Brilliant Night at the Trevor Carter Memorial Gig

Well it must be said that the Trevor Carter Memorial Gig at the Louisiana in Bristol last night was a resounding success, with memorable performances from some of the Band Trev associated with during his lifetime. A few of the lineups had reformed just for the occasion, and exhibited a some of the rawness for which they are justly renown.

According to the volunteers on the door, and the takings, which are all going to Cardiac Risk in the young (CRY), the Louie was at it’s capacity of 120, and tightly packed for most of the performances. At one point we were having to protect the camera tripod from the enthusiastic throng bouncing up and down to the beat!

A big thank you to everyone who helped to make the Trevor Carter Memorial Gig such a brilliant night.

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Trevor Carter Memorial Gig

Further to our earlier posting about the new website, The Friends of Trevor Carter, here is an update about the proposed Trevor Carter Memorial Gig

Trev played in a number of bands and jammed with many musicians in his lifetime. A couple of his work colleagues were talking about organizing a Trevor Carter Memorial Gig, in aid of charity. Conny, his widow, is enthusiastic, and some of his former band members are keen on participating. A number of Bristol venues where Trevor appeared have been suggested as likely candidates, and we will be contacting them shortly to gauge interest. If you have any suggestions, please contact us via the website at Friends Of Trevor Carter Contact

If you would be interested in contributing to the Trevor Carter Memorial Gig as a performer or crew, please let us know as soon as possible via the website Contact. Please note that all proceeds of this event will be donated to the charity determined by Conny and Trevor’s family.

If you just want to come along and watch a bunch of Trevor’s old friend get together and jam, then please let us know as soon as possible, as places may be limited by venue size.

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Low Cost Wireless Microphone Systems

These days, every event uses wireless microphones both for the presenters to look cool and relaxed, and for the announcer so they can be part of the audience, or interact on the stage as required. Also known as Radio Microphones or Cordless Microphones, they are also invaluable for roving through the audience at an event to take questions from the participants. The term Mic Runner would have little meaning if they were trailing a hundred feet of cable behind them, to say nothing about health and safety and the trip hazard!

There are a number of Low Cost Wireless Microphone Systems which can help to make your presentation stand out as something special, so we are reviewing a few of them here. They are divided into two categories, the first one for the presenter, and the second for the Mic Runners, as their needs are quite different.

Radio microphone systems consist of two main components, a transmitter that takes the signal from the headset, lapel or hand microphone and transmits it to the second component, the receiver. The receiver connects to your amplifier or mixer and then into your PA system. Wireless microphones (also known as radio mics or even radio mikes) are simple to set up, as all you have to do is connect the receiver output into your mixer, put a new battery in the transmitter and switch on. In some cases you can be up and running in five minutes from first opening the box.

The systems we work with are reliable to use, as they avoid intermittent transmission from wired microphones due to damaged cabling, or crosstalk from poorly shielded equipment, or sudden interruptions as the animated presenter tries to extend the microphone cable past its limit! Provided that the batteries are changed regularly, and recharged where appropriate, wireless microphones are reliable to use and simple to set up.

Speeches and Presentations
For a presenter to be natural and relaxed, it is essential that they are given the freedom to move around the stage, and in some cases interact directly with the audience. There are two types of presenter microphones which we will consider here; Lavaliere and Headset

What Is a Lavaliere? According to Wikipedia, a lavaliere microphone (also known as Lavalier, lav or lapel mike) is a small electret or dynamic microphone used for television, theater, and public speaking applications, in order to allow hands-free operation. These are the discrete microphones you often see warn by newscasters and broadcasters. They are reliable and unobtrusive, but may suffer from variable volume if the presenter often turns their head to the side and away from the microphone. For this reason some presenters wear two mikes, one on each lapel, so that the pickup pattern is more uniform. If they are available, omnidirectional Lavaliere microphones are more consistent than those with a cardioid pattern.

