by Brad Rembielak


Sylvia is a comedic play for four actors -- one of which plays a dog (Sylvia). Sound effects are minimal, and only require effects such as park ambiance, airport ambiance, dogs barking, and a telephone ringing. The following discussion revolves around a sound design I did for this show in the Spring of 1997, and how SFX Standard was used to implement it.
The computer used was a Pentium-90, 32 Meg of RAM, with an Iomega Jaz drive, and one sound card.
Cues View and the Edit Desktop
Here is the entire Edit Desktop for Sylvia. On the left side of the desktop is the Sound Effects view, which can be thought of as the library of effects. On the right is the Cues view which is the actual cues list that will be executed during the performance. Effects are added to the Cues view by drag-and-drop from the Sound Effects view or from Windows Explorer. In some situations it is helpful to have one or more Sound Effects views on the desktop to organize them better. In the Sound Effects view, you can give the file names intelligible names (e.g. anon2.wav becomes Announcement - Flight Arrived).

Sound Effects View

The graphic to the left is the Sound Effects view for Sylvia containing links to the actual Wave sound file that reside on the computer's hard drive. These effects were added to this view by drag-and-dropping the file names from Windows Explorer. This example shows the Sylvia Edit Desktop where the show was created. Also on the Desktop is a Windows Explorer window, and from it, some sound files have been drag-and-dropped into the "Sylvia sounds" Sound Effects view.

To examine the properties of an effect, all we have to do is select an effect in the Sound Effects view and click on the Properties button in the toolbar (example).

Sound Effects can also be added by clicking and dragging from the Effects Tool Box.

Notes View

Beneath the Cues view is the Notes view. Each cue can have its own notes, and when you select a different cue, its notes will then be displayed in the Notes view.

Take a look at the different components of the Notes view. Along the top is the Script Information Toolbar. In this optional toolbar, you can enter the Act, Scene, and Page numbers of the currently selected cue. The bottom of the Notes view contains the status bar, which displays the currently selected cue number as well as the Act, Scene, and Page numbers duplicated from the Script Information Toolbar.

Notes can be any number of characters, and can be anything you want. For Sylvia, the cue lines were entered. In the above graphic, Q A.00 was to be triggered on Kate's line, "I wish you would, Greg!" and it occurs on page I-1-11. [To be honest, the show used here is as close to the actual one I used earlier in the year, so some page numbers and cue lines won't be the same -- I deleted the original some time ago!]

Overlapping Cues

SFX has the ability to mix cues simultaneously, which comes in handy when you have two or more cues that overlap each other. Although you could mix the multiple cues down to one Wave file, some situations may require the need for flexibility when overlapping cues. For instance, two cues that overlap each other may not occur at the same time relative to each other in every instance. Also, by keeping the cues separate, you retain the ability to change volumes and cue occurrence at a later time.

For Sylvia, the script called for a scene in the park with the sounds of dogs barking in the background. To make it sound like a city park, I acquired a number of separate sound files that I played together in a sequence. The first cue of the park sequence was an outdoor ambience of birds chirping, leaves rustling, and the sort. To make it sound more like a city park, I started a second, concurrent cue of children laughing, and set that cue's volume to a lower level. After those cues, I included a number of individual dogs barking sound cues to complete the total effect. To connect the sequence together in SFX, I used Autofollow and Wait cues (notice in the above graphic how the cues in discussion are linked together). Similar to adding sound effects, Waits and Autofollows are also added by drag-and-drop. One click of the GO! button and the entire sequence was set in motion. I could have just mixed these separate effects into one Wave file, but I would be unable to change volume levels or effect occurrences later. With SFX, I could easily adjust the volume of each individual cue, and by modifying the Wait times, I could adjust the effect occurrences as well.

Sylvia in Production

SFX provides two desktops: the Edit Desktop (as was shown above) and the Play Desktop (shown at left). Notice that between the two desktops, I've placed my views differently in each. The Edit Desktop allows you to create cues lists and add or modify effects in them. The Play Desktop is devoted to the playback of the show, and does not allow you to make changes to it. You can select different background colors (and even bitmap images) for each desktop to help differentiate the two. Both desktops are stored as a workspace file, so I can have any number of shows on my computer with any number of unique window configurations.

To execute the SFX show during the Sylvia production, all I have to do is click on the large GO! button. The effect will begin to play and the selection bar will automatically select the next cue. As was mentioned above, each time a cue is selected, its notes are displayed in the Notes window to alert me when the next cue is to occur.

SFX made sound playback simple as a click of the mouse button. Effects occurred immediately, and I was able to overlap many, multiple effects (even through one sound card). Onscreen notes kept me informed of upcoming cues, too.