SFX is the leading live entertainment sound playback software application. The typical venue for SFX is theatre, but it is also used by theme parks, magicians, and other related venues that require the playback of music and sound effects. SFX puts the art back into sound design: instead of worrying about technological limitations, you can now create rich sound designs that can be reliably played back during each performance!
Load your sound files on the computer and then drag-and-drop them into a SFX cue list and, along with other special cues that you can create in SFX such as Waits and Volume Changes, you create an easy to playback sequence for the operator. Also with SFX, you can playback multiple sound effects at the same time and you can even send them to many different outputs: imagine playing a train cue that steams across the stage from stage right to stage left while also playing rain in the back of the house and then at some point also playing a telephone ringing that was based off an actor's cue -- all cues overlap, are independent, easy to setup, and even simpler to playback!
You can find SFX in On- and Off- Broadway shows, on the professional London stage, as well as professional, academic, and amateur theatres in the U.S. and all over the world. Theme parks, haunted houses, magicians, puppet-shows, and corporate types are also users of SFX.
If you playback prerecorded music or sound effects, especially if you're a theatre sound designer or operator, then SFX is for you. The typical system that SFX replaces is one or more CD players or minidisc systems. Because just about anybody can use SFX to create complex shows that are operated easily, it is found on all levels of theatres from academics all the way to the pros. Professional theatres use SFX because it can create reliable and enriched soundscapes and has been used in many award winning shows including several Tony Award winners. The academic stage (from elementary education through college) and amateur theatre also enjoy SFX not only for the high quality of shows it can create, but also because it is easily run by novice operators. For students, they are also learning the software that they will most likely work with when they enter the theatrical job market.
As you begin to demand more and more from SFX and your playback system, CPU, Memory and Video begin to become more important for system performance. SFX is optimized to send critical messages to a high priority thread while less important messages (screen refresh, etc) to a lower priority thread. CPU's speed is critical when mixing and decoding audio streams. Memory is important when you are trying to play large amounts of audio. Video/Graphics comes into play when displaying large amounts of information to the user. A minimally performing system would be a multiple core CPU (dual or quad), 4 GB of RAM (Windows 7) and a video card that has it's own GPU and memory. More memory 16 or 32 GB with Windows 8 or 10 would give you the best performance.
You can grab any off-the-shelf “gaming” computer running Windows 7/8/10 and have enough power to run 30 or so audio files to 16 outputs at one time for around $1000. Higher end, dedicated Digital Audio Workstations could playback hundreds of audio files through 64 output channels.
Any sound card that supports ASIO is recommended. Most Pro sound cards support the ASIO driver model and SFX will output audio at the lowest latency using one of these boards. Starting with SFX 6.2.8 you can also use a non-ASIO Sound Card. Or you can install ASIO4All to emulate a ASIO Driver for the internal sound card (www.asio4all.com ).
If you're an SFX version 6 user, please comment on the sound card/audio interfaces that you use or have used with SFX. We're in the process of putting together a list of compatible sound cards based on customers' experiences.
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