Headset microphones by contrast are worn by the presenter or performer as a head band or over ear attachment with the microphone adjacent to the mouth. As the mic moves with the head, they tend not to suffer from from the variable volume associated with lavs. Due to the more frequent changes of direction a cardioid or hyper-cardioid pickup pattern is preferable. Headset microphones are popular for dynamic presenters who use a lot of arm movements, and for aerobic instructors and singers. Due to the popularity among female vocalists these quickly became known as Madonna Mics, not least because it gave the performer the ability to strut the stage like Madonna!

Here are a few Low Cost Wireless Microphone Systems for speeches and presentations from which you should find something which meet your needs at most events:

  • Sennheiser FP 12-E-UK Presenter Set This low cost presentation set ensures maximum speech comprehensibility during lectures, presentations and theater performances. The system includes a body-pack transmitter, a diversity receiver and an inconspicuous clip-on microphone with an omnidirectional pick-up pattern. It features, 4 switchable UHF frequencies for interference-free reception, absolutely safe transmission, Diversity Technology for highest reception quality, adjustable squelch for undisturbed operation, receivers built in robust metal housing, and a dynamic processor for crystal-clear sound. For UK use, make sure that the set has the UK tag in the product description to avoid using a dodgy import meant for the US market.
  • Shure Performance Gear PG188/PG185 The PG188/PG185 Dual Lavalier Wireless System includes PG88 Dual Diversity Receiver, 2 PG1 Body-pack Transmitters and 2 PG185 Condenser Lavalier Microphones for discreet spoken word presentations. The 9V battery (included) provides 8 hours of battery life and the operating range is 75m (250 ft).

    This set features two PG185 Condenser Lavalier cardioid Microphones with clothing clip for secure placement and an acoustic windscreen to minimize wind noise outdoors. The PG1 Bodypack Transmitter has power, mute and battery status LED, and separate power and mute switches, and an operating range of 75m (250 ft.). The 9V battery (included) provides 8 hours of battery life. The PG88 Dual Receiver has Internal Antenna Diversity, and dual receivers with up to 10 selectable channels per side. This system operates in the 2012 digital switchover compatible Channel 38 606-614MHz range. The receiver has 1/4″ and XLR output.

  • Sennheiser EW 152 G3-E-X Vocal / Speech Presentation System with Body-pack Transmitter
    The included cardioid condenser headset microphone is easy to wear, has great pop protection and produces powerful sound. Also included in this system is a stage-tested true diversity receiver and a body-pack transmitter with charging contacts for the optional BA2015 rechargeable battery. The package consists of an EM 100 G3 rack-mount receiver, the SK 100 G3 body-pack transmitter, the ME 3-ew cardioid headset, NT 2 power supply unit, 2 antennas.

    This system has 1680 tunable UHF frequencies for interference-free reception, and should meet the needs of even the most demanding presenter or event.

Wireless Hand Microphone Systems
A wireless microphone for use by an announcer or for polling audience questions and opinions should be robust and reliable, as it may get a fair number of knocks. The pickup for a microphone used for interviews should be cardioid pattern, which is generally the mic pattern for capturing vocalist. Cardioid microphones are so named because the sensitivity pattern is heart-shaped, and are the most common unidirectional microphone

So called omnidirectional microphones are used to record background or ambient sounds because their pick up pattern is less directional than cardioid and should not be used for interviews unless the room is unusually quiet, and you have no alternative. If you have Omni mics in your microphone collection the should be clearly labeled, to make sure that someone does not grab one by accident and use it for an emergency replacement for the presenter’s mic!

Alternatively, if interviews are likely to be in noisy environments, a unidirectional microphone such as a shotgun microphone, which are the most highly directional, may be better as it picks up sound from only one direction. They are good for recording single voices, which makes them the best choice for interviews in places that have a high background noise. We use shotgun mics for video recording and with boom interview mikes, but will also use them as crew controlled mics for polling the audience.

