Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Music of the Night

One of the tech tools I like is Power Point.  Yep, the go-to software for sales presentations and school reports.  I found an unconventional use for it in the theater - sound effects for a play I directed last year.  It had dozens of sound cues, many of them very short and critically timed.  I created a PP presentation, one slide per sound, and it worked out beautifully.  I plugged my laptop into the sound board, and the sound operator was able to advance the slides, each with the appropriate sound attached, according to the cues which were also written on the slides (“cue for next sound …”).  The sounds can be set to play automatically when the slide advances, so one click, and the sound effect is played.  No struggling in semi-darkness for the stop button on a CD player, no rapid advancing of tracks when cues are spaced closely together.  I also created a video for the preshow music, embedded in a slide (visible only to the light and sound techs),  so it would indicate exactly when the lights were to dim, when they should go to blackout, etc., during the music.  Not that I’m particular …

I hadn’t initially planned to use it that way.  I set it up for rehearsal purposes in a new theater when other equipment wasn’t readily available (and when I was curious to see if such a plan would work).  Then I discovered it was easier to insert or edit one slide at a time than always burning a new CD each time there were changes.  And I make lots of changes!

I’m sure there is software out there specifically designed to work this way, but I already had PP, knew basically how to use it, and was able to clearly indicate cues for sound techs who may not be too familiar with the show.  For shows with typical songs and underscores, it would not be any better than standard methods (CD, minidisc, MP3 playback, whatever), but for this one, it was a great option.

I also used Power Point for a choral program, presented on a small stage that was little more than a white (yes, white) box.  Instead of using it for sound cues, I used it as a slide show behind the performers.  One wall became the screen, and a musical presentation that would have otherwise been fairly static, became more visually interesting.  There’s nothing novel about using PP for a slide show, but it was a simple way to add an interesting backdrop in a casual theatrical setting when resources were limited.  

1 comment:

  1. The whole PP idea for sound would work GREAT at the theatre I've been working with recently. Past sound people have been loading the tracks into windows media player and creating a playlist. But hiting the play button, stop, pause etc has never worked out the way this Tech Director wants it to. Thanks!