On one of my first media jobs, the manager put a sign on the wall that said: “A clean kit is a happy kit.” What he meant, of course, was to label recorded tapes, re-charge spent batteries, keep things in their place and make sure all cables are properly wound and ready to go. Good advice, except I’m amazed at the number of people who ignore this advice.
Sure, sometimes after a major job is finished in the wee hours of the morning, I throw stuff into its case and just try to leave as quickly as possible. But the next morning, I always do clean up. I re-wrap the cables and check to make sure everything is in the place it is supposed to be.
A tangled mass of mic cable is enough to drive anyone crazy. It takes a lot of time to sort out. To come to a job with cables in a tangled ball is the sure sign of an amateur. This is especially so when now there are so many ways to get rid of cable management problems and other annoying issues with gear.
First of all, know what specific task each cable is for. Cables can be color coded or labelled for quick ID. I do both with mine. Hosa Label-a-Cable stickers ($9.99) come in a set of 60 adhesive labels that are designed so you can label each cable. It’s amazing how much difference this can make when you are in a hurry.
For rolling up cables, I use Think Tank Photo Red Whips ($9.75 for package of 10). These are little elastic bands that keep cables bundled and secured. I’ve ordered them several times, never seeming to buy enough.
The Think Tank wraps have a bright red color, which is very handy when cables from different audio technicians are intermingled together. They run in length up to six inches and have a barrel lock cord closure for easy sliding and size adjustment. I use them on cables 25 feet or shorter.
Think Tank also makes small cable management bags in three sizes with clear panels that allow you to see what’s inside. These bags are fantastic for smaller items like AC adapters, mic stand parts, small cables or any other small accessory. They range in cost from $17.75 to $25.75 ranging on the size of the bag. They help a lot in keeping gear accessible and neat.
For longer cables, try Hosa’s Hook and Loop Organizers (.75 inches wide and eight inches long, $13.99 for a 20 pack.) There is a slot in the middle of this cloth tie that allows the cable to be fed through. It is then cinched down to stay permanently attached. These can be useful when needed.
For even longer cables, try a roll of Hosa’s Astro-Grip double-sided tape. With this method, one side sticks to the other. Astro-Grip comes in 15-foot rolls and is cut to length to fit the cable. It allows users to bundle up larger coils of cable than standard strips can handle.
When back at the shop, it is good to have a few cable racks around to hang up mic and other shorter cables. Gator Cases Rackworks single unit rack ($14.99) is all metal and useful for hanging cables, as is the Raxxess CBLD cable depot organizer ($16.40). The Raxxess unit can hold 40 cables with a diameter of .25 inches.
Outside of cable management, one of the most important tasks for any sound pro is to keep the gear physically organized. This essentially comes down to cases and bags, which is a very broad subject. Case and bag manufacturers make carrying devices for virtually every kind of job and that’s a good place to start. But very often a case or bag designed and built for a different task can be your right choice.
It takes lots of experimentation to find the right one for a task. Consider how much weight you can handle, and whether or not everything fits. Wheeled cases — both hard and soft-sided —are great for heavier loads and for working out of — say from the truck of a car or on a table top near the setup. So far I haven’t found one that automatically lifts itself up and down stairwells, but I’m definitely looking.
Within any case, it is important to keep items separated, protected and easy to find. This can come from internal padded chambers or with removable pouches, mini-hard cases, storage tubs or other containers. I’ve even found plastic containers for medication excellent for holding non-breakable small parts.
At the end of the day, making “a clean kit a happy kit” is about good organization in order that you are ready for the next gig. It is a lesson learned early and one that will serve any audio or video pro for a lifetime.
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