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WPI Technical Theatre Handbook: Automation
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Large sound systems can become incredibly complex fairly quickly. A large number of input devices, effects gear, and other equipment can make running a large show difficult. In situations where multiple cues have to be run in rapid succession or simultaneously, it can become nearly impossible for a single operator to run the system. These types of situations are where some form of automation can help immensely.

Simple automation can be had by use of MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) to control effects. Most multi-effects units can be run via MIDI, allowing a simple way to control these units from a single control pad or a computer. Rather than having to set controls on a number of front panels, computer software can automatically send out the necessary commands to control the units.

Many productions require sound effects to be played back precisely on cue. In complex setups, sounds may be made to come out of any of a number of speakers independently, so as to add realism to the effect. Cueing the sound and controlling the mixing console to position the sound in sound-space becomes a formidable task. Integrated systems for cueing and mixing sound help incredibly in this area. Unfortunately, most systems are well out of the price range of most college theatres. However, a system the author has co-developed, called SMsurround, has brought forth an affordable and powerful automated sound system. Automated playback of digital sound effects from computer and digital sampler, cueing and playback of compact discs, automatic fades and fader ``chases'', and MIDI control of equipment are all possible with the system. The system was developed at WPI as an independent study project in the spring of 1995 and was used for two productions thus far. Unfortunately, the prototype of the system has several shortcomings which will be addressed in a complete revamping of the system, to take place in late 1996 and early 1997.

next up previous contents index
Next: Design Up: Audio Previous: Speaker-Level   Contents   Index
Steve Richardson 2000-07-06

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