Frequently Asked Questions
So, simulcast direction. What exactly do you do?
I don’t tell the singers how to sing or where to stand. I don’t tell the dancers how to dance or the musicians how to play. That is the duty of the stage director, the choreographer or the conductor. My job is to capture the performance in the theatre and put it up on the big screen in the mall, the ballpark or any large venue.
Several thousand folks outside see exactly what is going on inside the theatre at exactly the same time. (Occasionally we record a performance for later broadcast or DVD release.) Of course, it is always best to view a performance inside the theatre, but many of the elements of a simulcast create a unique experience for those seeing it on the screen. If the diva cries on stage, some of the audience in the expensive seats in the theatre may see it. Outside on the big screen with our close up shot, everyone will not only see her tears , they might even see her heart break.
Is there any difference in directing a simulcast versus a television broadcast?
These days with huge flat screen sets in our living rooms, it is not so different from directing live television programs. However there are differences for a viewer watching the big screen outside. Setting up the sequences is important. I show the entire set early in each act and return to it from time to time to orient the audience, but just like television, we use the close-up which is something folks in the theatre don’t see. Plus, in the theater everyone in the audience has only one point of view dictated by the position of their seat. On the big screen outside I can play with the angles using multiple cameras.
Are there things you emphasize when directing a simulcast?
When I first started directing simulcasts, I was using my twenty-five years of experience directing live television. I had a tendency to “over-cut.” This is a bad habit we television directors have to fight. Now I use restraint, I don’t compete with what is happening on stage…I respect it. The shot “not taken” is just as important as the ones you do take.
Does what you produce air on TV somewhere? How are simulcasts used?
They might be used for television broadcast or DVDs later…a lot of this has to do with permissions, releases and cost. There are times when the simulcast is streamed live on the web.
What about audio?
Obviously sound plays a major role in all simulcasts. I have been fortunate to work with some great production companies and sound engineers who do an awesome job. Some audio engineers have an audio operator at the simulcast site making adjustments so the presence of the audio changes slightly when I cut from a wide shot to a close-up…nice touch!
Does a simulcast require special lighting?
If it looks good in the theatre, it looks good up on the big screen. We rarely have a lighting problem. When we did Giselle with the Paris Opera Ballet the top of act two was a bit too dark. I requested a little more “moonlight” and that solved the issue. Rather than being a problem, I find opera stage lighting to be a big plus.
What type of production equipment is required for a simulcast?
I would love to use 20 cameras on every opera, but we can do a great job with as few as five or six cameras.
Do you provide the equipment?
No. The production company provides all the necessary cameras and control room equipment. I am a freelance director working directly for the opera. As part of my job I can advise the opera company and help select the best production company for the project. It is expensive to do a simulcast, but there are ways to keep the cost down and still look good up on the big screen.
How do you plan a simulcast?
I start with at the libretto and as much information as I can get on the production. Sometimes there has been an earlier performance and I try to get a copy of that. If I can, I get the vision of the stage director and I make every effort to be true to that. I attend the earliest rehearsal that my schedule allows, sometimes even before they hit the stage for a staging or a piano tech. And here is how I work.
I make a one shot recording of the first full run through using a small camera at the back of the theatre. Then I retire to my hotel room or some back office and go to work. I have a pretty good idea of how the show will cut together so I start scripting using that single-shot tape and a few years of experience. It’s good to have three full days if possible to create the shooting script. I make adjustments to the script between each rehearsal and before the actual simulcast to correct anything that isn’t working. We also add new shots that reveal themselves to us in rehearsal.
Do you get a chance to enjoy the show?
I do enjoy the show, but I have to be careful to not get caught up in all the magic and keep my head in the game.
Do you get special instructions or requirements from the conductor or any of the principal performers?
How much does an average simulcast cost?
This is a tough one. I don’t think there is such a thing as an average simulcast. If you are live streaming to the web, it can be fairly inexpensive. I’ve worked on projects from as low as $100,000 on up. I can help with selection the right production company which is the largest expense and, with my experience directing over fifty different productions to date, I can help control costs. While it is expensive to do a simulcast, there is no better way to create a lasting buzz about opera and your company. Other opera companies can best tell you about the advantages of doing a simulcast.
How do we get started?
Please call me at 832-859-1069 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can discuss your project.
I’m always looking forward to the next project.