Where do designers get their creative ideas? Where do they get a specific piece of gear when they're out on the road? In short, where do they turn when they need a little help? This new column, Re:Sources, attempts to answer that. Each month we'll ask a specific designer to share their secrets, whether it's revealing obscure research material or a giving a nod to the rental house that goes the extra mile. For the inaugural column, Hannah Kate Kinnersley caught up with the always edifying Broadway sound designer Tony Meola. If you have secrets you want to share with the world, contact Kinnersley at perchkinn@rcn.com.

According to sound designer Tony Meola, if you plan on buying a recording, feel free to go to Tower Records. But if you're researching a recording, you're better off staying home. “It's amazing,” he says, “you go to the customer service desk in Tower Records and tell them you'd like them to search for a song title, and they say ‘Oh we can only search by album title.’ Yet you go online at towerrecords.com and you can search by song title, by artist, by anything. I can access their data from my home computer and get more information than the customer service people can.”

Online sources have proved invaluable in researching recorded music for this noted designer, whose credits include Wicked and the Broadway production of The Lion King. For the current production of The Normal Heart at the Public Theatre, Meola wanted to use music composed at a specific moment in history, so he relied on a classical music site, The Mozart Project, with a chronology of Mozart's work.

Another of Meola's favorite resources when preparing for a show is the Lincoln Center Library (also known as the New York Library for the Performing Arts), with its archive of Broadway and Off-Broadway show videos. He says, “When I was doing Juan Darien, it was very helpful to see the video of the show when it played Off-Broadway. But you can also see the original A Chorus Line, or Liza Minnelli and Chita Rivera in The Rink.”

Out on the road the designer has frequently turned to stores like Radio Shack for bits and pieces, but in an emergency he turned to the “unbelievably fabulous” Delta Dash. Although it sounds like a Southern super hero, Delta Dash is actually a same-day shipping service that will shuttle items between airports served by Delta Airlines. Meola recalls working on the Broadway revival of Guys and Dolls in New Haven and urgently needing a SIM cable. SIM guru Bob McCarthy from Meyer Sound dropped off the cable at Oakland International Airport and it arrived in New Haven a few hours later — on a Saturday no less, when the chances of even an overnight delivery were slim.

(NOTE: Since 9/11, Delta Dash will only takes items weighing less than 1 lb., but they continue to work with local shipping companies on same day delivery of larger, prequalified items.)

To research new sound products and ideas, Meola checks out the New Products section and ads in Entertainment Design. (Thanks Tony, comp. subscription is in the mail — Ed.) He also follows the work of other designers to see the latest innovations, saying, “The young always know what's new and cool. We older guys and gals use stuff we know works, but young designers are into gadgets.”

TONY'S TIPS: