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May 11, 2004

The Audience Is Hearing

From: CBS New York, NY - May 11, 2004

May 11, 2004 6:26 am US/Eastern
NEW YORK (CBS) I See What You’re Saying

Caption systems are nothing new to theater. You may have seen signers in near the stage of a performance, or some kind of caption device, like a TV screen, displaying the script of what you were seeing. But you probably haven’t seen that everywhere. Sound Associates, a New York based audio company, is hoping to change that, making theater—musical and otherwise—accessible to everyone.

The system is, quite simply, a computer linked together with the theater lighting and sound systems. The computer contains a timed PowerPoint presentation with the lyrics and dialogue of a performance. Each slide shows itself for a specified amount of time, then moves to the next one. To keep the slides synced up with the performance (so you’re not reading “Little Shop… Little shop of Horrors” while they’re singing “Oh oh… ohhhh!”), it gets cues from the director via the lighting system—so if a bank of red lights comes up when they say “Little Shop” the Personal Captioning will pick that up).

To get the information to the audience, the computer outputs that PowerPoint over closed circuit television to small TV’s available to patrons, or, to PDA’s over a WiFi connection. Either way, the information is sent without fail to anyone in the audience who needs it—not matter where they sit.

The hope of Sound Associates, is to integrate this system seamlessly into more performances. To do so, they’ve tried to make it as simple and unobtrusive as possible. This makes more performances available to more people, and doesn’t put restrictions on when and where you have to be—or be seated—to enjoy the show.

Currently, the personal captioning device is in use in Little Shop of Horrors.

Brett Larson

(Brett Larson)

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