Many publicly-funded orchestras are looking to engage new audiences but capturing an orchestral concert well for live streaming has always been expensive and complicated so limited budgets prevent it from being a regular occurrence.
The use of robotic pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras is a way of reducing cost. These cameras do, however, require the use of a high number of different shots to avoid becoming too static and boring for the viewer. This then requires more PTZ operators and starts to negate the original savings.
This paper outlines some experiments that we have conducted with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra to repurpose and adapt an existing multi-camera automation tool designed for capturing pop music performances to a different genre and style of music.
We will consider if this approach can help to keep costs down while maintaining the visual interest and complexity of a high-shot-count orchestral capture.
BBC Scotland has an objective to expand the audience reach of our in-house symphony orchestra, the SSO, who perform regular live concerts at their permanent home in the City Halls in Glasgow. We would like to increase the number of performances that are available live to a wider audience through live streaming to the BBC website and subsequent VOD viewing via the BBC iPlayer.
Unfortunately, the process of covering a live symphony orchestra performance well for live streaming using traditional OB production techniques is prohibitively expensive to do on a regular basis on the small budgets available for live streaming. To address this many orchestras and concert halls have already explored the use of robotic pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras as a way of reducing cost. They can cost less to purchase, allow one operator to control multiple cameras and are small and unobtrusive so are less distracting for both performers and audiences. They have the facility to be able to easily store and recall preset shots.
There are significant limitations, however, as the cameras are generally fixed to a single vantage point on or near the stage and can’t easily move around like a jib or tracked camera without additional kit. While there have been significant improvements in the motor control that allow some ‘in vision’ movement, it’s still a lot harder to do dynamic movement or to react quickly to unplanned requirements. However, by having many more framing and focusing snapshots saved as presets (up to 40 per camera is common) - it’s possible to avoid the shots becoming repetitive. But - as you increase the number of presets saved per camera, you also increase the workload for the remote camera operators, who are recalling them manually in time for the next cue.
This can become very stressful for the operators, especially on long, complex classical pieces with hundreds of shot changes during the pieces.