Meeting of the Audio-Visual & Digital Media forum

London was the venue for the first ever meeting of the AVDM forum outside a main Opera Europa conference.  Fifty-five participants from twelve countries gathered to consider how to meet the challenge of capturing and streaming opera productions on a tight budget.

Industry experts - present and invited - offered technical, financial and artistic insights into producing opera in digital form.

The meeting held over two days in two venues offered different perspectives on streaming. In his welcome to Covent Garden, Kasper Holten, Director of Opera, set out the context for the Royal Opera House (ROH). In the UK, where no national broadcaster captures full-length productions, the ROH teams have taken on this role themselves, motivated in equal measure by the desire to extend their reach globally and to capture productions for posterity.

Opening day two at the National Theatre (NT), Alice King-Farlow, Director of Learning, set the NT’s work filming productions in the context of audience development and education. David Sabel, founder of NT Live, the National Theatre’s high successfully cinema screening project, offered a different perspective of scale. NT Live productions often cost many thousands of pounds to capture and broadcast, an expenditure balanced by the income from a ticket buying public in over a thousand cinemas and other venues across the world.

But how to get opera on the internet more cheaply? And so to the advice on the main topic of streaming - a world of free, online and on demand.
Here is a selection of the lessons to be drawn from the London forum:

  • Manned cameras or robotic? When thinking about your camera set up it does not have to be either manned or robotic.
    A combination might suit your theatre, as it has the Finnish National Opera.
  • What staff? The sensible minimum for the capture of an opera comprises a multi-camera director, a script supervisor and a producer. Extra specialist staff, while increasing staffing costs, help to guarantee quality and reduce risk when working on tight timescale and budgets.
  • What preparation? The best results happen when the production team have learnt the production, ideally from attending some rehearsals, as well as working from a ‘scratch tape’.
  • What comes first - sound or vision? Audiences may forgive some poor shots but problems with sound and you have lost your audience.
  • How to light for streaming? Good lighting for the stage and good lighting for capture are not the same. There are compromises to be found between the two.
  • What compromises? Experts recognise that one can usually only achieve two of these three at any one time. 

The key message from this meeting was this. There will be choices and compromises to be made to suit your aims; fewer cameras, less time, yes, but never compromise on people or expertise.

 

The AVDM forum has an invitation to Helsinki in Spring 2017 for a second meeting, built around the excellent new streaming installation at the Finnish National Opera. Meanwhile, join us in Amsterdam to plan the next phase of The Opera Platform.

For more information, contact Luke O’Shaughnessy luke@opera-europa.org