Large sound systems can become incredibly complex fairly quickly.
A large number of input devices, effects gear, and other equipment can
make running a large show difficult. In situations where multiple
cues have to be run in rapid succession or simultaneously, it can
become nearly impossible for a single operator to run the system.
These types of situations are where some form of automation can help
Simple automation can be had by use of MIDI (Musical Instrument
Digital Interface) to control effects. Most multi-effects units can
be run via MIDI, allowing a simple way to control these units from a
single control pad or a computer. Rather than having to set controls
on a number of front panels, computer software can automatically send
out the necessary commands to control the units.
Many productions require sound effects to be played back precisely on
cue. In complex setups, sounds may be made to come out of any of a
number of speakers independently, so as to add realism to the effect.
Cueing the sound and controlling the mixing console to position the
sound in sound-space becomes a formidable task. Integrated
systems for cueing and mixing sound help incredibly in this area.
Unfortunately, most systems are well out of the price range of most
college theatres. However, a system the author has co-developed,
called SMsurround, has brought forth an affordable and powerful
automated sound system. Automated playback of digital sound effects
from computer and digital sampler, cueing and playback of compact
discs, automatic fades and fader ``chases'', and MIDI control of
equipment are all possible with the system. The system was developed
at WPI as an independent study project in the spring of 1995 and was
used for two productions thus far. Unfortunately, the prototype of
the system has several shortcomings which will be addressed in a
complete revamping of the system, to take place in late 1996 and early