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Simulcasting, webcasting, and live streaming

This learning journey has been curated by AmbITion lead consultant, Hannah Rudman.

Ever since digital video over the internet became of high enough quality to represent the aesthetic quality of live arts and cultural events; and broadband provision had great enough bandwidth, arts professionals have been considering live streaming, webcasting and even simulcasting. This learning journey explains the differences and the basics of webcasting, simulcasting and live streaming; offers tips and tricks on how to ensure a live stream goes to plan technically and contractually; and features many case studies of organisations of all scales and art forms that have begun to offer live or recorded live product for distribution and consumption digitally. As well as offering a low carbon alternative to global touring, digitising live performance increases accessibility, scale, reach, impact, legacy and engagement and participation with live, and recorded live culture. AmbITion Scotland has long been webcasting our own masterclasses for exactly those reasons, We have found it extremely worthwhile, with content having a much “longer tail”, being watched on demand over a longer period of time; and giving people the opportunity to join in, who otherwise might be prohibited by cost, time, or distance.

If you’re looking for information about digital video, there’s another learning journey covering that topic!

1 Getting started

This How To… Guide explains the basics of webcasting, as well as the difference between webcasting, livestreaming and simulcasting. A great place to start to gain a general understanding, as well as some general tips on how to successfully webcast.

2 Webcasting case study: National Theatre Scotland's Five Minute Theatre

Watch the on demand webcast of National Theatre Scotland and their co-production partner Envirodigital and support STV tak about the low carbon but national project Five Minute Theatre. This award winning production was hailed by critics for its use of digital technologies to encourage participation in performing theatre by anyone in Scotland, and the digital channel it was shown (open on the internet) on enabled global access by everyone. The equivalent of a world tour with a large cast was given a low carbon footprint by presenting it digitally, and Scotland’s standard internet connections were used to upload the performances live and distribute them across the world. In some remote locations, fixed line broadband was so poor, that the 3G mobile broadband networks had to be used.

Webinar on-demand: Five Minute Theatre in an Hour!

WEBINAR 10: Five Minute Theatre in an Hour!

The tenth in AmbITion Scotland’s webinar series is an in-depth case study of the live and online production by National Theatre Scotland of Five Minute Theatre. It explores the issues and opportunities of digitizing live, cultural experiences; crowdsourcing content; and building online audiences, so is for anyone interested in those concepts, and is not specific to theatre!

Watch live streaming video from envirodigital at livestream.com

3 Simulcasting case study National Theatre's NT Live!

Let’s start this learning journey with simulcasting: the most high quality, but expensive live digital experience. Most famously, The Met Opera have been simulcasting for longest, but the UK’s Royal National Theatre launched NT Live! in 2010 as a great success. Simulcasting involves the satellite broadcasting of high quality digital signal to cinema networks with satellite receiver equipment, to get live pictures broadcast from a cultural venue into cinemas around the country simultaneously.

The British Council hosted the Edinburgh Showcase 2011, which included a digital day, focusing on how digital technologies can be used to increase reach, access, participation with and scale of work, included a case study from NT Live! see after the  Digital Theatre case study, in video 2 – NT LIve!. (Please note: Digital Theatre is not simulcast, webcast or livestreaming: it is high quality filming of a theatre show rehearsed special for the film recoding, and is only available to view via online streaming or download).

Responsibly international performing arts practice (its digital!)

The British Council have been hosting their Edinburgh Showcase 2011, which included a digital day, focusing on creating engaging digital content (case studies: Digital Theatre, NT LIve!, Watershed) and engaging audiences digitally (case studies: National Theatre Wales, Sadler’s Wells, Hoipolloi & my very own Envirodigital). I talked to the international delegates about how to engage audiences internationally, but responsibly (in relation to protecting the environment).

