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    So it's been a weird last 2 weeks. I work with bands who listen to themselves via a monitor mix in their ear phones constantly. And I don't. Well as it turns out the band plays there music approximately 200 milliseconds before  the audio makes it out of the PA and to my ears. That's 1/5th of a second. Doesn't sound like much, but it is. When I consider I sometimes have cues that I execute down to the 100th of a second.

     Shouldn't be a big deal as no other band has ever complained about my timing. It's normally spot on. But my current band thinks I'm late with lots of my stabs and pyro hits. Of course when I play the video back at the end of the night, it shows my timing is right there in the pocket, where it should be. But that is no help to the band who are still convinced that I should be listening to what they play and not the big stereo we hang everyday. It throws them off when I light them a split second after I should have and I totally get that.

      So after repeated statements from the guys, I gave it a try. I will say one thing, I can now hear every beat and every cue perfectly in the show. But it was still pretty confusing as I would hear the vocals and snare drum/guitars just fine with my new ear buds. But I could still hear the bass from the PA and it screwed with my timing. But I spent a couple hours playing with them today and I am gonna try it again tonite.

      I know these monitors aren't the answer I need so I called a couple LD friends to see what they thought of their in ear monitors. Jason Bullock had some molded ones made to fit his ears, but still wears a single muff headset over his "ears" to talk to spot ops. AJ Pen took it a step further. He suggested I get some noise cancellation head phones that pretty much shut out any outside noise. Then he uses two preamps to feed audio into his headset. One is the mix from the FOH console, the other is the feed from his  Intercom.

    I'm told that Ben Marx actually took it a step further and has a little rack he carries around that has gates and equalizers built in to protect his ears. Sounds like too much money and pain to lug around. So for now I'm going to run the show tonite and see how I do. After 30 years of running lights, you can always teach an old road dog a new trick.

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Comment by Nook Schoenfeld on March 14, 2014 at 11:13am

So the in ears thing has actually worked out quite well. I can't really hear the spots talk back to me, but that hasn't been much of an issue so far. I did realize that I listed the wrong LD in my original post when speaking of in ears. Ben Marx doesn't use in ears (and he doesn't miss any cues either). It's a Canadian LD named Ben Richards who I meant to include as the guy who has a custom set up for his own monitor- intercom system.

Comment by Chris Shrom on February 24, 2014 at 8:40pm

I couldn't pass up an opportunity to comment back on your blog.

The debate on timing is crucial to in-ears. I used to run the board with just my single muff headset, like hundreds of LD's before me. Like you, I found the artist complaining night after night that my timing just wasn't there, when in-fact it was. My timing was on target with what I was hearing, when I was hearing it. I had worked with another LD one summer who used in-ears in conjunction with his clear com, a custom thing-a-ma-jig that I became insanely jealous of. I decided to try it out. I had the FOH engineer give me a feed from his mix with click and talkback mixed in, with an appropriate delay to compensate for our distance from the PA. It was LIFE CHANGING, but according to the artist my timing still wasn't there. 200ms between the band and when I heard it was the factor that was killing me. I had the FOH engineer take the delay off. To the audience's perspective the lights were WAY ahead to the artist they were spot on.

Long story short, I've had in-ears since: with delay to FOH. Light travels at 3x10^8 m/s, audio only at 340 m/s - no matter where you are in the arena, if light and sound leave at the same time, you will see the light react first. So I have had to compromise with averages, some will hear first, some will see first. We all need to play to the audience. Those around FOH will, as always have the best seat in the house, on top of that, you won't have a distracting delay when you open up your clear com mic to talk to spots. If you can anticipate, the band can be accommodated, but In the end, I still have an FOH mix, but I have talkback and click mixed in - sometimes the old ways are best, but it doesn't mean you can't use new technology to help make your world better... and it saves your hearing. 

Comment by Randell Gillespie on February 24, 2014 at 8:01pm

Though I've always prided myself on great timing when running a show and have been told by many artists that very thing ..... I've given thought more than once lately about trying it, Kinda been stand-still about approaching the idea though of managing a headset for spot calling and a in-ear monitor at the same time as I did try it several years ago and found it hard to concentrate because the main reason I was given it was so said artist could constantly bark audibles into a separate stage mic (apart from his main vocal mic) to everyone online. The entire crew was on this monitor line and got tired of the constant chatter as well.

The idea of no more ringing ears at the end of a show AND possibly hearing subtle cues from the music I would otherwise maybe miss makes me reconsider even more.

Any advise on a starter kit to scout one maybe owned by me and variable in use ?

Comment by Nook Schoenfeld on February 22, 2014 at 4:11pm

That's great Martin. They are working out OK. I do hear all those little things, like you said. It's kind of cool. Except now every cue I hit is 150 milliseconds early. Wouldn't be bad if I had 1 sec time on the cues, but all the stabs and bumps appear a tad early on the videotape. Gotta take care of the people with the check book, so early is good (and always better than late.

Comment by Martin Thomas on February 22, 2014 at 12:52pm

I've been on ears for about a year now- Shure pack, stereo wired- feed coming from monitor engineer (all of which TOTALLY dig giving me a nice overall mix; especially when you can compliment them about it at the end of the night). I will wear cans to talk to spots, doubles preferred, but singles work, and my IE molds are nice, not terribly expensive 4 driver units. Since I can control the volume in my pack, once I find the happy medium between a good band level and being able to hear myself give spot commands clearly, that's my levels for the night. Spot ops say that my calls are clearer now; I find I'm no longer trying to yell over the PA by habit, which distorts my voice in the clearcom- I speak clearly and with a comfortable volume.  

Some acts also give me the click track to come in on the start of the song and its great when the band comments on how many subtle accents are being noticed in time with the music. Extra bonus- no more ringing ears at the end of the night. If its too loud, I can only blame myself.

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