Typical Stage Configuration Diagram [Click to Go Back]

ACL Best Sound:

Having been to many concerts at Zilker Park over the years I have found the main stage configration at the east end of the soccer field usually in the sam configuration. The smaller stages in other locations lack the rear stacks but most of the same rules apply. Sometimes the VIP and Floor Mixer are reversed or totally missing but all the speaker stacks are usually in the same spots. The rear left sweet spot rests on a nole that is usally void of any guests and is about fifteen feet in diameter maximum. You will really notice the phasing when you walk through it, but if you hold still the phasing drops to nearly null. There are also fusion spots slightly further back that attract a lot of people, where the mix between stages is about equal; and if there is a tree that spot will be packed. The rear right sweet spot usually falls close to the incomming arterial crowd flow and you just have to keep moving or sit down at the edge of the crowd.

Close in to the stage (in red) is usually the worst sound. It will be distorted, reflected sound from the monitors and the extreme side lobes of the main speaker stacks. It's a great place to take pictures, but not to listen. As you move into the orange section you will notice a marked improvement in the sound. The best place for sound is probably in the Mixer Stand and Light Tower, if you can't get in there then try to get as close to it as possible without being behind it where the sound will be muffled and you won't be able to see either.

Logically someone might think there is another sweet spot directly on the center line behind the Mixer Stand and Light Tower and behind the Rear Speaker Stacks. I think it's not there because it's usually not a stereo signal to begin with, besides you can't see anyting from there. Sure if you go see a synthasizer band the backup keyboards are usually stereo.

Of the two theories of mixing, theory two is seldom used in these settings. If you see a row of 16-24-48 speakers above the stage, you might get lucky and hear the track by track mix in front of the mixer stand or the percussion moved around to different places on the stacks.

Otherwise the best we can hope for is faith in the engineer to balance each track to sort of how the musical artist are arraged on stage. Most of the sound engineers do not want the extra hassle of balancing on the fly when the artist runs across to the other side of the stage, but it is the mark of an excelent sound engineer.

Above all try not to be directly in front of any speaker stack, the sound is too loud, if you have to be in that location for security reasons etc. please wear ear protection (ear plugs are usually availible at the accessibility tent near the entrance). Remember that sound disapates at the inverse square. Even if you are deaf avoid the speaker stacks, intense sound can damage more than your hearing.

Now the video monitors, some stages have two, one on each side in front or outside of the speaker stacks. Some stages have one monitor, or none at all. Scout them out ahead of time if needed. I noticed that some are above the accessibility viewing areas, some were on the opposite side of the accessibility viewing areas. From my personal experiance escorting a visual impaired individual was somewhat difficult in the crowds, but no different then trying to stick to any friend in this sort of situation. Never the less, there are usually only two camera feeds to the monitor(s). One camera is in the Light Tower which provides a variety of wide angle and telephoto video shots. The other camera is a standard hand-held floor cam providing a variety of artist closeup shots and crowd reactions. When video is unavailible a series of computer generated screen saver videos are sometimes displayed along with slides of festival activities and current schedule information.

Now I heard somebody didn't have a good time because the water cost too much. $1-2 depending on how far you wanted to walk. Next time you are feeling sorry for yourself grab one of those people in a motorless wheelchair and push them to the next venue. There were several public sources of free water. The drinking fountains East of the main food stands. The rock water fountain between the cooling fans and the wine stand, and the SBC Internet Cafe had free iced down bottled water on the patio in the blue containers under the misters although they ran out Sunday afternoon. If you brought your two sealed bottles of water you should have been able to make it to a refill station before you ran out. If you read my article ''How to Dress for ACL" then you would have remembered to freeze your water bottles the night before and put them in your short's pockets, that doubles your pleasure, and doulbles your fun.

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