Field report: Using CueTimer to keep soundchecks and concerts on schedule

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Working with music-festivals can be a lot of fun, but, to get it right, you need discipline and the ability to keep a tight schedule: if one of the change-overs gets delayed, it can have a domino-effect on the rest of the acts.

In this blog I will show how I used CueTimer in my own work as a stage-crew for a one-day festival with a lots of bands playing on the same stage. By having a countdown-timer for each segment, it was easy to know how we were doing compared to the original schedule set by the organizer.

Footage from Musikkfest Oslo, 4. June 2023, and the stage at Schouskvartalet, where I worked as a stage-technician. This was a collobaration between Riksscenen and Popsenteret, and featured an interesting mix of folk-music, punk and rock from the Oslo music-scene.

In the video above you can see the festival-timer on the top of a rack, pointing towards the stage. Judging from the footage, it seems that we managed to do the change-over quickly enough! The timer runs out just about when the announcer is finished introducing the next band. Notice also that the new timer starts automatically when the old one ends. I set everything in auto-mode so that I dont have to spend time controlling CueTImer while I am working with other things

How to set up CueTimer as a festival-timer

The newest version 2.5 of CueTimer has some features that becomes useful in this scenario:

– Import event schedules
You can now copy and paste into CueTimer the festival-schedule created by the organizer

– Link timers with auto-schedule
We want to create an automated list of timers where the end of one timer is always the start of the next. To keep this linking also when editing timers, the new version of CueTimer will automatically adjust the whole list when editing one timer.

To set up CueTimer as a timer for what is happening on the stage during a festival, you can follow 3 steps:

  1. Import into CueTimer the festival schedule/rundown
  2. Edit the list if necessary, and make the timers run automatically
  3. Display the timer in fullscreen

Here is a step-by-step guide on how I solved this for the job in Musikkfest Oslo

1. Import the schedule

The organizer had made a spreadsheet in Excel with the schedule for the event. I pasted the columns I needed into the CueTimer “CSV import menu”, re-shuffled the column to match what I needed, then imported the list into CueTimer.

2. Edit the list in CueTimer

When the list was in CueTimer, I saw that the numbers didn´t add up: The concerts were set to last 30 minutes, but the in the schedule the start-times were 45 minutes apart. Between every concert, 15 minutes were not accounted for. As it turned out, this was the time set for change-overs. What I had to do then, in CueTimer, was to manually add these change-overs into the list.
Using the new Auto-Schedule feature, the start-times are automatically adjusted when you add new timers with duration. So I only needed to copy and paste the same 15 minute changeover-timer between each act, and the cue-list gets updated with the correct start and end-times.
After doing this step, the start-times of each band matches that of the original schedule in Excel, and every minute of the evenings program were accounted for.

To make the list run automatically, I set all timers to “force start”. This means that they will start when the start-time of each timer happens. By using the Auto-schedule, you make sure that each timer starts at the end of the previous timer.
When a timer is set to force-start, the start-cell is written in red.

3. Display the timer in fullscreen

And the last step is to push the “fullscreen” button so that the countdown timer fills the screen.

The benefits of using CueTimer to keep soundchecks and concerts on schedule

When you are a stage-tech at a festival, you dont have so much time to check the schedule on your phone. By having a countdown-timer on the stage showing how much time is left of the current segment, you save valuable time and effort.

CueTimer is an app that very much runs in standalone-mode: The mac/pc only needs to have the app installed, and it runs without internet-connection. This becomes increasingly important with outdoor festivals where internet-access can be a challenge.

And remember, CueTimer is priced at only $45 per year for one licence. This should be cheap enough for freelancers like myself to use the software without depending on the organization you are working for: You can bring your computer with CueTimer installed, and place it somewhere visible near the stage. That´s what you need to make sure that the soundchecks and change-overs finish on time.

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