KK Jazz Festival 2012: Ad-libbing to the music; views from a sound and a lighting engineer

Mega Boogie Sdn Bhd provided the stage lighting and sound for the Kota Kinabalu Jazz Festival for the third year running. The two-day event was held on the covered tennis courts of Sutera Harbour Resort.

Mega Boogie’s Kevin Chang said two sets of JBL Vertec 4889 line arrays, four per side, were the main House speakers [later referred to as "the House"]. JBL VT4880A subwoofer line arrays, two per side, were also set up each side of the stage.

“They’re great speakers,” said sound engineer Stephen Lim. “The gears from Mega Boogie are always good. The mixer is the Yamaha M7, it’s the flagship console mixing board from Mega Boogie. It’s a digital board and it’s great because I can store a lot of presets in it.”

Stephen said in a show with lots of different artists, you can use presets up to a point. Along with the musicians, the sound and lighting crew have to work “on the fly” to some degree, since live, improvised music means no backing tracks, and limits the amount of preparation possible.

“In a variety show, a lot of people tend to abuse the recall [presets]; they think they can just recall it and not do anything else, because the settings were fixed during the soundcheck.

But with music, it’s different. When musicians soundcheck, there’s no crowd and there’s no vibe. When the whole thing starts up for real with the lights and everything, they’re going to get more excited, and the settings will be all different. I still have to do a lot of work.

“But presets save me at least 50% of the work. For example, when the bands change over, I don’t have to reset everything for the new band, I can start from settings saved from the soundcheck.

“Generally speaking, with this kind of variety show, seasoned musicians know not to put their best songs first.

“I used to engineer Jun Kung, he’s kind of the famous drummer in Hong Kong. We played festivals a lot, and we usually planned our set by putting a song which used all the instruments first. This way all the musicians get a chance to play, and the show kind of starts after the first song.

There were two stages: the Main stage [the big stage up front] and the Centre stage [small raised stage amidst the tables]. For the sound engineer, it’s a challenge.

“The Centre stage is right in front of the House speakers. So, for example, a microphone placed for the cajon drum on Centre stage ends up also facing the House. If any levels are too high, there will be feedback. It’s kind of funny, you have the impression that the Centre stage is secondary to the Main one, but in fact the Centre Stage needs a lot more work than the Main stage itself.

“This venue has a big canopy overhead, which can cause a bit of slap back, like a kind of echo. We have to watch for that.”

Sound from the centre stage mics goes into the mixer for the centre stage, the PreSonus StudioLive 16.4.2 16-Channel Digital Mixer. That goes into the Yamaha M7, and that goes to the House. It’s a pretty long path to travel.

Continuity meant there was room to experiment. Mega Boogie Lighting Engineer Richard Heng said, “We’re quite used to the KK Jazz Festival set up now, so I introduced a new set-up this year.”

Richard said that jazz music doesn’t require aggressive strobe lighting or such effects. He wanted to introduce extra richness through backlighting.

“We set up six moving lights [PR Beam XL 300s] on each side the round truss. Lighting from the back is quite different from the side or from the front. When you you take videos or pictures, it’s nice.”

This year, Richard used:

Clay Paky Sharpy x 12
ROBE MMX Spot x 8

“This is the first time we’re using Robe at the Jazz Festival” said Richard.

Like the sound engineers, the lighting guys also have to work on the fly, with jazz. “With many kinds of music shows, we are normally provided with Minus 1s [backing tracks]. I can make a copy of the CD and plan all the sequences ahead of time. But with jazz, I have to listen to the music, decide what to do, hopefully within five seconds or less.”

Mega Boogie Men At Work

“Don’t you worry when you hang those expensive lights, that something will fall?” I asked.

“No.” Rizal was confident. “Once you clip the hooks, there is no chance they will come undone.”

Noel JS Chan said he prefers setting up the outdoor events to the indoor ones. “It’s more challenging, more interesting”, he said.

Geno Lester said it’s the same for him, he has no preference whether it’s indoor or outdoor. But when it’s finished, there’s a real feeling of accomplishment. “It makes you feel nice,” he said.

I’ll bet. Who couldn’t look at this and not feel proud? Go Mega Boogie.

Stories about KK Jazz Festival

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