Why is it that anything with creative foundations often automatically conjures up images of scatterbrained clumsiness, clutter and disorganisation by well-intentioned onlookers? While this is true of a lot of great artists in history, we know as professionals operating at many levels that we can’t afford to neglect left brain thinking just because of our creative tendencies- particularly if we want to sustain our output and effectiveness.
Many people have a message to be heard and they call on people like us to steward that message and help them deliver it with clarity and the highest fidelity we can. The most challenging thing is that we have to do this with subtlety and finesse. We also have to be able to successfully duplicate our work many times over the course of a week or month at will and on demand. Because of this we know inherently that we can’t leave our work to chance; justifying our actions because our field is deemed creative.
Most often, its not enough that we hope our work will come together when the time comes. If we’re doing the work as a hobby or pass-time then we are exempt from this responsibility but if we’re above that threshold, I thinks its fair to say that we have to be certain of our end result if people are depending on us. Our right to work here is only given to us if we can deliver- on time and according to spec. Creating strong processes in planning and pre-production allows for a smooth time during performance or execution.
We could be tempted not to plan effectively because we know so many mishaps could occur along the way and so decicide not to make a plan robust enough or even worse, not to plan at all. The fact is that we can never change this truth and I’ve found that it’s always worth allowing for scope creep. Over-engineering a plan to also include multiple fail-safes- like plans B, C, D and E!
The beauty of planning is that we can take the structure of one plan and overlay it over a similar project in the future. Doing this, we become more and more efficient and we begin to be able to focus on quality and audience experience. In the height of the festival season there will be many of us as sound engineers that will be employed only for this task in order to free the rest of us up to operate. In a four man crew, stage systems engineers (sometimes called ‘patch’ engineers) are responsible for planning the paths that each instrument will take before they get to the speakers. They consolidate information for every band and prepare for any eventuality.
I’ve noticed that a marked difference between someone who is just starting out in their craft and someone who is has some level of establishment at serving their audience is the ability to execute. With firm plans in place and an attitude of responsilty to our audience we can decide to deliver no matter what obstacle we come across. Every good blueprint or idea also still needs to be executed well. While it’s true that there is so much great art worth spreading, we still live in a world of time, expectations and deadlines. If the people we serve love the work we have done on our most recent project, the reality is that we need the ability and the means to do it all over again; and so we do- with pleasure…
“ I’m a freelance sound engineer based in Nottingham. I am also an avid lover of photography and visual art, known for taking a lot of photos of my work and seeing systems and the many technical aspects of my job visibly and creatively- as opposed to purely numbers and data. I walk the fine line between being both technical and creative.”
[Photography: © Aston Fearon 2011]
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