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Want more info on touring pit orchestra

Discussion in 'Sound, Music, and Intercom' started by musictom, Jan 30, 2008.

  1. musictom

    musictom Member

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    Hi,
    I just saw a national touring company put on "Gypsy" this weekend. The pit consisted of a conductor/keyboardist, a 2nd keyboard player, two reeds, one brass, and a drummer. Everything else was sequenced/triggered. I thought they pulled it off quite well.

    I really wanted to find out what they were using to trigger the sounds. During the intermission, I peered in the pit, and noticed the conductor had a laptop running Kontakt2, but that was obviously only used as a sound module. The 2nd keyboard player had no fewer than three laptops! I couldn't tell, however, what software he was using. I did see two boxes sitting on his keyboard (about the size of a D.I.). One had a red button, and the other a green. While watching during the second act, I noticed he was using those buttons to start and stop the prerecorded music.

    Anybody know where I could even start poking around online to find someone who might know more about this?

    Thanks,
    Tom
     
  2. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    As a matter of fact, one of our Senior Team Members, Andy_Leviss, just happens to be an IA Local 1 soundman in NYC, and would possibly know the answers, or at least point you in the right direction.

    Send him an email, as he's not on ControlBooth as much as we'd like anymore.
     
  3. musictom

    musictom Member

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    Cool. Thanks so much!

    Tom
     
  4. miriam

    miriam Active Member

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    There was no mixer, just computers? And the musicians did their own cues? I guess that would work with prerecorded things, they could just press a button and viola! but what about while the live music is playing? From what I have seen,the sound technician's hands never stop, either adjusting or hovering, on the mixer during a live instrumental performance. How did they do that for themselves, and on a computer?
     
  5. Chris15

    Chris15 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    I would have expected that the probably had a more conventional audio tech up the back as well. They may well trigger their own MIDI based (I'm assuming) stuff, but in the end, you can NOT mix from an orchestra pit. Did the conductor have headphones on? That would be the click track so they keep in time to their prerecorded tracks.

    Unless the whole thing was canned in which case, I guess you could get away with not having an audio tech...
     
  6. musictom

    musictom Member

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    They definitely had a sound tech in the back. It was a typical touring company, with about 15 wireless mics. So I'm positive the sound tech was running levels for the canned audio as well as orchestra and vocals.

    All the musicians were on headphones, and whilst peering into the pit at the interval, they were all using Avioms. Two of the channels in the aviom mix were "track" and "click", so they could all mix in as much (or little) track and click as they wanted.

    I'm guessing the 2nd keyboard was triggering something like Qlab. There were times within a song the entire track would pause, then I'd see his hand press the green button on the conductor's cue, and voila, the strings would come right back in. :)

    The whole reason I'm asking this is that my wife is a HS drama director. Typcially, every spring, she does a musical, and the general scenario is that I will take the orchestrations, sequence them, and then play piano/keyboard live, while playing along with mp3 bounces of the sequences. Up to this point, I've been using an iPod, which is a real hassle if something has to start up at a certain moment. I was just very impressed with how well the live musicians interfaced with the tracks.

    Sorry about the long winded post! :0

    Tom
     
  7. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    ....their lines feed into a console... which mixes it down... Moving a pit orchestra around the country is not a cheap or easy thing to do. Producer try to get the number of musicians down as much as possible, and use anything they can to do it. It also becomes hard to travel with a pit simply because you don't know what kind of pit you will be walking into in each venue. The quality of the music is usually better with a more electronic pit then a fully live one. The newer thing on Broadway has been to not even have the pit in the house, but to have them in a back room being fed by conductor cams etc, which really lends itself well to the touring world. Keep in mind these are legit musicians, and they are having to sequence everything in line they might be surrounded by mac's, but they are still creating music.
     
  8. Dillon

    Dillon Active Member

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    Sounds to me like it could be a digital orchestra setup. There's a couple of different systems out there that play back multiple tracks in time to the input. On some, you simply hit one button (or musical keyboard key) in time with the conductor to give the computer a constant tempo. On others, you actually play a music line on a musical keyboard and the software follows along with you, allowing crescendos, diminuendos, etc. to change performance to performance along with the rest of the pit. One such system is called a "MOST" (not sure what it stands for or who makes it).

    I've also used less advanced setups with a computer simply playing back a ProTools session (the red and green buttons could just be wired in as footswitches and assigned events in the software). My keyboard player was the one in charge of starting and stopping the tracks because so many of the starts and stops had to do with the tempo of the music. We also put sound effects and announcements in the file and he took care of triggering all of those too, which can really free up a lot of hassle for the lonely A1.

    Go ahead and PM me if you've got more questions about the setups.
     
  9. musictom

    musictom Member

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    One of my favorite things to do whenever attending a show, is to look back at the balcony to find the monitors of the directing conductor. :) People give me the weirdest looks when all the action is going on stage, and I have my head turned around, watching him conduct the vocalists on stage, LOL. I know several years ago we saw the West End production of "Mama Mia", and I am pretty sure the pit was in a separate room. So does that mean the orchestra doesn't have to show up dressed in black? :)

    O my goodness, no slam on the musicians whatsoever!! And actually, the sound (IMHO) was better having the strings, etc., on a track. And I have had the pleasure of playing with drummers who could lock into a click. Unfortunately, I've also had the misfortune of trying to play with a (so called) drummer, who couldn't stay with a click if his/her life depended on it!!

    Tom
     
  10. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Voila, the viola would start?:lol:

    I bet you're the only one who goes to a show and watches the musicians rather than the performers.;)

    We enjoy "long-winded" here. Definately prefer them over "me too" posts.

    How was the production? Gypsy is a tough, but fun, show to do with, what 27?, scenes and never repeats a locale. Got a link to the tour?
     
