Backstage at San Francisco Opera > September 2011 > Simulcast: Magic, It's All Magic
Simulcast: Magic, It's All Magic

Through state-of-the-art technology, San Francisco Opera’s simulcast on September 25 will be transmitted in 1920x1080 high definition (HD) to AT&T Park's 103-feet wide Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Vision scoreboard—one of the highest quality outdoor scoreboards in the nation—live from the stage of the War Memorial Opera House. [Left: Members of our Media Team before a performance. Photo by Cory Weaver.]


How do we get our signal from the Opera House to AT&T Park?
A two and half mile fiber optic cable runs underground to AT&T Park. Yes, that’s right, an astonishing 13,200 feet of cable—that’s 15.5 times the height of San Francisco’s Transamerica Pyramid.
It takes about 1 second for the signal to get there.
AT&T Park’s Diamond Vision Scoreboard:
 - The screen is 103 ft wide (it's wider than cinemascope!)
-          The aspect ratio is close to 29x9. A regular HD monitor is 16x9 (16 units wide by 9 units high), so AT&T Park’s screen is almost as wide as two16x9 monitors side-by-side.
Pre-Show and Intermission Content:
-          In advance of the show, three hours of content is rerecorded, which plays pre-show and during the intermission.
-          All this content needs to be formatted specially for AT&T Park’s screen. [Above: Francis Crossman works to create simulcast content. Photo by Cory Weaver.]
Opera House Control Room:
-          In the control room at the opera house, there are four robotic camera operators, one director, one technical director, one assistant director, one camera engineer, and one score reader.
-          The camera operators need to frame their shots specifically for the screen.  
-          Neutral density lighting gels are placed on the top and bottom of the monitors to mask off a very wide center section. The neutral density knocks the light way down, but you can still see through it a little. This way they can see what is outside their frame too.
-          Each camera operator controls two robotic cameras.
-          In addition, there are two fixed cameras: one wide stage shot, and one on the Maestro.
-          In total there are 10 HD cameras.
-          The camera engineer is responsible for making sure the exposure and color of all cameras is correct.  These settings are constantly adjusted throughout the show as the lighting levels on stage change. [Above: The Media Team at work during a performance. Photo by Cory Weaver.]
- The director and AD "block" the show ahead of time and put cue marks in the musical score.
 - During the performance the AD calls out cues to the camera ops
 - The director calls for camera angle to be taken according to the script but also has to pay attention to the live nature of the performance and sometimes has to improvise.
 - The technical director "takes" the camera angles that the director calls by punching them up on the production switcher (it's a board with a whole lotta buttons!).
 - The switched show, complete with close-ups, establishing shots, reaction shots (just like a movie), is then transmitted via fiber optic cable almost two and half miles under ground to AT&T park.
 - The video gets sent to the big screen while the audio gets sent to the speaker arrays.
 - At the park the video signal gets delayed by about half a second to ensure audio and video sync (audio travels slower than light). [The simulcast screen at work! Photo by Cory Weaver.]
Like we said: It’s Magic!
Posted: 9/22/2011 2:22:31 PM by Francis Crossman (Senior Video Editor)
Filed under: simulcast, Turandot


Backstage at San Francisco Opera is a fascinating, fast-moving, mysterious and sacred space for the Company’s singers, musicians, dancers, technicians and production crews. Musical and staging rehearsals are on-going, scenery is loaded in and taken out, lighting cues are set, costumes and wigs are moved around and everything is made ready to receive the audience. From the principal singers, chorus and orchestra musicians to the creative teams for each opera, in addition to the many talented folks who don’t take a bow on stage, this blog offers unique insight, both thought-provoking and light-hearted, into the life backstage at San Francisco Opera.


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