Continuing on from last week’s piece on Security in Educational Studios I want to offer some thoughts on the equipment itself.
Mics and DI’s
The highest risk items in a studio are the mics. We all understand how desirable they are and being pocket sized really does put them at risk. Most institutions sign mics and other portable equipment out of a central store. There is a balance which has to be struck here between security and speed. Not all equipment needs to be booked out on a per use basis. If the same equipment is needed every time a space is used it makes sense to leave that equipment in that space and to check it “in situ”. Much equipment is held centrally and is used as “floating” equipment, used wherever it is needed. A system for booking equipment in and out is necessary and depending on the size of the inventory a computerised system with barcodes or even RFID tags could be used but in smaller situations paper is perfectly acceptable. I have experienced very thorough systems which book equipment in and out, testing equipment on return of every item. In that case inventory was in top notch condition but the waiting times could run to 20 minutes! Like I said, there is a balance to be struck between diligence and speed.
I took a different approach. I put together studio mic boxes containing all the mics which would be needed for the typical sessions. The boxes had 12 holes in the foam and they were filled with an assortment of good quality dynamics and condensers adequate to cover a typical tracking session. This box was issued complete - if you only wanted one mic you still took the whole thing and by checking it when it was issued (in front of the student) and checking it when it was returned it made for a quick, simple system. We did have “nicer” mics available but this all or nothing approach to the basics meant that individual loans of studio equipment were usually reduced to single figures.
Think about what you buy
I found very quickly that a whole new set of criteria apply when buying equipment for institutional use. The idea that professional equipment has to be bullet-proof but that cheap equipment is appropriate for institutional use is still surprisingly common. All the professionals I know treat their equipment with respect and while they might use it every day, that can’t compare with the use institutional equipment gets. Not only does it get used every day but in many cases it gets used all day every day by people who didn’t pay for it. Do I need to go on?
Different Criteria Become Relevant
A couple of examples of the kind of considerations I would have when buying equipment for institutions might be: Does it have a weird power adapter or could I replace with a generic DC PSU? Are the jack plugs nutted to the case or are they just supported by the solder joints? Does it have a Kensington slot? Is this USB peripheral class compliant or will I need to install drivers on students’ laptops when they borrow it? As you can probably see it's not about whether or not I like it, it's about whether or not it will cause me extra work or expense.
My favourite example has to be headphones. When I buy headphones I want comfortable, good sounding headphones. When I buy for an institution I want tough headphones which have a 1/4” jack and absolutely no screw-on 1/4” adapters.
Does The Equipment Work For You Or Do You Work For It?
This is a big subject but if I have an overriding principle which sums up my approach it is to make sure that the equipment in use and the procedures used to manage it support and enable the work being done. I’ve come across too many example of the “tail wagging the dog”. If you don’t know what this phrase means you’ve probably been lucky in your experience of educational studios!
Come back for part three in which I’ll look at how to keep the computers in studios as tidy as the studios…