What is the best order to set up your equipment?

It may seem a bit trivial, but in my experience the order that you do things in can make a big difference between getting everything running for a gig in the time available or ending up running around in a panic at the last minute, or having to run a show without some vital piece of equipment.

If you take a lot of time to set up your cameras, and get all your cables tidied up, and get your powerpoint graphics in order, it won’t do any good if you discover at the last minute that your projector is not working, or that your mixer has a fault.

So here is one suggested order for setup that has some advantages.

1. Set up your screens and projector or projectors first. There are several reasons for this. – It means you can be sure the projector is working and that the screens are aligned etc. This can be quite a time consuming activity, so it is best done first to ensure that there are no nasty surprises later. – Often your screen may be at the back of the stage, or above the stage, or near the stage somewhere. It is best to get out of the way of other activities on stage as quickly as possible, so as not to delay other setup tasks. – Typically you will not have access to the screen or projector once the doors are open and the audience are allowed in. . 2. Set up your mixer or PPU next. This will let you verify the connection from the mixer to the projector and verify that you can get SOMETHING on the screen. You can use a matte colour from your mixer, or a blank powerpoint slide (pick white, or a visible colour – avoid blue or black, or whatever colour your projector shows for no signal!!) to give you something to set up the projector with. Remember that the setup screen for the projector may not be positioned exactly the same as incoming video or graphics, so it is always best to set up the projector alignment using a real signal.

3. In general set up your most important content playback next. So if you are doing a praise concert with song words make sure that is working all the way to the projector first, and only then start setting up other stuff. If the main reason for having video is to play back a video clip, then check that next and so on.

4. Make sure all your playback content is set up before you go on to any live cameras. I say this because usually at most events the IMAG is a ‘nice to have’ rather than an essential part of the show. If you only got two cameras set up, not three, it wouldn’t be a complete disaster. One exception to this is if you are relaying video to another location. In that case you would get at least one camera set up as soon as possible so worst case you can send a single feed to the other location.

5. Now you can set up your cameras, if you are using them, BUT I would caution against finalizing camera positions until you have seen exactly what the final stage layout will be. All too often I have decided in a camera location on paper, only to discover once the stage is set up that something has moved, or there is a blocked sightline that I didn’t know about or something. So, to save having to move your cameras too often, it is often advisable to wait till the stage setup has progressed to a reasonable stage. If you are limited in your choice of camera locations anyway, then just go ahead and set up and then you have to negotiate with whoever is in charge of the stage layout to address any sightline issues.

6. Only after you have set up everything, and checked all connections should you start taping down cables, unless, of course it is essential for safety reasons. Assume that you will have to move cables at some point before the show starts, and only tape things down when you are sure they will not move again.

Your experience may vary, but at least decide on some kind of order and stick to it, otherwise you will waste a lot of time jumping from one thing to the next.

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