PAC Handbook - Tech-ing Your Shows
What Tech Do You Need?
In general, a cappella shows require two basic techs: lights and sound.
Lights for a cappella shows tend to be relatively simple, limited to one or two "cues" or looks per song.
Sound for a cappella shows tend to be very involved and may require an experienced sound designer. The sound tech will need to make sure all mics are working, ensure there is no feedback, and, if possible, balance and EQ the performers.
Costuming is typically done by the group themselves. Videography, photography, and audio recording may also be needed, depending on the group's preference.
In general, dance shows require four types of tech: lights, sound, projector manager, backstage stage manager(s).
Lights for dance shows tend to be very involved and may require a very artistically experienced lights designer. The lights designer should coordinate with the performers to determine what appropriate "cues" are necessary to augment that dance pieces. Number of cues per piece can range anywhere from a couple to over 40 cues.
Sound for dance shows tend to be relatively simple, generally involving only playing music off of a computer and, if applicable, handling the computer with all the projected slides/videos.
A projector manager is only needed if the group will be projecting slides or videos. The projector manager simply uncovers and covers the projector when the projector is needed and not needed. Depending on the location and setup of the projector, the projector manager can be one of the other tech people.
Backstage stage managers are stage managers backstage who communicate with the lights and sound tech so they know when the dancers are ready to start the next piece.
Costuming is typically done by the group themselves. Videography and photography may also be needed, depending on the group's preference.
Theatre and Musical
In general, theatre and musical shows require a wide variety of tech: lights, sound, set, costumes, props, makeup, hair, fight coordination, master carpentry, stage management, and more.
Lights typically involves creating a realistic lighting condition on the stage, as the stage would look like if the show were a reality (though some shows will require more imaginative and unrealistic lighting). The lights tech will coordinate with the director and the stage manager to create light cues.
Sound involves mic-ing the entire cast, or the most important parts of the cast. The sound tech will need to make sure all mics are working, ensure there is no feedback, and balance/EQ the cast. Some shows will also require certain sound cues, or sounds that are played from the computer. The sound designer will coordinate with the director and the stage manager to find appropriate sound cues.
Sets can range anywhere from a few set pieces to large, elaborate platforms and flats. Making a set typically involves two types of tech: the set designer and the master carpenter. The set designer will coordinate with the rest of the design staff and the director to design a set. The master carpenter will then coordinate with the set designer to actually build, paint, and finish the set.
Costumes involves costuming the entire cast. This often entails visiting the PAC Shop to see what is available, and then outsourcing from all of cast and crew. Anything that cannot be acquired for free is then either made from scratch or purchased.
Props involves finding all of the props needed for the show. This can mean both rehearsal props and the final stage props. Finding props often entails visiting the PAC Shop to see what is available, and then outsourcing from all of cast and crew. Anything that cannot be acquired for free is then either made from scratch or purchased.
Makeup and hair is essentially that. These techs are in charge of doing the makeup and hair for all cast members. Sometimes the show does not require any makeup or hair. Other times, the makeup and hair can be extremely elaborate.
Fight coordinators teach cast members the fight scenes and make sure that all fight scenes are performed in a safe and controlled manner. Fight coordinators tend to require a license and can be hired externally. Contact the Technical Supervisor
for more help with fight coordination.
Stage management is one of the most important roles in a theatrical production. The stage manager sits in on all the rehearsals to assist the director, recording down blocking and staging notes, script changes, and more. During the show, the stage manager calls the show, directing the lights and sound tech when they should be playing the next cue.
If you are producing a show that does not fall under one of the above categories and need help with tech, please contact your subcommittee chair.
The PAC Community hosts an annual tech training, typically at the beginning of the Fall semester. Further, the PAC Shop staff are also fantastic resources for tech-related issues and training. When working in the performance space, there should be either an Annenberg or PQ tech present to assist your group.
Below are guides on using the lights and sound boards present in most of the performance spaces. For help on the design process, pleae refer to the TACe Handbook, or contact the PAC Shop. For further assistance with tech, please contact PAC-Exec.
Using the Lights Board
The lights boards at Iron Gate Theater, Houston Hall Class of '49, and Prince Theater in Annenberg are all ETC Element lights boards.
To start off, we will introduce a few words that lights designers and lights programmers will often use.
Light Fixture: A light fixture is the physical light instrument itself. These are plugged into dimmers. There are many different kinds of light fixtures, each designed for a specific use, "throwing" light in a certain way.
Shutter: Many light fixtures will have build in shutters. These shutters are manually adjustable and allow you to adjust the size, shape, and aim of the light fixture, to some extent.
Gel: Gels are placed in gel holders, which are then slotted into light fixtures. Gels block off certain wavelengths of the light produced to create different colored lights.
Gobo: A gobo is a design stylized onto aluminum or glass, used to project the design onto the stage.
CYC: The CYC (cyclorama) is the large white fabric at the back of the stage. Houston Hall Class of '49 does not have a CYC.
