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AV and Multimedia Related Thread, Sound, lights (and video?) for drama studio in Technical; Hello All, I've just spent a couple of days sorting out sound effects for a school comedy show evening. All ...
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    dhicks's Avatar
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    Sound, lights (and video?) for drama studio

    Hello All,

    I've just spent a couple of days sorting out sound effects for a school comedy show evening. All done now, but the exercise did highlight our lack of preparedness for this kind of thing - it shouldn't take very long to sort out a few sound effects, but it wound up taking hours. We could do with a decent way to control all the light and do sound, having a bunch of fancy lighting and sound equipment is silly if no-one uses it. What does everyone else use?

    My thinking so far is to get a desktop PC (laptops tend to have flaky sound) with twin sound cards (we can use one to plug in to the sound system and one with headphones to preview stuff, plus you can always get around file format conversion problems by simply feeding the headphone line from one into the line-in of the other) and a DMX512 to USB converter cable that I've seen on eBay for 50 or so - seemingly it comes with software included, but if anyone has any recommendations for lighting/sound software designed for theatres it'd be much appreciated.

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    robins's Avatar
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    Integration used to by possible via MIDI - though was a bit pants. There are various hugely expensive theatre lighting desks that can be used to trigger sound and AV. [ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Show_control"]Showcontrol [/ame]is a protocol championed by the install market (visitor centres, retail, etc) not really suited to live-ish environments like theatre where stuff always goes wrong (especially if its got kids in it).

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    powdarrmonkey's Avatar
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    If you truly want PC-based show control, I recommend Light Factory. I won't tell you about it, I'm sure you can read up on it yourself, but I bought their single universe software & hardware package direct from NZ for about 300 I think (though the exchange rate will almost certainly have changed by now). Make sure you download the PDA control too, very cool

    I got it with the same thinking as you: why spend 5-6,000 on a full-blown desk for a drama studio? It doesn't make sense.

    For sound, though, I wouldn't bother with dual cards but get a small mixing desk, we have a small Behringer analogue desk with built-in class D amplifiers and graphic EQ which has been excellent and very reasonably priced. You're not then limited to having the PC as an input device.

    Shout if you want more info.

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    Andrew_C's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dhicks View Post
    it shouldn't take very long to sort out a few sound effects, but it wound up taking hours. --- What does everyone else use?
    It does doesn't it? I use Sound Cue System. Works well with lots of features. You can do loops within it, fade ins/outs, play wav or mp3s, and even video in the pro version (93). This will licence it for your organization, not just one box (on a sort of one show at a time basis)
    My thinking so far is to get a desktop PC (laptops tend to have flaky sound) with twin sound cards
    One sound card and a small mixer would be better. Gives mic inputs, or cd/video/whatever when you need it. A four channel card would enable weirder effects but getting a little beyond basics. SCS handles many channels if you want it to.
    DMX512 to USB converter cable that I've seen on eBay for 50 or so - seemingly it comes with software included,
    I wouldn't go there. I would favour strongly a "real" desk, even if it is small. The learning curve for kids trying to do both lights and sound on a pc would be too steep. Part of the "joy" of drama is involving those that can't act, so several "techie" jobs are a benefit, rather than a problem. Have a look at a few of the articles here on this theatre specific Wiki. Specifically the sections 8 & 18.

    Zero88 and ETC both make good entry level desks, not 50, but I think you would regret going down that route.

    Or even the Behringer at 150, not in the same "league", but I'm told it is quite workable.
    Last edited by Andrew_C; 13th February 2009 at 10:54 AM. Reason: Wiki link added.

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    Quote Originally Posted by robins
    not really suited to live-ish environments like theatre where stuff always goes wrong (especially if its got kids in it)
    Reading up a bit, and thinking over last night's experience, you've got a point - having a system that fixes sound and light cues rigidly to a given script probably isn't the best of solutions, something more flexible is called for.

    Quote Originally Posted by powdarrmonkey
    If you truly want PC-based show control, I recommend Light Factory.
    Okay, thanks, I'll take a look.

    For sound, though, I wouldn't bother with dual cards but get a small mixing desk
    We actually have both (smallish) sound and light control desks already, it's just me being the computer chappy I figured using a PC to control the whole lot might be easier. This whole exercise is partially an excuse to get the drama teacher a decent PC she can do video editing on - we have a very limited budget, so proving that a bit of hardware can do as much as possible is a good idea.

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew_C View Post
    I would favour strongly a "real" desk, even if it is small. The learning curve for kids trying to do both lights and sound on a pc would be too steep. Part of the "joy" of drama is involving those that can't act, so several "techie" jobs are a benefit, rather than a problem.
    We're an all-girls school, and unfortunately the "techie" side of things tends to be left to me to sort out (our girls can be such... well, girls at times).

    After reading through the replies here, I'm rather thinking the best idea might be to aim for a PC that can handle a spot of video editing (for videod drama productions) and sound, with light control as a handy add-on if it's needed. I'm still aiming for multiple sound cards, just for the ability to be able to re-record stuff from iTunes and such, if nothing else.

    Does anyone have any recommendations for sound effect CDs and such like? I can generally find various effects on the web, but it'd be nice to have a ready bank of effects available for children to use.

    --
    David Hicks

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    The BBC's sound effect library, while a bit dated, is very comprehensive and good quality. I haven't really used any others, didn't need to. (They might have updated it since then.)

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    Ohhh, shame. Last week I spotted that Canford Audi had a complete set in their clearance list, about 3/4 of the way down. Disks 1-20 are the most useful, the 40-60 probably too specific for the OP. A few of the Bits & Pieces disks they list at 5 coud be good.

