HendrikvH .com

Why no one likes the lighting guys.

Also why we always give them their own generator.

By the way, this is what the show looked like (skip to 06:25):


Hey, not everyone's into the whole "professionalism" thing.

So this is what the sound guy was doing during Stellenbosch University’s graduation ceremony this year. I actually thought the sound was pretty decent compared to previous years so well done to that guy for multitasking.

Myth 5 busted once again, by the way.

Thanks to whoever took this photo, as I’m not finding any info on who you are. Please let me know if you want credit.


We don't need to change sêr venues, we need to change the mindsets of sound companies

Standard Bank Maties Kleinsêr 2010 Finals at CTICC on 22 August. While the full name is quite a mouth full, theres quite a lot of talk about people not getting an ear full on the night. Yes, that was a good joke, but not so good is the fact that the same as most previous years, people are complaining. They say that they couldn’t hear the performances of the groups on stage properly. Further, some reckon that some groups sounded much better than others only because of the sound. You know, sometimes people just whine, but sometimes we have reason to complain. So, what went wrong and what can we do about it? Theres a few nasty myths about sêr. Let’s get them out of the way.

Myth 1: The venue is to blame for the horrible sound.

Some say that the CTICC has horrible acoustics or that its just “too large for small vocal groups.” No. The CTICC is a pretty good acoustic environment, perfectly suitable for miking sêr groups, but it needs to be done properly. See myth two.

Myth 2: The sound guys know what they are doing

Just looking at the attempts of sound guys to properly mic sêr groups over the years, one can see how little they know. Or care. I’m not sure which one is worse. See Myth 3.

Above: Screwed up mic technique from the sound company results in screwed up sound. Thanks to Bernard Bravenboer for the photo.

Myth 3: Sêr groups are just small choirs

Sound companies try to use choir mic techniques for miking sêr groups. While this approach is not only completely retarded, it’s also completely retarded. They are not the same. At all. Not in terms of volume, dynamics, material or the way they move on stage.

This is what makes sêr sound so difficult to nail. You have groups constantly moving around singing from different physical heights and locations. Add a few instruments to the mix, combine it with the low volume of the vocals and you have a potential problem. Choirs are easy. They are relatively stationary, predictable and LOUD. Pretty much the opposite of sêr groups. Which brings me to the crowd. See myth 4.

Photo: Yeah. The whole different physical height thing... (Thanks to Bernard Bravenboer for the photo again)

Myth 4: The audience at sêr will shut up.

They won’t. And they are not supposed to. Where the audience at a choir performance are pretty quiet, the guys at sêr are many times louder that the handful of persons on stage. The microphones will pick it up. The audience won’t care. The sound engineer needs to be prepared. He probably won’t be. See myth 5.

Myth 5: The sound guy actually cares.

He probably doesn’t. Sêr is a pretty low budget show compared to the other performances at CTICC. Chances are the guys behind the sound desk aren’t very excited about the show either. He probably has no idea what sêr is about. And he gets paid R50 per hour. (And no, I am not saying that I actually walked up to a sound guy once and he literally said to me: “Hey, I’m not a sound guy, I’m a logistics manager. They said it’s only a few mics for a choir and didn’t have budget for a full production crew.” Really, that’s not what I’m saying. I have never had that conversation. But yeah, he probably doesn’t care if it doesn’t sound amazing.

The solution:

Moving to smaller venues won’t solve the problem. In fact, most venues for national finals is much worse that CTICC in almost every aspect. There are probably other reasons for the nationals being in hangars, but it's not going to solve the sound problem.

We need to get sound engineers who understand sêr and all the challenges mentioned above. More importantly, we need guys who share our passion for sêr. Sure, those kind of guys are not cheap and it’s much easier to simply use the first sound company you find, but you know what? The sêr groups deserve better. So does the audience.

[On a technical point, in all seriousness:]
Did the sound guys know what they were doing? Well, maybe, but it doesn’t look like it to me. Wrong mic technique, or none at all rather. Their technique seems to be a mix between X-Y and ORTF. If you don’t know what you are doing, just mix it up, hey. In summary, I think these guys really just didn’t think things through, or they didn’t know what they were letting themselves in for. Either way, it’s really unacceptable.

Update: I’ve been in contact with Jeanne Odendaal from the SRC regarding possible solutions for upcoming nationals, but this all of course very last minute. It is good to see that someone is listening. Let’s see what happens!

Update 2: I’ve gotten quite a few emails asking what happened. Nothing happened, so yeah. I’m happy to report that despite this things went relatively well at nationals. Thanks and well done to everyone involved, except the sound company.

Hot new superband : "DEMO PLEASE REGISTER"

Were you at the KKNK? I hope not. Anyway, if you were at a certain stage, any time, any day of the week, you probably saw the band “DEMO, PLEASE REGISTER”. I thought I did, until I noticed that the members of the band kept changing every 45 minutes. The MC also kept getting the name wrong. He called them Glaskas, Straatligkinders and then aKing. Come on guy.

It took me a good two or three seconds to realise this, but it wasn’t the name of the band we saw behind the guys on stage. It was actually a trial version of the software Arkaos Media Master, used to play videos and animations on the screen during the show. The production company decided to just save the money and use a demo version instead of actually purchasing the application, resulting in the DEMO text being displayed at random intervals.

