A new production of Show Boat has been staged in-the-round by Raymond Gubbay at the Royal Albert Hall in London and is one of the world’s first productions to use a new technology that tracks the positions of the actors to help create realistic audio localization that matches their positions onstage.
At the heart of the system, supplied by Out Board, is a 16-input 32-output TiMax Audio Imaging delay matrix driven by a Track the Actors (TTA) system. TTA comprises a Cordis Radio Eye mounted in the grid above stage that receives signals transmitted by small radio tags worn by each actor. These are fed via Ethernet to the TTA software, which analyzes them to derive positional information about the actors, who are then displayed on the screen as lifelike avatars that move around the screen in sync with the real actors.
The TTA software then sends MIDI messages to the TiMax ShowControl software, which outputs level/delay instructions in the TiMax delay matrix to place the actors’ audio images in the appropriate localization zones onstage. This all takes place automatically and in real time.
Sound designer for Show Boat is Bobby Aitken and the sound engineer is Richard Sharrat, who are using sound equipment supplied and rigged by Autograph Sound. Robin Whittaker of Out Board set up the TiMax and TTA system.
Aitken and Sharrat also used the new TiMax Soundtablet sound effects playback and editing software to generate and manage all of Show Boat’s sound effects. These included dockside and cityscape atmosphere beds, as well as spot effects such as steamboat whistles, babies crying, etc., all streaming in real time off the TiMax PC hard drive via a multichannel sound card.
Several different effects playback zones onstage were defined using TiMax delay-based image definitions, which allowed SoundTablet tracks to be routed and panned using the software’s waveform-based drag-and-drop pan assignment facility. Multiple tracks can be programmed in each cue, which can be triggered manually or via MIDI, SMPTE and internal timeline.