How to Set Up an Outdoor P.A. System
If you have ever attended a great outdoor concert, chances are you didn’t notice the PA system. However, if the concert was bad, you must have noticed it. The way a PA system is set up can greatly affect the outcome of a performance. A professional P.A. system setup is very different from an amateur one. It therefore goes without saying that you should know what you are doing when setting up a PA system. These guidelines will help you to set up an outdoor public address system like an expert.
Prepare In Advance
Inspecting the venue beforehand will help you to know if you have the correct equipment. Also find out the type of function which will be taking place. A speech or presentation requires a different setup from a musical or theatrical performance. Arrive early on the D-day to see if there are any last-minute changes. You may find that you have to level off speakers on uneven ground or cover the equipment with tarpaulins. Hire people to help you when you have a big setup as this will ensure you save time.
Place Hardware First
This allows you to perform your setup without tripping over wires. Place every equipment where you want it to be. If the venue is small, place the big speakers on the right and left side of the stage turned slightly towards the center of the room. For the best sound projection, elevate the speakers. Make sure you know your equipment before starting the setup. This is because small variations in systems can confuse you if you are not familiar with them.
Position Speakers Properly
When conducting a professional P.A. system setup, make sure you position the speakers perfectly so as to get the most out of them. Avoid placing them far apart as this causes long delays in sound transmission; when the speaker talks, the sound is heard a few seconds later. The echo can annoy the audience and make them lose interest in what the speaker is saying. Place speakers near each other but make sure each one has its own unique territory. Monitor speakers should be placed on the floor facing the stage and one should be at the center of the venue. Another thing to consider when placing speakers is the direction of the wind. Wind can affect sound by blowing it around. To avoid this, position speakers upwind.
Check the Monitor System
Your monitor system must be strong enough to cater to the demands of the performers or speakers. Outdoor venues are usually large and performers may find themselves with more space than they are used to. They may require more foldback than in an indoor venue. If you are setting up for a big band, use a minimum of four monitor mixes. Feed three across the stage’s front and one to the back. This works well for most bands.
Set Up the Mixing Desk
The desk should be at the center of the venue. If this is not possible, place it at the right or left side of the stage. You can use a digital desk and snake system which has built-in processing and is easy to set up. If you are not sure about the weather or venue, choose a low-tech mixing desk. It is also important to make sure your gear is cased because accidents can occur.
Check the System to Make Sure the Sound Isn’t Too Loud
Be sure to check how loud the speakers are in order to provide comfort to the listeners. If the PA system is too loud, people may leave early to get a break from the noise. You can use a spectrum analyzer or sound level meter to test and equalize the system.
Perform a Thorough Check after Setup
Make sure the main system is functioning after set up as it is the most essential part. This way, you can amend any noticeable problems. Run the system for a few minutes then play a test track. Walk around the venue to check if there are any faults with the sound. If there are, adjust the equipment. Keep in mind that every outdoor venue requires a different professional P.A. system setup so choose what works best for each place.
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