Mac Sound Design Application


Wireless Guy
Premium Member
This was posted to the theatre-sound listserv yesterday.

Hi all,

My name's Chris; I'm a new member of the list.

I've been working on a new sound design/playback application for Mac OS X, and I am looking for folks who can help me improve it.

A little bit about myself: My schoolin' has been as an actor and computer scientist. (My undergrad was a double major in theatre and computer science, and my graduate work was in CS.) I'm currently a software engineer living in Baltimore, Maryland. I've had several experiences in the last few years that made me think there was room for a new tool in the theatre-maker's box. As an apprentice at Actors Theatre of Louisville, I ran video cues for a Humana Festival show that involved an unholy combination of custom-built software, manual toggle switches, and a foot pedal. As a sound-op/light-op/stage manager for a young theatre company at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival I had to perform similar gymnastics to run sound and light using two boards, some wall switches, and iTunes. I'll tell ya, I wouldn't wish a manual crossfade of simultaneous sound and light cues on my worst enemy.

A little over a year ago that same young theatre company I opped for in Edinburgh asked me if I knew of any good sound design software for the Mac. They needed a tool more sophisticated than Ye Olde CD Player, but their style was being cramped by the Starving Artist Cash Flow Problem.

I spent considerable time researching what's out there, and was rather surprised at the high cost of professional tools. ($500 dollars for something that only plays 4 sounds at a time? That's a hard sell for a strapped company.) And where was all the Mac software?

Theatre making is damn well hard enough, in my opinion, so I set out to build a new tool: QLab. After over a year of work, the first beta versions are ready for public testing. Here's the address:

QLab is free, and will remain so. My background in theatre makes me hungry to improve it, and my background in computers gives me the tools to do so, but I look to you--those with a strong background in sound design--to help me know how it should evolve to serve you best.

Remember, this is beta software; I need your help to push it and poke it and learn how to make it better.

I hope to hear back from any of you who can spare a moment to give me some feedback.

best to all,
and (early) happy new year,

I've been playing with QLab for a few hours, and it seems to be absolutely amazing. I'd like to encourage all of the Mac users who have been clamoring for a Mac version of SFX to give QLab a try and let Chris know what you think.

You can report bugs at:
That makes me wish I had a mac even more!
The one thing that I can't figure out, despite it's simplicity (I assume it's simple and I'm just missing something) is how to load an audio file/song into the program. That would be very helpful... Aside from that, it looks awesome.
The newest release of QLab allows you to select audio files through an open dialog as well as dragging them in.

By the way, I could encourage everyone who is using QLab to join the list-serv. I believe there is information on how to join on the QLab website at

QLab does support multiple file formats (including AIFF, WAVE, and MP3), but not all instantiations of these formats will load successfully. If you are having trouble loading a particular file, try exporting it via iTunes or another sound program to one of the above formats.

With time I hope to fine-tune the audio file support, but for now I rely entirely on CoreAudio to automatically detect the file format and do the heavy lifting. CoreAudio is much younger than, say, Quicktime, which is much more likely to successfully open any file you throw at it.

I'll reiterate Mike's suggestion to join the mailing list for support questions; I do stop by this thread every once in awhile but I can be much more responsive to questions posted to the list.


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