Watch live streaming video from envirodigital at livestream.com

Watch live streaming video from envirodigital at livestream.com

Watch live streaming video from envirodigital at livestream.com

4 Simulcasting case study: Traverse

The Traverse theatre in Edinburgh experimented with the live simulcasting to cinemas of rehearsed readings of new plays at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2011. This article summarises the experience and learnings

Traverse Theatre simultaneously broadcasts live rehearsed readings

In a great Edinburgh Fringe Festival experiment on 23.08.10, a compendium of new plays, realised as rehearsed readings, were simultaneously transmitted to UK Picturehouse film theatres, including Edinburgh’s Cameo. Despite over-demand for tickets to the live show at the Traverse, Traverse Live! remained a one-off live performance for a small audience, but the show increased its scale, reach impact and accessibility through simultaneous broadcast.

Cameras setting up

As part of the small audience in the theatre, there was palapable excitement as we were directed to our seats, being warned by the camera operators from Hibrow Productions dressed in black not to trip over their kit and the wires! On stage, 1 camera was on a tripod with wheels, 2 were on static tripods, 1 camera was hand-held but could be rested on a tripod which was positioned in a row of audience seating. Another roving camera was in the wings and moved up to the projection box to provide aerial and wide context shots.

As the theatre is a small black box, we were obviously going to be very aware of the camera operators’ presence, but they were all linked in to a floor manager/director communicating with them and the broadcasters by headphones. In fact, once the action began, they didn’t distract from the action, although I was intrigued by seeing the close-up shots of the actors in the view-finder of the camera operator nearest me.

Dominic Hill introduces the evening

Dominic Hill, the Artistic Director of The Traverse welcomed us and explained that there would be breaks in the running order as at our end the stage and cameras were reset for the next play, and as the cinema audiences were shown previously recorded interviews and rehearsal videos (this considered more interesting than making them watch the changeover!). He also explaned that the camera crew would be moving around us, so we knew to expect that they might come and sit next to us, or shove an elbow in our faces as they searched for a better shot! Dominic also then did another introduction direct to camera for the cinema audience, so that they also knew exactly what to expect. He set the context, and gave us an idea of what the experience was going to be like so that we all felt comfortable.

There was usually about five minutes between the plays. In the theatre, we chatted whilst the VT played (video tape – a now somewhat out of date reference to pre-recorded material) and the floor manager shouted countdowns, to warn actors, stage crew, camera crew, and us audience of when we’d be going live again. It felt like Brechtian theatre – we were being shown all the mechanics, but also I felt like an engaged participant, a part of the show: as audience members in the same space, we were on camera as shots panned round to capture our reactions. We had a unique experience, but then so did audience members in the 30 cinemas around the country: the experience was distributed and increased audience numbers for the work at least 20-fold [Traverse to confirm exact numbers].

Actors were mic-ed up for the broadcast, but there was no amplified feedback in the auditorium (not needed). Apparently one mic failed in one of the plays, but the live audience didn’t notice this. The beginning of the broadcast had to be restarted due to some technical failure, but again, this was clearly communicated by the floor manager, we were “re-set”, and off we went again. Friends of mine who were at Edinburgh’s Cameo Cinema watching said this did not matter. Obviously the audience at Edinburgh’s Cameo Cinema was fairly small due to the majority of us being at the live show, but there were Traverse Theatre marketing staff present, receiving phone calls reporting that “Brixton was full!” and “I can’t believe I’m watching a Traverse fringe show in Malvern”! This is the important significance of distributed, live theatre. Audiences who would never have otherwise seen the work saw it at locations convenient to them; and at an acceptable price point. The work did not have massively high production values – it was a rehearsed reading, so more about giving new work air and audience time.

