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FX cue playback

Discussion in 'Sound, Music, and Intercom' started by DarthFader, Feb 24, 2007.

  1. DarthFader

    DarthFader Member

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    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?
     
  2. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    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.
     
  3. TorontoAlchemy

    TorontoAlchemy Member

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    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
     
  4. jkowtko

    jkowtko Active Member

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    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.
     
  5. wolf825

    wolf825 Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    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
     
  6. mbenonis

    mbenonis Wireless Guy Administrator

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    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.
     
  7. TorontoAlchemy

    TorontoAlchemy Member

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    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
     
  8. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    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.
     
  9. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    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.
     
  10. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    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.
     
  11. Jim_L

    Jim_L Member

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    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
     
  12. mbenonis

    mbenonis Wireless Guy Administrator

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    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.
     
  13. TorontoAlchemy

    TorontoAlchemy Member

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

    SCS doesn't accomodate it , and although I think the SFX does, it is only under the $900 "control" option (a tad pricey for my needs)

    Thx
    Simon
     
  14. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    I think that SFX might have that option, but you need to have a MIDI or SMPTE i/o box for your computer, and MIDI or SMPTE on your light board. Then it might work. (And then you have to figure out SFX, which is a monster in itself. We have it here at Bucknell, and it's a beast of a program to try to learn in terms of separate triggers for different devices.) We use SFX for a light show every year that triggers a few things: cues on our Obsession 750 for conventionals & scrollers, cues on HogPC software for the intelligents, and a single music cue on the computer. For the dance concert, we did alot of automation with SFX, but none of it was the backward control that you are talking about. It was all "push go button on the screen for SFX at the beginning of the piece and cues are triggered on the Obsession automatically."
     
  15. mbenonis

    mbenonis Wireless Guy Administrator

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    QLab will work with MIDI, but not DMX directly. It's part of the $150 Pro MIDI plugin, however, so it's not free.
     
  16. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    A Rosco Keystroke for about $360 is a DMX to USB interface. The Keystroke can be programed to trigger any key stroke pattern on the target computer. Program it to hit the go button in whatever sound effect software you choose. It should work with just about anything.
     
  17. DarthFader

    DarthFader Member

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    Actually its not a big problem, but it is something to think about. The machine I use for cues is also monitoring our Shure wireless (RF strength, battery condition, and audio levels etc). As I see mentioned here the PC should really be dedicated. I'm working on that. Biggest probelm I have had relates to multitasking. If I go check the batteries in a mike, I have to remember to switch the focus back to the Cue Player program.


    The program I use, by the way, is called Cue Player Premium. It's from a company called Baxel Data. It has everything I need, and registers for only $25.00. Thirty day full function trial is free. It's been rock solid, and the support is fantastic. When I first downloaded it you had to trip the cue with a mouse or with the enter key. I e-mailed Dave Baxel that I was using a key mapper to convert the space bar to the enter key because it was easier to find the space bar than the enter key in the dark. Within a day I got an e-mail back that he thought so too and I should download the new version that included the space bar option!!! I get the feeling that Dave is a theater techie himself and runs BaxelData to keep food on the table. Great guy, IMHO. If you want to try moving to computer playback I highly recommend Dave and Cue Player. I was using it in Beauty and the Beast to fire a comic punch sound FX at the precise time the punch landed on stage. None of my CD or MD players could fire the cue quickly enough to make it sound and look right. Cue Player did the job with ease.
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2007
  18. dbaxter

    dbaxter Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    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
     
  19. DarthFader

    DarthFader Member

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    I'll be darned. Didn't expect to see you here Dave. Looks like I had your name wrong, but what I said about the program is dead on. Thanks again for all your help.
     

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