Live 4k Streaming (for opera, of course)
The first commercial digital sound recording was of an opera. The first live television subtitles were for opera. And, now, live 4k opera streamed over the Internet.
At 7 pm Central European Time on Wednesday, May 7, the Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera) will transmit Verdi’s opera Nabucco, with Placido Domingo in the title role. Elemental Technologies’ high-efficiency video coding (HEVC) will be used to stream the event over the Internet in 4k resolution, using MPEG-DASH, for viewing around the world. It will also be sent to a 65” Samsung UHD TV at the opera house. A Wiener Staatsoper app with built-in time shifting will allow users to view it live or at 7 pm in their local time zone.
Wiener Staatsoper produces more than 40 live broadcasts annually and is making almost all of its 2014/2015 season productions accessible to viewers via the Internet on smart TVs and mobile devices. “Our multicreen offer, VOD [video-on-demand] services, and user-selectable two-channel live program provide new and exciting ways for fans to experience the arts with the highest levels of accessibility and artistry,” said Christopher Widauer, the opera company’s director of digital development. Elemental provides the technology for Wiener Staatsoper’s live and VOD streaming services and supports another of the opera company’s apps, which provides synchronized subtitles and even a synchronized music score. The 4k Nabucco workflow was designed by Elemental partner ETAS High Tech Hardware Systems GmbH, and the streams will be managed by Ooyalah via Samsung applications.
Opera companies have a long history of technological development. Before Avatar, Opéra de Rennes transmitted Mozart’s Don Giovanni live to movie theaters in high-definition stereoscopic 3D. Believe it or not, opera was responsible for the invention of electronic home entertainment (1880), stereo sound transmission (1881), pay cable (1885), consumer headphones (no later than 1888), newscasts (1893), sound movies (1894), stereo broadcasting (1925), stereo networking (1973), and alternative content for stadium displays (2007). Almost no matter whom you pick as the inventor of movies (Edison, Jenkins, Le Prince), their purpose was opera (1886-88). And an opera house was responsible for the development of the techniques of sportscasting (1886). Really!
Opera was also present at the inception of electrical robotics (1894), broadcasting (1900), music synthesis (1906), entertainment radio (1906-7), television (1928-1934, proposed in 1882), live alternative content for cinema (1952, proposed in 1877 — before there was such a thing as cinema), widescreen movies (1952), and international satellite broadcasting (1967). In the 17th century, opera stage technology allowed complete scene changes to take place in full view of the audience in a matter of seconds; in the 21st century, opera companies are using live, interactive digital projection with edge stitching, image warping, and even real-time depth-plane selection.
Wiener Staatsoper is part of that tradition of technological innovation. Some of the first buildings lit by electricity were opera houses, and, because there were no power companies at the time, they had their own generators and shared their output. The first X-ray machine at Boston Children’s Hospital was powered from a local opera house. Before that, flame-based lighting could be dangerous, so Wiener Staatoper had its own 21-person fire department and helped pioneer fire extinguishers, so they “could assure patrons of artistic performances that were both stunning and safe,” according John Nemeth, VP of sales EMEA for Elemental. “Elemental is honored to support Vienna State Opera in its on-going technology innovation to increase access to the arts.”