Oxfam is a charity organization concerned around the alleviation of poverty worldwide. It was founded in 1942. Their first objective was to convince the British government at the time to disregard the Allied blockade so that food relief could be provided to the starving citizens of Greece. Nowadays they have a widespread international influence and aim to alleviate problem areas of poverty and provide relief and support where and when they can.
Oxjam is an annual charity music festival event based in the UK, where all the proceedings go to Oxfam to aid their quest to combat poverty worldwide. Multiple events are held in multiple areas throughout the month of October. Since its inception, close to a million people have officially attended the various events to raise money for charity via musical means. The South Thames College is an official partner and every year an Oxfam event is held on campus. The money raised will be given to Oxfam
My class (LV1 Music Production) were responsible for the live sound element. We were to make sure that all the equipment functioned correctly, effectively and safely. The crux of the equipment was the 3-way passive crossover system which was controlled by a 32 (channel) 8 (bus) 6 (auxiliary) Soundcraft mixing desk (Soundcraft Spirit Studio 32/8/2), on which all other external equipment ran through. We were expected to perform and behave akin to professionals and a supervisor would only intervene in situations out of our control and experience level. We also expected to setup the backline element which included all the amps and direct injections for all the keyboards, guitars and bass guitars plus some other equipment. We were to ride the mix during the performance and adjust levels and EQ on the go to get the best sound possible simulating the very nature of live performances on the behest of the sound engineers.
The concert happened on the first floor of our college campus but all the equipment was stored on the fourth floor so our first job was planning and executing the transport of the items. We quickly assigned everyone to carry the biggest pieces and then everybody came back up for the other things once those particular items had been moved. I had moved a pair of Mid speakers with a classmate of mine. We had to be careful because the speakers weren’t attached to the skate (small platform with wheels). This meant moving the skate with the speaker and lifting the entire contraption over small bumps so that the speaker wouldn’t fall off. I came back up a couple more times for microphone stands and various cables and other small paraphernalia that we didn’t get on our initial trip. I think my team performed well and worked efficiently and safely, with the latter being the priority.
The next part was actually setting up all the equipment in working order so that we could use it. We worked in order of putting everything together from the mix board and after that things went by themselves really but we watched out not to do our jobs in an order that would interfere with another group/persons job (Not running around with a lot of instruments while cables on the floor are being organized for example). The equipment was set up according to this schematic:
My big job in particular was setting up all the vocal microphones on the stage. There were seven, and they ended up being shuffled around a lot to accommodate slightly different configurations throughout the concert, so the end result didn’t end up looking like the schematic as far as the mics were concerned, and some of the other equipment being squashed in because the expectation of the space we had was not what it was in actuality. We worked with the most amount of equipment that had been used at OXJAM thus far, 25 channels had been occupied (27 counting reverb effects). Because of the small paraphernalia I ended up spending one and a half hours setting up the mics and half of that time spent was chasing down the correct mic clips and stands. That part could’ve been done better had I known and had instant access to all of the equipment. We had so much equipment that a second multi-core was needed to accommodate the extra mics and DI’s (direct injections – kind of like a signal amplifier, used to make keyboards and other equipment louder). I made sure all the correct leads from the mics were plugged into the second multi-core. Then I connected the leads of the multicore into the corresponding audio channels (17-26). Well, initially anyways, things were changed around a lot so maybe those weren’t the channels that ended up being the final ones but it was close to those anyways. One thing that should have been done better perhaps was mapping out which instrument/device goes where beforehand and simply following protocol. However the improvisation was necessary at the time because one or more devices weren’t working as intended or because a change in order was decided upon. Two microphones were wireless and operated with a receiver which was plugged into the mix-board, and the other five were connected with XLR cables. My other jobs consisted of helping out elsewhere with carrying and setting up when my job was done. I set up the mics such that the cables would be fed under the stage and bunched with the other cables so that they were neatly put out of the way so that the performers would not trip on them or get caught in them while performing. All cables got fed under the stage and were bunched together and taped down.
After everything was setup initially we did a line check. We checked each individual channel on the board to see if everything was working properly. There was a problem with the mids so we ended up changing them with some other ones we had available and they ended up working. Our setup looked similar to the picture posted below, except the graphic EQ and dynamic signal processor which was taken out.
Once we had gotten through the last of the lines to check, the performance students began to shuffle in so it was time to soundcheck. We had them perform and we all took turns checking the levels, gain, EQ, amps, DI’s, monitors and tried eliminating possible feedback scenarios. The performers went through their rehearsal while we checked all the equipment was working properly.
Show (riding the mix)
During the show, things went similarly to the soundcheck, but everything was setup and we had to focus on keeping things as good as we had them during the check. While the performers performed we checked the levels constantly to make sure everyone sounded as best as they could. We took turns in teams of two to engineer a couple of performances each. I was paired with Omarie. We oversaw the master fader, individual faders, gains and EQ of all the channels being used live, we made sure everything was running as smoothly as possible, and we were successful for the most part. We didn’t experience too many technical hiccups and were encountering few feedback issues.
After the show was over we came back the next morning and disassembled the setup in the reverse order it was set up in, still paying mind to health and safety. The de-rig went quite quickly and we had the whole place cleaned up in about two hours.
Right after everything was disassembled we put the largest object on wheels of some sort and transported them back the way they came. I encountered a health and safety issue while working with my partner while moving the mix board. Everything went well for the most part but at the end the mix-board slipped after going over a bump in the floor because it wasn’t attached to the “box-on-wheels” it was on. My fingers got caught under and the board grated them slightly. It wasn’t that bad but it was a reminder to communicate with my partner better in future when moving heavy objects not strapped down to anything.
After the ordeal, our teacher congratulated us and told us it was a success and that we engineered well. He passed on the compliments of the staff who reckon it was the best engineered live show thus far.