Here are a few Low Cost hand held Wireless Microphone Systems from which to chose:

  • Sennheiser FP 35-E-UK Vocal Set The Freeport Vocal Set from Sennheiser is an affordable wireless microphone system that brings all the quality associated with the Sennheiser professional brand. The Vocal Set includes a hand-held transmitter with a dynamic capsule, cardioid pattern and a diversity receiver. The transmitter is exceptionally comfortable to hold and provides a lively and assertive sound.
  • Shure PG288UK/PG58 Wireless Dual System This set comprises two PG2 handheld transmitters with PG58 microphone heads and a PG88 diversity receiver. Shure PG2 Handheld Transmitters offer up to (250 ft) operating range and optimal signal strength.
    PG58 Microphone Head features a cardioid pattern microphone cartridge, tuned to accentuate the clarity of lead and backup vocals. The 9V alkaline or rechargeable battery gives a Battery Life of up to 8 hours (alkaline). The receiver has both XLR and 1/4 inch output connectors and internal antennas positioned to offer ideal signal strength an protection during setup, use or transport. If you are considering this set ensure you request Band K6E (606 – 618 MHz) UK Channel 38.
  • Sennheiser EW 335 G3 Handheld Cardioid Radio System At the top end of the range is the Sennheiser EW 335 G3 Handheld Cardioid Radio System, which is a professional wireless microphone system with true diversity reception. This system includes a a backlit graphic display, intuitive menu navigation, a programmable mute button on the microphone, and includes useful contacts for recharging the Sennheiser BA 2015 accupack directly in the transmitter. The package is available in UK license exempt frequencies Range E (Channel 70) and Range GB (Channel 38), among others. The Sennheiser EW335 G3 also features a rack-mountable diversity receiver for incorporating into gig ready racks. The Ethernet jack on the receiver allows for remote PC monitoring and control using Sennheiser’s “Wireless Systems Manager” software.

If you are considering providing wireless mics for presenters, announcer and mic runners, and intend to buy your own, make sure that your supplier explains the UK licensing requirements for wireless microphones. You should also ensure that they supply you with equipment that will work in the license exempt Channel 70 frequencies (863-865 MHz), or on Channel 38 (606 – 618 MHz) following UK digital switchover at the end of 2012.

Other useful resources
JFMG Licensing information for the Programme Making and Special Events (PMSE) sector

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Friends Of Trevor Carter

Many of you will know about the sad death of our friend and colleague Trevor Carter who passed away unexpectedly at home on the 30th January 2011. As one half of the songwriting partnership of Carter and Thompson, his artistic input, wonderful sense of humor and challenging chord combinations will be sadly missed.

In his memory we are hosting a website called the Friends Of Trevor Carter at as a celebration of his life and music. The site is funded by the generosity of the many friends of Trevor Carter who have contributed either financially, with material or with the gift of time.

If you have any photos of Trevor you would like to donate, or would like to contribute in any other way, please use the contact form at Contact Friends Of Trevor Carter

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Shedding Light On DMX Controllers

Have you ever wondered how the lighting director at an event can control hundreds of light units simultaneously, raising the brightness to a peak, and then dropping them in unison to black out the stage? Or how about changing the colour of light flooding the stage when there is a change in mood or tempo? Then there are the complex sequences of lights achieved from comparatively few LED lighting units, all connected by a single wire. This magic is achieved through the miracle of Digital MultipleX or DMX.

In the days when the brightness of a stage light was controlled by an individual slider or rheostat, the earlier mentioned magic would have required several lighting technicians acting together, and a mass of wiring.  Now a single master slider can control all the lights at an event through the power of DMX.

The original DMX standard was created in 1986 by the Engineering Commission of USITT with subsequent revisions in 1990 leading to USITT DMX512/1990.  This is the standard which governs all DMX signal transmission and cabling, and is usually written as DMX512. A DMX512 network employs a multi-drop bus topology with nodes strung together in what is commonly called a daisy chain. A network consists of a single DMX512 controller, which is the sole master of the network, and one or more slave devices. For example, a lighting console is frequently employed as the controller for a network of slave devices such as dimmers, fog machines and intelligent moving lights.

DMX is a multiplex technique that uses only four conductor shielded cable to control up to 512 dimmers. The DMX controller sends a series of numbers down the wires, starting with a special number called the start code, then up to 512 numbers representing the levels of each dimmer starting with dimmer one. The controller then repeats this series again and again, to maintain the state of all the devices. In practice, only two conductors (one pair) caries the signal, which had led to a non-standard 3-pin XLR system becoming “standard” for low cost DMX controllers and devices, which is the same as used for audio cables such as microphones. As adapters are available to convert from 3-pin XLR to 5-pin, and the other way around, it is possible to use both systems together.