For cinema audience members that I talked to directly, the format of rehearsed readings worked and translated well on the big screen – they’re minimally staged and blocked and so work with the close-up demands of a camera. This cinema audience member commented on Andrew Dixon’s Guardian review of the show:

“I saw the show from a local cinema last night and really enjoyed it. Yes, there were technical glitches, some a bit irritating – the first piece was marred by one character’s voice being mic’d so low – but mostly I thought it added to the raw energy of the evening. Some really good performances from the cast. A very different experience from the live performances screened from the National Theatre which were very polished. But then this is the Traverse, not the NT. They’re not the same thing at all. I hope this is the start of many more such performances. On a purely mercenary note, I’m very happy to exchange the 90+ minute drive to the NT and a high ticket price for a 20 minute drive to the cinema and a seat that costs under £10. It won’t replace theatre but it’s not TV either. Well done, Traverse.”

And so to the techie bit – how did the Traverse and Hibrow Productions do it?
Simultaneous broadcast is not the same as simulcast. (Simulcast uses military-strength satellite broadband to transmit shows to cinemas internationally.) Simultaneous broadcast is the transmission of a live broadcast using the live broadcast spectrum and network, via satellite. It does not transmit internationally (different segment of the broadcast spectrum are used for different purposes in other countries, so may not be on the same frequency) and special kit is required: receiving cinemas needed receiver dishes and decoders. (Sky Sports for example distribute live UK football matches to anywhere in the UK with a Sky receiver dish and decoder.)

In the theatre, a live vision mixing editor worked with a computer loaded with editing software, all the prerecorded material, a sound feed, and feeds from the five cameras. The editor generated a live mix (this had been rehearsed), which was then sent from the computer as a single stream to be broadcast.

Inside the OB van

An outside broadcast van sat on the street outside the Traverse’s main doors, receiving the high definition live mix from the theatre, and sending it out to the live broadcast spectrum and network of receivers and transmitters via satellite. Fibre optic cable and a back-up copper cable carried the signal, and ran directly from the theatre to the OB van (we traced it running down the stairs and through the foyer!).

OB van outside the Traverse

Sir Richard Eyre says in the Hibrow Productions cinema trailer – “its not film, its not cinema – its something new and unique”. I completely agree, and for theatre audiences to be increased in number, diversity and demographic, this distributed live experience is an essential part of the mix.

5 Livestreaming case study: New World Centre

The New World Centre’s new concert hall (Miami Beach, Florida by Gehry Partners –more about the architecture spec) has embedded 360-degree video projection technology that ensures world-class classical music performances can happen live with an orchestra, conductors, and or soloists from anywhere else is the world. The live streaming technology is being used to bring performers IN to the building. The New World Centre also uses live streaming technology to send performance OUT of the building too.

Interactive Concert Hall – eco future and increased audiences for classical music

New World Centre concert hall

The New World Centre’s new concert hall (Miami Beach, Florida by Gehry Partners – more about the architecture spec) has embedded 360-degree video projection technology that ensures world-class classical music performances can happen without the environmental impact of touring an orchestra, conductors, and or soloists from somewhere else. Advanced audio technology and connectivity to the internet via Internet 2 (the USA’s version of academic mega bandwidth network JA.NET). The solution allows (for example) a conductor in Australia to conduct an orchestra on stage in Florida – to a live audience of 757 in the concert hall, and an outside audience paying a much lower ticket price in the grounds of the New World Centre watching the Wallcast, and to a connected via a website virtual audience anywhere in the world. I love this movie captured on a mobile phone by an audience member watching the wallcast – picnics, cagoules, less pomp and less expensive champagne: classical music for the masses not the exclusives – a healthy future for classical music as it increases reach, scale and accessibility without increasing carbon emissions:

6 Livestreaming case study: The Roundhouse

This case study highlights the process and practices that cultural venue The Roundhouse in London have implemented to ensure the live streaming of work in their venue is successful.

