MD use for Amateur Dramatics SFX

David Cohen ([email protected])
November, 1999

MiniDisc came to my rescue recently when working on an amateur dramatic production.

The production involved having a series of answering machine messages play during scene changes. There were also some bits of music to play at the opening and closing scenes. The cast (myself included) visited a "sound engineer" known to the producer to record the voiceovers. It was all done to a ordinary Hifi cassette deck, with rough timing between takes. However, we could see he had multiple open-reel decks, so we weren't overly concerned about the final result.

However, when we received his final tape, it was pretty much as recorded -- full of background noise, noise between tracks, no fades on music etc. And this was three days before first night! At this point I volunteered to try and sort it out. I'd been itching for an excuse to buy a MiniDisc unit, and this was perfect. A trip to Dixons (Largest electrical chain in the UK) equipped me with a Sharp MT161E for only GBP 99 ($160) - thank the Lord for Christmas sales. A DJ friend loaned me some software he thought I might find useful.

I first copied the entire tape to MD. The Sharp put in track markers at the sound gaps - a quick run through and I had the entire sound set noted in track order. Next, I hooked the Sharp up to my AWE64 soundcard, and fired up Cool Edit 1.52. I piped each track over, trimmed them down, and saved them to the hard drive.

A couple of tracks needed mixing together (principally at the end of the final scene - a long message is playing, and we wanted music to come in low near the end of it, and then fade up for the curtain down). I used SAWPlus32 for this. I used Cool Edit to generate some tones to put in front of the messages. Finaly, all of the samples were loaded and sequenced in Wavestation - and then dubbed back to the Sharp MD.

The producer was very pleased with the results - and so was the lighting guy, who had volunteered to run the sound as well. A simple track cue sheet and some intelligent names on each MD track made his job a lot easier! At the technical run through, he asked for more silence at the end of each track to allow him to do lighting fades after the tracks had finished - so I just recorded some dead time, and used MOVE and COMBINE to extend the tracks on the fly.

The whole thing took me a day and a half in all - and I've never tried anything like that before. The ease of use and flexibility of this format just about knocks anything else dead (CDRW included).

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