If you are working with DMX controllers and lighting, there are a few simple rules to help you achieve a trouble free show. Follow these, and you reduce the possible causes of problems significantly:

  • Always use dedicated DMX cables
  • Route DMX cables away from high power sources
  • Always terminate each DMX circuits with the correct terminator

Always use dedicated DMX cables
This means use dedicated DMX cables and not microphone (XLR) cables. Microphone cables with XLR connectors look similar to 3-pin DMX cables, and for short runs will often work. However, DMX is a high speed digital data feed that requires a 120 ohm impedance to work properly while microphone cables transfer lower frequency analog signal that is typically in the range of 75 ohms. Always use dedicated DMX cables, and if you work in a mixed environment with both audio and lighting cables in use together, colour code your DMX cables to make them easy to identify in poor light.

Route DMX cables away from high power sources
All high power cables radiate electrical energy, which in the wrong circumstances can introduce a signal in adjacent cables. Because of the risk of interference, leading to data loss and unpredictable behaviors from your DMX equipment, you should route DMX cables away from your high power equipment. The same principle applies to DMX as to computer network cables, so never run data signals next to or in the same conduit as high power sources. If necessary to be near these sources, cross over them at 90 degrees, or keep as much parallel distance between them as possible.

DMX circuits should always be terminated
A DMX signal chain should always be terminated by the use of a DMX Terminator, which consists of a 120 Ohm, 1/2Watt resistor soldered between pins 2+3 of a 3 or 5-pin male XLR connector. This prevents the signal from reflecting back along the cable, and appears to the transmitting device as a cable of infinite length. If the addition of a terminator causes problems in your DMX chain, it is likely down to poor quality DMX Cable, so check that you don’t have a microphone cable in your signal path.

As DMX is a data signal, you can also run DMX512 on CAT5E or CAT6 cable, and if you are planning a static installation, like a church or community hall, this may be the best option. It can handle much higher data rates than standard DMX cable, and you can always use the cable for data later if required. One note of caution: if you are searching for a diagram to wire RJ45 for DMX, ensure you look for RJ45 for a DMX Chart, or DMX512 cabling chart, and not DMX-over-Ethernet cabling. You should also be aware that the some wiring schemes (Color Kinetics) use a different (non-ESTA standard) color code. While these both work, to avoid confusion, they should not be mixed on a single site.

There are a number of design pitfalls to avoid if you want your light show to be spectacular, night after night:

  • Do not use “Y” cables to split DMX signals; use a dedicated DMX splitter box. If you find a Y cable in your DMX kit, throw it away!
  • Do not use more than one controller in a DMX line; if it is necessary use a DMX signal combiner, or get a controller with more channels.
  • Do not run very long DMX lines; use a DMX repeater or buffer box to ensure that there is no loss of signal data.
  • Do not load too many devices on the DMX line; use a repeater or splitter box instead.
  • Do not run DMX lines bundled with power wiring or near transformers or electric motors. Cross such interference sources at 90 degrees

If you want some tips on designing your own DMX lighting setup, or want to buy in some expertise and equipment, follow the link to contact us. Contact Bruce Thompson Events now to hire your DMX Controllers

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Shedding Light on Lighting Terminology

What is a PAR64 LED Can with Barndoors?
As we were getting together the equipment for an event last week, someone looked at the kit list and asked “what does PAR64 LED Can with Barndoors mean?”. Although my initial reaction was to point quizzically at the pile of lighting units sitting on the trolley, after a moments thought, I realized that we use such terms every day without really knowing what they mean.

Parabolic Aluminized Reflector
The first part is simple: PAR means Parabolic Aluminized Reflector, which refers to the type of bulb used in the lighting unit, or luminare, as they often referred to in theaters and film making. A parabolic aluminized reflector lamp (also known as PAR light, PAR can, Parcan or simply PAR) is the type of light which has a reflector behind the filament, with the reflector shaped in a parabola. This is so that a substantial portion of the available light is projected forward in a parallel beam, similar to the headlights used in cars. In the lighting world PAR normally refers to a one piece light like a car’s sealed beam headlight. The number indicates the diameter of the housing in eighths of an inch, so a PAR64 is eight inches in diameter.

