creating an input list
We asked our FOH engineer friend and colleague James Lawrenson, currently FOH for Foster the People (He has worked for such bands as Young the Giant,Grouplove, 3OH!3 and also works in house at The Bowery Presents venue Terminal 5 in NYC) if he would share some tips on how to put together a solid input list and the things to include to insure a successful translation.
Here is what he had to say↓
An input list layout should be informative but simplistic. I like to organize my input list for any band I work with in a standard column layout that shows all the necessary information but still doesn’t overwhelm or confuse the person (local venue/festival production) reading it for the first time.
Basically don’t waffle on with pointless information!
I like to provide enough information that someone could set everything up prior to my arrival if needed and also knows, with a large amount of accuracy, where all the inputs on stage fall. For example, working in house at a venue I see so many input lists with little to no information and therefore have to use my best judgement as to what microphones/Di’s to use, which might not be the visiting engineers preference. Knowing in advance can speed up the set up process ten fold! This is especially helpful when they don’t have an accompanying stage plot… Crazy, I know, that they would get one and not the other but it happens a lot! I have even had an old stage plot turn up with a revised input list which were 18 months in age apart! They didn’t even match up in the slightest, but somehow it fell through the cracks. Anything is possible these days as there are so many steps and people in possession of advancing information- from the booking agent to the tour manager/production manager to the venue/festival production to the audio guys and gals themselves. As you can see, it can potentially pass through many hands/emails/computers before it reaches the necessary person and mistakes can be made.
First of all….The Basics!
Don’t, don’t, don’t forget to provide contact information of at least two members of your crew so that you can be contacted in the event that any further questions are required to help the advance along. The crew members position (ie FOH/PM), name, phone number and email are all very helpful. Also include the date when the list was created/updated and version, these are very useful pieces of information to someone seeing this for the first time- this way they can link up your input list with your accompanying stage plot and, if they are very clever, can work out if they correspond to each other and don’t contradict. Most importantly though….and I have seen this happen on multiple occasions…make sure you put the name of the artist at the top (or at least somewhere) of the page so that it can be quickly and easily identified.
First of all, it is just common sense and secondly, don’t assume your input list will be the only one turning up in the hands of the engineer in charge of patching/setting up your stage for you. Venues typically have 2 or more bands on a daily basis and festival stages can have over 20 to 30 bands in one weekend.
Anyway, as I was saying earlier, I like to layout my input list in a column format so that each category can be read clearly and simply. The categories I use are:
Does what its name suggests. It informs everyone on the audio team as to where you require each input/instrument to land on the audio snake/split inputs so it matches up with your console layout and patch.
Alt. input numbers
This is always helpful if the patch needs to change when you are at a festival or the audio split at the venue has a bad input. this way you can keep track, especially in this day and age of digital consoles and soft patching.
Pretty self explanatory, but helpful when you call out the name of the instrument during sound check and then everyone knows it as the same thing. this way there is no confusion about what you are talking about.
This is very helpful at festivals in the event that you need to track down a line. Instead of just using an input number/stage box ID you can call the name of that line (when checking with a microphone) and everyone instantly is aware of what input is being identified.
This is very helpful when you have more than one console at a show and multiple people need to be aware as you can have FOH, monitors, broadcast and recording consoles all in the loop.
State what your microphone or DI preference is for each instrument. I am very particular about what I like to use and everyone has there own tastes, preferences and knows what works and doesn’t work for them. This is very helpful to a venue or festival production staff as they can prepare your mic/DI package in advance of your arrival and speed up the set up process. This is, of course, if your not carrying your own mic/DI package which sometimes has to happen- whether it is down to the logistics/budget/schedule or even the airline/freighting company not having your equipment turn up on time… Whenever I do a fly date I always make sure that the festival/venue can provide a full compliment (at the very least sensible alternatives) of mics/DI’s just in case such a scenario does happen. This way, everyone is on the same page as to what you require and need to make the best show happen for you.
It is very handy to state what kind of mic stand that you require for your set up. E.g. Tall tripod boom stand, short round base boom stand and tall round base straight stand to name a few that are all very different from each other, and in my personal set up with my touring band they are all used for very different specific purposes. The amount of times I have been handed all round base stands across the board has been numerous and unfortunately unusable for many instances (especially on the tall boom stands) as they are unstable and therefore useless for my particular show. If you state clear and precisely exactly what you need then there is no come back from being to vague and having to deal with the cards you are given. A singer who knocks over his mic stand every other time he just brushes past it or looks at it to sternly in my experience is not going to be a happy one!
Although most of the time it can be quite obvious what kind of stand will be needed for a certain task, but one of the most important things I learnt about this job is to never assume anything. Making it as plainly obvious and as simple as possible is a good thing all round!
I like to throw this one in to make any potential corrections when you arrive on the day (things can always change after all) or just to point out less obvious details that will again help move the set up along quicker. One example I have is, I like to use a DI on my bass before any effects pedals he/she might be using,so typically, and most simply, I place the DI on the bass pedal board therefore an XLR has to be run to that position- so making the local audio crew aware of that is just an extra helpful bit of detail so that there is no confusion.
Very helpful for getting ahead of the game when setting up as you never know sometimes how much time you will have to set up and/or change over. If the local crew know that this mic goes down stage left, and then this mic stand needs to be up stage right and this guitar mic or bass DI will be down stage center then you can at the very least have most of your microphones in a rough position and on the right side of the stage at least. There is nothing more frustrating than having to find and retrieve a microphone or DI that is on the opposite side of stage. First of all finding it takes up valuable seconds or even minutes and then having to take it to its correct position can all add up especially on a large festival stage that is 60ft wide on a short change over. Remember, every second counts!
As band set ups can be quite intricate and elaborate these days (the drum kit is not always up stage center), I like to map out the inputs and co-ordinate how many stage boxes and what inputs should be patched into each stage box in order to create the minimum amount of confusion and cables running back and forth across the stage. Having this organized in advance and setting it out for the local audio guys can help speed up the set up process. This is especially helpful in a festival situation when time can be against you.
Download input list excell form