  11. musictom

    musictom Member

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    It was a decent production. Fairly minimal set, and I noticed they were able to redress and reuse several of the set pieces. Pretty smart.

    It was the first time I had been to a new venue near my home. It's in Modesto, CA, called the Gallo Center. They built a 1250 seat theatre and a 440 seat as well. I had a friend who helped with the audio install there, but have yet to get a backstage tour. Hope to soon.

    Kind of interesting, but even in a brand new house, the company used their own touring sound system. I figured they'd use their own board, but they brought in their own speaker columns as well. The 1250 seat theatre installed JBL line arrays (I have my own opinions on JBL, but I'll keep them to myself. :) ) So I still haven't heard how the house sound system ... sounds?

    Lights were good, but I know squat about lights (one of the reasons I joined this board). So all in all, I was pleasantly surprised by the show. Sorry, couldn't find a link to it, however.

    Tom
     
  12. DaveySimps

    DaveySimps CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Most touring shows that carry their own speakers use them at every stop. It is not necessarily a measure of quality of the house system, rather an effort to have a consistant show night after night / city after city. I was a house sound engineer for a several years at a very busy road house. The only time a road show used our system (when they had their own) was to tie into our front fills, paging, or balcony fills.

    ~Dave
     
  13. musictom

    musictom Member

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    It doesn't surprise me ... obviously, when you're coming in to town to do only four shows over a weekend, time is at a premium.

    And I had figured they'd bring their own board in …*I'm sure they already have all their audio scenes queued into memory, but like you said, I've known several acts that simply send their main feed to the FOH speakers, etc.

    Then again, it's probably easier to just set up your own towers — that way, you have absolute control as to how things sound (well, except for the tiny variable of the house acoustics, LOL!)

    Tom
     
  14. Chris15

    Chris15 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Normally they aren't looking to build their own towers, rather they'll send you the CAD of where they want their rigging points and they'll drop chain motors. In the end, all a touring gig will really want from the house are the rigging points, a power tie in and preferably some form of conduit between FOH & the stage. The rest will tour, so that they can pretty much get all the venues the same. As for room acoustics, is that not where SMAART etc. comes in?
     
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  15. musictom

    musictom Member

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    Man, I swear I learn something new every time I post here!!! :) Imagine if school had been that easy, LOL.

    Chris, that makes TOTAL sense. And from what I could hear, (I was in a lousy position to hear sound, as well ... balcony boxes) they had dialed the room in pretty well.

    This show didn't actually fly their towers …*they set them on either side of the stage, in front of the apron. I wish I could have seen what speakers they were using, but I spent all the intermission drooling into the pit. :)

    Tom
     
  16. Chris15

    Chris15 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Some, particularly older, venues don't have the ceiling capacity for rigging points. It may also be that the nature of that particular production meant ground stacked boxed were more effective.

    School can be that easy. In the fantasy world where there actually is a budget for these devices and some means of keeping them from getting destroyed by "eager" students...

    The other thought for touring with the same gear the whole tour is twofold, you can have presets stored, not necessarily in consoles, but IF it is a digital console, then certainly that would be the case, but also for things like speaker processors and those sorts of things. The other part is the systems engineers etc. KNOW the gear. They know how to get it to sound the way they want and more importantly how to deal with it when things go wrong. It's also faster and hence more efficient when you know the gear.

    That and most people will have a preferred manufacturer or manufacturers and they like the way they sound. But the problem is not everyone likes the same thing and so it would be impossible to have an installed system that everyone liked...
     
  17. Dillon

    Dillon Active Member

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    I'm currently in the same situation you're describing (although my tour doesn't start until March). Our towers are stacked on the stage, but we use motor points to hoist the tower sections into place. If there are no pick points available over the tower locations, we'll have to muscle the sections up and on top of the others... we have three sections per side, two at 6 ft, one at 4 ft for a total tower height of 16 ft... much higher than I WANT to lift a 100+ lb. tower section.

    As far as skipping house systems, musictom was right on the money: it's all about time. Even if you've got a beautiful V-Dosc system, we'll probably still set up our towers, get those working and tuned and see if there's time tie in to the house system.

    If your space has a center cluster, that's a different story altogether. Flying our center cluster is a whole bunch of work and takes some serious time. I'd rather use a house cluster along with our towers, time align everything to match and then fix the nasty EQ and phase problems.

    Chris also makes a good point: I know my own gear. Call us engineers a fickle bunch, but we don't like to be left in the dark when it comes to how a system is wired to work. When I plug in my own speakers into my own amps and processors, I know exactly what cable is carrying what signal, what each knob should be set at and where to look first when things don't sound right. It all comes back to time. If I had more than one day to load-in and tune my system, I'd probably be more open to using more house rigs and save myself a sore back at day's end.
     
  18. Andy_Leviss

    Andy_Leviss Active Member Premium Member

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    Dillon pretty much beat me to everything I'd say. When I was on tour with a full rig, we used our towers every city (except one that couldn't fit them, but had a nearly identical house proscenium rig, and even then it turned out ot be a disaster). Halfway through the tour we added our own center cluster, but because of time constraints, we used it exactly once. Every other city, we tied in to the house for center and delays, and just used our towers and front fills.

    As for the virtual orchestra thing, one of the better known solutions is Realtime Music's Sinfonia, which was used on the Trokia tour of Miss Saigon, among others. I don't know all the details, but it basically involves a musician with a small MIDI keyboard, known as the "tapper", who taps the rhythm to follow the conductor's tempo, as well as controlling vamps and things like that. Set up right and blended with a live orchestra as a supplement, it's not half bad, although it's certainly no substitute for a real live player if that's a viable option.
     

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