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German Opera on the Rhine Creates Magical Interactive Set Design Using ArKaos’ MediaMaster Pro

03rd Oct 2017

The Deutsche Oper am Rhein is a theatre company based in the cities Düsseldorf and Duisburg. It performs opera, operetta, musical and ballet. For several years now, the lighting department has been using projection technology as a tool for the stage design.

Remarkably, the first video productions used a projector, a videotape recorder and a person on the intercom who pressed play, pause and stop on command. Very soon, there was a need to use a better and more comfortable solution.

Eleven Media Servers Running ArKaos MediaMaster Pro

Volker Weinhart, head of the lighting department of the theatre community Düsseldorf-Duisburg, found a solution based on ArKaos VJ, which wasn’t only simpler, but also much cheaper than the alternatives. Over the years, the video technology was refined in quality and quantity, even leading up to the subtitling of operas: “We actually use eleven media servers, which run ArKaos MediaMaster Pro“, says Weinhart. "That means – including spares – six licenses with six backup licenses all on usb-dongles. These eleven systems are used in both the Düsseldorf and Duisburg venues. We made the complete switch from ArKaos VJ to MediaMaster quite some time ago. At the moment we are performing a step by step update to version 5 on all our systems".

Connecting Efficiently Thanks to Fiber Optics Network

All media servers used in Düsseldorf and Duisburg are custom made solutions, built by a dedicated company. The media servers are built for the highest performance and only use one i7-cpu, two graphics cards, a Samsung SSD and high quality Data-path capture-cards. Every server also uses a backup system. Meanwhile, the connection between the media servers and projectors is built upon a fibre optics network and corresponding converters. A large number of projectors are in stock, with outputs level of 20.000 ANSI-Lumen. In addition, the Deutsche Oper am Rhein invested in high quality camera equipment.

In both venues of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, the stage is not just mapped from the front, but also, thanks to the fibre optics network, from other positions. The video department projects onto decoration, veils, rounded horizons or even mirrors. So far, the biggest mapped surface was a rounded horizon of 18 meters wide, 8 meters high with a depth of 7 meters.

Fast and Flexible For Creating Virtual Rooms & Set Design

Volker Weinhart speaks about the creative possibilities: "We use ArKaos MediaMaster in many different application. We project snow or rain, or we shape whole set decorations with the system. We create virtual rooms and replace set decoration like a church clock etc. A green screen is available, which means we are much more flexible and faster than with conventional set decoration and we have more creative tools at our disposal to support set designers."

Of course, the use of media servers is just easier. In the end, there is the effort in programming, but the use of MediaMaster Pro makes it more efficient. “In the future, we will be using two network based desks to program video and light separately, but at the same time, finally cueing it together during the show.“ Media servers are not yet a standard in the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, but were used in about 70% of the performances. "We look at it really flexibly. If we are sure that video is a good solution for the production, we use it", comments Weinhart.

Easiest and Most Intuitive Media Server Software

Volker Weinhart personally values the user-friendliness of the MediaMaster Pro software: "In the past, I tried ArKaos VJ and MediaMaster Pro – just like I tried Catalyst or Pandoras Box. ArKaos convinced me because it’s easiest to use. I don’t need specialists to operate it and new members in our team can learn to use the system in the shortest time. That is a clear advantage!"

Dramatic advisors, actors and not least our audience enjoy the new design possibilities. The overall impression of a performance is more interesting and realistic thanks to video. "Critics sometimes use the word magic" explains Weinhart. "For me, it’s clear: video can – if it is used well – enrich a production and fascinate the audience."