Live and Kicking: The Roundhouse put their live events online

arts professionalLive events online – particularly live cultural events – are becoming increasingly popular with audiences around the world, and the Roundhouse is at the forefront of this trend. Conor Roche shares his experiences in Arts Professional

Broadcasters, film-makers, artists and musicians are all becoming more aware of the potential of live events online to unite audiences from across the globe through a common interest at a single moment in time. Recent examples include the Guardian’s broadcast of ‘Turn of the Screw’ from Glyndebourne, YouTube’s coverage of the Coachella music festival and Burberry’s online broadcast of their London Fashion Week show. Live event broadcasting online is nothing new, but events that exist exclusively for audiences online are also becoming increasingly popular. Take the example of Kevin Macdonald’s latest documentary ‘Life in a Day’ which was premiered via YouTube, or Radiohead’s sole recorded performance of their recent album ‘King of Limbs’ via the BBC.

Photos of screen captures from the Roundhouse Blackbox series

Screen captures from the Roundhouse Blackbox series

Photos of screen captures from the Roundhouse Blackbox series

Screen captures from the Roundhouse Blackbox series

Sitting back and passively enjoying an event online isn’t ground breaking. But the web is not a passive medium – it’s interactive, it’s social. Sharing experiences with friends and strangers alike is important: social norms remain true regardless of the medium and people love sharing experiences, together. Live events online provide opportunities for people to come together and share an experience as they would do during a live event in a venue.

Since January 2010 the Roundhouse has produced a series of events, entitled Blackbox, which are broadcast live from the Roundhouse exclusively to online audiences. These shows are edited, recorded, performed and broadcast live, with an archive version made available on demand following the show. There is no audience at the Roundhouse: Blackbox events can only be viewed online. The freedom provided by the lack of a physical audience in the performance space provides the directors of Blackbox, Jamie Roberts and Will Hanke, with an opportunity to explore how the Roundhouse can bring live performance to audiences in ways not experienced previously, while using innovative production techniques and technologies that are not typical of a live broadcast. The series has included a broadcast filmed entirely using thermal imaging cameras and a broadcast using real-time live image mapping via hacked Microsoft Kinect Sensors.

For the first Blackbox series, the Roundhouse partnered with MySpace and StreamUK. Each broadcast was hosted on MySpace, with StreamUK providing the streaming technology, allowing the directors and the Roundhouse to concentrate on filming and producing the live event. The most recent session with the band British Sea Power was viewed live by over 58,000 with an average viewing time of over 8 minutes. The event has just been nominated for Best Event at this year’s BT Digital Music Awards.

The success of Blackbox follows many years of investment by the Roundhouse in its broadcast production facilities. Broadcasting is not the natural domain for a performing arts venue and making a film is hugely challenging. Making a live film of a live performance while relying on technology for production and distribution presents an even tougher set of challenges. In addition, the same consideration and attention to detail required for producing a live event for a physically present audience is required for producing a live event for a live audience online. For example, in the build-up to each Blackbox event we provided audiences with live visuals and a live DJ set (Matt Horne was DJ for British Sea Power); audiences were invited to send in requests to the DJ via Twitter; we provided social media integration to encourage audiences to engage with one another; and we requested feedback from the audience before and after each event.

Considering the complexities of producing such an event there are benefits that have significant potential for cultural organisations. The most obvious benefit is reach and access. An audience of 58,000 is almost 20 times the physical capacity of the Roundhouse. Data suggests that almost as many people experienced a Blackbox event last year as physically came to the Roundhouse to see a show. If the remit of Arts Council England is ‘to get great art to everyone’, then producing engaging live cultural events for audiences online can go some way to realising that ambition.

The second significant potential benefit for cultural organisations is the opportunity for generating revenue from live events online. At a time when all cultural organisations are exploring additional financial means to sustain their activities, perhaps these sorts of online activities have the potential to open up new business models. Advertising revenue has been sustaining the commercial broadcasting industry for decades. If users, viewers, listeners and lovers of art cannot be convinced to part with their pound online, there should be no shame in exploring the potential of using advertising revenue for the purpose of sustaining cultural actives online.

But generating revenue will not be easy, and although it is common knowledge that the capacity of a venue and expected ticket sales for a production is a prime determining factor for calculating the budget of a production in a venue, there is no such formula for online productions. With that in mind, collaborations between the commercial media industry and cultural sector must be encouraged to develop a framework that demystifies the revenue-generating potential for live events online.

