Living the Audio Life

PDF Living the Audio Life Copyright Year 2022

Book author
  1. Brad Schiller
9781032037783

Description:

Living the Audio Life details the aspects and procedures necessary for one to have a successful career in live entertainment sound. Encompassing a wide range of topics, the text clearly guides anyone interested in working in a position within the live entertainment audio field.

The guide is broken into clearly defined sections, allowing the reader to easily navigate through various subjects including jobs, career, business, creativity, lifestyle, and travel. Real-world examples and documentation from the author and key industry experts allow the reader to gain insight into the essential practices that are helpful throughout a career. Additional in-depth interviews provide details of careers from industry veterans.

Whether considering a career in live entertainment audio or just starting out, readers will find the resources for the key to success in audio. Students, those new to sound, and workers already within their careers can refer to the text as a guide throughout their journeys. With benefits to anyone interested in the audio field, Living the Audio Life is a key navigational resource for success.

Foreword:

Before you begin reading this book, I want to address the big elephant in the middle of the room. You are probably wondering why a lighting guy has written a text about the live entertainment audio field. The simple truth is that I previously wrote a similar book titled Living the Lighting Life: A Guide to a Career in Entertainment Lighting, and I knew that most of the valuable information within was also relevant to an audio career. As it turns out, there are many similarities between audio and lighting professions, as we work on the same productions with many similar business situations and needs. So I felt that my knowledge and experience in live entertainment would be valuable to a wider audience than just the lighting industry.

Additionally I am fortunate that throughout my thirty-plus years in the entertainment field, I have had the opportunities to work with sound in different capacities and have also shared many Front of House (FOH) locations with my audio counterparts. In fact, my career has had many tie-ins to the audio industry in diverse ways. Starting in high school, I learned about mixing and designing sound for theatrical shows. I then worked for many years at the Irving Arts Center in Irving, Texas, as a technical director, during which I was able to work with (and specify) microphones, speakers, amplifiers, and consoles. Around the same time, I was freelancing in the Dallas area with several comedy troupes as their “tech guy.” In addition to lighting and prop building, I really enjoyed mic’ing the stages, playing back music, and introducing audio in as a comedic element.

For these improvisational comedy shows I created a library of looping sound effects on leaderless cassette tapes that allowed me to respond instantly to suggestions by the audience for the various sketches. Of course, this was many years before digital playback devices were commonplace, so loading tapes quickly was the only choice. I enjoyed enhancing performances with real sounds and learning the power of the dynamics that audio can bring to a show.

When I went to work with touring and corporate productions as a lighting director, programmer, and designer, I often collaborated with the sound team to improve the production. Whether tying in timecode, receiving audio feeds, or just chatting on the bus, I found that keeping up with sound technology was very intriguing. I often made friends on the sound crew and of course enjoyed poking fun at the department, as we tend to do.

Most recently I have been employed by a lighting company called Martin that is owned by Harman, which is a sound company. Harman owns many iconic audio brands including JBL, Crown, AKG, and Soundcraft. Often I find myself interacting with my audio counterparts as we share demo spaces, tradeshows, and other customer experiences. This has allowed me to continue to have insight into the forefront of audio technology.

I have had a fantastic career in live entertainment working with a focus on lighting, but I have also known that audio was a close second in terms of a profession that always interested me. In this book, you will find a little bit of audio-specific information, but more importantly, you will find guides and suggestions for a successful career working in an exciting segment of live entertainment. I trust that, although I often refer to myself as a “lighting geek,” you will see that I am dedicated to helping you have the best audio career possible and achieve all your personal goals while having fun along the way. Please enjoy the following pages of suggestions and advice catered to your audio needs and may you find success in all that you do.​

Intodcution:

When I was about twelve years old, I was very much into magic. I actually performed at school events, parties, and more. During this time, I thought that I wanted to be an actor, but instead I discovered my passion for the technical side of the industry. Learning the ins and outs of the illusions provided me with a background for what would become a fantastic career.

My parents were very accommodating in most of my endeavors growing up, and they supported me in the majority of things in which I had an interest. After junior high school, they searched for a private school to send me to so that I could have a stronger education with better opportunities for college. Little did they know how things would actually turn out. The school we selected was based on both of its college preparatory status as well as its theater program. Remember, I was interested in being an actor. After signing up for my first acting class, I learned that I must also learn about technical theater. This is where I met Mrs. Cheryl Ellis.

This wonderful woman taught me many backstage skills, including audio and lighting. I quickly found a calling to focus on lighting and special effects. In fact, I was only an actor in one scene of my first play at the school; for the rest of that show, I was at the light board running cues! For the next three years, I was very involved with hanging and focusing lights, designing plots, running cable, and all the general crew work I could get my hands on. I would even skip my English class to spend more time in the theater. Actually, though, that did not work out so well, as I soon found that I was failing English and was told I could either leave the school or continue without theater. My parents supported my decision to leave the school.

