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New World Symphony Wows Crowds with WALLCAST Pt 1

Show 168, Part 1

SVC Podcast – Show Notes – Show 168-1

In this edition of the SVC Podcast, SVC Contributing Editor Bennett Liles talks with Clyde Scott, Director of Video Production with Miami’s New World Symphony about their camera upgrade to 4K. Projecting live concerts onto a seven thousand square foot wall outside, the symphony provides these concerts free to everyone in the neighborhood. Clyde discusses the 4K upgrade and robotic cameras.

 For Part 2

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This is the SVC Podcast from Sound & Video Contractor Magazine with Clyde Scott of the New World Symphony. Show notes and equipment links for the podcast are on the web site of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at

Miami’s New World Symphony has been projecting live concerts onto a seven thousand square foot wall for all the neighborhood to enjoy and now the operation is advancing up to 4K. Clyde Scott, Director of Video Production is going to let us know exactly where they are in the 4K technology advance. That’s coming up next on the SVC Podcast.

Clyde, it’s a treat to have you with us on the SVC Podcast from Miami where you’re Director of Video Production with the New World Symphony. They’re doing some great things. It sounds to me from what I’ve read on this that your job might have gotten quite a bit bigger recently.

Thanks for having me. It got quite a bit bigger when we actually kind of moved into this new building at the start of 2011 and it’s, I guess, taking another little kind of jump forward as we’re looking forward into the world of 4K. [Timestamp: 1:18]

Yeah, and that’s going to be a big world. For several years now you’ve had a tremendous video projection display on the outside wall of the building. The public can come in and sit down in the park, watch and hear a live concert going on inside and projected on this massive seven thousand square foot projection wall. It’s called the Wallcast and so how did the idea of the Wallcast come along? How did it originate?

The idea for our Wallcast I guess was a very long time in the making. I’ve been at New World for a little over 10 years now and even before I started Michael Tilson Thomas and Ted Arison were very interested in the idea of kind of reaching more people in the community more immediately and they had experimented on a few different occasions prior to my joining New World. They had experimented with large video walls on Lincoln Road where they did little broadcasts of live performances. And then once I joined New World I installed four robotic cameras in the concert hall and we had a large flat screen hanging right above the marquee to the old Lincoln Theater, which is the original home of the New World Symphony. And I would just kind of operate cameras and switch on the fly during performances and, you know, small crowds would gather outside on Lincoln Road to watch and listen to that. So that carried over into the very first meetings about this building when it was still in the creative stages basically. Michael kind of kept pushing it forward and everybody knew that we were going to continue and kind of expand it – something even bigger and take the technology even further and basically kind of create a transparency. And that’s something that Michael and Frank Gehry, was very important to them and all of the leadership of New World, was to kind of have this transparency whereas things were happening inside the building easily see that from outside the building. And that can be seen in the design of the building itself where we have these huge kind of glass curtain walls that run right through the center of the building so that even as you’re walking by you can see activity happening inside. But then even more so in the Wallcasts, which have become huge productions, but also just immensely popular in the community. And that’s something that we’re very proud of because we’re actually reaching a really big audience of people that a lot of which have had no exposure to classical music at all. So the fact that thousands of people in a regular basis are attending these for free, having a great time, bringing their families and everything, it’s a big deal and we’re very excited about it. [Timestamp: 3:38]

And now you’re taking the next step and upgrading to 4K at least in part of it. I know you have to phase this in and that would be a challenge in itself. How do you plan a sound and video system phase in 4K? What links in the production chain are 4K now and which would be the next to make the step up?

We have 4K capable delivery in the park. So the projectors in the park are ready for 4K and they have been for I guess about a year now. So Phase 1 is the cameras and robotics which we just completed over this summer. We’ve got 4K cameras installed. We’ve got new robotics to handle those heavier cameras, a more advanced robotic system to handle those heavier cameras, but those cameras are still outputting HD. So Phase 2 will actually be the 4K switching, 4K routing and all the 4K video infrastructure. And that will allow us to then take the 4K signal out of the cameras and keep the 4K the whole way through the switcher and straight to the park. [Timestamp: 4:34]

Okay. You’ve got the 4K cameras, you have the 4K projection so the next step is the step up on everything in between.

