Live soundtrack question

Yesterday we attended a performance of the Phoenix Symphony where The Nightmare Before Christmas was presented with the Symphony providing the music rather than the recorded soundtrack – no chorus, just the orchestral part. It was quite enjoyable and my only complaint was they could have reduced the recorded portion to let the orchestra come more forward. It’s not like the audience didn’t know the words already; half of us were singing along.

The orchestra was about 75 pieces, typical for a cinematic orchestra. One guy was handling a big bunch or tympani, more than I’ve seen before, and he had a snare stashed somewhere in the bunch too. Another percussionist had the usual table full of stuff and the celesta player had a second keyboard that looked suspiciously like it was for a synthesizer.

To get to the question, is anyone here familiar with the gear used to keep things in synchronization? On his stand the conductor had his paper score and above that a 20-inch or so flatscreen. When he mounted the stand he plugged in a cable on the left side at his waist and might have done the same on the right side as well. During the performance, the screen had the movie, being sent to the big screen overhead, but it was well littered with two indicators for the conductor.

Intermittently, a white disk would flash on the screen center. Its diameter matched the whole height of the screen so it was quite visible. It was irregular and so not marking the beat but seemed to be marking certain words in the lyrics.

In addition a two-inch bar would sweep across the screen from left to right. Most of them were white but it would occasionally be blue or yellow. Less irregular than the disks I suspect they marked the end of the measure on the right side of the paper score.

So, are my guesses correct? I’m guessing the cable(s) would speed up or slow down the projected image a bit to allow the orchestra to stay in synch but it was never noticeable – perhaps they were Just That Good.

(bump) Nothing?

Following a credit in the program I went to the Disney Concerts website and found there are more than 25 concerts you can license with them. They list the total program time, songs played, and instruments required, but nothing like, “Here is what your conductor will need to do.”

I did sound for a project very similar to this, so I know a little bit about the whole deal. The cable you saw the conductor plug in was very likely for an earpiece that played a click that was synced to the movie. Also, in addition to the markings on the screen that you saw, the score contains cues about cuts or other significant events in the movie, to help the conductor stay in sync even without a click track. And, yes, they are Just That Good.