So What’s SCS all about? Well firstly I should point out that this article is not intended to be a manual for the SCS program and will not tell you all you need to know about it. I thoroughly recommend that you visit the SCS site and forum to find out more.
What I would like to share with you is the way that SCS can be used in a music/band context as opposed to theatrical productions . . . however, these two different aspects are of course often intertwined (typically in musicals where music and SFX are combined). I’ll use one of my productions, the ‘Forever Everly’ Everly Brothers tribute show, as an example. The show has been designed to run either:
a) as a two-piece (Don & Phil Everly) with full recorded backtrack backing, or
b) with live guitar, bass and drums, with the addition of only some elements included in the backtrack (but it’s great to have a pre-recorded track just sitting there on the night your lead guitarist decides to go awol).
Assuming you have the rest of your PA/Lighting sorted out, the equipment required to run this is:
1) a laptop computer with SCS installed (SCS can only be run on Windows at present),
2) an Audio/MIDI interface capable of outputting the number of audio tracks you wish to have individual mixing/monitoring control over,
3) all necessary USB/Firewire, audio and MIDI cables to connect your computer, interface, mixer and other MIDI devices, and
4) probably in-ear monitoring (IEM).
I’m currently running 10 tracks of audio, a MIDI file and a video file/image file at any one time. This could easily be increased with the inclusion of an audio interface device with more outputs or indeed an additional device . . . SCS will support this.
The configuration in this particular case is as follows :-
AudioTracks 1 & 2 Stereo . . . I call ‘OTHER’ as that consists of anything that’s not on any other track (strings, brass, keyboard etc…).
Tracks 3 & 4 Stereo . . . ‘LEAD GUITAR’.
Tracks 5 & 6 Stereo . . . ‘DRUMS’.
Track 7 Mono . . . ‘BASS’.
Track 8 Mono . . . ‘CLICK’.
Tracks 9 & 10 Stereo . . . ‘BACK-UP’ (I’ll tell you what that is if you ask really nicely) When the band is playing with us we only use the ‘OTHER’ and ‘CLICK’ tracks.
The ‘Device Manager’ configuration – showing the audio output set-up
This is a MIDI file composed of data to control other outboard equipment. It’s not being used in the traditional way, i.e. playing MIDI instruments, although of course it could be. In this instance it is being used to change patches on a reverb unit, and to automate lighting. (I’m not a lighting person so I don’t know the full ins and outs of this aspect, but it basically uses MIDI note on, off and volume commands to trigger the lights). In a couple of previous tribute shows, ‘Elton John’ and ‘Billy Joel’, the MIDI track was also used to change patches on my guitar processor, electronic drums and Elton & Billys’ pianos.
MIDI capabilities have been increased over time and some of the MIDI cues I’ve mentioned above could be programmed directly into SCS without the need of a pre-produced MIDI file.
We’re running various videos (AVI) consisting of footage of the ‘Everly Brothers’, scenes from the times, song lyrics etc. as well as still image files (jpg etc).
The ‘Video Cue’ screen in the editor
Putting It All Together
At the outset it should be borne in mind that SCS is primarily a playback program for several different media formats and so preparation of these files is necessary.
For audio and MIDI production I use Cubase . . . . . I first lay up all the audio tracks that are required and get a mix together. For this particular production I then mix-down five different sub-mixes as described earlier, ensuring that the length of each is identical (same IN and OUT points). . . this has synchronisation advantages later. The sub-mix configuration (ie the number of mono and stereo tracks) will obviously vary from production to production. I take advantage of the fact that the ‘CLICK‘ track is an audio track by adding verbal count-ins and piano or guitar chords to assist with a’cappella songs or songs where the vocals come in at the top with no instrumental intro.
Alongside the audio tracks I then prepare MIDI tracks that each contain the data required to perform the above mentioned tasks . . . each MIDI track has a different MIDI channel allocated. I export these MIDI tracks as a MIDI file . . . also the same length as the audio files.
I actually use Adobe Premiere to prepare my videos but it is possible within SCS to use any existing video and choose where you want it to start within any clip, and what part of the video you wish to play . . . very clever!
Now in the context of SCS these all become ‘Sub-Cues’ within a ‘Cue’ . . . . Think of the ‘Cue’ as each song and the ‘Sub-Cues’ as the components of that song. So in the editor you start by adding a ‘CUE’ to a production and then adding subsequent ‘Sub-Cues’ to that ‘Cue’. Do this for each song.
The result is that a cuelist is created on your main operation screen which can contain notes (‘when required’) on when the ‘Cue’ (song) is to be played . . . . in our instance it is some specific dialog, or it could be a visual cue to look out for.
The ‘Main Screen’
I find that we only need the above four columns . . . the ‘When Required’ column consists of our verbal cues which indicates to the operator when to start the song (Cue). I’ve used dark colours as backgrounds to help eliminate glare from the laptop monitor screen.
When set up properly each song will then play at the press of a keyboard stroke (usually the space bar) and will, if required, stop at the end, until the space bar is pressed again for the next song.
It’s then very easy within the ‘editor’ to rearrange the running order and/or to enable or disable any particular song.
So as each production doesn’t get too cumbersome I have created a file that I call ‘ALL CUES’ where I construct all of my ‘Cues’ for each show or artist, and then import the required ones into each production as required. For instance you may have more than one version of a show, or wish to combine facets of two different shows.
The program itself is a lot more comprehensive than I have indicated here . . . it contains other Cue types as well as various methods of being controlled, or indeed controlling other devices.
Some More SCS Screen Shots
This gives you an idea of the way we lay up our Cues (Songs) and Sub-Cues (Parts). The first three tracks are stereo audio, the next two are mono and these are followed by a MIDI file, an SFR Cue and a Video Cue.
The ‘Audio Cue’ screen in the editor (note the sub-cues)
This is our pre-show and interval music. SCS calls it a ‘playlist’ and it can be automated to stop and start when required.
The ‘Playlist’ screen in the editor
This Sub-Cue is a control type cue in as much as it gives commands to other Cues . . in this particular instance it is telling all currently playing Cues to fade out and stop.