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Clear-Com at the San Diego Opera, Part 2

Nov 25, 2013 11:38 AM, With Bennett Liles

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Part 1 | Part 2

Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

Of all the technical aspects behind an opera production, intercommunication during the show can be one of the biggest jobs to sort out. Bill Scott does just that and a lot more for the San Diego opera and he’s here to tell us how he does it with a new Clear-Com Tempest 2400 wireless intercom. Right here on the SVC Podcast.

SVC: Bill Scott from San Diego is back with us on the SVC Podcast. This was a fascinating talk we were having in part one about what goes on behind the scenes for intercom at the San Diego Opera with the Tempest 2400 wireless system. Is there other wireless gear that you use during the opera productions and stage mics for recording?

Bill Scott: There are stage mics for recording, but there aren’t really any other RF mics. I use area mics for recording. The opera really owns only one other wireless microphone, and that’s generally used for curtain speeches when somebody needs to come out and talk to the audience. But the top goal is to provide the audience with a 100 percent acoustical experience, so nothing is amplified or reinforced to the audience, whether it’s an instrument or a singer—other than a sound effect. Of course we’ll do sound effects electronically sometimes and sometimes not. But as far as the music, the goal is 100 percent acoustic and we accomplish that almost invariably, but then there’s that one percent of the time where a singer or a chorus will need a little reinforcement. It’s like in Butterfly, there’s a thing called the “Humming Chorus.” The chorus literally hums and where can you stage them out of sight where you’re going to get some kind of presence on that? So that may need to have a little reinforcement. Or like in Salome, John the Baptist is in the well. When he’s in the well singing, you may need a little reinforcement because he’s physically in a well, or something of that nature. [Timestamp: 2:28]

And you’ve got stage mics for recording?

There are mics for a variety of purposes. There are mics that need to feed that audio signal to the people that need to hear it, like our opera techs operator. Of course the stage managers need to hear it, people that are doing the listening-assisted, you know, that are providing commentary or whatever for the handicapped, they need to hear a particular signal, and all of these are different mixes than what I do for recording. So I might use separate mics just for those, and then I have my mics that are used just to go to the recordings. So yeah, there’s mics all over the place, but there’s none of them going on to the audience. [Timestamp: 3:11]

That’s a lot of show infrastructure to get working. How long do you have to get it all set up and ready to rehearse? What are the steps you go through?

Well, when we load in at the beginning of the season, we have two six-day weeks when we’re just reestablishing ourselves. We’re putting in our permanent equipment that we’re going to need for the run of the season, whether that’s lighting trusses, lighting bridges, and all the infrastructure equipment that’s basic to every show. During that two weeks we’re also setting up the first show, setting the scenery, etc., for that first show. So it takes a good while. It takes me generally about seven or eight of those initial 12 days to be ready to do a rehearsal, and then at the end of that period I’ll start working on getting my recording together. Although we’re not recording, for the last two years, we’ve been broadcasting opening nights live, which is really fun. But our local public broadcasting station takes our feed right from the theater and broadcasts it live, so that’s a lot of fun. And we record archivally another performance or two of the run. [Timestamp: 4:24]

I know that the Tempest 2400 system has a lot of features on it. Remote mic kill and stage announce are some of the good intercom features. Is there one particularly handy feature of that belt pack system that sort of stands out, one that you use more than anything else?

The stage announcer is a powerful feature in terms of every beltpack, whether it’s 2-channel or 4-channel, has that; I believe the 2-channel. You have the stage announce button and it’s literally you just press that button and whatever communication you deliver goes to all four channels no matter what configuration your beltpack is in or what channels you’re listening to or talking on, when you do the stage announce it goes to all of them. So if you’re trying to connect with personnel and you’re not sure what channel they’re on, instead of kind of fumbling around going from channel to channel, you just hit the stage announce and everybody’s going to hear that. And also the stage manager themselves can deliver a cue to all channels at once by using that feature. It’s really, really powerful. [Timestamp: 5:35]

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