Hamlet at NIDA

Samuel J. Hagen — Australia's National Institute of Dramatic Art, Parade Studio
July 2009

From my first conversation with the director, I knew the design of this production—a seamless 2.5-hour sound-scape—would benefit from QLab.

The set design alone was extremely complicated, with the entire stage floor moving to reveal a set of stairs that went into the basement. A wall moved to reveal an extra stage area, as well as a bed folding out of a wall, a secret shrine being revealed in another wall, and finally the centre of the stage was pulled up with crowbars to uncover a shallow grave.

Unfortunately the set had major problems during bump in (due to the extremely technical nature of the install), which led to the sound plot being cancelled and tech time was cut in half. So it's understandable that walking into tech I was a little bit nervous. Not only had we not plotted, but also we hadn't even decided on cue points. All the director and I had done was listen to a bunch of source material and decide on what we liked/didn't like. Tech was tough on this show and even though nothing had been plotted for sound, and lighting had enjoyed two plot sessions, I was able to keep up, plot and tech on the fly, and effectively design the show as I went. Without QLab, the sound in this show WOULD have failed.

What amazed me even more was the ease of use to manipulate tracks. Downtime was reduced enormously once I realised I didn't need to compose multilayer tracks in Logic Pro anymore. I could use each part individually, and mash them together in QLab just the way I wanted. Whereas on previous shows changing a track meant finding time to reedit, I could now do it live.

QLab allowed me to design this show in a way which would have previously taken eight CD players. Because of the way QLab functions, I was able to create a balanced sound environment with the speakers and sound desk, and then change levels for each cue within the program. In show mode this meant that anyone could have run the sound, as all I had to do was press 'GO'. Unfortunately I was required to operate the show (as a learning objective of my university degree) and was not allowed to take advantage of the MIDI triggering functionality QLab has made available.

So far my experience with QLab has been one of joy. Because of the sound design for this show, NIDA (The National Institute of Dramatic Art — Sydney, Australia) has picked up copies of QLab, and will be teaching programming to Technical Production students in the future. I have already recommended it to my classmates who will be sound designing for next semester's show, and I can see it revolutionizing the co-op/small theatre industry in the near future. More theatre is made possible when one person can operate lighting and sound and call the show at the same time. In an industry where wages are the highest cost, a program like QLab can make a huge difference to the cost of putting on a show.