A completely new production of Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern’s 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 create realistic audio localization that matches their positions on stage.
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, which 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 and outputs level/delay instructions in the TiMax delay matrix to place the actors’ audio images in the appropriate localization zones on stage. This all takes place automatically and in real time, so this represents a substantial reduction in cue pre-programming effort and totally removes the need for any intervention by the operator during the show.
Sound designer for Show Boat was by Bobby Aitken and the sound engineer was Richard Sharrat, using sound equipment supplied and rigged by Autograph Sound. Robin Whittaker of Out Board setup the TiMax and TTA system.
Bobby Aitken and Richard 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, and others, all streaming in real time off the TiMax PC hard drive via a multi-channel sound card.
Several different effects playback zones on stage were defined using TiMax delay-based image definitions, which allowed SoundTablet tracks to be routed and panned using the software’s unique waveform-based drag ‘n drop pan assignment facility. Multiple tracks can be programmed in each cue, which can be triggered manually or via MIDI, SMPTE, and internal Timeline.