Live cultural events online do not have the potential to replace or even match the potency of a live event experienced in a venue. However, they do provide credible and beneficial alternatives for audiences and cultural organisations. They also provide opportunities for those organisations to make best use of their production experience and creativity, while accessing a much greater audience beyond the bricks and mortar of a venue.

7 Livestreaming via narrowcast case study: ATT Fife

Narrowcast livestreaming is when you livestream, but on a closed broadband network, rather than openly over the internet. In this case, that network is the secure public services network for Scottish region, Fife.

Arts & Theatres Trust Fife (now On at Fife)  livestreamed by narrowcast their pantomime to schools and hospitals across the region. This video case study captures their learnings and reflections of a successful pilot project, which used digital technologies to ensure that c. 15,000 more children saw the panto than would have otherwise been possible.

8 Digitising and monetising the recording or streaming of live content

This How To… Guide takes us into the territory of developing business models around the digital recording or streaming of live content. With many new digital arts channels emerging, the consideration of which channel your content might benefit from being on is a consideration: your own website many not be the best place, if you want to make money from overseas markets, or if you want to leave the management of the payment for viewing the content to someone else.

How To… digitise and monetise digital live content

Whether filmed for on-demand viewing or live streaming, digitising live content can increase the reach, scale and access to a piece of live performing arts work. Hannah Rudman describes how to go through the process of producing, distributing, and monetising live digital content, offering an overview of the choices available in 2012, and advice about what level of financial output and return you might expect.

Download this document (PDF, 3.25MB)

9 Case study: online arts channel - The Space

The online digital arts channel The Space from Arts Council England and the BBC launched in 2012. It commissioned nearly all of the works on it, and the arts organisations have had to give it to The Space exclusively for now. An interesting idea for aggregating UK arts content in one place, but the ongoing rights and business models for the participating arts organisations are yet to emerge. This article gives an overview.

The Space – online digital arts from BBC & Arts Council England launches

Head over to The Space and browse original and archive arts and culture content including John Peel’s record collection, The Globe Theatre’s ‘Globe to Globe’ festival including a performance of William Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis, Boy and Bicycle – one of the first films from director Ridley Scott, and work from visual artists David Shrigley and Gilbert and George. Don’t forget to follow on Twitter @thespacearts. With an explicit aim to share more great art with everyone, the playful user interface and visually appealing site draws you in – be careful, its addictive! Work will be populating the channel from May to October – expect to see some AmbITion England alumni contributing!

10 Case study: online arts channel - The Space

Listen to this discussion between organisations with work on The Space via this podcast from Arts Council England. There is a discussion around whether putting digitised versions of live performance content online cannibalises the box office potential of the actual live event.

Digital R&D Podcast 3: Live streaming – from concerts to rehearsals – cannibalising the box office?

The third in the Arts Council England’s Arts Digital R&D podcast series is all about using digital channels and technologies to distribute arts and cultural content and reach the widest possible audience including new and international audiences.

Studio guests include: Hasan Bakshi, Director, creative industries in NESTA’s Policy and Research Unit, Paul Bennun, Chair of Artangel and Co-Owner of Somethin’ Else Productions and Joanna Ellis from The Literary Platform. They dissect the opportunities and issues involved in sharing content digitally such as licensing and copyright, stragetic partnerships with the likes of YouTube and SkyArts, the new dawn of social literature projects in China and the risks around cannibalising ticket sales with live streams (listen out for some heated debate around this area!)

Also, presenter John Wilson talks to the Royal Ballet about the experience of livestreaming with YouTube, the Berlin Philharmonic on the infrastructure cost and subscription mechanisms for live streaming orchestral concerts, The Sage Gateshead about live streaming concerts into rural venues, SkyArts on their arts partnerships and how they are increasing audience share via TV. Plus licensing insights from legal experts and the UK lead for Creative Commons.

