While the main focus of Mikel Rouse’s The End of Cinematics is visual--it combines live performance with original music and video/film--the soundtrack is still a key element in the audience’s spatial experience. “Because we were doing a 3D/hyper-real film, I wanted to make sure that I had a 5.1 surround sound environment,” he explains. “It’s a music-driven piece, even though there’s lots of live sound from the film soundtrack.”

When the film was shot in Paris, Rouse recorded audio wild, including a variety of spoken languages and street sounds. “We made the surround matrix so that you’re engulfed in a sound environment. And even though music is the most important element, you’re hearing it as if you’re on the street, with music blasting on the streets of Paris, while you hear the sounds of shopkeepers, rain, and any number of things.” Dialogue would often take a back seat. “The goal I was trying to achieve was the experience like when you go into a loud club, it’s blaring music, and you can hear a million conversations, though you can’t make any of them out. That’s the environment I wanted people to be in in the theatre.”

Sound for The End of Cinematics was designed by University of Illinois third-year grad student Chris Ericson, who works at the Krannert Center as an audio assistant. “The original concept was to have a band backstage playing along,” Ericson says. “But we decided to steer away from that due to the difficulty of keeping live musicians playing perfectly in time with the video.” Ericson opted for a simple and efficient system – one which both worked well and traveled well when the show hit the road. “I just went with small components – small microphones, small in-ear monitors, and small speaker systems.” Actors are miked with Shure UHF Bodypack systems with Countryman E6 Omni microphones, and listen through Shure PSM700 in-ear systems mixed through Yamaha 01v96 consoles.

The front of house console is a Yamaha DM2000. “I went with the digital system because it can be programmed. So after the first show, I basically just tune it up with some EQ and level adjustments, and we’re ready to go in a new house,” Ericson says. “I don’t even touch any of my compressor or gain settings. It was all set and ready to go.” Ericson also took advantage of Yamaha’s Studio Manager for fine tuning. “I can just punch through all my scenes and adjust various parameters from the tablet PC at the console. Or I can sit in the center of the house during a tech rehearsal and, if a performer asked for an adjustment in their in-ear monitor, I can do it from where I’m sitting.”

Ericson also made sure the show travels well. “I wanted to keep everything as efficient as possible. But we figured out how to patch the system most effectively. We’re able to get it set up now in an hour and a half. Just 10 multi-cable connections, and we’re ready to go.”

End of Cinematics had its world premiere September 17, 2005 at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. For more information, visit www.endofcinematics.com.