A night at the Opera

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I was thrilled to visit one of our customers, the National Opera and Ballet of the Netherlands, late in January.  They have a modern building which includes a large theater (capacity 1,600), rehearsal areas and technical facilities for video capture and postproduction.  Frederick Furnee, deputy head of the audio, video and media department there, oversaw the installation of an axle Gear system last year with the help of our tremendous local integrators Future Store.

Frederick showed me around their setup, which includes over 200 terabytes of shared storage as well as ingest solutions from Softron and AJA.  Each performance is captured live, including multiple camera angles when a broadcast is involved.  Their axle system is used by over 50 team members, including postproduction, stage managers, producers, directors and the marketing and social media teams.  They use it to search, playback, tag and subclip material from all of the productions (both opera and ballet) held at the facility, as well as other media and image files.

Perhaps best of all, when I visited the theater they were readying a new production of Tchaikovsky’s opera “A Rake’s Progress”, which had some amazing staging; Frederick was able to arrange for me to attend that evening’s dress rehearsal, with a full house in attendance.  The whole opera takes place inside a large, open-front white box consisting of white plastic sheets, with sets projected on the 5 inner surfaces of the box.  In addition, the area in front of the orchestra, usually closed off, is opened and ringed with a walkway which the singers can use to get closer to the audience at various points.  A number of video projection and live-streaming technologies were used to make for a really dynamic ‘set’; at one point, the main character took out his smartphone and livestreamed himself singing, Vlog-style, onto the projection surface behind him (!).

Over the course of the performance, several characters and props crash through the sides and back of the box; by the end of the evening the set looked like the image above. Overall, a fascinating visit and it was great to see how well our system performs even in a large, demanding live venue like the National Opera and Ballet.  Frederick emphasized how stable the system has been in day-to-day use, as well as its popularity among a wide range of staff because of the simplicity of its user interface.

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