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    dhicks - you dont need multiple soundcards to do what you want, you dont even need a new soundcard at all, Audacity will do most things.

    For a soundcard id look at M-Audio. They do a good range of sub 100 (ex vat) cards. These support ASIO which will be a must if you get a decent program to control it all.

    Personal opinion of Behringer is most of it is cheap and nasty tat. If thats all you can afford then fair enough, it will do, but just dont expect it to take any abuse.

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    Quote Originally Posted by j17sparky View Post
    Personal opinion of Behringer is most of it is cheap and nasty tat.
    I know bashing Behringer is a popular past time, but I feel that maybe this quote from a Pro engineer and owner of an audio hire company might give some perspective. For those that don't know, Midas make those huge VERY expensive sound desks seen world wide on the premier tours.

    Nothing personal but I always like to add to my signature when discussing Midas.

    Midas uses : c.600 (mostly XL and H series)
    Behringer uses : c.6000 (everything from super crap to worse)
    Midas Failures : 3 (H1000, H3000, Venice 320) All show stoppers.
    Behringer Failures : 0

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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew_C View Post
    I know bashing Behringer is a popular past time, but I feel that maybe this quote from a Pro engineer and owner of an audio hire company might give some perspective. For those that don't know, Midas make those huge VERY expensive sound desks seen world wide on the premier tours.
    Alright then, im wrong and you're right. You obviously know best coz u redz it on teh internetz

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    Quote Originally Posted by j17sparky View Post
    Alright then, im wrong and you're right.

    Well, glad we've cleared that up then.

    No, not because I read it on the net, but I know the guy, and his business. I also use B sound kit on a regular basis, along with A&H, Soundcraft, etc and know it does what it says on the tin. Not the best, but OK in most cases. Some of their processing kit is untouchable for features and reliability at any price.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew_C View Post
    Last week I spotted that Canford Audi had a complete set in their clearance list, about 3/4 of the way down. Disks 1-20 are the most useful, the 40-60 probably too specific for the OP. A few of the Bits & Pieces disks they list at 5 coud be good.
    Someone (TTS Electrontics?) had the full set of CDs for sale at 5 each at BETT. They were actual CDs, though, and ripping 50-odd CDs to harddrive and then renaming each of the several dozen tracks per CD sounded like a pointless waste of time. There should, hopefully, be some place we can buy a ready-made wodge of MP3 files or something, ready to be searched through by keyword.

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    Quote Originally Posted by j17sparky View Post
    you dont need multiple soundcards to do what you want
    I want to be able to get the soundtrack off of whatever media it comes in on and into a format I can edit with Audacity. Audacity is great but doesn't open stuff like FLV files from YouTube or AAC files from iTunes. I can get FLV players and so on that will play YouTube files, but getting something to actually convert into an editable format seems to be more tricky. I figure the easiest way to sort the problem is simply to record the output from one soundcard with another - simply plug the headphone out socket into the line-in. I've tried this with a single soundcard before but run into issues with the sound card not being able to play and record at the same time, so two soundcards it is. It might also be handy to have an editing facility so we can be chopping up sound and re-mixing them whilest the computer is playing other stuff over the speakers.

    --
    David Hicks

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    Quote Originally Posted by dhicks View Post
    I want to be able to get the soundtrack off of whatever media it comes in on and into a format I can edit with Audacity. Audacity is great but doesn't open stuff like FLV files from YouTube or AAC files from iTunes. I can get FLV players and so on that will play YouTube files, but getting something to actually convert into an editable format seems to be more tricky. I figure the easiest way to sort the problem is simply to record the output from one soundcard with another - simply plug the headphone out socket into the line-in. I've tried this with a single soundcard before but run into issues with the sound card not being able to play and record at the same time, so two soundcards it is. It might also be handy to have an editing facility so we can be chopping up sound and re-mixing them whilest the computer is playing other stuff over the speakers.

    --
    David Hicks
    You still dont need 2. 1 decent one will be more than capible. Infact chances are you wont need a cable neither as you will be able to route the audio whereever it needs to go (and even if you cant Audacity is able to record the Stereo Mix)

    But IMO you are going about it wrong. You should be looking at an effient way of converting them through software. Ive never found a format which cant be converted. Try this for a cheap and chearful way of converting Media Converter - the fastest free online audio and video converter

    Your way will work, dont get me wrong, but just wait until you have to convert 20 tracks - you'll be wishing you didnt do it that way

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    Quote Originally Posted by dhicks View Post
    ripping 50-odd CDs to harddrive and then renaming each of the several dozen tracks per CD sounded like a pointless waste of time. buy a ready-made wodge of MP3
    Two things; don't use mp3. If you do, when you edit in Audacity or whatever, the file will be up-converted to wav, and when edited down-converted to mp3. This will introduce audible and quite horrid artifacts. Much better to stay in wav throughout, HDDs are cheap enough now. I tried the mp3 route a few years back, and regretted it so much I've just gone through and re-ripped all of our disks (50+). Of those, Audigrabber only failed to find contents lists for 4 of them.

    If anyone knows of software that actually works in mp3 as native, then I know someone who would be interested.

    Quote Originally Posted by dhicks View Post
    Audacity is great but doesn't open stuff like FLV files from YouTube or AAC files from iTunes. I can get FLV players and so on that will play YouTube files<snip>
    Not wishing to open a nasty can of worms here, but you wouldn't let your school use pirated software, so are you really happy with them using pirated music/sfx?

    That question aside, I'm sure I read on here a few weeks back about a program specifically designed to route sound within a PC; from one application,say media-player, direct to another, Audacity.

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