Exactly. That’s a big thing because we knew that the 4K cameras were available. We could and did demo multiple different units and test them out and everything else. But what we were still waiting on to catch up was the actual 4K infrastructure side, the switching, the routing, the signal transport. Not that it wasn’t possible. It was possible. It was possible over four SDI cables. We were waiting to see the developments in the technology that would take it away from that because we weren’t really interested in that. We didn’t think that was where it was going to be long term. So now we’re starting to see people moving towards 4K over IP which is a lot more attractive to us. So that’s one of the reasons that we’re doing it in phases. We knew that we could move on the cameras and our cameras are reaching the end of life anyway. We knew that we needed to move into the next systems. So we felt like the camera technology was ready and we could do that in Phase 1 and then kind of wait on the transport and switching technology which is now starting to become ready. [Timestamp: 5:37]

And you’ve got sort of a double challenge with the cameras because you’ve got a fairly low-light environment but at the same time you have to send this video signal to a huge display. How did you audition the cameras for both shooting in low light sometimes and making images that can be shown at that huge size?

Well, it’s interesting because when we were originally imagining the technology that was going to go into the building we asked ourselves a question. Do we need to worry about low light? Our answer at the time was not really. We’re performing – like an orchestra, there’s not really a need for low light. Until we got into the space and realized like oh, that’s right. We’ve got this projection system and we actually needed to be low light in order to utilize the projection system on a regular basis. And oh, that’s right. We do all these theatrical kind of productions and we are experimenting with all these different kinds of performance formats where kind of investigating the different ways in which we can present classical music to an audience and the different ways an audience can experience it. So we originally had thought like oh, you know, low light is not such a huge priority. Then once we were in the space and using it on a regular basis we realized that that was just not true. So yes, low light capabilities we realized are actually very important to what we do so we actually did extensive tests with multiple different manufacturers. Basically inside our concert hall we set up musicians on a stage and we went through all different lighting scenarios at least from a lighting perspective, our most challenging productions. Some that had basically no ambient light whatsoever and only little LED stand lights were the only illumination on the musicians. So we kind of did like very extreme testing to figure out which cameras would not only be able to respond under those conditions, but would also be able to respond while under regular conditions and would also give us the kind of resolution and kind of color fidelity that we really wanted. So we did very extensive tests with a number of different cameras and I think where we landed was a really great solution for us. The Hitachi’s are amazing cameras and for our particular circumstances they really, really work wonders. [Timestamp: 7:34]

And at the other end you have this huge projection surface. What is the actual projection surface? Are you showing it on a wall or is there something specially prepared for that?

No, it’s actually just a wall. We did some research into different treatments that you could do and the fact is that it looks amazing just being a wall. I mean we knew from the very beginning that that wall was going to be a projection surface so it’s a very flat, very large wall and it actually works great for us. [Timestamp: 7:59]

So I would think that all you have to do is to keep it relatively clean and it’s out there in the weather and nobody minds that.

Yeah. And you know, they actually do some upkeep. And I believe last summer it was repainted. So it’s important to keep it as white as possible just to make sure that there’s not any very visible damage to it. But yeah, just regular upkeep and it’s actually done great for us. [Timestamp: 8:20]

The crowd comes in and they make themselves comfortable in the park. I believe it’s described as the Soundscape area. So what size crowd fits into that space outside?

So when people come for Wallcasts, we have what we call the main viewing area. The main viewing area is directly in front of the projection wall. It’s basically between the projection wall and a projection enclosure in the park. And it’s flanked on either side by these large tubular structures which hold a massive array of speakers. Essentially the main viewing area holds about 1,500 people. And relatively early on we maxed out that capacity. We’re routinely getting the main viewing area totally full and it actually is spilling out into a large portion of the rest of the park. And luckily there are still sightlines all throughout the park in lots of different areas. There are also additional kind of speaker arrays positioned throughout the park so that when there is overflow, which there most often is, it can actually be – those people can still see and hear everything pretty well. So we’re seeing anywhere between 1,500 and 3,500 people, I think, for each of these Wallcasts. As you say it’s free and people said amazingly we’re seeing people starting to set up their chairs and their blankets and everything by like 3:30 in the afternoon for a 7:30 or 8:00 show. [Timestamp: 9:37]

And how do manage to compete with let’s say the Miami Beach ambient sound environment?

We did a lot of preliminary studies prior to the actual selection of the technology and implementation and everything. And so we did some ambient light studies out there to just figure out what is the ambient light levels of the street and everything else and also some ambient sound levels. The fact is that there’s a very, very impressive collection of Meyer speakers, I believe it’s a custom Meyer Constellation System in the park. And you can still hear some street noise and whatnot, but when you’re in that kind of the main viewing area you’re really, really enveloped by this immersive sound and it’s very captivating. [Timestamp: 10:15]

And that sound system has evolved along with the video to have the best possible delivery of both to the outside.

