Solutions At Hand

Handhelds, smartphones, mobile technology and the digital lifestyle.

What do Lionel Bart’s “Oliver” and a Treo have in common?

Posted by Michael Brown on May 18, 2005

Hunh? What could a musical based on Dickens’s Oliver Twist – set in the 1850’s – and a twenty-first century smartphone possibly have in common? Well, me! I’m currently designing sound for the Orpheus Musical Theatre Society’s production of Oliver, appearing at the Centrepointe Theatre in Ottawa from June 3-11th. My Treo smartphone is playing a key role in the actual process of designing sound for the show, which has a cast of forty and a twenty-piece orchestra. What roles does the Treo play in this musical’s production? Read on, and you’ll see how versatile a performer a Palm Powered product can be.

A musical is like having a child… it’s a long time in the making! As a designer, I’m a part of the production team that is part of the process from beginning to end. One key part of that process is production meetings. I take notes during the meetings using my Treo, entering information into the memo pad application. I could just as easily make notes into Documents To Go, and have a Word document synchronized to my desktop, but I just personally prefer to use the built-in memo pad. At the completion of the show I’ll archive everything into a file on my desktop. So, by taking meeting notes into my Treo (using either the built-in thumboard, or my Universal Wireless Keyboard) they’re with me all the time. I can then turn actionable items into tasks or appointments right on the Treo.

Production meetings and rehearsals mean appointments, and those need to be entered into the calendar. I use DateBk5 on my Treo (the Treo Calendar/DateBk+ was licensed from Pimlico Software; DateBk5 is like it’s big brother) which allows me to create templates for Rehearsals and Meetings, and also allows me to colour code and “icon-ize” my show schedule. I have the names and contact info for the Production Team in my Treo’s address book so I can get a hold of people whenever I need to.

Shows of the calibre of Orpheus’ productions have a lot of associated paperwork. I try to save a few trees where I can, so I use my Treo and my Documents to Go Professional Edition to work on the bulk of my “paperwork”. My system patch sheets, wireless mic rotations, sound effects sheets, and console automation presets are all MS Excel spreadsheets, which are synchronized between the Treo and my Desktop. Since my Treo is with me just about all the time I can update my paperwork wherever I am, be it at rehearsal, in a production meeting, or simply reading my script in bed. I can also demo sound effects to the director by simply copying them to the SD card in my Treo, and using Pocket Tunes to play the sound effects via the built-in speaker. There are also several really nice utilities for the Palm Platform that are geared for musicians, like Tuners, metronomes, ear trainers, etc.

To capture things for posterity, I could snap pictures of rehearsals or even set construction using the Treo’s built-in camera. The London Bridge our Master Carpenter has built is definitely something that is worth taking a picture of… the thing could hold my house up! It’s that solid! There are even voice recorders and camcorder applications available for the Treo, so I could actually capture bloopers or memorable moments during the pre-show run-up. My Treo will be with me as I mix sound for the performances of Oliver. Thanks to it’s silent switch, I can silence the phone during the performance, but still have my organizer available to me.

Hopefully this gives you some “out-of-the-box” ideas of how a Palm Powered Handheld can be used for hobbies or non-standard types of business. All of what I’ve talked about previously can be done on either a Treo Smartphone, or a regular PDA. Handhelds really have to potential to be a huge time saver, as well as eliminating or reducing the need for paper copies of “stuff”. If you’re in Ottawa, you’ll definitely want to see the show; contact the box office quickly, as tickets are going fast!

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