Technology Can Be A Wonderful Thing

posted by Paul Braun, Sound Designer

I installed the new sound PC last night. It's purpose-built for audio performance (for those computer nerds out there - dual-Xeon workstation, 4GB of ram, two SATA drives, one for the OS and apps, one strictly for audio files) and features a USB-connected multichannel audio interface that will allow both recording and playback. The nice thing about the interface I chose is that it features four outputs, which are individually-assignable in our Show Cue Systems software. That means it's pretty easy to tell a specific sound cue exactly where you'd like it to play back.

My assistant Auriel and I started building the show in the computer. This is my first show ever using this software, so there's a learning curve and I reluctantly had to hit the "help" files a few times, but we got Act One done. Auriel and I played all of the cues back in order, added automation steps, tweaked levels and timing. Even banged our heads against a cue that insisted on automatically running when it wasn't supposed to.... until we noticed the "automatically go to the next cue" box that wasn't supposed to be checked... D'oh!

The nicest thing about this system is flexibility. Need to fade something a little quicker? No problem. Want to loop an effect a couple of times because it wasn't long enough? Click, click, click... done. Want to add in a couple more instances of that one effect? Not a problem. Levels are wrong? Easy.

Have three effects that need to play in order, overlapping at the seam, in a VERY tight time frame? No problem. Just put the cues in and drop in automation steps between them.

Once we started to get the hang of what the different types of cues were for, Ariel and I started to really enjoy the process. There are parts where you really won't notice the effects, they'll just sound natural. And there are effects that will reach out and grab you. I love this kind of show. Since I'm used to working on Jonni'n'Trai shows where we're making changes to the sound design right up until closing, having this sort of power and flexibility is good for my blood pressure and stress level. And saves me CD's that I don't have to keep re-burning.

Tonight we change a few of the cues from Act One and get Act Two built in the system, then it's all over but for the tweaking.

--- Paul