the first 4-way into the main power outlet, then the 2nd 4-way into the 1st 4-way, then the 3rd 4-way into the 2nd 4-way, etc. which is daisy-chaining.
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Re: How do you set up on stage?

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Feb 08, 2019 10:51 pm

"Star formation" means all the mains extensions run from one point, in a small venue usually a dual 13A socket or, in a bigger one, a single distro with multiple C-Form or 13A sockets. The important thing is that the earths/grounds don't form a loop and the power requirements don't add up to more than the supply can.... er.... supply.

But, in practice this is usually impossible and mixed star and daisy chained systems are the norm. A typical small band stage requires in excess of, say, 10 mains supplies to various points on the stage, sticking to a strict "star formation" would need a 10 way distro and 10 separate single socket mains extensions. In practice keeping the number of mains connectors to a minimum usually trumps it and I use a couple of 'B&Q special' cables with 5 single sockets spaced at 1M intervals across the front and back of the stage and with, where necessary, a short 4 way (I may swap the 5 singles for five 4 ways to reduce the number of potentially dodgy 13A plugs in any single supply and would be closer to a 'star form' system if I get around to it).
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Re: How do you set up on stage?

Postby blinddrew » Sat Feb 09, 2019 3:08 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:In practice keeping the number of mains connectors to a minimum usually trumps it and I use a couple of 'B&Q special' cables with 5 single sockets spaced at 1M intervals
I bought one of these following the recommendations on here and have to say it's a great bit of kit, almost designed as a front-of-stage power distribution tool. :D
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Re: How do you set up on stage?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Feb 09, 2019 5:39 pm

Watchmaker wrote:I need a translator. What precisely is meant by the phrase "star formation" in the UK?

The diagram below shows the daisy-chain arrangement at the top -- which is 'bad' -- and the star arrangment below -- which is 'good' !

mains distrubution.png


The daisy-chain method of distributing mains power is more likely to introduce ground-loop hums and buzzes than the start-distribution method. This is because all of the ground currents have to flow along the whole daisy-chain which creates a larger voltage drop and thus powered equipment ends up with slightly different ground references depending on where they are plugged in.

In the star formation the ground currents in each plug-board are smaller and sum at the star point (the first plug-board in this example), and thus the voltage drop for each line is lower, and thus the chances of a ground-loop hum are also lower.
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Re: How do you set up on stage?

Postby Dave B » Sat Feb 09, 2019 5:48 pm

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Re: How do you set up on stage?

Postby Sam Spoons » Sat Feb 09, 2019 10:09 pm

Yup, those are the ones I was referring to, not sure if it wasn't me who first recommended them on here...........
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Re: How do you set up on stage?

Postby Dave B » Sun Feb 10, 2019 1:08 pm

I now have a couple of these - one in the 'big trunk' for full gigs and another in my xlr box which is for when I'm just doing sound. I also take a long reel with 4 sockets. And any extensions/[n]-gangs that I use. I found a great 'straight' 6 way switched extension with 5m lead for peanuts on amazon and that's what I use for my rig.

I'd rather have some coiled 'spare' length as you never know where the power is in some places. I've just found out that a venue I'd due to play soon (and I did live sound there a Christmas) only recently installed proper power outlets - they were on old round 2 pins apparently....

And my power tester is permanently plugged into my big reel so I always know where it is and always know what the venue power is like :)
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Re: How do you set up on stage?

Postby AlecSp » Sun Feb 10, 2019 3:06 pm

In the end, though, it's all about compromise.

Ideally, no cables across the performance area. Cables run neatly. Looms where it will make sense and ease cable runs.

In reality, especially if it's early days for you, you may not have the stock to achieve this. But look at what you do, see where the pinch points are, and consider investing to cover them.

One point that I definitely agree on, you can never have enough mains distribution. Bank on enough to get to all your own PA points - especially if using active speakers. And then remember that guitarists expect to be waited on hand and foot, and will look scathingly at you if you don't provide them with the mains they "need".
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Re: How do you set up on stage?

Postby Music Wolf » Sun Feb 10, 2019 5:21 pm

I have one of those extension leads with 5 spurs. I also have IEC mains leads of varying lengths plus spares. The longer XLRs are spooled, the shorter ones carefully coiled using the under / over method. Everything has velcro straps.

Then we get to a gig and we spend 30 min carefully knitting it all into special web of our own creation. To the uninitiated this may look like a random, tangled mess but trust me, there is a design and we've been practicing this for a long time. We then lay loose lengths of cable across all the walkways (we've paid good money for our public liability insurance, it would be a shape to let it go to waste).

Finally, at the end of the night, we carefully scoop it all up making sure that we each get at least one item of someone else's gear in each pile (it's a sort of tradition. Not to do so is bad luck). Usually the Drummer will help me by taking some of my leads and carefully wrapping them up tight before tying the loop into a knot - he knows how much I appreciate this.
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Re: How do you set up on stage?

Postby Alan25 » Tue Feb 12, 2019 1:39 pm

I finally managed to find the earlier thread - lots of similar advice and definitely worth a read.
https://www.soundonsound.com/forum/view ... 26&t=46754

Putting a shopping list together now, always worth remembering that stands and cables do cost money!
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Re: How do you set up on stage?

Postby AlecSp » Tue Feb 12, 2019 3:02 pm

Alan25 wrote:Putting a shopping list together now, always worth remembering that stands and cables do cost money!
Yup, and just don't go cheap there - it'll frustrate you and cost you more in the end. So, that'll be £125 for 3 K&M 210/9 mic stands and a bag to put them in...
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