# FX cue playback

##### Member
Hard drive based playback machines must be great, but a little too expensive for our budget. CD players and minidisk players are both a little slow for FX that need very precise timing. I've been using a wonderful windows pc based playback program, but can't keep the thought of computer freeze up or crash out of my head. Windows programs can unexpectedly pop a message on the screen that requires a click or answer before you can continue. Obviously if you have to do that before the cue will play it is horribly late. (I've learned to keep the antivirus software off when running the cue player)

Anyone have any interesting thoughts?

#### soundlight

##### Well-Known Member
I've been thinking that if you could get some sort of midi sampler that would be able to play back the effects, you could use a MIDI keyboard to fire them. I can't guarantee this method, and it is nothing more than a recommendation, but it seems like it might work!

Also, when we run music off of SFX on the computer (also used for the timing of some cues), we always have a CD running concurrently (play pressed at the same time on computer and CD) so that the CD is running while the computer is running so that if the computer output fails, we cross-fade into the CD quickly.

#### TorontoAlchemy

##### Member
In your experience do you find that this does actually happen ... (PC sampler software failing/freezing), and if so how often

I'm making a decision in the next week about which PC based control system to go with, and was going to include a PC sound sampler. Although we're just a small black box, nonetheless I'd be disconcerted (pun intended) if I couldn't depend on Windows not screwing us with an unexpected pop-up.

S

#### jkowtko

##### Well-Known Member
Our theater started with an old home style Sony CD player ... pain in the butt.

Then one of the former sound guys bought the theater a Boss SP-303 sampler, with 8 big buttons and 4 bank selections that could give you up to 32 sounds at the tap of a button. This was great at first, until you start to actually load sounds on it. The machine is a dinosaur in terms of current PC and flash memory technology ... accepts only a SmartMedia card, 64mb max, all files must be placed on the card in 44.1kHz wav format or else they won't upload, and the "upload" takes forever on the little processor that's inside.

That's when I bought a Stanton cd.500 dual DJ CD player. I don't use most of the functions, but the cue/play buttons are big, the player does cue right up to the beginning of the sound for each track so you get instant sound when you push the button, single play prevents me from running over to the next track, and dual players allow me to cross-fade and overlay sounds when needed. The only thing I need to do on my PC is to set up the sound effects and cut CDs. One problem here is that I end up making several versions of the FX CD for each show, and every time there is a slight change to any one sound effect, I have to cut a new CD (or pair of CDs, depending on what's changing). Another problem is that to place sound in any one of the house speakers I have to make sub-out and pan adjustments on the sound board for each cue. Kind of a pain, and not easy to teach a junior sound board operator.

So, I'm moving to PC entirely, using Sound Cue Systems software and an M-Audio card that gives me 6 output channels and the ability to throw sound wherever I want, pan, fade, overlay, loop, etc at the click of a mouse or the press of a keyboard button. My next show will be on SCS ... and I will cut a CD to use as backup just in case. But a PC solution also alleviates the need for me to cut CDs every time a small change is needed ... and most or all of these changes will be able to be done in real time with the SCS editor.
From what I've heard there are a ton of SCS users out there and all are happy. You do have to turn off certain things on Windows to prevent program interruptions, but I don't think it's problematic. SCS also has a MIDI interface for controls.

I hear a lot of people recommending Qlab for Mac, and I would suspect that solution is equally successful.

#### wolf825

##### Senior Team Emeritus
You may wish to check out SFX from Stage Research ( www.stageresearch.com ) as they have various types of audio playback software for shows, and having used it is is very easy and user-friendly overall..

Bit pricey for the full package with custom loaded PC and audio cards, but the basic package for software/dongle alone that you load on your own PC is fairly affordable....

-w

#### mbenonis

##### Wireless Guy
If you have a Mac around your theatre, I suggest looking into QLab (http://figure53.com). It's essentially the same thing as SFX, except it runs on Mac OS X, it;s much less quirky, and it's free.

#### TorontoAlchemy

##### Member
Jkowtko,

That's too funny...

'Cause the Boss-303 is what I'm using right now (in parallel with Denon 2000 w sticky buttons)...

Looking forward to the brave new world of a PC sound sampler!
S

#### gafftaper

##### Senior Team
Senior Team
Fight Leukemia
We are getting SFX for our new college theater. I'm told that it is used by all the big theaters in town and they are very happy with it. I'll let you know in a year what I think of it.

#### icewolf08

##### CBMod
CB Mods
I think to respond to your woes about using a computer for playback is what is really important. In theory with any digital playback device you run the risk (very minute of course with dedicated hardware) of having it crash. But, that said there is no reason to not use a computer to run your cues. The thing you need to make sure of is that the computer you choose needs to be dedicated to running sound cues and nothing else.

If you are starting with a computer you already own, format the hard drive and then only install the software you need for your sound work. The other cardinal rule, especially with a Windows machine is do not plug it in to the internet, ever. This is the best way to create a stable platform.

We use SFX at our theatre, and we have never had a problem with freezes or crashes. The computer that runs it is not even a very new computer, but that is all it does, run SFX, so it works.

#### Footer

##### Senior Team
Senior Team
We use SFX at our theatre, and we have never had a problem with freezes or crashes. The computer that runs it is not even a very new computer, but that is all it does, run SFX, so it works.
Thats the key. Get a computer that is just made for audio processing. I like to have a pretty decent one so I can run audition on it durring rehearsals so that I am not constantly moving stuff from the editing machine to the playback machine. Whatever computer you choose to do it, DO NOT put anything but the bare essentials on it. That means, no office, no games, no aim, no internet access, etc.... Windows will run forever as long as its not messed with.

#### Jim_L

##### Member
I've been using a pc based cue playback systems for 6 years. I've never had a problem in all the shows I've done. But like some of the other posts have said, build a computer just for this purpose only. No games, No internet, etc.

I've tried many programs then I found Sound Cue System. Does everything I need, at a affordable price.

I use to DJ also, I did have a computer crash one night, but it was a power supply problem. So I built a duel computer in one case, with a 7 channel mixer. At the push of a button it will switch between computers. I've never needed it, but it's a comfort to know it's there.

Jim

#### mbenonis

##### Wireless Guy
We use SFX at our theatre, and we have never had a problem with freezes or crashes. The computer that runs it is not even a very new computer, but that is all it does, run SFX, so it works.
Unfortunately, our experience with SFX has been less than stellar. We bought a customized PC just for audio playback along with two Layla 3G's about five years ago for many thousands of dollars (I wasn't there when we bought it). We've had nothing but problems with it - random crashes, playback issues (SFX would sometimes play a cue in doubletime for no apparent reason), etc. Plus, their support was less than helpful. That's why we decided to move over to QLab on the editing machine (a Dual G5 with with the Layla's attached to it). We've done two productions on it so far, and both have gone off flawlessly. That PC is now a dummy interface for our matrix processor software...

I'm not affiliated with Figure 53 in any way; we're just happy customers.

#### TorontoAlchemy

##### Member
Can anyone recommend a Sound cue program which can be controlled via DMX (ie via PC control board)...

Senior Team
Fight Leukemia

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#### dbaxter

##### Well-Known Member
I am now a member here and I thank DarthFader for his kind words. I will not blast you all here with an advertisement, but should you have questions, please feel free to send me a message.
Dave of Baxel Data Systems