High Power Light Emitting Diodes
Just to make things interesting, as we are now using more Light Emitting Diode (LED) based lighting rigs, it is sometimes possible to see descriptions like “Par64 Can with LEDs”, PAR64 LED Can or LED PAR64. This refers to an eight inch diameter can fitted with LED based light source. LEDs have the advantage of consuming much less electrical power than a filament based equivalent, but the down size is that on average you need twice as many to provide the same light. Another advantage of LED Lighting is that you can control the colour of the light dynamically. This is achieved by having either lots of Red, Blue and Green high power LEDs in a close matrix, or the more expensive alternative of fewer high power three colour LEDs.

Colour Wash The Stage
Traditionally the effect of colours was achieved using coloured gels or filters which slot into a holder in front of the lighting can. No band gig would be complete without some red lighting, and moody Jazz gigs or huge boy-band spectaculars love the effect of a blue stage wash. These effects can be reproduced in more intimate surroundings using LED lighting, sometimes writen as RGB LED Stage Lights, which can switch colour according to the desired mood. As LED technology becomes cheap, using LED stage lights is a hot topic in the world of stage lighting.

Finally, Barndoors (or flags) are the wings (or doors!) often added to the front of lighting units where there is a need to control the area of the stage which is illuminated. We us them when setting up a stage with a display screen on each side and lighting on the presenter. This prevents light from spilling off the stage on to the projector screen and detracting from the impact of the movie, image or presentation slide being shown. Barndoors are frequently identified in terms of the cans they will fit, so a Barndoor for PAR64 Cans (or PAR64 Barndoors) means an attachment for an 8 inch lighting can. Simple really!

Common Reflector Sizes

Inches Approx mm Where Used
PAR64 8 inches 203mm Commonly used in large venues such as large churches, schools, theaters and large clubs with 500 to 1000Watt lamps. Most common as the Par64 1000W.
PAR56 7 inches 177mm Used for for touring or permanent installs in smaller venues. Maybe found in clubs, theaters, schools, fashion shows and exhibits, with 300 to 500watt lamps.
PAR46 5.75 inches 145mm Often used for shops and display stands or for small clubs, small theaters and tent lighting.
PAR36 4.5 inches 115mm Used for pin spots, with a beam angle around 5°
PAR16 2 inches 50mm Ideal for hiding in small parts of a set or along the downstage edge of the stage. Also known as a Birdie because it is smaller than a Parcan, or “One under Par”

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Accessories For Philips Conference Recording Kit

Following our review of the Philips Conference Kit 955 (LFH0955), back at the end of February, one of our customers wanted to know the range of the Philips Conference Microphones supplied with the set. We conducted some tests with the standard pair, plugged into the supplied Y cable and the results exceeded the claimed range of 2Meters (6.5 feet).

In practical tests in a room of 11 x 7 x 2.8 meters, we were able to record conversation down to a whisper with the microphones placed at maximum spread on a conference table of normal height. To push the equipment even further, we placed both microphones near to one end of the main room, to simulate a large boardroom with the PA/Operator sat at one end of the table, without using any extension cables. The microphones were able to record a whisper from the four corners of the room without difficulty.

Please note that these tests were conducted in an otherwise quiet room, with conversation between two individuals. The results may differ in a room full of people with a great deal of background noise. You should also note that the built in microphone on the Digital Pocket Memo supplied with the Philips Conference Kit 955 is disabled when the Y cable is attached, so for best results placement of the microphones should cover the whole conference area as indicated in the User Manual.

If you are considering extending the coverage of your Philips Conference Kit 955 (LFH0955) we have added links to some additional equipment which you may find useful.