I paid for my copy, because I didn’t realise that these days it’s perfectly acceptable for a professional company to use demo/trial software. When did this happen? Anything goes at KKNK, I guess.


Maties RAG fest '10: The show with no sound engineer

Hendrik van Huyssteen's view

You know that show on the braak each year after vlotte? Yeah, we all do. Turns out it’s called Maties RAG fest, by the way. I’m no stranger this event, but this year, even I was surprised.

I was hired to do sound for the headlining band later the day, but I checked in earlier just to have a listen. I greeted a few people and thereafter turned my attention to the stage. Taxi Violence were on and it sounded TRAGIC. Tragic not because of the band, but because of the poor sound quality. Tragic in such a way that people more beered up than Paris Hilton in a car were asking me, “What’s going on...with the....the...with the sound, dude?” That’s pretty much the point you know things are horribly wrong. After letting them know that I’m not working, I also started wondering what’s going on.

At first I thought the sound engineer was wearing some beer goggles himself, as this is a pretty common sight nowadays at these “no one cares” shows. (Just because the whole crowd is drunk doesn’t mean the sound engineer can also be, but that’s a different story.)

Anyway, after looking for Musical Mover & Shaker in the VIP section, I made my way to the sound booth. On my way there I wanted to get some Coke (the drink) but found it was "sold out." How can you not have Coke for a blazing hot summers day? Fail guys, FAIL! But I’m getting sidetracked again, sorry.

So back to the soundbooth story: What did I find once I got there? No beer goggles. Or a sound engineer to wear them. No one, except for some guy sitting on an upside down cooler box, doing nothing. Below is a video I shot. (It’s seven seconds, your cap can handle it)

In short: No one was controlling the sound. Normally, you would have a sound engineer in the sound booth trying to look cool and at least making it sound decent. Bands usually bring their own sound engineer, but when they don’t, the sound company provides one for them. Not in this case. The system was running itself, causing it to sound like band practice in your next-door neighbour’s garage.

One can argue that the band should have cared enough to hire a sound engineer to mix for them (we are not THAT expensive), but not really. I blame the sound company, who actually isn’t a sound company. Were these guys understaffed? Overworked? Underpaid? Only there to sell booze? I don’t care. Get a sound engineer behind that desk.

A few late breaking pics from Ramfest IV

As per usual Bundi Productions handled handled everything technical at Ramfest. This included sound, lighting, staging, AV and power for all stages. One of my favourite festivals, but unfortunately I didn’t have time to take photos. Never fear, here are a few courtesy of Ardriaan Louw.

Click the images for more, or

CD rack eliminates the need for air con

The CD roll is the coolest CD rack on earth, designed by Pascal Bauer. If I could understand his site, I would buy one.

Coolest CD rack ever
Photo courtesy my7475.com, obviously.

Keep refrigerated, do not freeze: Why I blog

Welcome. I know what you are thinking. If you don't know me, you're not thinking much. If however you do know me, you are wondering why on earth I'm blogging. Well, thats quite a complex question, so let’s start with a little story.

A while ago there was this awesome ad on TV. It started with a woman with perfect make-up pretending to be a housewife. She said “Blogging. Blogging? Blogging. Blog-ging. Blogging. Blogging.” After that she said that Mikey set it up for her. Then, in an unexpected turn of events she takes a tub of Flora from the refrigerator. End of commercial.

At the time I didn’t really understand the connection between blogs and a medium fat spread, but I knew I would in good time. I don’t remember much else about that little gem, but I do remember one thing: Whenever the ad ran, pretty much anyone over 40 who were fortunate enough to see this masterpiece, asked me what a blog is. I told them exactly what it is. “A blog is a place where you post your opinion and pretend that someone cares.” I promised myself I would never blog.

Fast forward a few months and here we are. Why? Well, mainly becuase we fast forwarded. But also, I recently figured out that when I talk to, lets say ten people, I end up talking about the same topic to about ten of them. I don’t really like talking about the same thing more than six times, so I needed a solution for the remaining four people.

As you didn't read in the “about me” section, I’m Hendrik van Huyssteen, a session sound engineer studying electronic engineering. Somehow I end up going interesting places and seeing somewhat interesting people. Plus I get my fair share of boring people at engineering.

I read the blogs of countless professional showgoers every day and I never agree with them. But this is a good thing. I hate reading things I agree with. Most of these bloggers see shows from a VIP spectator’s perspective, but I see it from a bit of a different angle. I’m not exactly sure how the angle differs from the VIP spectator one, but believe me, it does. Sometimes I can offer people some insight into the show from my strange perspective. Be it the one of the sound engineer or simply the only sober person, it makes for interesting conversation.

Still there was the problem. I could only enlighten six people at a time. A solution was needed. I thought for seconds on end and suddenly I heard a woman with perfect make-up saying “Blogging. Blogging? Blogging. Blog-ging. Blogging. Blogging!” It turned out that someone was watching an outdated episode of 7de Laan in the living room and thinking its the one from the night before, but anyway. I had my solution.

So here we are. I am voicing my opinion and pretending someone cares. At least now I have a place to send those four people.