A Sound Start to the New Year

by Michael Eddy

So, it’s January and the start of a new year, our 30th year in fact! We jump right in to 2018 with a look at some of the products and solutions in audio, video, and even props and costumes. One of the primary focuses this month you will notice are audio solutions which got me thinking about my start in theater. 

I started out thinking I would be a sound technician. It was high school and we had a brand-new auditorium, fitted out with the finest, state-of-the-art equipment – of the late 1970s. Since I played around with a tape recorder as a kid, I thought that made me eminently suited for a role in audio.  Fortunately for the audience’s listening pleasure, when I got into the booth, I thought that the lighting console looked way cooler. My love of lighting was born as I trained under the tutelage of my theater teacher, Ray LeBlanc, who I thank to this day for kindling my love of the art, craft, and technology of theater; and for showing me that audio might not be my specialty!

Luckily for the theater community, it is the specialty of Sound Designer Gareth Owen. With multiple shows in the West End and on Broadway currently featuring his sound designs, we have a look at some of the solutions he considers his go-to tools. Our Tools section this month is also a nice selection of new products for sound designers and technicians we have come across in the recent weeks. Plus, we have a gear review, by Vince Lepore, on the Shure Axient Digital system and his AES show report on the standout highlights he found at their annual tradeshow. 

Since we are looking at sound and vision, we also cover Brad Peterson’s video projection design for Heartbreak Hotel, the prequel to Million Dollar Quartet, as well as a bring you a roundup of some of the latest media server products—both hardware and software to add video projection to your productions.

Having done props in college on a few shows, (another theatrical discipline not suffering without me working in it), I have a soft spot in my heart for the all-around MacGyver aspect of the creative work in this theater craft. To that end, how could I pass up bringing you a look at turning LED headlights into costume bracelets for a sorceress or the steps to gutting a Zippo lighter and making it LED-based. 

As you may have also learned over this past year, at SD we love theater history and that includes historical theaters themselves. (Speaking of history, our video projection story, Projecting Elvis, was staged at the 85-year old Ogunquit Playhouse in Ogunquit, ME.) Our history look this month includes a photo essay by Howard Sherman of historic Los Angeles theaters taken during the League of Historic American Theatres (LHAT) convention. As a companion piece, Lisa Mulcahy interviewed the President and CEO of LHAT on the importance of preserving your theater’s history—and the value of having a network within the LHAT community as a resource.