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Gunshots Made Easy

Graham Holmes

Sept 2012

GUNSHOTS MADE EASY


You’re in the final phase of rehearsals for a great show.  You’re aware that a gun needs to be fired, but until now you’ve made do with someone shouting “bang!”.  You know there are rules about using guns on stage, but you’re not terribly clear what they are, so you contact a qualified weapons expert.  It’s then that you realise the extent of the safety protocols you have to observe.  And you haven’t budgeted for the expertise you now find you require.


So you look for other options.  There are some very convincing electronic gunshot sounds available, but it’s almost impossible for the sound technician to get it absolutely on cue, especially if your actor wants to make the gun “kick”.  Ideally, the actor needs to be in control of generating the sound himself (or, indeed, herself ...), but without an explosive charge, the gun won’t generate enough noise to make it realistic.  Cap guns just don’t cut it.  So what can you do?


Well, there is a way around all of these problems.  It has almost zero recurring cost, the sound is as convincing as you want it to be, and the actor is in full control of the timing of the shot.  And it requires no weapons expertise.  It’s called the “Show-Gun”.


Essentially, the Show-Gun is a toy gun in which a miniature UHF radio transmitter is concealed.  Pulling the trigger sends a coded signal via an aerial in the barrel to an off-stage receiver, which can be up to 75 metres away.  The receiver verifies the code (to make sure that it can’t be “fired” by interference), and issues appropriate signals to a piece of electronics which produces the gunshot sound.  This can then be sent through whatever amplification is appropriate for the venue.


A proof-of-concept system has been successfully demonstrated using a “Wild-West” pistol (purchased for a recent production of “Oklahoma”) and a customised Roland sound unit belonging to the author.  Because of the variety of different gun designs, the author recommends a “plug-in” transmitter unit, which may be fitted into whatever handset is required.  Better yet, a number of different radio channels are available, so several units could be built into different types of gun, and picked “off the shelf” whenever they’re needed.  No licence is required, and a PP3 battery is the only consumable.


While the prototype receiver has been customised to a specific sound unit, it also generates general-purpose signals which can be connected to suitable external electronics.  (The applications aren’t limited to a gunshot sound, incidentally – with an end-to-end delay of less than 3 milliseconds, the receiver can be used, for example, to flash an on-stage light to simulate an exploding cartridge.)  While theatre technicians are usually adept at configuring such systems, the author is happy to work with interested groups to customise a system for their immediate and future needs.  A technical specification can be provided on demand.



Graham Holmes

01473 833182

holmes.graham@virgin.net




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