NY1's Adam Balkin goes behind the scenes to show some of the unexpected high-tech magic behind the music of the Broadway show "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," including how the orchestra is able to play in rooms separate from the show. He filed the following report.
Actors flying around. A stage show with special effects that rival blockbuster movies. If you've ever been to the Broadway production of 'Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark,' there's a decent chance, with everything you see, you wonder, "How do they do that?"
But there's something you won't see that may be equally as interesting: the orchestra, which is not in the orchestra pit, but rather, in two separate rooms in a different part of the theater.
"Now, we're at the point where technology has gotten so great, we're able to move the orchestra off site in rooms in the basement so it allows for better control of the band," says Billy Jay Stein, the electronic music designer of 'Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.' "So it's almost like a studio session now."
In order to make it all work, in particular for a show as complex as "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," which is perhaps the most complex show in Broadway history because of all the stunts, projections and elaborate sets, software had to be created specifically for the show in order to keep everything in perfect sync.
To go along with lots of other technologies being used, such as cameras on stage and in the orchestra rooms, all with live feeds, so both sides can see what the other is doing, Stein co-created a system called Strange Cranium MainBrain software.
"With the eight Mac Pros we have here, we can basically have a safe system where we're using electronic sounds, also be able to sync the video that's also being projected while the people are flying. And also, the actors get what we call tempo clicks in their headphones to keep everything in sync," Stein says.
It all may seem like a lot to go through just to move the orchestra away from the stage. So why do some shows want to do it? Well, for a few of the productions, it allows the theater to sell more seats by filling the pit with ticket holders. For "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," it was almost necessary, as the pit is used instead for all of the show's hydraulics.