|The best praise a sound technician gets is when nobody notices anything.
It might sound like an odd statement but the role of the sound team is to provide sound reinforcement (i.e. amplifying the actor's voices) so the audience can hear everything and to create sound effects (e.g. rain, thunder, gunshots) that are realistic enough not to jarr the audience from enjoying the show.
We use a main auditorium PA of 300w per channel through speakers placed to the left and right and just forward of the stage. These are either hung from the lighting bars or placed on stands depending on the seating arrangements.
These mics (and any additional audio sources such as a live band and CD or PC based sound effects) are sent to an Allen and Heath GL2200 mixer which provides us with enough EQ options, aux and group busses to do most things we need. A reverb unit is often used to "warm up" a singing voice during
Musical shows require foldback on stage so the cast can hear the band and this is achieved by hanging speakers from the stage lighting bars.
Generally our sound effects are run in stereo from the main PA but if the show requires it, we utilise additional speakers at the back of the hall allowing us to generate sound effects that appear to move round the room. We have even hung additional speakers in the past to give a six-location sound system in the auditorium. We play the sound effects from CD (e.g. background weather that lasts a whole scene) or using a computer (e.g. triggered events like gunshots, screams, etc).
Creating sound effects is a one of the fun parts of the job. Most things a show director wants can be found on the various Special Effects CD's available on the market (the BBC have a particularly good selection) while others can be found on the Internet. The more challenging ones require us to take elements of sounds and create a new one from scratch (e.g. the "cat fight" from Five Gold Rings") or record completely new sound effects. For this we use Sound Forge and Cool Edit Pro and the playback of stereo effects is achieved using a useful tool called Tracklist.
Some shows have required pre-recorded dialogue and this is always an entertaining exercise. We get the cast members together and record the scripted dialogue which generates plenty of outtake material if we ever wanted to make a "It'll Be Alright On The Night" CD. Then we apply EQ and other effects to make the speech sound right for the show (e.g. the radio interview for Little Shop of Horrors was made to sound as if it came from a small radio on stage right).
There you go, a whistle-stop tour of the sound for a show!