11 Reaserch report: what do we know about digitised live performance?

This research report gives an overview of the academic research undertaken into the opportunities and implications of digitising live performance.

12 Comment: live streaming is an opportunity

This reflective article by Anne Bonnar considers whether the livestreaming of performances is an opportunity or a threat – an interesting, quick  read.

Why live streaming of performances is an opportunity not a threat – or is it?

The streaming of live performances by NT live signals the opening up of theatre productions to a wider audience. The experience is excellent and creates opportunities for audiences to see productions they wouldn’t otherwise. Take All’s Wells that Ends Well , the second NT live show. Its one of Shakespeare’s ‘problem’ plays which is unlikely to be seen by many. Firstly, its a ‘ problem play’ because of its genre defying characteristics and idiosyncracies. And secondly, the production resources needed to solve the problem – more than met in Marianne Elliot’s wonderful, grim and fantastic fairytale production with very fine performances, a wonderful design and all the creative and technical resources afforded by the National Theatre – are scarcely available outside the NT, RSC, Globe etc. It simply doesn’t stack up for a regional theatre to produce this play.

So last week the audience for this show was seated not only in the Olivier Theatre but in 70 cinemas throughout Britain. Most of us were seeing a show to which we would not have access otherwise and that is a great thing. The quality of the experience is fantastic – as an audience you are in the room with the performers, live but also have the advantages of being in great and moving seats, up close. And, for those of us who live far away from London, we haven’t spent a fortune or increased our carbon footprint. So it is certainly the way forward for work which our regional theatres won’t or can’t produce.

The traffic could become two way – the best of our regional and local work could also be live streamed to London and abroad.

As the work of world class brands becomes more and more accessible, regional theatres will have more opportunities to diversify and free up resources.

Its part of the programming balance in a regional theatre to present world classics and Shakespearian productions but this is a costly business. The cost of mounting a Shakespearian production or major classical production in our regional theatres varies. So does the cultural success of the productions, in terms of the specific resonances and connections to local audiences through the production and the quality of the production.

But if a regular supply of excellent productions of Shakespeare and classics becomes available at a nearby cinema, then theatres could free some of their resources into the streams of theatre that are very specific to their audiences. Collaborative work, participative and community work, research and development are all costly activities which tend to be subordinate to putting on the big productions but which embed theatres into their communities and allow them to take artistic risks. This of course could be Shakespeare.

Lyn Gardner at the Guardian has taken the argument further, questionning if we need multiple productions of the same play. A bridge too far for me. But the argument is heated.

So, is live streaming a threat to live theatre, as many have argued? Or is it an opportunity?

13 Case study: Punchdrunk's creative innovation

Punchdrunk are utilising live streaming technologies to create a completely new hybrid immersive theatrical form that exists in the real paradigms of time and space, but also in virtual paradigms too. What does that mean for “the performance”? How about “the audience experience”?

Punchdrunk – Sleep No More

Guardian Culture Pros logoPost by Peter Higgins of Punchdrunk – cross posted from Guardian Culture Professionals Blog 



I have just come to the end of two of the most exciting (and longest) weeks of my career.

I am writing this in the production office of our New York show Sleep No More. Running for a little over a year, the production is an immersive retelling of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, inspired by Hitchcock and set in a 1930s film noir world.

Participants are masked to explore a transformed six storey night club, with only their senses and instincts to lead them. Our Nesta Digital R&D fund project, developed in collaboration with MIT Media Lab, has been embedded within this project and during the week of May 14-19 we ran its five-day test phase.

We have been blessed with a great digital partner – MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) is a leading research-based university with a strong emphasis on scientific and technological education and research. It is devoted to research projects at the convergence of design, multimedia and technology.

Our lead staff contact is professor Tod Machover, leader of the Opera of the Future group. Along with his project manager Simone Ovsey they have assembled a team of talented students who specialise in live performance and physical technologies, networking and online interfaces.