Yeah, and I think the same time that we were doing the Phase 1 of our video upgrade over the summer, Roberto Toledo was actually doing an upgrade to the audio system. Essentially we set a very high standard when we first started. When we opened this building in 2011 there was not anything like this in the world. And there still isn’t really anything exactly like it. So we’re trying to continue to be forward-thinking and as we’re looking at the life cycle of our different technologies and everything else we’re trying to stay on the forefront of what’s happening in the world, what the next thing is, but also just trying to keep experimenting. The New World Symphony is a laboratory for all the different ways that we can look at the learning, presenting and enjoying classical music. And so to that end we’re constantly looking for different things that we can do technology-wise to keep pace with that, to kind of challenge our musicians and also challenge the audience. [Timestamp: 11:15]

And so the next phase in the 4K upgrade process is all of the technology and signal conveyance between the cameras and the outside display. I believe you mentioned before that you had an SDI concept for it but that would I think involve running a lot of coax which you didn’t want to do.

Currently, because of the location of our cameras relative to our control room we’ve always been doing video over fiber. However, once it lands in the control room it’s SDI from one point to the next point. We didn’t want to deal with four SDI cables in order to carry a single 4K signal. We didn’t want to deal with that from a routing perspective or from a switching perspective. So what we were waiting for and what we’re kind of exploring now is all the different possibilities that you have when you start to move away from that, when you’re looking at like 4K over IP, where you’re dealing with far fewer cables and a simpler system that actually gives you a lot of ancillary benefits on the side. And the industry is seemingly going that way so it looks like we’ve timed it just about right. And I was out at IBC in Amsterdam this year and some of the things that I saw there were very promising. And like I said we’ve been meeting with manufacturers about his and I suspect that there’s going to be a lot of announcements at NAB as far as even more developments in the industry in this way. So it’s exciting and we’re right in the forefront, but it’s a pretty good place to be because it’s not dangerously at the forefront. This technology looks like it’s taking its turn and we’re going to be able to get on board and be an early adopter. [Timestamp: 12:39]

Right. You’re okay to function right now and doing fine being ready to step onto the next technology bus when the right one comes along. I was curious about one thing though. We talked about the technology side but on the human side of it where the traditional orchestra setup meets with the technology. How did the orchestra members react to the presence of the robotic cameras?

Well, that’s interesting. We’re lucky enough that the average age of our musicians, of our fellows at the New World Symphony is 26 years old. And the institution is very much about this kind of experimentation and the kind of challenging both the musicians and audiences and kind of trying to find this middle ground of experimentation where we can really look at exciting new ways to produce and enjoy classical music. So the musicians have always been pretty open to the fact. And one of the reasons that we decided to go robotic in the first place was firstly a cost consideration. We wanted to produce a very high-quality live experience, but in a traditional kind of scenario. In our case you’d be talking about having 12 camera operators for every single one of our Wallcasts. And we can’t afford to have that many people on staff and we also can’t afford to have 12 freelancers every time we do one of these productions. So what we wanted to try and figure out was a really good balance where we could have the most efficient setup where we could have a broadcast-quality production with the fewest number of operators. So that was one of the reasons that we decided to go robotic. And the second reason was to try to keep the distractions to a minimum. To not have people walking around onstage with cameras. So by designing the robotic system the way that we did, most of the cameras are in fixed positions. We have two that are on pedestals that can actually be moved to different parts of the stage, but once they land on stage they’re there basically in that location for the entirety of the show. So I think that both for the audience and the musicians the cameras kind of fade away relatively quickly. For the musicians most of the cameras fade away relatively quickly and then there are the two that are onstage most often very close to at least a handful of musicians. Even in those cases we chose cameras and robotics that were extremely quiet and the musicians have embraced them. I think that especially once they get a chance to be out in the park for a Wallcast if they’re not playing on piece one night and they’re actually able to go out into the park and see the production and see how the crowd, how the audience reacts to it, it’s a powerful thing. And I think that once they see that they get even more excited about it. But for the most part it’s been seemingly very painless. And the musicians have been very excited about it and very supportive of it. [Timestamp: 15:09]

Sounds much less disruptive than it would be with human operators and probably saves a lot of space as well. This is fantastic. These concerts have gotten to be very popular. The crowds are growing all the time. You have a full slate for the next several months. It’s been great hearing about the concerts down there and I’m looking forward to more details in Part 2. This has been Clyde Scott, Director of Video Production with Miami’s New World Symphony on the way now to 4K all the way through. The pictures are incredible and I’d love to get down there and see it all for myself sometime.

You really should. Thank you for having me. It’s been great. And if you ever get a chance to come down let me now and I’ll be happy to give you a tour. [Timestamp: 15:44]

Thanks to Clyde Scott for joining us on the SVC Podcast from the New World Symphony. Next week we’ll have Audio Director Roberto Toledo to give us the story on how the New World Symphony sound system has progressed and how he mixes the concerts. That’s on the next SVC Podcast.

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