The CH Sound Design Story

Our story starts back in 1995 when our founder, Chris Hubbard, was looking for a new console. If it wasn't bad enough that most consoles were limited to 128 (or even worse 100!) scenes, there were also minimal editing functions. The only way to add a scene to the start of the show was to perform the following actions: "recall scene 100", "store scene 101", "recall scene 99","store scene 100", and so on.

Chris knew there had to be a better way, and so our very first product, Palladium, was born. This early version was DOS based, and was able to either directly control a MIDI-equipped console, or control a non-MIDI console via an electronics box connected to the console's insert points. This early version of Palladium served Chris well for many years and was used on such shows as "Les Miserables", "Sweeney Todd", "Into The Woods", and "West Side Story" to name a few.

It was during a performance of "Les Miserables" that a situation arose which prompted Chris to think it was time for a new Palladium. The actor who normally played "Javert" was sick one night, so the part was played by the understudy. This in itself was easy: the understudy simply used the "Javert" mic connected to the "Javert" mixer channel, the "Javert" channel EQ was changed appropriately, and all was well. However, the understudy normally played 4 minor characters, and these were now scattered amongst 4 other actors. This played havoc with the show's automation.

Thus the all-new windows based Palladium was created. The main difference between this version and its predecessor was that it thought in terms of characters and actors rather than channels. Thus, using our previous example, all Chris needed to do was go to the "variations" screen and tell Palladium who was now playing what, and Palladium did the rest.

Fast Forward to 2000. Chris had been mixing a performance of "Hello Dolly" when there was a rather nasty sounding "splat" from one of the wireless mics. Unfortunately, it vanished almost as soon as it started, and was during an ensemble number when almost all the mic channels were open, so Chris had no idea which was the offending mic. Two hours later, the same thing happened.

It was only by sheer luck that the following evening Chris happened to be looking at the radio rack at a time when all the transmitters were turned off, when one of the receiver's displays lit up, did a merry little dance, and went to sleep again. This was obviously the culprit, the channel's frequency was changed, and all was well for the rest of the run.

A few weeks later, while watching a television program about the "black boxes" used on aircraft to help determine the causes of air crashes, Chris realised that this is exactly the sort of thing that was needed to capture the aforementioned mic "splat". Thus MicCheck was built. This is a monitoring system which includes a 5 second RAM recorder on every input channel. When a "splat" occurs, Chris then hits the freeze button, and the backstage sound crew can then take as long as they like to analyse each channel in turn to find the offender.

Fast Forward to 2004. Chris had been up until 4am working on the mic plot for a show, only to have the director telephone next morning and say "Oh by the way, did I tell you I've added David to the ensemble numbers and he has to have a mic?". This meant ripping the whole thing up and starting over. Thus the seed of MicPlot was sown, and the first version was written soon after.

It was immediately obvious however that both Palladium and MicPlot were very much concerned about the same thing - actors' entrances and exits, so Chris set about making the programs talk to each other. The upshot of this was that once the required actor movements had been entered into MicPlot, this data could be imported into Palladium and an initial show automation file created with just a few mouse clicks.

But Chris didn't stop there. Most, if not all, of the actors' movements are a result of the director's instructions. Having observed many directors working with endless bits of paper, Chris set about creating a program to make the directors' lives easier. Thus Moves was born, and a by-product of a director using Moves is that they are also creating most of the data required for MicPlot and Palladium.

Chris then decided to go one step further. Realising that most character movements were constant from one production of a show to the next, Chris then decided that what was really needed was a library of show files. Then the whole process could be reduced to downloading the show file, assigning characters to actors, and pressing the GO! button.

This meant he could then devote his time as a sound designer to the more creative side of the sound design process, and not waste time reinventing the wheel for every show.

Enter the CH Sound Design process....