Hollywood - Portrait of a Star
Stockholm City Theatre
by Ronald Hallgren


Reducing the complexity of Hollywood – Portrait of a Star down so that it could be easily run by one operator was not only efficient, but a necessity.  With 23 actors/dancers, each with a wireless mic, making certain that each was heard and not heard at the appropriate times was critical.  Automation was key, as several numbers had rapid-fire one-liners delivered by the 18-member ensemble, sometimes lines of one singer overlapping lines of another in mid-sentence – this would have been a nightmare to try to handle manually! 

We were also dealing with a pre-recorded orchestra, a live orchestra, sound effects, and even video.  We still ended up using one operator!

We caught a break when the composer insisted that, for all but three numbers, the orchestra be pre-recorded and a click-track used.  This gave us the opportunity to run almost the entire show on time code and do even more things then we would have been able to do normally!  We were excited to use Stage Research SFX software.

Utilizing two computers running SFX, and a time code generator, the operator was able to manage the show with the click of a GO button.  The system is diagrammed below:


We ran the show from the one SFX GO button for the SFX Cue list that mainly contained MIDI Sysex cues that start the SMPTE generator.  Notice that the SMPTE generator sent time code to a video player and the hard disk player.  The time code also looped back into the SFX computer, which controlled the main Amek 501 mixer as well as was responsible for stopping the time code generator at the end of numbers.  The mixer was controlled from SFX through RS-232 commands and handled the mute, VCA routing, and aux 1 and aux 2 on/off automation. 


A second SFX computer was also completely slaving to the time code, and was responsible for playing back sound effects and controlling a Yamaha O2R mixer.  The O2R was used for the pre-recorded orchestra, the percussion mics, and the sound effects.

Running the show was then easy.  At the beginning of a number, or a sequence of numbers, we hit the SFX GO button, and the time code generator started.  All the sound effects, video, pre-recorded orchestra, live orchestra mics were automatically handled by the SFX computers, leaving the operator to concentrate on the wireless mics.

The main SFX computer, also slaving to time code, was sending commands to the Amek mixer to change cues.  The soloists were automatically routed to solo VCA when they have a solo line so you get a level raise and separate control of them.  There are 455 Amek cue changes, sometimes as quick as one per second.  The Yamaha had 63 cues.  At one point in the show, there was a short, spoken scene with video, but no music and no time code.  We solved this by cueing up to a point in time after the audio material and start the clock to trigger the film clip and a projector sound-effect, when the film and the sound effect ends, SFX is cueing up the starting the next song.

Finally, when a number ends, a time coded cue on the main SFX computer halts the time code generator.  At the next number, hit GO, and repeat.

A complex musical, boiled down to a single operator clicking a GO button and essentially riding master VCAs on the main mixer.  Superb!

Questions or comments may be directed to Ronald Hallgren, or the SFX Users Group.