The relationship between the two organisations blossomed naturally after Punchdrunk staged Sleep No More in Boston. Many of the students had seen the show as stewards or audience members and we were invited to talk at the lab.

From there we helped them celebrate their 25th birthday by building a secret speakeasy in the basement, theming it narratively around Marvin Minsky and his pioneering work in the field of Artificial Intelligence. So when we began thinking about the Digital R&D project it seemed like a perfect progression for us both.

The project’s aim was to connect a live Sleep No More audience member to an online companion. We wanted to see if we could create an online experience which lived up to the visceral intensity of the live show and facilitate a shared experience which takes place in both the performance space and a remote user’s location.

We have tried to achieve this using a combination of the following: a specially built mask (one that houses dynamic communication and location based technology), pre-recorded and live fed audio and video (to both real and online participants), portal interactions (which used physical props allowing real time one and two way communication between participants), live video feeds from hidden cameras, live performance and bespoke graphics and props.

The project saw 13 pairs experience the project over five nights. Each night’s experience was followed by evaluation sessions with online and real world participants – these sessions allowed us to use feedback to keep adapting and changing the experience throughout the week.

Even in our eyes the project was ambitious, not least in terms of time scale. Working across three separate locations and two time zones has not been without its challenges either – we have had only snatched face-to-face time, with most work done via Skype and email.

The physical installation of the project saw us run over 8,000 feet of CAT-5 cable around the site, linking a 100MB internet connection to our control hub within the building with individual runs that broke out to 24 access points. This allowed us to create a network across the building to live stream sound and audio content to both live and online participants.

Using a combination of 10 RFID readers and 50 Bluetooth devices we installed a system that allowed us to track our participants’ progress through the space, ascertaining their exact location at any point.

We also installed 10 physical portals, which allowed participants to communicate – these included a poltergeist-like book which online participants could cue to flip a real book off a shelf when their participant was nearby and a typewriter that allowed online participants to type direct messages to their real-world companion.

Alongside these elements, we developed a complete online storycode system, which combines text-based adventure with imagery, pre-recorded video and both automated and operator based interaction. The Media Lab story team have written around 5,000 lines of narrative which translates the world of Sleep No More into an online experience.

The real challenge for Media Lab has been creating our so-called ‘cauldron’ system, which allows all of the different elements to talk to one another, creating cohesive and meaningful experiences for individuals both in their own environments and in the shared space where they come together. The team estimate around 100,000 lines have code have been written to make the project work.

Now that the dust is beginning to settle, we have the job of consolidating and evaluating the project. To say it was a glowing success would be inaccurate – we were treading a fine line between game and experience, in an already delicately balanced performance.

Practically speaking we had too little time, with our Beta testing rolling all too closely into the actual live test period. The technology was beginning to do what it should by the end of the week and we found ourselves beginning to make exciting discoveries just as we had to pack up.

Was it a game? Could the experience be solved? What was my mission? Did you feel connected? Did we need to make things more linear and visible? These were all questions that we have only just begun to interrogate.

We asked ourselves: how could we create a project that begins to give our shows the reach and access of a venture like NT Live? The aim was never to copy this model – our work is about individual experiences and personal connections. And we were equally adamant it wasn’t about plonking a camera on a real world participant and instructing them, drone-like, to move around the building.

Instead, the challenge has been to recreate the infinite possibilities for journeys and experiences happening simultaneously across a Punchdrunk production.

The system we have created has allowed us to stream multiple experiences at once. It’s been about creating an extra level of detail and intrigue inside an already rich experience, allowing online users to connect to this and simultaneously go on an individual journey in the comfort of their own home.

We have learned valuable lessons this week and know that these open up rich territory in what we’re coining ‘remote and real world interconnected theatrical immersion’. We’re sure that we are well placed and committed to explore future iterations of this model and that this is an exciting development for artists and technologists exploring these modes of interactions.

Peter Higgin is enrichment director at Punchdrunk.

Source – Culture professionals network: Culture professionals blog | guardian.co.uk

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