Associate professor John Huntington and Dr. David B. Smith of New York City College of Technology have integrated the Sinfonia® orchestral enhancement system with Medialon Manager to offer a new method of show control and tracking musical time in live performance.
Sinfonia is a product of Realtime Music Solutions, a music technology company that creates orchestral enhancement instruments for professional and amateur productions, where Dr. Smith is director of research and development. Sinfonia systems are currently used on six national and world tours and productions and have been successfully used in over 12,000 performances. Current Tours/Shows include: Les Misérables (London West End), Miss Saigon (UK national tour), Cirque du Soleil (multiple productions), Le Rêve (Wynn Las Vegas), and Oklahoma (US national Tour).
Sinfonia allows a performer to play an arbitrary number of instrument parts in real time. When linked with Medialon, a producer can time cues, such as lighting, video start and stop, stage movement to the music and have those cues match the music at certain points even if the timing of the music changes on a night-by-night basis. Working with a City University of New York Graduate Technology Research Initiative grant, Professor Huntington and Dr. Smith, the chair of the entertainment technology program at NYC College of Technology, are demonstrating the flexibility of the Sinfonia-Medialon application in which the technology tracks the performers, not vice versa.
“Linear media, such as fixed-length video or audio clips, are increasingly integrated into live performances today,” notes Prof. Huntington, a world-renowned expert in the field of show control. “But current synchronization technologies, such as SMPTE Time Code or Click Track, impose significant constraints on live performers making them lock themselves to linear, inflexible media.”
Recognizing that music is already divided into clock-like units like measure and beat, Prof. Huntington and Dr. Smith decided to use this information as the synchronizing time base for show technical systems. They devised a system with Medialon Manager at its core feeding a Flying Pig Systems Wholehog® 2 lighting console and Dataton Watchout visual presentation system.
At an upcoming demo Prof. Huntington and Dr. Smith will use existing beat information to synchronize a sequence of cues in Medialon Manager. They will also export predicted beat information from Sinfonia and use it to varispeed and synchronize Manager’s timeline. “With this varispeed Manager timeline we will varispeed and locate the Dataton WATCHOUT system,” explains Prof. Huntington. “This will allow the visuals to vary in time with the music. In addition, we will use Manager’s positrack feature to back locate lighting and prepare other cues.”
One possible application for Sinfonia and Medialon involves flexible control of automated performance systems, such as lighting and video playback. “You turn Sinfonia on and record a performance’s meter and tempo information, capture that data into Medialon, write it into a file and time stamp it,” says Prof. Huntington. “During the performance mode, you take the live beat information and recall the time value. The software that I wrote in Manager reads the pace of that information from Sinfonia, compares expectations and adjusts accordingly, moving up a cue or perhaps speeding up the video. Medialon’s easy integration with the Wholehog and Watchout assures smooth show control.”
An additional Sinfonia-Medialon application would be to fill out orchestras in venues where only a few musicians are available or where it would be impractical or impossible to accommodate a full orchestra. Sinfonia supplements a traditional ensemble of any size, filling in whatever parts are missing. A musician would play Sinfonia, following the conductor as would any other member of the ensemble.