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SFX Software From Stage Research Helps Set The Scene For “Annie Warbucks” Production At the Children’s Musical Theater in San Jose

annieSFX, the leading live entertainment sound playback software from Stage Research, Inc., controlled the AV aspects of “Annie Warbucks,� the sequel to the popular musical “Annie� and the most recent Mainstage production of the Children’s Musical Theater San Jose (California).

Hooked to an ETC Obsession II light board, SFX enabled sound effects playback, cued a traditional slide projector for text displays, and triggered Troika Tronix’s Isadora software for digital scenery changes.

“SFX is an awesome product,� says Chris Larson who did the sound design and automation design for “Annie Warbucks.� “I’ve used SFX in many applications over the last few years, and it’s always been extremely helpful.�

Larson crafted the set up, which facilitated SFX control of the show’s AV elements. An ETC Obsession II light board output a MIDI Show Control signal which was received by the main SFX computer, a custom-built PC running Windows XP SP2, via the Audiophile 192 PCI audio card. The computer triggered audio cues through the Audiophile MIDI In to the main sound board. It also triggered a slide projector which displayed dates and place names in text format. And it triggered Isadora via MIDI Command Control changes. Each scene had a separate incremental MIDI Control change number (1 for scene 1, 2 for scene 2, etc.) so if the light board triggered a cue twice by mistake it wouldn’t advance the scene prematurely.

The most complex of the operations was triggering Isadora v1.2 realtime video manipulation software which supplied video footage that acted as scenic backdrops.

An Apple G5 Dual Core Desktop computer running Isadora drove three video projectors, which displayed video footage of a moving train and the New York City skyline passing by the deck of a ferry boat on three large screens built into the set.

“To 90 percent of the audience the three screens looked like an almost seamless single screen displaying background scenery the set designer devised,� notes Larson. “Instead of having to fly set backgrounds in and out, sets for the train and ferry scenes and for various interiors were displayed digitally.� Although the screens gave the illusion that there was no more than three or four inches separating them, an actor crossover behind the stage left and stage right screens and in front of the center screen allowed actors to enter from upstage center.

Footage for two rear-screen projectors, which were turned on their sides in portrait-mode, was bounced off mylar mirrors and displayed on screens about 10 x 7.5 feet in size at stage left and stage right. A front projector configured in normal landscape mode, displayed footage on an approximately 10 x 14-foot screen in the center of the stage.

The train and ferry scenes featured several different layers of elements. The foreground ferry deck, for example, was a still photo. A layer of water effects and the shoreline scrolled by slowly behind the deck. And behind the water and shoreline was an airborne blimp. The train scene had several layers of buildings which scrolled progressively faster as the train gathered speed and the buildings receded in the distance. “By rendering these elements with their own scroll speed, a more convincing dynamic movie file could be projected,� Larson explains.

In addition, smooth transitions of video footage depicting interiors gave the illusion of moving down a hall, for example, while the living-room windows scrolled to stage right and bookcases scrolled in from stage left.

Once again Larson was pleased with the performance of SFX on “Annie Warbucks.� “I’m very happy with the program,� he states. “I really love using it.�

About SFX
SFX is found at all levels of theater from academics to the pros. Professional theaters use the software to create reliable and enriched soundscapes and has been employed in many award-winning shows, including several Tony Award winners.

SFX6 provides features that no other product can. It enables designers to refine and create effects on-site rather than having to shuttle back and forth between a studio and performance space. This affords the freedom to optimize sound designs for the acoustics of the space and other components of the performance. SFX6′s newly rewritten audio engine frees the need for an OS playback engine for hassle-free mixing and placement of audio. SFX6 features an intuitive user-interface and be programmed to run complex events with little or no user input.

About Stage Research

Stage Research is the developer of SFX, Soft Plot, Light Factory, ShowBuilder: Sound Design and other audio and lighting software. For more information, call 1-888-267-0859 or visit www.stageresearch.com.

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