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Instant Subtitles in Tuscany

Thomas H. Freeman • Answer Box • December 3, 2007

The Florence International Theatre Company (FITC) was created to marry the techniques of American and Italian theatre traditions. Creating works of art, primarily in English, and sharing this work with the Tuscan community, FITC explores the differences of world cultures as they come together in a theatrical context and plans to develop projects and productions that bridge cultures and language, while connecting the community it serves.

Among the productions for its debut season, FITC chose John Pielmeier’s Tony award-winning play Agnes of God. Even though most of the company’s plays are presented in English without translation, the company wanted to subtitle Agnes of God’s English dialogue with an Italian translation projected onto the set. However, as a small company, it was not feasible to budget for a separate video/projector operator.

Aaron Craig, co-founder of FITC and also the director of Agnes of God, chose Rosco’s Key-stroke for this task. The Keystroke is a hardware/software solution designed for small technical teams and allows audio and visual cues to be automatically triggered from the lighting desk.

Keystroke is a DMX trigger that allows a lighting console to control virtually any software pro-gram running on an external computer, including visual products like PowerPoint, Keynote Quicktime or Windows Media Player and audio playback programs like ProTools, iTunes, Ga-rageband and SFX.

When Keystroke receives a predefined value at the required DMX channel address, the Key-stroke hardware connects via USB and electronically listens to DMX channels 1–512, which are user-assigned in the software to the commands that the slave PC is required to execute.

For Agnes of God, the subtitles were programmed into a PowerPoint presentation, then Key-stroke automatically advanced the “slides” on cues from the lighting desk. It was a good solution for the company, as just one person was needed for complete control of all the required elements. Additionally, there was no need to worry about operating extra faders or buttons.

“Keystroke was a great help in running our slide show for the subtitles,” said Craig. “With over 90 cues on an
80-minute show, you can imagine how important it was for our lighting op to be able to keep both hands on the light board and have everything centrally located.”

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