Philips Dictation Conference Microphone for LFH9370 and Analogue Pocket Memos Ref LFH9172 Philips USB Foot Control LFH2310/00 Philips Headphones for Desktop Dictation Equipment Ref LFH233

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Back from Rich Heart Wealthy Minds

Great four days away in London crewing the Rich Heart Wealthy Minds seminar for Think Big Education. This used to be known as Design Your Destiny, and is all about finding your purpose in life. Everyone should have a clear idea about their Purpose, Vision and Mission, although many people do not. Lacking Purpose, Vision and Mission can lead to endless moving from job to job, or from one unsatisfactory situation to another. However once you know where you are going, you have the ability to move with purpose, and chose situations which advance you, rather than getting you away from the current mess.

This seminar is so successful and powerful that many attendees immediately book to come back again. I know several people who have attended three or more times and got new insights and motivations each time. It even helps you to define and shape your legacy for those who follow on behind. I defy anyone to attend the Rich Heart Wealthy Minds event and not be moved!

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Numark NUVJ Video Effects Controller

Our featured system this month is the Numark NUVJ Video Effects Controller, which is a nifty little USB interface which will plug into your Mac and Windows PC, to incorporate images and video clips in much the same way as you can mix music. With the NuVJ, the Audio/Video Technician can trigger images and video clips, add effects to them, mix them through an on-board DJ style crossfader and tweak them in order to create unique and spectacular shows.

Using the system is a breeze with a window on the left containing the File Browser, along with tabs for Effects, Sources, and Visuals, and a graphical representation of the interface, called mixing zone, on the right. Use the file browser window and menu on the left side to identify your movie clips, images or flash files, and simply drag and drop any image or video from the file browser to one of the eighteen cells on the the mixing zone.

There are so many great built-in features on this plug-and-play device, that it is hard to know where to start. In addition to containing movie clips, a cell can also be assigned an effect, which will then be automatically applied to the clip loaded in that particular cell. To assign an effect to a cell, simply drag and drop the effect from the Effects browser list on the left, onto the desired cell. You can even drag and drop folders on a cell, which allows all movies, images and flash files located in that folder to be played one after another in a slide show fashion.

You can identify a background clip that will be displayed if no clip is played on either of the two decks, although this option must be switched on, as is not activated by default to avoid any confusion. You can also have fun playing about with Copy modes as Deck A is considered to be on top of the background color or visual selected, and Deck B is considered to be on top of Deck A. You can use copy and masking options to have the background visual be shown through deck A, or change the way the A interacts with B. As if this is not enough, the Numark NUVJ Video Effects Controller also allows you to mix live inputs, generators, and texts, listed under the Sources tab.

We heartily recommend Numark NUVJ Video Effects Controller for mixing multiple input sources, and this useful little interface can be obtained for under £300. Considering the hardware you might replace using it, that represents a great saving! Go and check one out for yourself.

Key Features of the Numark NUVJ Video Effects Controller are:

  • Video sample playback, looping, and effects from multiple sources
  • Automated play for stand-alone operation
  • Internal generation of artificial patterns and backgrounds (Visualizer)
  • Synchronization to audio in or internal BPM generator
  • Processing of external camera or other video input
  • Real time effects generation
  • Various cross-over patterns and functions between at least two Visual/EFX combinations
  • Library of small movies, pictures, graphic sets supplied
  • 2 banks of 9 sets of trigger pads for video
  • Big wheels for scratch, effect, and speed control
  • Automated one touch fade speeds
  • MIDI compliant – can be used as controller for various devices
  • Mac and Windows compatible

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Platform Skills in Hong Kong

We have just completed a successful week in Hong Kong supporting Success Resources, Asia’s largest seminar company, who were promoting the Platform Skills Intensive from Christopher Howard Training. This amazing seminar takes you from wherever you are as a presenter and gives you the skills and techniques of some of the best presenters in the world.

While out there supporting Success Resources we made lots of new contacts from Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand, and renewed friendships with crew from the USA. What a great way to meet people and give them to opportunity to change their lives for the better! Since arriving back in UK we have had so many friend requests on Facebook that the email in-box looks like it has been mail bombed!

If you think you might be interested in honing your platform skills, why not try our one day Presenters Introduction. This will give you some basic tools to boost your confidence when making your pitch, give that great presentation or help you nail your next job interview. Contact Bruce Thompson Events now for your Presenters Introduction

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