Media Systems Integration: Expanding the Stage

by Jonathan Hughes, Managing Director, ATG Danmon

The 30 years since ATG began designing and building television production, postproduction and presentation systems have seen huge advances in affordability and versatility. Solutions that were once the preserve of mainstream broadcasters have become so accessible that any organisation with sufficient motivation can now operate a TV channel. This short article describes two projects we have completed for customers in the stage-events sector, building on our long experience in the broadcast mainstream.

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

Royal Opera House

The Royal Opera House in London is one of Britain’s most popular performing arts venues, home of The Royal Opera, The Royal Ballet, and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. The ROH produces many live cinema events each season. These are live relays of stage performances. The performances are broadcast live to cinemas in Europe and distributed immediately to other parts of the world. Additionally, the ROH regularly live streams from the main house, Linbury theatre or other studios in the building.

ATG Danmon was commissioned to design and install a fully integrated system providing video recording, storage and archiving together with a media asset management facility. With this combination of resources, the media staff are able to ingest each performance into a production server linked to an online storage archive and a near-online data tape library.

The system also incorporates the ability to search and retrieve content. It creates a catalogue of media assets, including video, still images, audio files and documents. Operators can supplement this catalogue by adding metadata to make content searchable using key words as well as clip titles. The system also includes a content server which manages content ingest and playout as well as file-based tasks such as file import, transcoding and media transfer.

We worked in close partnership with the ROH project team to successfully deliver the project. This included integrating the system into the existing IT network and a series of workshops and training to ensure that the workflow requirements were being fully met.

Lafayette, London

Lafayette London

Located underneath St Pancras Square in the heart of King’s Cross, Lafayette is a live music venue with a wide stage and multi-tiered standing balcony. It is owned and operated by Venue Group which operates from offices in Britain, New York, Alabama and Texas. ATG Danmon completed a 4K-UHD production and live streaming facility allowing live relay of stage performances as well as studio-style recording. It includes robotic pan/tilt/zoom cameras, an audio/video production control room and a floor-to-ceiling rack of auxiliary equipment.

A crucial challenge was how to accommodate a complete control room in the limited amount of space available above and behind the stage. Another was the need to minimise any obstruction of stage performances when viewed from the 600 capacity auditorium. We proposed and constructed a versatile and future-proof solution which enables the operators to capture full broadcast quality video from multiple positions, including the ability to zoom in from wide angle to very tight close-up. The system allows live productions to be streamed with or without a studio audience.

We installed five UHD cameras, each with a 20x zoom lens. These connect via two-way optical fibre to a remote control unit which allows pan, tilt, zoom and focus all to be managed single-handed. One of the cameras is mounted on Technopoint floor track and another on a floor-to-ceiling motorised column. UHD is the preferred standard for practically all new production to ensure content has the greatest possible long-term value.

Forming the core of the system for the control area are a compact 4K-UHD vision mixer, 48 channel audio mixer, a solid state recorder and related processors.

The SI Role

 As system integrators we continue to monitor new developments across entire media technology sector to ensure that the solutions we recommend are the best possible in terms of quality, economy, scalability and future-proofing. We also offer operator training and post-sale system support whenever and wherever required. This strategy has contributed to our success as ATG Danmon progresses into its fourth decade.