When I entered the local public school in my junior year of high school, I was excited to move forward with my technical theater training. However, when I asked the theater teacher about the technical theater offerings, she said, “You mean the things that the people who don’t get cast in the show do?” I knew right away that this program was not for me! Luckily, I discovered an amazing opportunity right across the street.

The Irving Center for Cultural Arts was an old converted movie theater that had a permanent set on the stage and a well-stocked lighting inventory. I immediately began volunteering my time to community theater groups as a lighting When I was about twelve years old, I was very much into magic. I actually performed at school events, parties, and more. During this time, I thought that I wanted to be an actor, but instead I discovered my passion for the technical side of the industry. Learning the ins and outs of the illusions provided me with a background for what would become a fantastic career.

My parents were very accommodating in most of my endeavors growing up, and they supported me in the majority of things in which I had an interest. After junior high school, they searched for a private school to send me to so that I could have a stronger education with better opportunities for college. Little did they know how things would actually turn out. The school we selected was based on both of its college preparatory status as well as its theater program. Remember, I was interested in being an actor. After signing up for my first acting class, I learned that I must also learn about technical theater. This is where I met Mrs. Cheryl Ellis.

This wonderful woman taught me many backstage skills, including audio and lighting. I quickly found a calling to focus on lighting and special effects. In fact, I was only an actor in one scene of my first play at the school; for the rest of that show, I was at the light board running cues! For the next three years, I was very involved with hanging and focusing lights, designing plots, running cable, and all the general crew work I could get my hands on. I would even skip my English class to spend more time in the theater. Actually, though, that did not work out so well, as I soon found that I was failing English and was told I could either leave the school or continue without theater. My parents supported my decision to leave the school.

When I entered the local public school in my junior year of high school, I was excited to move forward with my technical theater training. However, when I asked the theater teacher about the technical theater offerings, she said, “You mean the things that the people who don’t get cast in the show do?” I knew right away that this program was not for me! Luckily, I discovered an amazing opportunity right across the street.

The Irving Center for Cultural Arts was an old converted movie theater that had a permanent set on the stage and a well-stocked lighting inventory. I immediately began volunteering my time to community theater groups as a lighting of professional work in the industry. I had far more experience programming automated lighting than anyone at the school. While in school, I was also freelancing around the Los Angeles area as much as possible. After one semester, I decided to leave the school to further pursue my professional lighting career.

I started working at Towards 2000 in Burbank, California under Mark Rowlands. I told him that I wanted to be a full-time programmer, but he instead offered me a job as a rental manager with the option to program when possible. I would answer the phone and send out rentals during the day, while going on gigs during nights and weekends. I never stopped learning and kept reading, studying, and meeting all the professionals that I could.

During this time, I was introduced to a brand new lighting controller called the Wholehog II. I quickly latched onto it and started to exchange emails with the creators of the desk. Within no time, I was one of the only Wholehog II programmers in Los Angeles, as well as in the country. I was not just programming, but also beta testing, writing libraries, requesting features, and more.

Early in 1996, Towards 2000 had the opportunity to work with Martin Lighting to provide the first run of Martin PALs for that year’s Academy Awards Ceremony. I was thrilled to be a part of this mega event as a crew chief, as I had dreams of designing the show one day. Then when the prototype Case console that Martin Lighting was using failed during pre-production, I was presented with an even better opportunity than crew chief. On the Friday before the Sunday night live broadcast, I fired up my Wholehog II running v0.5 beta software and began programming the PAL fixtures for the Oscars. It was a thrilling experience that certainly checked a major item off from my bucket list.

Coincidently, during my time at this show, I was contacted by Tim Grivas at High End Systems. He offered me a job to move to Austin, Texas to be a part of the lighting programming team. I jumped at this chance, and a few months later, moved to Austin to start my new role.

Over the next seven years, I programmed countless productions including concerts, corporate events, theatrical shows, television productions, and more. In 2000, I was part of a team of seven programmers on the Olympic Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies in Sydney, Australia (see my diary of this time period in The Automated Lighting Programmer’s Handbook). While working at High End Systems, I also learned about the processes of fixture and console development and assisted in the launch of many new products.

My original plan was to work for High End Systems for five years and then return to a freelance design and programming position. However, new products and major economic changes that resulted from the September 11th attacks delayed my transition. After seven-and-a-half years, I finally made the jump back to the world of freelancing. Once again, I could never have predicted how my career would transpire from this point.

About three months into my new entrepreneurial endeavor, I received a phone call from John Broderick, who was the long time LD for Metallica. We had previously worked together on many ice skating shows and he needed a programmer/operator for the upcoming Metallica world tour
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