In The Space everyone could hear us stream???

16 Aug

Pilot Theatre’s 6 Camera Interactive Livestream of the York Mystery Plays has shifted the game in terms of digital engagement…

 On Saturday August 11th at 7pm Pilot Theatre went live on the new BBC/ACE site ( with 6 camera feeds, three audio feeds, full transcript and it was available on all internet enable devices – computers, tablets and smartphones. This had been developed with our digital partners, Kinura, who had written the new code that could enable anybody watching to shift between the camera views and for there to be no audio timelag as each camera was running through its own individual encoder that allowed the dialogue to be in sync.

The project we worked on was the York Mystery Plays, which involved over 500 people onstage for each performance and took place in a 1400 seat specially constructed arena auditorium in the grounds of St Mary’s Abbey York. So what did it look like?


As you can see you can select your camera from the row of 6 thumbnails and make this your main player – here the understage camera 6 has been selected.


You could also choose from 3 separate audio feeds –

a) The live action from on stage

b) The headphone cueing from the Stage Managers

c) The live audio described feed.

The audio description started from 7.15 to allow the set and setting to be described prior to the start of the show at 7.30

You could read the transcript of the text which is to the side of the main player, and

select any of the thumbnails to be your main point of view. The views allowed full coverage of the stage action. These provided wideshots, close-ups and focusing on areas of action like the choral singing or the band. To do this there were 3 robot cameras with operators (the same ones as used for the Olympic coverage), 2 onstage cameras with operators and special ‘Livepack’ roving camera under the stage with an operator. This is a camera attached to a backpack with an encoder and basically lots of 3G upload ability – a bit like having a rucksack full of smart phones all working in sync to upload the live footage for you.

All of the cameras were HD and recorded all the material onto a vast storage system. We recorded 6 cameras, four hours each – which is actually 24 hours of HD video.

On top of this you could choose which audio feed you want to hear. The stage action, with all the dialogue, singing and performances, or you could choose the production and cans feed from the DSM calling the show. Here you could hear all the cues, set ups and action points whilst watching the results as they happened live. Or you could have the audio described version of the events that are happening live on stage. So you can access all areas throughout the performance.

The idea came from when I was watching a show in the main house at York Theatre Royal – and realising of course that you are free to watch wherever and whatever you want – be that the follow spot operators, the audience, the action downstage right – or the lighting changes. So as a next iteration of the idea of live performance we wanted to recreate this idea using multiple camera viewpoints.

So as a difference from say an NT Live stream where the decisions to which shot you will see have already been predetermined by a director – in our work you are the one who chooses and this gives a greater sense of creative intervention and participation in the event. 

So. This is not about making a programme, or an edit that is made for you.

This is different. This is new. You make the choices. You decide what to watch, what to listen to, and above all you decide how you want to engage with the work.

This is just the start of the project – after the livestream – the footage will then still be available on the space site from September 3rd – where the view again option is still available – only now you will be able to drag and drop from the clips available into an audio timeline so you can choose your own bespoke version of the York Mysteries, by mixing the clips from the 6 cameras into your own version to watch back.

So you can watch the backstage journey for some clips, cut to the choral sections on stage and back to the control desk view…infinite possibilities

Which is what this project is all about. The next iteration of what iplayer might become, the interaction, participation and creative involvement of audiences, viewers and collaborators.

Did it work? Yes indeed. We never lost any transmission time, and we maintained the full feed on all 6 cameras for 4 hours with a hitch. The feedback online was amazing – we reached 237,000 twitter accounts using the #mysteryplays hashtag.

@AnnaBrk: Live streaming of York’s #MysteryPlays has been wonderful. Loved being able to choose which camera to watch. Congrats to @pilot_theatre 

@Mat_LB: @marcusromer loving the #mysteryplays live stream, inspiring use of technology to bring this performance to the world

@Mark_Rance: York Mystery Plays live stream – totally brilliant! #mysteryplays

The Mystery Cycle traditionally had all sectors of the community playing their part in the delivery of the project for each other. The Guilds would collaborate and work together For this part of this amazing project we like to think of Pilot Theatre and Kinura belonging to the new Guild of Digital Livestreamers…

…and the single viewpoint director’s edit of live theatre will now have to change…Yes, Shift Happens


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