Outdoor theater a 'sound science'

June 30, 2017 05:48 PM

ALBANY - As the first notes of the orchestra sound and you settle into your seats at Washington Park for the musical "Ragtime," you probably don't give much thought to how you're hearing the show. However, it takes expert understanding of the science of sound and the technology of amplification to provide you with a good experience.

Whether you bring your own lawn chairs for the free seating at Washington Park, or spring for reserved seats, one thing's guaranteed -- what you hear will sound the same from any seat. It’s all thanks to the work of Sound Designer Tommy Rosati.

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"It's really just the science of the acoustics of sound. The delay that comes from different speakers. You want everyone to have the equal show. It’s all about the person in the front row should have the same as the person in the back row," he explained.

"The top speakers feed to the back of the house and it kind of goes down and loops to the front of the house. That way, if we had a big honking speaker in the front, you'd be blowing out the ears of the people in the front just so the the back could hear it or people in front would have a great show but people in the back would be going like this the whole time," he explained, gesturing like someone struggling to hear.

There are 20 microphones used in the show for the 32 actors, so each microphone has to be programmed for multiple performers and then add in the orchestra. Rosati says computer literacy is key to being able to mix that sound so it's balanced. All that work happens through a computer program, which he can access via special apps on his phone and iPad. That allows him to move about the theater to insure even sound.

"You can see the show from everywhere. You should be able to hear it, too," he surmised.


Benita Zahn

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