Nigel Head – In Phase Productions

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As Production Manager at In Phase Productions, Nigel is used to performing under pressure and thinking on his feet … but covering the enormous Bush Band Bash in Alice Springs recently presented a logistical challenge that truly tested his skills…

Nigel, tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be involved with audio and visual presentation services …
I moved to Australia from New Zealand in 1986 and studied Audio Engineering in Sydney. From there, I started my own business and ended up working for the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre as their Technical Manager, overseeing all audio production.

About 7 years ago, my wife and I decided to relocate to Port Macquarie, where I was fortunate enough to start working with Tom at In Phase Productions.

What’s your role with In Phase Productions?
In Phase productions is a lighting, audio production and installation business here In Port Macquarie. I am their Production Manager.

My focus with that is to liaise directly with clients in what they hope to accomplish with their event, and make it happen – whether it be production for local or touring events, or more permanent installations of production equipment for schools, churches and businesses.

You’ve worked on some interesting projects over the years. How did you first become involved with Gondwana Productions and NITV (National Indigenous Television)?
Kevin Lacey, who is the Manager of Gondwana Productions and I worked together at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre. He approached me a couple of years ago, as he was needing an experienced audio operator to do the Ella Sevens in Coffs Harbour. Since then, I have completed more than 250 hours of television audio for NITV events, including some live to air shows.

What exactly is the Bush Band Bash you recently assisted with in Alice Springs?
The Bush Band Bash is a big drawcard in the Alice Desert Festival, which ran from 9 to 18 of September. It’s a vibrant indigenous music festival in Alice Springs; it celebrates local music and culture and brings together the community in a positive way.

This year there were artists from right across Central Australia performing, as well as a premiere performance of indigenous musicians live with the Darwin Symphony Orchestra.

What was your main role at the Bash?
My role as audio director was to set up a mobile recording studio, liaise with the audio crew regarding microphone placement setups and logistics and send a direct stereo audio to the vision recording unit as a guide track.

I also did a multitrack record of all of the acts when in show mode, there was precious little time to take a breath.

What special equipment/supplies did you need to purchase prior to covering the event?
In Phase had to purchase, prepare and pack specialised audio production and recording equipment. We had to be able to record a variety of artists that had different requirements. I also had a digital mixing and recording audio desk and specialised computer software to enable me to capture the music live.

We hired some equipment from Sydney, including Specific audio isolation transformers, to ensure that what was recorded was free from hums and buzz, giving a very professional result.

What were some of the logistical difficulties involved with helping out at the Bush Band Bash?
The location itself makes it hard. Getting equipment in and out of Alice Springs is expensive and takes time. Finding experienced people locally can be tricky, and you often have to rely on volunteers for help.

There were seven bands in the bash, and there was supposed to be 15 minute change over times between – this did not happen. One band would finish, and the next would start almost immediately; this was a bit of a problem, as I did not have time to stop the record and set it up for the next band.

Not only that, they were starting before the stage guys had a chance to move the microphones and reset them. Well … you often can’t have a perfect world, which for me is the most exciting and challenging part of working in this arena.

You can plan for everything, but there is always a variable … and you just have to jump through hoops to get the job done, as good as humanly possible. Working this close to the edge is my adrenalin rush in life.

What other surprises/unplanned incidents were thrown your way, and how did you answer the challenge?
I found out the day before flying out that we would also be recording an orchestra and three lead vocals … yay! Was not really prepared for that … that’s TV!

The production crew doing the stage, sound and lighting were fantastic; the crew were from AJS Productions in Adelaide. Andy and his team were very easy to work with. They lent me some audio monitors, so that I wouldn’t have to be without mine for weeks … cheers guys – enjoy the beers!

What additional work have you needed to complete post event?
The majority of work done by Gondwana Productions is for television and is broadcast on NITV. For this event I had about 80 hours of post production work to get the audio records to a point that they can be used for television. They were then sent to Geoff at Sound Engine Studios in North Sydney for final mastering and re mixed with the final cuts of vision ready for broadcast.

The Bush Band Bash was obviously a huge event for you to cover. What have you personally learned from the experience – and how will what you’ve learned stand you and the business in good stead in the future?
I enjoy working with Gondwana Productions. The Bush Band Bash was a big, challenging event; you have to be able to work quickly, accurately and under pressure, and you only get one chance to get it right.

In Phase Productions now has the gear to do events like this and larger. We are now capable of recording 24 tracks+ an additional stereo track via Presonus 24 42 digital mixer with a Mac pro laptop direct to Protools 9 … love it – looking forward to the next live record.

Thanks Nigel.

Interview by Jo Atkins.

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