Live Sound

FixIt: Billy Elliot sound designer Paul Arditti

Paul Arditti, who received the 2009 Tony Award for Best Sound Design for this show, designed a Tap Floor that comprises 96 piezo-electric pickups distributed 8/01/2009 8:00 AM Eastern

Paul Arditti

Paul Arditti, who received the 2009 Tony Award for Best Sound Design for this show, designed a “Tap Floor” that comprises 96 piezo-electric pickups distributed across the majority of the stage area, which are set into the subfloor under the parquet.

The intention is to pick up and amplify tap dancing from anywhere on the stage, without risk of feedback or interaction with other live sources. The usual solution to this problem is to run wireless mics down the legs of each actor to the dancing feet. Unfortunately, because of the nature of the costumes, this is mostly not an option. The “Tap Floor” allows the choreography to take the actors anywhere around the stage and still be effectively miked. With some experimentation, we discovered what spacing of the pickups worked best and how to mount them in the floor most effectively. The audio from the pickups goes individually into a 96-channel console. The mixer then splits the floor into zones, and applies compression and gating. The stereo output of this mixer feeds a stereo analog input on the D5T, where the audio is finally EQ'd and routed to the sound system.