Christie Roadster HD20K-J
The sight of a convoy of lorries pulling up to the back doors of opera houses to offload big sets is a thing of the past. Today, audio-visuals are taking over a large part of stage design, replacing the big physical sets which were once such a staple of operas. And the Teatro Real in Madrid is no different. With a reputation for setting the benchmark in the use of innovative new technology, this year the Teatro Real has acquired three Christie Roadster HD20K-J projectors to use in the productions it stages in its different spaces.
Teatro Real is Madrid's opera house and one of the most important in the world, regularly hosting the very best singers and productions of the moment. It was opened in 1850 and stages up to 180 performances a year, including opera, ballet and concerts.
As Fernando Valiente, head of Teatro Real's audio-visual department, declared, the use of audio-visuals in operas is growing exponentially: "when you think of opera, you imagine big productions using spectacular stage sets and lighting. The volume of materials in some of those sets used to be truly awe-inspiring. But, in this day and age, with the advance of audio-visual media, sets are becoming increasingly more virtual. What I am saying is that, with images, we can achieve the same physical effect as what used to come in nine trucks."
"So we came to the conclusion that it would be highly positive to invest in high-performance projectors to cover the audio-visual demands we know the future holds in store, and that will enable us to provide the best possible service for all our productions".
With this goal in mind, Teatro Real invited the three main industry brands to give demos of their equipment in the 20,000 lumen range. "The tests were carried out in the opera house itself with everyone using the same signals and light conditions. In the end the Christie projectors proved to be the most reliable, robust and versatile", recalled Juan José Pérez, projects consultant at Charmex, the Christie partner in charge of the operation through the distribution company Elenco.
Fernando Valiente was quick to endorse this opinion: "the Christie projectors had the muscle we were looking for. They proved trustworthy and reliable in operation with simple, easy-to-use software. Another thing that won us over was their compactness, which is also an important issue for us given the size of our cabin."
Teatro Real decided to acquire three units of Christie Roadster HD20K-J, a 3DLP technology projector with HD 1920 x 1080 resolution and 20,000 lumens. Throughout the year they were used in various productions, but they have just played a stellar role in Fidelio (the only opera composed by Beethoven), which was staged at the opera house for around one month.
The production originated in Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía (the opera house in Valencia) and is set in a prison outside Seville. The stage design is complex and full of symbolism, stripped of any ornamental element, which means that the audio-visual support was crucial in enhancing various aspects of an opera which contains many subplots.
In fact, the high-definition projections are one of the strong points of the production, creating truly impressive 3D effects thanks to a skilful mix of audio-visuals and reality that immerses the audience in the work. The majority of reviews underscored the use of the projections and the 3D effects as the most original element of Fidelio.
Two simultaneous animated projections were powered onto the stage using four Christie Roadster HD20K-J (Teatro Real rented the fourth projector from Elenco). Two of the projectors, arranged in dual in a cabin at a throw distance of 25 metres, were assigned for the continuous frontal projection on semi-transparent tulle. And the other two Roadsters, also arranged in dual on a trolley behind the stage, were used for back projections onto four screens placed at different levels, at a throw distance of between 13 and 22 metres.
This double projection created a striking stage design by layering images, playing with the physical and the virtual to give the production great depth and add an incredible three-dimensional effect.
The aspect ratio was 16:9 and the images were cropped to fit the screen sizes (the biggest was 17 x 9.3 and the smallest 16 metres wide). The resolution was HD 1080i.
"The truth is that even ourselves, who have a lot of experience with shows using videos, were left almost speechless with just how convincing the 3D effect was, achieved by combining front and back projections", Valiente confessed before going on to add, "in fact, there is a truly magical moment when various elements in the stage design leap out at the audience and make people jump in their seats."
A special mention is also deserved for the Roadster ILS™, intelligent lens system, in the back projection for Fidelio. The ILS automatically adjusts the images to the size of the screen and maintains the alignment in applications using mobile screens with various aspect ratios. "The ILS gives us the ability to automatically adjust the focus and zoom in each one of the four screens in the back projection. And that is really important when you are working in dual because when you change the projection surface you lose the adjustments and, if you didn't have the ILS, you would have to make all the adjustments manually, with all the complications that entails", Valiente explained.
In fact, in other opera houses where the production had been staged previously, what they did was to physically move the trolley with the projectors every time there was a change of screen, which added an enormous degree of complexity but for Teatro Real that problem was completely resolved with the Christie ILS.
To manage the projections for Fidelio, Teatro Real used the Watchout system with the video signals relayed to the projectors using optic fibre cables. It also used Extron's Edid emulator to automatically manage the communication protocol between the various interconnected devices, as well as an AJA convertor from DVI to HDSDI, which is the opera house's internal signal.
The Christie projectors have been up and running in the opera house for some time now and the feedback from its Audio-visual Department couldn't be better. "Our experience with the equipment is proving highly positive, and we are delighted with the service provided by Christie and Charmex. So much so, that we intend to expand our fleet of projectors with Christie in the future," added Fernando Valiente.
Juan José Pérez, from Charmex, concluded: "we were well aware just how exacting Teatro Real can be when making new acquisitions, so the fact that it placed its trust in us gives us the impetus to accept new challenges, and above all we are proud to work with a world-class brand like Christie."