Dimmer: A dimmer is like a wall outlet for a light fixture. The dimmer is also what allows variable light intensity by adjusting the average voltage sent to the light fixture. Dimmers are typically numbered according to their locations on the grid.
Grid: All of the light fixtures that are hung above the stage are hung on a grid. The grid is split up into electrics.
Electric: An electric is simply a row of lights in a grid. Typically, the electric farthest downstage, closest to the house, is called the first electric. The electric directly upstage of the first electric is called the second electric, and so on and so forth in increasing numbers.
Channel: While dimmers are numbered according to their locations on the grid, channels are numbered according to how you use the lights. In general, the front lights will be numbered together. Same thing for the backlights, the side lights, the CYC lights, and the specials. When programming, you will often turn on a light through its channel number.
Submaster: A submaster can be considered an easily accessible pre-recorded set of channels or effects. In its most basic form, a submaster can be recorded to simply bring up all of the downstage warm frontlights, for example. This way, instead of telling the board to turn on five different lights, you tell the board to turn on a submaster that automatically corresponds to five different lights.
Cue: A cue is essentially a recorded look. You will record your cues during your tech week, and simply pull up your saved cues during your shows. This way, you don't need to figure out which lights you need to turn on when during the show (that'd be stressful!). Instead, you just pull up a specific pre-recorded cue, and all of the lights you want will turn on at the exact intensities you had specified previously.
Follow: Follows are used when you want a cue to automatically follow a preceding cue after a set number of seconds, without you having to press anything.
If there are any vocabulary that you think should be added to or edited in this list, please contact PAC-Exec
Using the ETC Element
Information to be added later.
Using the Sound Board
While the sound boards throughout the theaters on campus differ, they all generally fall under the two categories of analog and digital sound boards. This guide will cover general concepts applicable to both types of sound boards, and will focus on how to use an analog sound board. For more assistance with digital sound boards, please contact the technician on duty when you are in the theater space.
Channel: Each channel on the sound board can take in one input, whether mic, DI, or otherwise. Adjusting the knobs on a channel will adjust the "settings" for that input.
Gain: The gain is typically a dial found at the very top of the channel. Gain can be considered as something similar to volume, but is more technically how much signal power you want the sound board to receive (in decibels).
XLR: A 3-pin cable used in connecting the many sound devices together and to the sound board.
Pre: A small button generally found next to the dials for AUX 1 and AUX 2 output on a channel. When pressed, the audio will go straight from the input (mic) to the output connected to the AUX (generally the monitors), bypassing any EQ or mixing. When unpressed, any audio going to the AUX output will go through EQ and mixing.
EQ: Also known as equalization. EQ amplifies or reduces specific frequency levels. Typically, there are four knobs on an analog sound board; one to boost/cut high frequencies, one to boost/cut low frequencies, one to boost/cut mid-range frequencies, and one to adjust the specific mid-range frequency being boosted/cut.
Low Cut: A small button generally found next to the low frequency EQ dial on a channel. When pressed, the very low frequencies are cut. When unpressed, the very low frequencies are allowed through. When playing audio from a computer/phone, you will generally want to leave this button unpressed.
Pan: A dial generally located right above the fader on a channel. When there are AUX 1 and 2 outputs connected, turning the dial counte-clockwise or clockwise will send more sound to one or the other AUX outputs. When the dial is set at the 12 o'clock position, sound will be sent equally to the two AUX outputs.
Fader: The slider at the bottom of each channel. Used to adjust the overall output volume of that channel.
Solo: When this button next to the fader is pressed, only that channel will go through the connected "Phones" output. Plug in your headphones to better determine which input is causing feedback, or to EQ a specific channel.
DI: Direct-input is generally used to play audio from the computer or a phone. Connects an eighth-inch aux cord to an XLR cable.
SM58: The standard wired handheld mic, useful in all general situations. This mic is recommended for most a cappella groups, and any groups using instruments. Made by Shure.
KSM: A wired condenser mic typically used in more high quality a cappella settings.
Wireless Handheld: A generic SM wireless handheld mic. The receiver is connected to the soundboard using XLR. Can be reserved at the PAC Shop.
LAV: A generic SM wireless body mic. The receiver is connected to the soundboard using XLR. Can be reserved at the PAC Shop.
Monitor: The monitor is the generic term for the speakers on the stage level, pointing towards the performer(s). The monitor is used to help the performers hear themselves, especially for pitch and tempo (singers) and for music (dance).
Snake: The snake is a box typically found at the stage level, into which you can plug XLR cables. Each input on the snake will correspond to an XLR cable on the squid.
Squid: When a bunch of XLR cables are tied together, the end with each individual XLR cable looks a little bit like a squid head. This is typically the other end of the snake, and found near the sound board.
Feedback: When a mic picks up a sound, the sound is then amplified and output through speakers of some kind. If the mic then picks up the output that comes out of the speakers, which the speakers then amplify, and so on and so forth, a feedback loop is created. This is typically a loud, harsh-sounding noise of a specific frequency.
If there are any vocabulary that you think should be added to or edited in this list, please contact PAC-Exec.
Using an Analog Sound Board
Information to be added later.