Delivering AV on a limited theatre technology budget

Delivering AV on a limited theatre technology budget

“TriOperas” brought three legendary operas together for an unforgettable journey of love, vengeance, tears and laughter, with the help of video displays from the Anna Valley’s events team.

Pamela Tan-Nicholson’s production ran at London’s Peacock Theatre between May 23rd and July 1st  2018. It featured three popular operas, each re-written to run for approximately 35 minutes only, and featuring much-loved classics such as “One Fine Day,” “Humming Chorus” and “The Toreador Song,” merged with punk, rap, rock and hip hop.

However, the show didn’t come without its challenges. Working within a limited theatre technology budget and having very little time to prepare, meant Anna Valley had to put their quick-thinking skills and technical expertise to good use.

“The concept was to emulate, in a theatre, the excitement of a cinema. So, like different camera shots, stage scenes would merge seamlessly from one to another, in a constant motion,” explains Pamela.

“Opera is traditionally so static and slow but “TriOperas” was created to tell an operatic story in a different way. To achieve this, music and drama had to be constructed for a live performance with momentum and without breaks in the story,” she adds.

Pamela’s vision was to keep the ‘Is it? Is it not?’ mystery of what was real and what was not. She felt that the technical wizardry had to be subtle and magical, like its music.

“I had in mind the use of video technology with its full artistic potential and not just its technical capacity. Instead of video images, which impress like a TV or movie screen with its own reality scenes, my wish was to draw attention and curiosity to the fine line using technology as art,” says Pamela.

But she knew her vision would have to be delivered within a limited theatre technology budget.

Delivering the Vision

Anna Valley was approached by the show’s production manager, Chris Booth, and asked to provide all video displays for “TriOperas.” He had worked alongside Anna Valley’s Project Manager, Chris Kerr, on another show a few years’ prior.

The Anna Valley team chose to use three Panasonic, RZ-12K laser projectors to create a blended image which was projected onto a 14m wide screen on the stage, creating a dynamic backdrop.

“We originally proposed using LED screens, but at the time, Chinese acrobats had been planned and concerns were raised about them potentially knocking the screens. We decided to use the new laser projectors because they would be able to deliver image brightness without taking up stage space,” explains Chris Kerr.

“It was my first time using laser in a theatre environment and I was blown away by how well it fared with the bright lights of theatre,” adds Chris.

The video content was managed by the Hippotizer 4K Boreal Plus media server which the Anna Valley team also used to add animations to static video elements, thereby enhancing the visual effects.

Video playback was cued by the lighting designers so that it was synced with lighting events during the show.  The Anna Valley team worked closely with the show’s lighting team to ensure the smooth running of the process.

Anna Valley also provided two 55-inch LCD screens for displaying subtitles.

The team of six consisted of projectionists, two video technicians, a media server operator and a general assistant.

“Anna Valley’s team hit the ground running and did very well for us,” explains Pamela.

How Anna Valley helped reduce theatre technology costs

Anna Valley did well to come up with solutions to deliver the client’s concept on their limited theatre technology budget.

Because of the team’s experience, they were able to prepare for the production with just four days of on-site rehearsals, whereas normally it would have required two weeks of preparation.

The Anna Valley team adjusted the advanced settings of the projectors and the media server to minimise shadows and image distortion, thereby allowing them to reduce the number of laser projectors required to create the backdrop.

Lessons learnt

This was the first time Pamela had used video in a show like this, and whilst she is happy with the outcome, she acknowledges that the process has been a learning curve.

“Next time, I would definitely want to have AV’s direct input at an earlier stage of development.  Only then can we truly benefit from Anna Valley’s expertise to structure video usage in a cost-efficient and time-efficient manner to make it viable for “TriOperas” both in residence and touring,” she says.

She adds: “I’m very appreciative of the practical and very inventive efforts on the part of AV at the execution end to make things right, despite the rushed installation.”

Future plans

“TriOperas” has been signed to Networks Inc. and Columbia Artists in America for touring in 2020.  Right now, Pamela is working with Anna Valley to put together a touring AV plan for China in 2019.

“We are excited to see where it goes from here,” she concludes.