Doug Mitchell has been working at the San Francisco Opera for nearly two decades. As the Opera’s Master Audio & Video Engineer, he’s encountered some interesting challenges during his tenure, but nothing like what he overcame in 2020.
“It was a huge challenge just taking everything from an internal facility and moving everything remotely,” says Mitchell. “We have a full control room, video and audio posts, and mixdown. We have 10 PTZ cameras in our theater, a whole infrastructure between our multiple facilities. We’ve been just really trying to figure out how we can efficiently continue producing content.”
A DECADE’S WORTH OF CONTENT AT THE READY
When the SF Opera closed its doors last year, they were able to quickly respond and accelerate their digital presence by leveraging their archival content. “We were lucky. We've been preparing for years,” says Mitchell. “We have so much content that we've had stockpiled for the last 10 years, we've been able to very quickly and easily provide weekly streaming. I think it has shown just how important it is just to have that content.” The production team has also been able to incorporate some new content of singers, pianists, and orchestra members recording from home. As a result, the SF Opera has seen website traffic and weekly donations increase. “We're definitely getting a lot of great information, seeing lots of trends. We're getting the time now to really concentrate on the analytics and how we can use that going forward.”
EXCLUSIVE CONTENT FOR THEIR MOST ARDENT FANS
While the SF Opera offers some of its content for free, including free weekend opera streams and brand new programs such as the In Song series, content is also monetized by being made available exclusively to donors. “Being so donor driven and with so much of our budget coming from donors, we've always had the ability to provide them special access to content,” Mitchell explains. “For subscribers or donors of $75 or more, we offer a library just for them where only they can access certain performances.” Similarly, patrons of the opera house typically had the opportunity to attend a lecture about the performance 30 minutes before curtain. “It's part of your ticket price and you can come in early and get to see that,” says Mitchell. Now, the SF Opera’s Department of Diversity, Equity and Community (DEC) still offers these lectures, but through the power of video streaming. “Opera Aficionado, our interactive lectures series, gives opera-goers around the world a front-row seat to scholarly talks, allowing attendees to dialogue with fellow opera lovers, experts, and special guests.”
THE OPERA HOUSE AT HOME: PLANNING FOR HYBRID PERFORMANCES
When it comes to the future of the SF Opera, the team is still considering all possibilities. According to Mitchell, “We have fingers crossed, high hopes, but we're also figuring out whatever we have to do to continue to pivot, whether that's no audience, full audience, and anywhere in between, with people also watching at home.” When performances were happening inside the Opera House, Mitchell and the team produced “Opera Vision,” which was essentially image magnification for the upper balcony during the show. “We've looked into how that could be moved into an at-home version. Even if we have a small, socially-distanced audience in the theater, we could also stream it to people at home,” says Mitchell. “I definitely think video streaming is still going to have a place for us going forward.”
DELIVERING GREAT VIDEO SHOULDN’T BE A BIG PRODUCTION
With all of its video content on Brightcove, “it's just a matter of some mouse clicks to get things online,” says Mitchell. “Providing a seamless user experience is of the utmost importance. Brightcove has continued to add so many new additional features. I think just knowing that and knowing that we can pivot and change and add different things fairly quickly has been very helpful.” Visit the San Francisco Opera page
to catch a performance at from home, proudly streamed by Brightcove.
Nick Iuliano is Brightcove's Senior Director of Content, helping to tell our best brand, product, customer, and partner stories across global marketing channels.