Portablem Sound effects system.

gafftaper

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Looking for some recommendations for a portable sound effects system. Our college will be purchasing "SFX" for the new theater but we do a least one show a year at a large off campus theater. That theater only has a CD player available for use. We've used CD's, DVD's, and I-pod's but all have issues especially with cue playback delay. I know there's a lot of dj gear that is a possibility. A friend suggested 360 Systems "Instant Replay" as an option. Again I know there is also DJ gear out there like this. I suppose I could install SFX on a laptop and take that along with me... not sure how legal that is without an extra license. There's also "Soundcue systems" software, which I've heard moderately positive comments on... and it's a lot cheaper than SFX

So what do you think? What's my best way of taking sound cues on the road? Most of our shows only have 10 to 20 sound cues.
 

mbenonis

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I'm curious as to whether you've considered QLab for both systems. It's free for under 8 channels of output (upgrade licenses aren't terribly expensive, and much cheaper than SFX), rock-solid, and very easy to use. None of which I can personally say for SFX.

http://www.figure53.com
 

gafftaper

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We hadn't considered QLab. The audio consultant for the new theater told us to go with SFX and we've stayed with that knowing it's used at all the large theaters locally.

I'll certainly take a look at QLab. For this portable situation I'm really inclined to go with a stand alone unit (like the Instant Replay). Just because it would be a nice educational contrast to the software solution in our home theater. On the other hand I'm also seeing that Instant replay runs around $2700... I could buy a real nice Macbook and QLab for a lot less than that.
 

Logos

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I run Sound Cue Systems on my incredibly elderly IBM 600. Its the only thing i use it for and it works like a dream. Instant cueing and all the rest. Doesn't seem to like MP3 though I convert everything to wav files.
 

mbenonis

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gafftaper

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I just had a conversation tonight with the guy who used to be the resident sound designer for the big regional theater downtown. He says SFX is the only way to go from the educational standpoint since most theaters are using it. As for crashing, he said it was a problem at first. However they just set up a system exactly to the specs SFX calls for, uninstalled every component they could, and they have had no problems after that.

There are lots of interesting cases out there that would be travel friendly. Building my SFX system in a case that is ready to travel might be a great solution.

Is anybody using a hardware device like the "instant replay" for sound effects playback?
 

ChrisAshworth

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Jan 22, 2006
If you go with SFX, ask them to see if you can get a free/reduced upgrade when they release the next version. They have been estimating that the new version will be released in the fall, and it sounds like it will have a lot of good stuff in it.

Sorry to hear we missed out on bringing you into the QLab community. :) Maybe next time around.

Best,
Chris (the QLab guy)
 

gafftaper

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I wouldn't say you have completely failed to get me in the QLab world. But it's definitely an uphill fight. I'm very much a P.C. guy in the first place and it appears that SFX is the most widely used software (at least locally). So that's two strikes against QLab. SFX is known to crash or have buggy versions that crash... that's a strike against it. But I'm enough of a techno geek that I can build and maintain a P.C. that is designed to make SFX very happy for a lot less than a Mac.

Thanks for the tip on the new version of SFX. Our building won't be finished until the fall and we won't perform our first show there until January... so I'll make sure I wait for that new version if I do go with SFX.
 

ChrisAshworth

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I wouldn't say you have completely failed to get me in the QLab world. But it's definitely an uphill fight. I'm very much a P.C. guy in the first place and it appears that SFX is the most widely used software (at least locally). So that's two strikes against QLab. SFX is known to crash or have buggy versions that crash... that's a strike against it. But I'm enough of a techno geek that I can build and maintain a P.C. that is designed to make SFX very happy for a lot less than a Mac.
Thanks for the tip on the new version of SFX. Our building won't be finished until the fall and we won't perform our first show there until January... so I'll make sure I wait for that new version if I do go with SFX.
Oh, I wouldn't want to fight to get you to use QLab. I'm very much a "use the right tool for the job" kind of person. And in the case of education, if the local employers are using SFX it would probably be irresponsible not to give your students some SFX exposure.

For what it's worth, I will say that QLab is making a fairly strong inroad into the professional community, and a number of universities are training students on it (I had a chance to visit Yale recently, and it looked like they'd more or less switched to using QLab for everything in the graduate program). So over the next few years if I can continue to offer a strong product I expect you may see it popping up more often.

But again, that isn't to say you should jump into using QLab now, since you have some good reasons why SFX would be a better fit for you and your students right now.

On the cost question, Mac Mini's are used by a lot of designers as their main playback machine with QLab, so you don't have to break the bank to make a Mac-based rig. (Sidenote: I don't recommend the Minis for video playback, but they're great for audio.) It will also run fine on relatively old hardware, so that's an option too.

Anyway, good luck with everything. I mainly just wanted to give you the heads-up on the new version of SFX coming down the pike. They've been working hard on it for a few years and early reaction from SFX users has been quite positive.
 

gafftaper

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Actually Qlab is reasonably priced enough it might be an interesting option to think about purchasing both. We are fund raising for a lot of our tech equipment and if all continues to go well who knows. I'm trying to put as much variety into the inventory as possible, so that students can learn more than one system. A used powerbook and Qlab for around $600 might be a good investment in cross training.

Still looking for opinions on hardware solutions like the "Instant Replay". Anybody? Anbody? Bueller? Bueller?