Mixing from onstage vs in a control booth – which is better?

Which is better – mixing onstage where the action is, or mixing in a control booth?
Read on to see how the two compare…

Most of the time, when doing VLOBLIVE gigs, I end up onstage somewhere with my PPU – often tucked in behind the speaker stack at one side. It’s not ideal, but it works.

Mixing onstage
Here’s me doing just that.

Recently I did a gig where, for good reasons to do with using installed gear, I ended up mixing in a control booth with a window into the auditorium.
control booth mixing

Here’s a picture of this type of setup using our gear.

Wow! What a difference. The main difference was the sound level – much quieter, much calmer.
No shouting required just to be heard by the camops. The effect on the show was to calm things down and make it less stressfull for all concerned.

It was quieter and less stressful, but since I wasn’t used to it, it also felt a bit more detached and remote and I didn’t really feel like I was part of the event.  It was also more tricky to see what’s actually happening onstage. This matters if you have inexperienced camops who aren’t getting interesting shots, and you have to point out to them the interesting things that are happening onstage!

Don’t get me wrong though – I think I could get really used to it!!.

Many times you won’t get a choice –  often the circumstances of the setup will dictate one or the other.
If there are no control booths, then there’s no option, unless you can comandeer a room behind stage or something. Also in this case there were video tielines built into the control booth, so running cables was very very easy, but you might find that you don’t have enough cables or there isn’t a clear route to run cables to a booth.

On balance, if it’s an option I think I would pick the control booth any time – just makes it all much more manageable, BUT only if I could get a good view of the stage to see what’s going on.

In some cases you might want to set up a static wide camera (you can borrow any old camcorder for that) JUST to give you a clear view of the whole stage during the whole event.

And if you are installing a system for regular use, then the choice is very clear I guess.


2 Responses to Mixing from onstage vs in a control booth – which is better?

  1. Jason M says:

    Wow, I would never go back to being in the live environment. Our control booth used to be in the soundbooth of the sanctuary. The ruckus of the FOH speakers bleeding into the open intercom mics of the director, assistant director and IMAG operator were so distracting. We built a control room adjacent to the sanctuary. We don’t even have a window to look out. No big deal, we have cameras! We get an audio feed from FOH to hear the music and pastor… I’m curious why you can’t get in the zone by hearing audio from a speaker? Our production value shot up 30-50% once we moved. Anyway, different strokes I guess, but I would be careful giving advice that might make people think it’s easy or better to direct a show while sitting on stage. Very stressful. Sincerely, Jason

  2. drc says:

    Hi Jason – thanks for the input. Maybe it’s because I have ALWAYS had to do mixing onstage up till now, due to venue limitations etc. so it was just a different experience on this occasion – don’t get me wrong – I am sure I could get very used to mixing in a booth!


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