Clear-Com at the San Diego Opera, Part 1
Nov 12, 2013 11:17 AM, With Bennett Liles
Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.
When the San Diego Opera is doing a show, there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes than most people are aware of. Dozens of crew technicians have to be in realtime communication and a new Clear-Com system is getting the job done. Bill Scott is here to give us the details, coming right up on the SVC Podcast.
SVC: Bill, welcome to the SVC Podcast and thanks for being with us from the San Diego Opera Company.
Bill Scott: My pleasure.
Yeah, tell us a little about the San Diego Opera.
We do a four-show season and perhaps a special event like a concert or something. So our season runs from the first part of January until the first part of May, then we take a hiatus. The stage crew, then, is off until the production season comes around again. It’s been a little while, but we’re looking forward to the upcoming season starting in January.
Well, after all they do out there it’s probably good to take a breather for part of the year.
Coming up is our 50th season, so that’s quite an accomplishment for an opera company; 50 years in business and we’re going strong. It’s a seasonal thing. There’s a time when you’re out of production. You have to be. I mean production is so intense that you’d never be able to prep for a new season or the next series of shows if you didn’t have some time off, for some of the people anyway. The creative people need that time to put together new productions. [Timestamp: 1:52]
If you were doing all of that year-round it would probably work you to death.
As the AV technician for the opera, what all do they have you doing there?
Well, on the video side, I’m providing images of one of two things; either I’m providing an overview shot of the stage, which several departments need to see, or I’m providing an image of the maestro. And of course singers, choruses, stage management, they need to be in constant contact with the maestro and it’s done through a visual, so they know where he is. On the video side I start out with like, I think, 28 permanent-installed video monitors that show one of those two images and I add on from there. Generally, 90 percent of the time, it’s the maestro image that needs to be placed so that a chorus master—because they move the choruses all over the place backstage—wherever they plant that chorus or that band or that musician, somebody needs to see the maestro because he runs the show and then they just have to see him. Probably the most usual request I’ve had—it’s not a request, it’s a demand to put a monitor here—is when we did Moby Dick, there was a scene where Captain Ahab is laying on his back on a table or a desk or something and he’s looking straight up into the flies. He needed to see the maestro. So as he lays on his back he had to see a video monitor directly over his head, which was put on a line set. And you know it’s 30ft.-35ft. or so above him, but he can see it and he could sing without having to look at the maestro. He can sing while lying flat on his back. So it’s that type of thing, anyplace. Now on the audio side, when I met the general director, who is still my general director today, the first thing he said to me was, “I understand that you have many duties on the stage. I’m not concerned with that.” He goes, “What I want from you is I want you to give me good broadcastable recordings of these performances because that’s going to help us sell tickets.” So that’s always been my primary mandate, as far as I’m concerned, to provide a broadcastable product that our audience and potential audience will enjoy to bring people into the theater.
Now as far as the fundamentals of the job, the main thing would be providing the orchestra on stage for the singers to hear, so that’s just speakers that the singers can listen to. And then the audio signal is distributed to countless places. I mean it goes to everything from front of house to the concession stands to the dressing rooms to stage management needs to hear it, and importantly people like opera techs. The gentleman that’s projecting the titles that are translating the libretto, he absolutely has to hear and see the maestro. He’s reading music just like the stage managers are, to follow along. And then I can’t even think of every place else, but whoever needs an audio signal it goes to them and that’s pretty simple to do, just send a mix some place and put a speaker there or whatever. Then also in the audio side is the communications. All the stage personnel, etc., need to be tied together with a communication system. We use Clear-Com at the San Diego Opera. [Timestamp: 5:28]
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